‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1 Episode 1: ‘Pilot’
Welcome to Supergirl Guys, our new regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of CBS's Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the super smiling title role. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and Good Wife superfan Dylan Todd.
The series kicks off with a dense first hour, introducing Kara, CatCo, the villains, the love triangle, the mean ol' military, and a crashed spaceship full of future villains-of-the-week. The pilot was directed by Glen Winter, with story by Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisberg, and teleplay by Ali Adler.
Dylan: So it’s finally here! The first episode of Supergirl has officially debuted (after kicking around pirate sites since a leak in late May), and… it’s pretty good! I don’t know about you, Chris, but I found it to be a very enjoyable introduction to Kara Danvers, Last Daughter of Krypton and coffee-fetcher extraordinaire, played by the ridiculously-charming Melissa Benoist --- albeit it was overly-rushed and plagued with a lot of the same tics that keep me from really committing to Greg Berlanti’s other CW superhero shows. What did you think, Chris?
Chris: I really, really enjoyed it!
Chris: I know, I know. I think I’ve well-established myself as the guy who loves Superman, and I was looking forward to this series, but honestly, it was with some nervous apprehension. Some of those early trailers and rumors were a little... well, I won’t say they made the show sound terrible, but they definitely gave me a little bit of a fright that this show could be not great.
So, I was very excited when it wasn’t awful, but was, in fact, really enjoyable! There were some things I could nitpick (and we probably will), but overall I was excited by the promise I think this show holds. I know we’re only one episode in, but it’s definitely my favorite of the prime-time, comic based network shows that I’m forced to watch! (Paid to watch. --- Ed.)
Dylan: I’m probably a little less positive about the pilot. I enjoyed it, but after a season-plus of The Flash and however many seasons of Smallville we as a nation endured, I feel like too much of this was overly-familiar and unoriginal. It sets up everything it needs to, but the chemistry of the cast and the fun performances make up for what is otherwise a pretty standard superhero TV show pilot.
Chris: We had to wait ten, ten, seasons for them to call him Superman, and even then, that wasn’t really until the last episode and Tom Welling refused to put the suit on.
Dylan: To be fair, they also didn’t really call him Superman in this show, either. In fact, my favorite part of this episode might have been the verbal gymnastics they performed to talk around the “S” word without actually saying it. I think at one point Cat referred to Supes as “that superb hero.” It’s wonderful.
Chris: Haha, Kara called him Superman at the very beginning of the show! And Cat called him the even more non-sensical “superlative hero”. Superb would have made more sense, but I have no problem assuming you have more common sense than the people who write these shows sometimes.
Dylan: Maybe it’s like “F” words in PG-13 movies and they can only say it a couple times per episode. It’ll be great to watch the tap-dance around it all season, though.
Chris: The network heads are there, “What’s all this Superman business?! We don’t have the rights to Superman! The show is called Supergirl! You only get one!”
Dylan: Speaking of Supermans, it looks like Greg Berlanti pulled a Henry Allen and brought back Dean Cain --- who rocked the red and blue tights in 1993’s Lois & Clark --- to play Kara’s adopted dad. Cute. But I worry about the Lifetime network losing one of their go-to actors for their dramatizations of true crime cases.
Chris: They also got Helen Slater, who was the first actress to play Supergirl in 1984’s minor motion picture of the same name, to play Earth Mom.
Dylan: Oh, I missed that! That was a super-weird movie BTW!
Chris: Oh man, we could do a whole series of discussions about that movie, I’m sure.
Let me ask you two questions: One, does it bother you that they keep casting these actors who have previously been involved in the same franchise in these shows? It’s cute and it’s kinda fun, but it also feels a little needlessly distracting. Smallville started it, The Flash is doing it, and now this. Two, do you think either of them will be on the show proper, or do you think they’ll only appear in flashbacks? I only ask because they both looked like they were their normal ages in the flashback, so are they going to try to old them up to have scenes in the present?
Dylan: It’s stunt-casting, pure and simple. It’s a little cookie to give to nerds for remembering a thing. Congrats! Mountain Dew hasn’t completely ruined your cognitive abilities! Yay!
It’s fine, but yeah, also distracting and silly. As far as if they’ll return, I have no idea. I’m sure their agents are pulling for it, though.
Let me ask you something: did you feel like maybe there was too much stuff crammed in here? We got the Last Day of Krypton thing, the overly-complicated reasoning for her being a teenager, the Phantom Zone setup, the adoption/sister bit, the introduction to the job, and that’s just the first five minutes. I know it’s a pilot and that they have to lay groundwork for everything, but I also feel like they told a lot of stuff that could have been shown, if that makes sense? What did you think? Am I being a crabby snob?
Chris: I totally get where you’re coming from, and I don’t think you’re being a crabby snob at all, but I think I had the exact opposite reaction, in that I liked that it was just bang-bang-bang, here’s this, now here’s this, now here’s this, and let’s hurry up and get to the goods. Maybe this is a by-product of waiting like five years for Clark to even act like maybe he was going to fly on Smallville, but I appreciated them just saying, “Look, there’s a whole lot of backstory, but if we’re going too fast for you, don’t worry, because it’s not really important right now. We promise if something comes up from the past that you need to know we’re going to tell you again.”
Dylan: Yeah, I appreciate the manic energy of it. Also, since you’re a Superman Fan, AKA a Superfan, maybe you can answer this: if Jor-El was such a good science guy, how come he could only make small spaceships for kids and babies?
Chris: I laughed out loud when they showed young Glenn Danzig Superbaby’s ship leaving, carrying with it the only survivor of Krypton, and then the camera pulls back and there’s another ship just waiting like they’re all in line for Space Mountain. They’re definitely taking some liberties with Supergirl’s origin, but I get that this was easier to try to explain than, “Okay, so part of Krypton actually didn’t explode because it was trapped in a dome and then Supergirl left from there years later.”
Dylan: Oh geez, yeah, this is way better. So, we cut to present day and we get a glimpse of Kara’s job as an executive assistant to Cat Grant, head of CatCo, the lamest possible name for a company started by a woman named “Cat,” ever.
I guess they’re a newspaper publishing conglomerate? Because newspapers in 2015 are very sexy and relevant. Not at all a holdover from the era when these characters were created. Why it’s not a CNN-type 24-hour news superstation is beyond, me; but anyway, that’s where she works, fetching coffee for her demanding boss, played by Ally McBeal. No sign of the dancing baby. (Only 90s Kids Will Remember.)
It’s fine. I mean, it’s a decent shorthand to show that Kara’s wasting her talents as a gofer, but if I’m being honest, I really wish Cat was more Portia DeRossi in Better Off Ted and less Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, but I guess that’s why I write for a(n Eisner Award-winning, sucka!) comics blog and not for Supergirl.
Chris: Oh man, now I’m going to be wishing this show took place at Veridian Dynamics for the entire rest of it’s run.
Dylan: It would definitely be a trade-up.
We also get introduced to her work friend whose name is apparently Winn, but I literally could not have told you that after watching the episode. Winn seems like a dink, to be honest, even though we’re supposed to ship him and Kara. He’s like Ducky from Pretty In Pink, only with way less fashion sense. Just the bog-standard whiny nerd who is patiently waiting for the lady to fall in love with him. Like, there’s a part where he thinks Kara is coming out to him and he’s like, “Oh, that makes sense because that is literally the only way to explain why you haven’t gone out with me.” No dink, maybe she’s not interested in you because, you know, you’re a dink.
What’s your verdict on Winn, Chris: dink or no dink?
Chris: Yeah, he was a little insufferable, but her having a friend to go through the “figuring out how to start being a superhero” montage was cute. I can’t imagine anyone wanting the two of them to get together though. Are we supposed to want that? What is shipping? How is it different from handling?
Dylan: “Shipping,” in TV fandom parlance, refers to wanting two characters on a show to be in a relation-ship. “Shipping,” if done correctly, can lead to “handling,” but this is a family website, so I’ll let you look that one up on your own.
Chris: The weird thing is that his name is Winslow “Winn” Schott, which is the name of Superman villain Toyman. I really don’t think they’re going to turn him into the Toyman (and I think I already heard they cast someone as Toyman for a later episode), but this raises the same question I have to ask during Arrow (and Flash, if I wrote about it): Why do they name characters with names from the comics if they’re not going to be the characters from the comics? L
ike, Cat Grant works for the Daily Planet, so why make her some kind of media magnate? Why name her friend after a villain if he’s not going to be a villain? Why name the DEO guy Hank Henshaw when the comic version was a scientist who became an evil Robo-Superman? These names mean nothing to non-comic readers and only serve to at best confuse and at worst frustrate nerds (like me). What’s the upside here?
Dylan: Yeah, I have no idea. However, we do get a familiar name in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, who is a cool, hot dude, and sort of serves as Kara’s guide as she starts to hero up. what else do I need to say about him?
Chris: I really like this guy and the part he played in the episode, but this is the same problem for me as with those other “comic” names. This dude is handsome and charming and smooth and isn’t afraid of the boss, and none of those characteristics describe Jimmy Olsen, so why bother calling this guy Jimmy Olsen other than the fact that maybe 5% of the non-comic fan viewers will be like, “Oh, I know that name”? This is clearly a thing these shows are going to keep doing, so I guess there’s no point in me continuing to harp on about it, but I just don’t understand it.
Having said all that, he and Kara had a great rapport and I liked all of their scenes together.
Dylan: My only complaint about this Jimmy Olsen is that he wasn’t wearing a bow tie. That is pretty inexcusable.
Chris: Especially when this guy is cool enough to pull off a bow tie! I want someone fired over this. Since we’ve talked about all her other supporting cast, let’s talk about her sister and the DEO. I understand you have a soft spot for Hank Henshaw, so let’s get into these two.
Dylan: Yeah, so the DEO, which stands for The Department of Get Rid of Aliens or something like that, is a secret government department intent on hunting down the aliens who followed Kara through the opening of The Phantom Zone that plopped her here on earth. Thanks to some kryptonite darts, they forcibly recruit Kara and we find out that her sister Alex, who was talking about having to fly to some crazy corner of the world earlier in the episode, works for them.
Like the kryptonite shards in Smallville or the reactor explosion --- and now the 52 Earth-2 portals --- in The Flash, it’s a convenient set-up for offering up a freak of the week for Kara to punch and kick every week. If you follow my Flash recaps, you’ll know that this is my least favorite trope of these superhero shows, but it’s been the stock genre plot generator since forever, so oh well.
I’m a little worried that this show’s tone and set-up are waaaay too close to The Flash, but hopefully it finds its own rhythm soon.
Chris: Is he in charge of that Legends of Tomorrow show too? Because if so, that’s going to be rough for you.
Dylan: Yeah, it’s all the same people. Legends will at least have a lot of goofy characters to bang together. Hopefully.
But yeah, Alex’s boss is the extra-grumpy Hank Henshaw, and boy, he does not like aliens. We know this because he says it like 12 times in the show. I hope next week he has a t-shirt made up with it on there and every time Kara talks, he just points at the shirt while staring directly in her eyes. He’s my favorite character so far.
Chris: I don’t like the military people that are distrustful jerks to the SuperFam, but if he’s wearing a shirt that says that next week, all will be forgiven. This show is a little cavalier with how many people know Supergirl’s secret identity isn’t it?
Dylan: Oh, but that’s sort of de rigeur for these shows anymore. I mean, the only people in Central City who don’t know Barry Allen is The Flash is probably the barista at CC Jitters. And even she has her suspicions.
Should we talk about Vartox? Let’s talk about Vartox.
Chris: Why not? He certainly had an axe and weird, I don’t know, ridges on his head? A very, very different take on the character from his portrayal (and most importantly) his wardrobe in the comics.
Dylan: Also, he’s a trucker?
Chris: I think the trucker thing was a ruse, maybe? His tanker just had a TV in it, right?
Dylan: Yes. Which he uses to contact the bad guy who captures Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie. This sort of circles back to your pet peeve of using any old name from the comics to use for a character. If you’re going to do a generic space-axe man, why use up Vartox?
Chris: Plus, DC has a bad guy with an axe from space called The Persuader, so why not just use him? I hope they’re reading this and are going to leave thoughtful answers to all our questions in the comments.
Dylan: I just want to see a hairy, grown-ass man in a loincloth and a vest on primetime TV, is that too much to ask, Mr. Moonves?! As long as we’re talking about aliens, did you notice Jemm, Son of Saturn, on the DEO’s screens?
Chris: Was that supposed to be Jemm?! Jemm is another one of these C-List comic characters I have an irrational love for just because I had one comic with him as a kid. I definitely know the one you’re talking about, and now I feel like it totally could be him, but I don’t think my brain allowed me to entertain that possibility when I was watching.
Dylan: It’s possible it was somebody else. I am kind of a DCU dummy, to be honest, but it looked like him to me.
What did you think about the “shocking” reveal sting thing at the end of the episode, when we see who Vartox’s boss’ boss is? (Spoilers: It’s Sadie Stone from Nashville/Collin Sweeney’s wife from The Good Wife! Also, I guess she’s Kara’s aunt who looks exactly like her mom only she has… a white streak in her hair!)
Chris: I was really confused by it, because it looked just like her mom. I wondered if there was some kind of mystery with her aunt pretending to be her mom, or I don’t even know. Part of me thought maybe I had just missed something and I’d catch up later. Also, I don’t know about either of those shows you mentioned except that my mother-in-law is on Nashville occasionally, so yeah. No big deal.
Dylan: You should watch The Good Wife. It is the best show. I am not even joking.
But yeah, I’m not at all sure why they had Laura Benanti pulling double duty as Alura and her sister, except maybe they’re twins? And she’s such a super-lawyer that she locked her own twin sister up? But we don’t know that? I’m sure it’ll make more sense but I feel like the shock was sort of swallowed up by the lack of set-up or explanation.
Chris: Yeah, it wasn’t shocking to me, because I couldn’t tell if it was the same actress or they just looked similar or if I had no idea what was going on.
Man, that part where Kara flew for the first time was sure great though. Literally gave me goosebumps. I’m just going to focus on that. That and how much Melissa Benoist likes posting pictures of herself eating donuts in the Supergirl costume. Those two things are the best things. Because I like flying and Supergirl and donuts.
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