Oh, boy, I’ve been waiting to do this one for a while. Ever since my first impressions on this pilot, I’ve been waiting for a chance to dig a little deeper into why exactly I’m digging this show already. So let’s just get to it!
As you might have guessed, there will be spoilers below.
1. “My name is Kara Zor-El…”
Okay, so the show steals the whole ‘main character narrates over the opening and says their name directly to the audience’ thing from The Flash and Arrow, sure, but Supergirl stand entirely on it’s own and a main reason for that is Melissa Benoist. Benoist, who already proved herself as a very capable young actor in Whiplash, is the central element to the pilot that makes everything around her work. Even though some of the effects are cheesy, even though the pacing feels like the middle 10/15 minutes of the episode are on fast forward, even though this is only the first episode after all and there are still production kinks to work out, Benoist is on top form all the way through.
She brings humour and warmth and spirit and genuine emotion to Kara Zor-El that makes her feel like a fully fleshed out person who has been dealing with hiding her true self for most of her life and now finally has a chance to be who she really is. Sure, maybe I connect to that last part more than some others will, but it’s amazing to see Benoist embody Kara and take those first steps towards being Supergirl. She shows in just one episode that not only is she more than ready and capable of being a superhero, but she can hold down an entire show by herself.
It also really helps that she nails the adorable nerd schtick perfectly. It’s a great twist on the timid reporter Clark Kent angle.
2. And The Rest!
It’s not just Benoist who shines in this pilot, though, the supporting cast pretty much all put in great turns. From the great cameos by Helen Slater and Dean Cain (look ’em up) in the beginning to Calista Flockhart’s amazingly acidic Cat Grant to David Harewood as a great interpretation of Hank Henshaw to the other star of the show, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen. While they do all start off pretty arch, this being a first episode and all, they all feel like they have the potential and room to grow as the series develops.
Especially Brooks’ Olsen. It’s a very different take from the timid, nervous news photographer who still genuinely thinks bow ties and sweater vests are cool, but it’s a take that actually makes sense. When you think about how long this Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen has been around not just Superman, but Clark Kent while in Metropolis, it makes sense for him to be more confident in himself and Brooks and captures that perfectly. It also makes for a great connection between Kara and her cousin without having to drag the Man Of Steel in every other episode. I can’t wait to see how Kara and James connect over the course of the season.
3. Super Sisters
You might have noticed I missed someone off that list of supporting characters. No, I’m not talking about Jeremy Jordan as Winn, I didn’t want to bring this whole thing down by talking about how boring he is. I meant Chyler Leigh as Kara’s sister, Alex. This episode does a really great job of showing the development between these two sisters that definitely have their differences and conflicts, but who, in the end, will fight for each other rather than against one another.
You get a lot of ups and downs in their relationship just in one episode, from the reveal that Alex has been using her relationship with Kara as information in her job with the Department of Extra-Normal Affairs (because I guess only The Flash can use the word metahuman?) and the betrayal Kara feels to Alex’s genuinely heartwarming attempt to reconcile with Kara later in the episode, the sibling relationship already feels layered and complex and, most importantly, real.Continued below
4. Something, Something, Pilot, Plane Crash Pun
You know, for a pilot, I was really surprised by how impressively action-packed it was. The plane rescue scene – that was really special to me as a die-hard Superman Returns apologist – was spectacularly done and even gave a 9 year old multi-million dollar movie a run for it’s money. It set the bar pretty dang high, that’s for sure, and while I’m not sure how they’re going to top it, I think it’s definitely going to go down as one of the best moments in any superhero TV show. At least, it will for me.
Also… the villain of this of this episode was Vartox. Vartox. The guy who was created as a reference to this. That… that’s amazing. Sure, they got rid of most of what makes the character a reference to Zardoz and made him a pretty generic villain by comparison, but for a pilot’s villain he wasn’t bad. It probably helped a lot that a) Owain Yeoman is amazingly underrated as an actor and b) the wire-work and stunt work for the fights between Vartox and Supergirl were fluid and impressive overall and made the action feel pretty intense. I can only hope that the show will get even better in that regard as it progresses.
5. Looking To The Future Or, General Who?
As you might have gathered, I really loved this pilot. Of course, it being a pilot means that it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but what I think it shows is that the character, the mythos surrounding her, the production and the cast all show the potential to become a great show. If they can capitalise on what made this episode great – the emotions, the action, the action setpieces that showed a focus on saving people over blowing shit up – and continue to improve on that while keeping things like the pacing of the episodes and the references to the Big Blue Boyscout in check (too much of a good thing isn’t always the best, after all) then we’ll have a number 2 contender for the best comic book TV show on the air. Sadly, Supergirl does have a way to go before it catches up to The Flash‘s headstart, but I think this is a definite strong opening.
Also, that teaser at the end? Sadly, my initial reaction that we were getting a female General Zod has been dashed by the news that that’s actually Astra, Alura Zor-El’s twin sister. It seems to me that Astra is a creation for the show and is intended to be Kara’s version of General Zod with the added twist that she looks exactly like her biological mother. That’s a pretty good twist I think and I can’t wait to see how that plays out.
Hopefully it won’t end with Kara committing murder because, no, I’m never letting that go, that ending was terrible.
But at least Supergirl was good!