Thursday, June 23, 2016

TV Review: Supergirl, Season 1

And so we come to the end of this year's DC TV Universe Review Extravaganza! Four shows from the CW/CBS stable, three in the same world, and one, because it's on a "grown up" network, out  on it's own barring a single crossover. Because yes, one of these shows jumped from the smaller network on a Major Network, building off the success of it's predecessors and presumably hoping that it can make it as a breakout hit. It's an interesting choice of lead character too; an all too rare female lead; a character that a wider audience may not be aware of, but part of hugely popular brand. I'm talking, of course, about Supergirl, cousin that grumpy guy that was up on cinema screens not so long ago. 

When I was talking about The Flash and Arrow I mentioned that I thought that all four shows showed signs of production overstretch this year. There was simply too much looping of ideas and character beats in all four shows, and Supergirl was no exception. I don't want to go into too much depth on this  - after all, then I'd be repeating beats and ideas! - but lets just start by saying that yes, there are stretches of episodes where things feel stretched or repeated, and some of the characters (looks at Wynn) feel under- or badly- utilised. So I've said that, and now lets move on. 

Set on what I guess we need to call "Earth-4" (?), Supergirl owes a lot to the unashamed Silver Age stylings of The Flash's first season, not least it's unbeat optimism about the nature of heroism. Kara Danvers wants to be a hero; she enjoys being a hero. She's never angsty about it, never doubts it; she is here to help people because she can, because people need help sometimes. Incidently this makes the crossover between Barry and Kara the most adorable thing, and possibly the series highpoint. But cheifly this is a show where most characters are defined by what is in their heart; and most situations are resolved by getting people to be the best versions of themselves. This makes it a very hard show to dislike. 

Central to this is a series of great performances from it's main cast. Melissa Benoist is a great screen presense as Kara, and shows a gift for both drama and goofball comedy. Unexpectidly great also is Calista Flockheart as Cat Grant, spiky and acerbic but fundamentally a good person, and a reliable source of counter-balance to the more earnest do-goodery that goes around. With Supergirl moving to the CW next year there is a question mark over Flockhearts continued involvement, but I hope they can keep her on. In an interesting example of gender-flipping (and making me think the problems with Iris West may not be because she's a woman but because she's a love interest) the weaker characters here are Kara's romantic foils, who rarely get to exist beyond their value to her or otherwise. Jimmy and especially Wynn struggle to register in a show full of great female characters with solid storylines. 

Of course on the superhero front we can add The Martian Manhunter to the of list characters I never expected to see in Live Action. As a long-time fan of the 90s/00s Justice League cartoon it was great to see him used in such an interesting way, and he made a great older mentor/foil for Kara in a show that never featured her older cousin in anything other than a couple of text messages. Which was smart, because this is Kara's show; its her name on the credits, and she deserves her spot in the limelight. Roll on next season please!