Supergirl Reviewers Have Questions. We Have Answers.
Read any review of the Supergirl pilot and you’ll see some version of a cross-examination that no other pilot this season will have to endure (and that includes Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which bows later this month.)
According to internet sources, the Supergirl pilot had to do the following:
- Set the stage for where Kara is as a person when the series begins.
- Set the tone.
- Explain where Superman is.
- Explain why she can’t be Superwoman.
- Explain her powers.
- Explain her relationship to Superman.
- Explain why this show is not made by Marvel.
- Explain why Supergirl couldn’t be on a network not called CBS.
- Explain why we even have superhero show now that superheroes are boring and overexposed.
- Explain why Supergirl has to start on Krypton, “the same thing that doomed Man of Steel.”
- Explain why Jimmy Olsen isn’t wearing a bow-tie when this is the only era where wearing a bow-tie is conceivably cool.
- Explain why there’s so much exposition.
- Explain why this show has to have a pro-woman and pro-girl message.
Only the first six questions legitimately needed to be answered. Since the producers of Supergirl are busy running a show that grabbed 16.3 million viewers in the United States alone, I took the liberty of answering for them.
- The pilot needs to end with the jumping off point for our hero. Who is Kara now and what challenges will she face? Since the pilot begins when Kara is already an adult, it needed to answer about 25 years worth of questions in less than an hour, and it did so admirably.
- The tone is similar to The Flash, which is a coming of age story about celebrating one’s superpowers. I wouldn’t worry about TV and movies not being “dark enough,” internet, since we’ve had about a decade of villain and antihero worship as a palette cleanser. And I happen to love dark angsty antiheroes, but we desperately need a little balance. Two shows do not constitute over-saturation.
- Reviews quibbled over how the show moved Superman out of the way. They were especially annoyed by the choice not to overuse his name. The way Supergirl handled Superman seemed in line with the spirit of the series, which is that this is her story, not his. The episode had to explain where he was, not why Supergirl isn’t a buddy cop show. Had they taken the Superman question for granted, viewers and critics would have said “but where is Superman, anyway? Are they acting like he doesn’t exist?”
- Superwoman is another character in the DC Universe. Or rather, several other characters. Right now Superwoman is Lois Lane. I happened to enjoy the way they defended using the name Supergirl, but your mileage may vary.
- The producers had to make a decision. Give her the Planet Krypton origin story or have her acquire her powers later in life because of some radioactive bug bite, blue lightning strike or dive into a contaminated sewer. They chose wisely.
- Personally I loved the way they had Superman positioning James Olsen at Supergirl’s side, to encourage her to embrace her powers (but only if it is her choice). I thought it was one of the pilot’s best moments.
- Marvel is busy deciding which Billboard hit of the 1970s to use in the trailer for the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. You can leave a message.
- Because (a) ABC, Marvel and Disney are the same company, (b) the CW couldn’t afford it, (c) NBC is too stupid to bid on a superhero show when superheroes are popular, and (d) CBS out-bid Fox. Any questions?
- A popular website actually brought this up. As we all know, Krypton is central to the Superman mythos. Better question: does every DC product have to answer to every critic’s hatred of Man of Steel? Wait, I have an even better-best question! Why does Spiderman have to be a Spider? Maybe his origin story could crossover with Charlotte’s Web and not result in any powers at all. Maybe he could be an ant! Oh wait…Marvel already did this.
- You laugh but this one was an actual issue raised by a review in a British newspaper.
- Because it is the pilot of a TV show.
- Are you even serious? Supergirl was almost thrown under the bus by critics and fans because its first trailer happened to coincide with a Saturday Night Live parody of Black Widow, which featured BW living through the kind of lame romantic comedy Marvel envisions when you ask about a BW movie. So now these same people are all going to kvetch about why-oh-why does this show need to have a positive, can-do heroine who wants to learn about her powers and use them to do good things like help people and save things? No. You don’t get to ask loudly for a role model, especially one who you want to appeal to little girls, and then roll your eyes and groan when the role model acts role modelish. Sure, if every episode of the first season features a long speech on girl-power, maybe we can say it’s too over-the-top. This was the freaking pilot episode. Give it a rest for this one episode.
The producers of Supergirl anticipated all of these questions, which is why there was a scene where Kara learns a specific lesson: even when you work in media, you can’t control the media, they’re going to call you by a name you didn’t want and never asked for.