Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Hypothetical Review of the Supergirl Pilot

[author's note: the following critique is entirely hypothetical in nature, as the series premiere of Supergirl has not yet aired, and the leaked pilot is only available via less-than-legitimate means. The author in no way supports illegitimate ways of obtaining entertainment material, and strongly recommends you purchase an overpriced cable subscription from your local cable company. They need the money, after all. That said.. hypothetical spoiler warning]

I am not a fan of Superman. He really bores the hell out of me, and is really only interesting to me when he's Batman's punching bag. So how do you go about making Superman interesting to someone like me?

Question asked and answered: make her an awkward, insecure twenty-something who is completely out of practice with her powers.

When I saw the six minute long trailer for the series, I was not hopeful. It played like a bad rom-com with superheroes. Like Sex and the City or Ally McBeal with a cape... not helped by the appearance of Callista Flockheart.
Superdoof is best doof
Now that I've... hypothetically seen it. I'm happy to say that it's... really not that bad. Given that it's a CBS property, it borrows some elements from its CW cousins, Arrow and Flash. The light tone and adorably nerdy protagonist strongly echo Grant Gustin's Flash, and the voiceover “My name is..” introductory monologue returns from the two related series. It's got that DC spirit that's worked so well on television so far. The MCU juggernaut may rule the big-screen, but (despite SHIELD and Daredevil), DC still has television locked down, and I could imagine Kara joining Ollie and Barry for a 'super' crossover (I'm so sorry).

The episode's golden moment comes when Kara sees a plane with a failing engine that happens to be carrying her adopted sister, and struggles momentarily to remember how to fly before shooting up into the sky with a beautiful camera shot panning around her as she chases after the plane and carries it to a safe landing through a suspension bridge and into a river before climbing aboard the wing in view of cameraphones, news choppers, and lots of witnesses. Following up with Kara (in sweats, on her sofa) squeeing over seeing herself on the news adds the human touch missing from the first appearance of Superman.

It's got some delightfully subversive moments, too, such as Kara's reacting poorly to her boss Kat (Ms Flockheart) dubbing her “Supergirl,” suggesting it's not very 'feminist.' Kat then dresses her down beautifully. “I'm a girl, and I'm beautiful and powerful and successful. If there's a problem with SuperGIRL, maybe the problem's with you,” to paraphrase. Another moment later on when the big bad of the episode underestimates her because she's a woman (alien from a literal patriarchal society), allowing her to sucker punch him with heat vision.

She walks like she's got some steel in her spine when she's on the clock.

Aside from a few minor adaptation changes, the pilot so far hasn't strayed too far from established Super-lore. The one most noticeable exception is that now Jimmy Olson is no longer a scrawny excitable ginger, but a charismatic hunky black man. And possibly Supergirl's love interest. Which... I'm okay with. I like the actor. He does good work with the role.

There's some dodgy CGI. Some corny dialogue. A few head-slapping choices of musical scoring. The comedy best friend is annoying, and I'm not hopeful that he'll grow on us like Foggy Nelson did over in Daredevil. But overall, the pilot is nowhere near as bad as the six-minute first-look trailer made me worry it would be. Ironically, there's a human element to Kara Zor-El that almost every depiction of Superman so far has been lacking, and I think that might be enough to make the show worth watching.  

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