After having seen the pilot of CBS new series Supergirl at Wizard World Pittsburgh, last night’s premiere was something all of us at What’cha Reading and On Wednesdays were looking forward to. Nancy Joyce, staff writer and founding member of On Wendesdays (News & Entertainment from the Geek Girl Pulpit) is one of the most well read and well versed in comic books; just check out her article on Wonder Woman here and current piece on Supergirl here. Considering that we were both looking forward to Supergirl, we decided to talk about the show after viewing it again last night.
Nancy: Having watched Supergirl for the second time last night I will admit I didn’t dislike it as much as I did the first time. I think the glaring issues didn’t jolt me since I knew they were there so I was able to move past them and pay attention to the plot. The episode, story wise, was a decent introduction. It was an origin story that didn’t meander too much on the where she came from/how she got her powers trope. She knew she had them and it was more about her discovering how she could use them, which was a nice way to bring the audience along with her from the start of her superhero journey.
Steven: Supergirl is one of this season’s latest of shows that I’ve closely been following. I’m an enthusiastic fan of Superman and so to have a series based on that character’s world? There was no question that I’d watch. However, I admittedly never followed the Supergirl comics as I was also never much a fan of how she was presented. I enjoyed the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini version of the animated series, but not much else. Supergirl, and correct me if I’m wrong, has always come across to me as a less organic character than someone like Wonder Woman. I’ve always read it as more of an editorial decision to “create the female Superman.” Coming from that perspective, and seeing the way she’s been characterized and drawn, it’s pure male fantasy service. That’s why I really enjoyed Supergirl because they immediately moved away from Superman in the pilot. Yes, he was addressed, but it didn’t become about watching the show because of him. We’re watching because of her.
Nancy: Melissa Benoist is a little white bread for my taste. I don’t find her very charismatic, just very girl next door cute but in this case that works. That’s exactly who Kara is, very simple and unassuming so she is perfectly suited. The supporting cast was good as well. I think they play off each other nicely.
Steven: This is where I’d have to disagree on Melissa Benoist. When casting started for Supergirl, I was extremely interested in who they’d choose. I was afraid the casting may have leaned more towards a direction that the CW went in, but they didn’t. Benoist is very much like Grant Gustin in the way they exude the “Christoper Reeve characteristics.” You only need to see Mr. Reeve once as Superman and you know that’s Superman. Grant Gustin IS Barry Allen/The Flash. Ezra Miller has big boots to fill! After seeing the pilot presented at Wizard World and in rewatching last night, Melissa Benoist IS Kara Zor-El/Supergirl. It’s her. I once read that “charisma [is]as natural as gravity.” Charisma for a superhero is much different than the charisma needed to play someone real, no matter how “real” the superhero or material is being presented. It’s almost as if you were to play a historical or religious figure. It almost needs to be heightened and Mr. Reeve had that. Melissa Benoist has that. Her presentation of Supergirl is someone I’d feel just as safe with as I would with Superman, if not more so.
In terms of how she’s been presented in the comics, yes, she is “just very girl next door cute.” And Melissa Benoist does embody that particular characteristic well.
Nancy: On the subject of her male best friend, they’re going to need to write him a bit more definitively. He plays like the “gay best friend” while portrayed as straight and with a crush on Kara. This is the first of many areas where they fall prey to slamming us over the head with a hammer the size of Mjolnir. The moment in the show that offended me most came straight out of his mouth and the writers need to drive home the fact of his feelings. When she exposes herself as Supergirl he initially thinks she’s coming out as a lesbian, which he excepts because it explains why she hasn’t reciprocated his feelings. Huh!?! Really? We should be way beyond that idea at this point especially in a show that is supposed to be empowering young girls and women. Guess what a woman can just not be into you even if you are a nice guy. Get over it.
Steven: I love that phrasing of words – “a hammer the size of Mjolnir.” I have mixed feelings in regards to Winslow Schott (Jeremy Jordan) on Supergirl. I do like him very much, but I have certain reservations. Isn’t he the villain Toyman? I know Henry Czerny was just cast as Schott Sr and he’ll be the Toyman, but as a fan, this bothers me a little. And, believe me, I’m the first to say that what works on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen. I have no qualms about reinventing or re-approaching a character.
Jeremy Jordan does play a little like Kara’s “gay best friend” as Winslow Schott Jr., but I have no issue with this. I feel it plays true to not only the story, but to real life as well. He has a crush on Kara and it’s not reciprocated. Maybe she just doesn’t feel the same way about him? Possibly, if not more so, she’s been so overwhelmed with her abilities and Kryptonian heritage that she hasn’t even noticed. Maybe from my own personal experiences and confidence that sometimes is as flimsy as lime jello wobbling on the floor after a bad spill, I understand the writing behind that scene. You have this young guy who has a crush on her, embodies the lyrics of the Coldplay song “Shiver”, and so when she is preparing to tell him that she’s Supergirl, he’s so preoccupied with his own feelings that he only thinks that she’s going to address his feelings by telling him that she’s a lesbian and that’s why she’s not interested in him.
Agreeably, the writing could have been better and less flimsy in regards to the handling of this scene. There were a few heavy handed moments in the pilot, though.
Nancy: The single most heavy-handed moment in the show was when Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) does a 3-minute monologue on why it’s ok to be called a girl. I don’t argue the sentiment but again it felt like a hammer or at the very least a neon sign saying “SEE WE ARE FEMINISTS HERE!”. Just write good characters and women with their own agency [such as Cat Grant]and you don’t need to do this kind of thing. No amount of dialogue is going to make your show empowering if you’re not writing empowered characters so write for their actions not for lip service. Another off moment was the costume bit. We’re supposed to be proud of Kara for not taking her BFF’s suggestion of the skimpy costume. Yet it’s still the male eye she seeks when looking for validation for her choice. I was uncomfortable with that.
Steven: It borders on sometimes being too The Devil Wears Prada. I like that movie, too. It comes across as a way to conventionally address Kara as a working woman, young, and trying to give it her all in this somewhat millennial concept of youth post school and entering an adult world. The scene with Cat Grant, by virtue of the fact that this is what essentially enables the writers to shoe horn in the line on the perception of girl vs. woman, was very heavy handed. I know you took issue with that. I didn’t have so much as a problem with this, but in re-watching and in listening to your critiques, it does seem awfully “neon-sign”ish. For myself, it’s evident that they want to distinguish Supergirl as not only a show and hero for girls, but as a show that treats the ideas of feminism and equality in an important way.
I was more uncomfortable with the presentation of Kara’s costume being skimpy at first. I feel that it’s very cliche to have a male or female in a scene like that because it’s so obviously devised as a pure “fanboy/fangirl” moment. You could almost read the scene as “Ooo, let’s get Melissa in a skimpy outfit so we could use this in trailers to get boys to watch for the “hot” girl.” It’s garish! We don’t need this and it was part of why I wasn’t the biggest fan of how Supergirl was presented on The CW. I like to think about how aspects of a story and character work on an organic level. Does it drive the story and development? Or is it contrived and just a means to satisfy a demographic? That’s how that one particular part played and I feel that it’s counter productive to the message they’re trying to get across with Supergirl.
I will readily not deny that I enjoy when Henry Cavill had his shirt off as Clark Kent. But sometimes scenes like that aren’t always necessary and in respects to the development of Kara’s Supergirl costume, it wasn’t necessary. Yet, I really enjoyed how she felt uncomfortable in it. She makes mention how she wouldn’t wear that to the beach and it reminds me of the wholesome values of yesteryear that were still so present in Richard Donner’s Superman.
Nancy: The fact that it’s in the Richard Donner Superman universe. Christopher Reeve will always be my Superman. I liked that universe for him and it’s uncomplicated enough to serve Supergirl well. Judging by the casting they are still following the Arrow/Flash formula of bringing in heroes and villains from the DCU so she should still have enough complications for a weekly series. The idea of her crossing into Arrow and Flash would be nice but any Kryptonian automatically tips the scales in a superhero world so I think it’s a wise choice to keep her out of their TV universe.
Steven: I love the direction Supergirl is headed in and I hope it catches on. It did very well in the ratings. It would be cool to see her alongside Arrow and The Flash, but I like that she’s set in her own world… for now. Let’s not forget that Matt Ryan is reprising his role as Constantine on Arrow on Wednesday, November 4th!
Nancy: Positives? I like grown up James Olsen. I think he’s a good bridge to remind you that she’s Superman’s cousin while letting her own light shine out of his shadow. The character of Jimmy has always felt stuck in a simpler age, and suffered for it, Mehcad Brooks’ casting has finally shaken that off and brought the character into the modern age while his performance makes sure it still feels like Jimmy, just one older and wiser. The sister relationship. There’s problems there, but Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) is kick ass and has to prove herself outside of her sister’s shadow, which could help Kara become a stronger character herself. In this episode, it came off very much like an older sister/younger sister dynamic with Kara coming off somewhat weak, but I think that will improve as she grows as a superhero. They needed to show that her sister is doing what she does for more than selfish reasons and that there is validity to her overprotectiveness.
Steven: I love Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen. Who is the best representation of the spirit of the character? Is he or she the best version? That’s my approach and I think they have a winner with Mehcad as James Olsen.
Nancy: I’m hopeful that the pilot was just a bit rocky and overwritten so they could sell it and the show will settle into its own pace with more subtlety in character development and plot. I’ll keep watching for now. It’s important enough that we have the first female-led superhero show in nearly 40 years for me to give it a chance to find its own voice.
Steven: I’m very excited for the rest of this season. The trailer for season one released yesterday and it looks promising. I’m looking forward to seeing Brit Morgan from Graceland and True Blood as the villain Livewire.
It’s very exciting to have a female-led superhero show on television. There are so many great possibilities with this show, especially with it being done now. I’m glad CBS and DC are committed to this and hopefully it will pave the way nicely for Wonder Woman as we will be seeing her in March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and her solo film in 2017.
*I’d like to thank Nancy Joyce for sharing her great insight into the pilot episode of Supergirl. For more of her work, you could find her on On Wednesdays.net – They currently are running a contest in partnership with Entertainment Earth where you could win the DC Collectibles Supergirl Bombshell statue so please be sure to check that out.
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Supergirl airs Monday nights on CBS at 8 PM ET. Check your local listings.