I like super-heroes, I like movies and TV, we live in a day and age where super-heroes are all over movies and TV, so really, I should be pretty happy, right?
Unfortunately, not really. First because, you know, it turns out having The Flash on TV is not the key to happiness or inner peace. I mean, that much is obvious. But more than that, I often get annoyed by the adaptations of favorite super-hero properties that I see because of various Hollywood sensibilities.
Gasp!! A comic book fan who isn’t completely satisfied with TV and film adaptations of popular comic books??! Will this be the news that breaks the internet?!?!?!
Yeah, I know, me and like, everybody else.
I’m just talking about stuff that you’ve probably heard before, like how Man of Steel had to be sort of dark and depressing, how major villains are killed off at the end of nearly every movie, how Wolverine has to be the star of every X-Men movie, and so on.
I’m also talking about the fact that superheroes are all over TV, but we can’t seem to get the big guns on there: Superman. And Batman. Because they have to be “saved” for the movies. Instead we get stuff like Gotham. Or Smallville. Or even Birds of Prey.
Because everyone knows these are the biggest franchises that DC has, and so they want to have their cake and eat it too: have Superman and Batman on TV without “contaminating” the movie audience and the $953 squidzillion dollars we are hoping they will bring into the theatres during the first 45 seconds that Batman vs. Superman is out. So instead of giving us these actual characters on TV in their full, costumed, crime-fighting glory, we get these other shows.
I’ve only seen the opening episode of Supergirl so far, because iTunes was nice enough to release it for free.
Of course, I’d also seen the extended trailer that came out some time ago. When I saw that, I remember thinking, “This looks like the worst show that I know that I’ll still watch anyway.”
Then my friend saw the first episode. He described it as “putrid”. Or maybe it was just the dialogue that was “putrid,” not the entire show. Either way, it was a pretty unfavorable response.
Then I saw the first episode, and I thought, “That was a really long version of that trailer.” Because somehow, in those entire 45 or whatever minutes, pretty much nothing happened that we hadn’t already seen in the trailer. Except, I guess, for the little surprise twist at the end. So, the thin characterization and breezy plotting that we saw in the trailer were pretty much par for the course for the episode.
Probably the weakest stuff in Supergirl is simply how shallow the emotional developments are. Kara goes from enthusiastic to depressed to determined about being a hero. Her sister Alex goes from cautionary to championing about Kara fighting bad guys. Government agent boss guy Hank Henshaw goes from being suspicious and cynical to being reluctantly accepting about working with Kara. And none of it is plausible, compelling, or dramatically justified.
On the other hand, the positive stuff in the show is how likable Melissa Benoist as Supergirl is. She really is charming, and Kara Danvers a likable character. The actor and the character fit the bright and uplifting tone that the show attempts to take. So I can easily imagine continuing to enjoy her adventures, no matter how thinly crafted they are.
On an interesting side-note, I have also just completed (finally) watching the full run of Daredevil on Netflix. As I said, I have only seen one episode of Supergirl, but so far it seems like Supergirl is sort of the opposite TV series to Daredevil in lots of ways. One’s Marvel; one’s DC. One’s male-led; one’s female-led. One moves slowly and steadily, taking loads of time to build characterization and relationships; the other almost completely refuses to take any time whatsoever to do this. One is gritty, violent, foul-mouthed and bloody nonsense; the other is breezy, light-hearted, high-flying escapist nonsense (mostly). One takes almost its entire running-time to actually put the character into a recognizable costume and to be called by his familiar name; the other takes almost no time to do this, with the character being costumed and named before the first episode is halfway over. One makes a big deal about people finding out the hero’s secret identity; the other has the main character’s secret identity being casually revealed to almost everyone she knows.
Actually, some of those differences are part of the charm and novelty of the show. I can’t tell you how refreshing that no where in this story is Kara stressed out that she has to keep her double life a secret from her closest loved ones, and that I’m not waiting for halfway through the season before someone says the words “Supergirl” out loud. It’s like the producers of the show have finally realized that superheroes are mainstream enough of a concept to not be embarrassed at all that that is their source material. It’s not necessarily how I want to see every comic-book adaptation treated, but it is a valid approach and I appreciate a lot.
Along with this, there is a brightness and optimism to the episode that has helped to make it an absolute hit with both my daughters and the kids of my friend as well. And if your stomach can withstand that “putrid” stuff (the hokey dialogue, the underwritten storytelling, etc.) that my friend mentioned, it might be fun for adults as well.