by Tony Ortega
Kara Zor-El. Linda Lee. Linda Danvers. Kal-El’s cousin. All names associated with one of this writer’s favorite female superheroines, the iconic Supergirl. The character has gone through many iterations: from the innocent teenager who was Superman’s secret weapon and heroically sacrificed her life for the multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the protoplasmic matrix turned earth angel in Peter David’s run of the comic, to the fantastic Helen Slater cinematic version (starring the indelible Faye Dunaway and Brenda Vaccaro), to the New 52 angsty teen (barf, my least favorite interpretation). When they announced an attempt to bring Supergirl to the small screen, I groaned quite loudly as I was very scared as to how they would portray my girl. Then they cast Melissa Benoist as Kara, which further increased my discontent as her portrayal of Marley Rose on Glee usually sent me into a catatonic state as well as causing my ears to bleed. Quite frankly, I single handedly blame her for that series’ demise. Upon watching the series premiere, I am about to say something that I thought I would never say: Melissa Benoist – I forgive you.
Supergirl the series opens as Krypton explodes and Kara is sent to follow her infant cousin, Kal, to protect him as he adjusts to life on Earth. A fluke causes Kara’s ship to be transported to the Phantom Zone for 24 years, arriving way later on Earth. Kal-El has already established himself as Superman and Kara finds herself without a mission anymore. Kal sets her up with the Danvers family (squeal – played by former Supergirl Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain). Flash forward, Kara is employed as an assistant to Cat Grant at CatCo in National City.
Minor spoilers ahead.
The show has a pretty amazing cast: Calista Flockhart, who continues to look gravely undernourished, portrays the egregious Cat Grant. Chyler Leigh, who this writer sorely misses from her days on Grey’s Anatomy, as Kara’s step-sister, Alex Danvers. Jeremy Jordan, of SMASH and Newsies fame (insert hunk sigh) as Winn Schott. Mehcad Brooks, formerly of True Blood, as James (“Jimmy”) Olsen (yes, we now have an African American Jimmy Olsen – deal with it). Laura Benanti, who is amazing in just about any Broadway musical she stars in, as Alura Zor-El.
Now to my former arch-nemesis, Melissa Benoist. She is absolutely amazing in her portrayal as Kara Zor-El/Danvers. She is the perfect amalgam of all the best aspects of the character from the comics to the Helen Slater movie (I think Faye Dunaway and Brenda Vaccaro are available for an episode of two, no?). Like The Flash TV series, we see a person with extraordinary powers AND a very human side. Someone who doubts that she can make a difference in the world. Someone who is told not to be who she really is for fear of what society at large may think. Someone who lives in the shadow of her more powerful counterpart. This is the stuff I live for and I struggle with (don’t we all to some extent). Give me characters I can relate to, even if they have super speed and/or heat vision. Kudos Melissa. You are absolutely brilliant.
The series premiere ties in much of the Superman/Supergirl mythos with a freshness that I have not seen since The Flash premiered. Readers of the comic and new viewers equally will benefit from the tight storyline, although us comic book aficionados will definitely have the upper hand. Also, while this show is obviously tied into probably one of the iconic characters in comic book history, it maintains a strong identity of its own with only minor references to the man in blue. However, we do get the classic ripping the shirt to reveal the “S” at least once.
My favorite part is when Alex provides Kara with a recorded message from Alura. My friends laugh at me as I find the metaphysical in just about anything and this segment did just that. In it, Alura tells Kara the following: “There is no correct path to life. You will lose your way many times. What’s important is that you find your way back to the brave girl you always were. Be wise. Be strong. And always be true to yourself.” A tear jerking moment between mother and daughter. Certainly words to live by.
The series premiere of Supergirl is off to a very strong start. We find out that Alex actually works for Hank Henshaw (aka The Eradicator) and the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO).
We also find out that when Kara’s ship went, and subsequently left the Phantom Zone, she brought Krypton’s worst criminals who had been previously imprisoned there, causing all kinds of havoc on Earth, much to the DEO’s dismay. Kara Zor-El/Danvers/Supergirl now has a mission. And who is that woman in the closing segment that bears an uncanny resemblance to Alura Zor-El?
I give the series premiere of Supergirl 4 out of 5 stars.