‘Supergirl’ recap: It’s good to be a hero

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Supergirl’ recap: It’s good to be a hero.

During the series premiere of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) finally became the titular hero she was always meant to be, though her work has only just begun. Several things are abundantly clear in the first episode for CBS’s big swing at the comic book genre: Supergirl is not going to hide its optimism, its sense of fun or the gender of its protagonist for anyone expecting a broody, Christopher Nolan-esque, masculine take on superheroism.With Supergirl taking flight on CBS tonight, we spoke with executive producers Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash) and Ali Adler(Glee, Chuck) in separate interviews to ask some of our burning questions, particularly about the politics of making broadcast’s first female-driven costumed superhero show on a Big 4 network in decades.Melissa Benoist, star of the new superhero series, “Supergirl,” leaped in a single bound into the controversy stirred up after GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush called her “pretty hot.” Shown the cringe-worthy clip of the 62-year-old former governor of Florida, Benoist, 27, displayed a Herculean feat of diplomacy during an interview on “CBS This Morning” Monday. “I don’t know what to think about it,” she said hours before the show’s series debut on the network . “I’m glad he’s excited to watch the show.” Bush seemed very excited by the prospect of watching the “Glee” alum on her new show during a Las Vegas campaign event last Wednesday when he was asked who his favorite Marvel superhero was. “I saw that ‘Supergirl’ is on TV,” Bush told his questioner. “I saw it when I was working out this morning. Among them, the big bad was revealed to be her mother’s twin sister, Astra (Laura Benanti), who is hell-bent on ruling Earth — and making Kara pay for the sins of her mother.

To put it simply, follows Kara Danvers () as she embraces her secret identity as Superman’s cousin, flies around throwing shade at her haters, and gets involved in a casual love triangle. Unfortunately, Krypton’s destruction created a shockwave that knocked Kara’s ship into the Phantom Zone, a place where space is frozen and where she would remain stuck for 23 years before getting to her destination.

Get pumped with everything you need to know about below. (But not so pumped that you hurl yourself off a building in an attempt to fly, please.) For those of you who fear Supergirl won’t deliver on the action and adventure, think again. Wanting her to have a normal upbringing, Superman places her in the care of the Danvers (Lois & Clark’s Dean Cain and Supergirl’s Helen Slater), scientists who helped him understand his powers and who also have another daughter, Alex. “Even though I had the all same powers ‘he’ did, I decided the best thing I could do was fit in,” Kara explains in a voice-over. The show doesn’t shy away from big-budget explosions and effects (Kara has laser eyes, don’t worry about it), and should please even the most discerning fans of the genre.

She reasoned that, “Earth didn’t need another hero.” (Supergirl will spend most of its series premiere fighting back against this idea and making a case that Kara’s story is just as interesting and worthwhile as that of Superman.) The pilot of CBS’ Supergirl is fast-paced, charming, fun, and incredibly self-aware. There’s a leaked email from a Marvel executive a few years ago essentially saying, “This is why female superheroes don’t work,” and it listed three examples of ones that didn’t work over a long history of time. Here’s the deal with Supergirl: She was sent to Earth to watch over her cousin (aka Superman), but her ship got trapped in a time portal, delaying her arrival in the process. While the pilot might not be a great episode — it’s a bit clunky thanks to enormous amounts of exposition, a necessary evil — it is effective and makes me want to return next week and, hopefully, for many more weeks to come. That’s certainly going to create emotional issues for Kara when she’s placed in situations where, perhaps to save Earth, she’s going to have to end her aunt’s life.

When we catch-up with Kara in the present, she’s working as an editorial assistant at the National City-based media conglomerate CatCo Worldwide Media, a job that mainly consists of fetching coffee. And, as the show itself notes, it’s a story you’ve already heard, not just because a lot of comic book origin stories have similarities, but because Supergirl (or Kara Zor-El) has the exact same backstory as her cousin, Superman. It’s no secret that the superhero genre is slightly lacking in female leads, and Supergirl is proof positive that women are just as capable of heroism as men.

OK, it’s not 100% the same, but it still involves a child being stuck in a tiny spaceship on Krypton (if they had bigger spaceships so many of their problems would have been solved) and catapulted towards Earth as Krypton explodes. The show intentionally challenges the idea that only men can be heroes, and Kara even questions her potentially problematic name. “Shouldn’t she be called Superwoman?” she says in the premiere. “If we call her Supergirl, something less than what she is, doesn’t that make us guilty of being anti-feminist?” Eventually, Kara owns her name and rises above sexism in the most literal way possible. (Get it? Over on the opposite side of the personality spectrum we have Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), Kara’s boss who is the complete opposite of mild-mannered and is an obvious foil to Kara. Kara is sent to live with a foster family, including an older sister, and she chooses a normal life, trying to fit in with the rest of the world and not overstep. After a meeting with Cat, Kara meets CatCo’s new art director, James “Jimmy” Olsen, who recently transferred from The Daily Planet in Metropolis, where he made a name for himself with a Pulitzer for snapping the first photo of Superman.

That was why we were so excited to get Laura Benanti, because Laura plays Alura as this benevolent angel, but she can also convincingly play the bad guy. There were moments where Supergirl gets a thrashing in the pilot, where if a man in the Flash or Arrow pilot got beat up, people didn’t visibly wince. Tiny sparks start to fly between Kara and James (only Superman and his mother call him Jimmy), and we can already see that the writers are planning to create a love triangle between Kara, James, and Winn.

Cat becomes obsessed with featuring an exclusive about National City’s resident flying female, but little does she know that Supergirl’s actually working as her lowly assistant. One of the most interesting things about our show is that everyone is doing what they’re doing for the same reasons, they’re just going about it in the wrong way. You can take the writers out of The CW, but you can’t take The CW out the show. (ASIDE: The CW passed on Supergirl before it landed at CBS, its corporate sibling.) Tonight, Kara has a date with someone she met online, but can’t figure out what to wear on her date. The way we talk about the Fort Rozz villains is if the gates of San Quentin suddenly opened and everybody ran out, every single person who got out of there wouldn’t instantly go back to doing what they were doing. Clad in a blue sweater (it’s her color), Kara rushes into an alley and, after a few false starts, she is up, up and away, literally carrying a 747 to safety with her bare hands.

After performing her first act of heroism, Kara does not retreat to brood in a cave — she eats pizza and watches herself on the news, booing a reporter for being mean and squealing when her silhouette appears onscreen. You’re a part of a larger thing, and so we already kind of feel that kind of pressure of making sure that it’s really good and that it can live within the really esteemed kind of canon of these stories. ALI ADLER: If we had a female president, I don’t think we’d be going, “There’s our female president,” we’d just go, “There’s our president.” Maybe the first day in office we’ll talk about that, and after that, she just needs to prove her worth. In a twist on the fashion montages you’ve seen on Sex and the City and the like, Kara tests out a variety of costumes, ditching a midriff-baring option for a sleek skirt-and-cape ensemble (capes are good for aero-dynamics says Winn, and we just go with it).

It’s become a bit of a social media minefield — as Joss Whedon discovered with Black Widow in Age of Ultron — that if you make a perceived misstep with a female superhero character, you could be in for the biggest backlash of your career. She takes her new outfit out for a test drive, but is ambushed by the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO) and is knocked out using kryptonite tranquilizers. Later, she wakes up in the DEO’s underground base and meets Hank Henshaw (Homeland’s David Harewood), the agency’s head, who explains that the DEO protects Earth from extraterrestrial presence and/or invasion.

So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” Kara’s fun is cut short when she’s captured (a little too easily but hey, she’s still learning) by the DEO (Department of Extranormal Affairs), a government agency tasked with dealing with aliens that just happens to have Alex on the payroll. She remembers her mother, her father, her friends and her schoolteachers, extended family, and everything that any one of us who lives in a world knows. The not-so-subtly dismissive leader, Hank Henshaw, has no time for Kara, and blames her for the landing of a much more dangerous alien ship: a prison that landed at the same time as she did and unleashed the universe’s worst criminals on Earth. One of those criminals, the also not-so-subtly misogynistic Vartox, was the one who tried to crash the plane, and after learning about Kara’s existence, he calls her out to try to kill her.

So because Kara has friends, and this wider range of emotion, she has a different origin story, and grew up on Krypton, she knows two worlds, she’s just got a wider range of emotions we get to use. There’s definitely more to it: Based on his concerns about Superman’s presence on Earth, it’s clear that he also doesn’t trust Kara because she’s an alien. The next day, Kara returns to work and learns that Cat has christened her alter ego “Supergirl” in the press. “I don’t want to minimize the importance of this,” Kara says as she objects being called “girl” instead of “woman.” Becoming a voice for the producers, Cat defends the name.

Cat and Kara’s argument is about to end with Cat firing Kara, but James interrupts with an exclusive, clean photo of Supergirl and gives Kara all the credit for acquiring it. She brings Kara a present in the form of a holographic message from her biological mother (the always-lovely Laura Benanti) which has just the right amount of love and inspiration to get our Supergirl back on track. Impressed, Cat tells Kara that she needs to start speaking up for herself and taking credit when she does something good or else she’ll never get anywhere.

The scene at the beginning of the episode where Kara saves the plane is a stunning action sequence for sure, but this final fight is more a taste of what we’re going to get week-to-week, and it is seriously thrilling. BERLANTI: It wasn’t so much a hesitation as much as it was everyone wanting to… When we do this audition process on our end—just so you know, because I think nobody realizes this — we see a thousand people. You’ll see in subsequent episodes, too, that they have a room in the DEO that they can adjust the level of Kryptonite exposure in it to even the playing field, so to speak, for Kara. What’s fun about Kara and Alex (Chyler Leigh) is that Kara obviously has all the superpowers, but Alex is like Sydney Bristow, she’s a trained secret agent.

They have these pictures in the comics of a massive wave of a blonde mane, and she’s been drawn different throughout the years, with an emphasis on her chest, or legs. If Whereas if you’re casting Superman, everyone’s going to go like, “How much does he remind you of Christopher Reeve?” But we had an idea, just from the storytelling in the script, of who inspired us and who we wanted to write for. The irony of the whole situation is as she’s being a mentor to her put-upon assistant, she doesn’t realize that she’s also helping to mentor Supergirl.

It’s hard enough trying to make these things what they deserve to be, let alone try to make them something different, and I knew sometimes the corporate people and executives can get nervous or scared about certain things. Part of her relationship with Jimmy is Jimmy acting as a conduit for Superman — this is the way Superman did things, these are the things he thinks. The version that leaked on BitTorrent was, from what I’m told, a higher resolution than anyone peripherally involved in the show actually had access to, leading some to think that it must have been deliberately leaked as a way of generating interest in the show since The Flash did so well after that pilot leaked. BERLANTI: I get upset, and I write the studio and the network, and we talk to legal, and we talk to press and publicity about where it may have come from.

And then at some point over the next couple of days, I kind of relax about it and just kind of let the chips fall where they may, because there’s nothing I can do about it. The most successful love triangles I’ve ever seen on television are the ones where you have to be able to root for the other person who won’t necessarily ever actually be the winner. It was really important for us to find a Lucy Lane who was strong, beautiful, and awesome, but different from Kara, but not so different that she didn’t like her, compelling enough, interesting enough and likable enough that you understood why James would want to be with her if he could be with Kara — we really feel like we found all that in Jenna.

She actually works for her father, General Lane, which adds an extra level of complication since General Lane is not a fan of any aliens on Earth, including Superman and Supergirl. I thought, “Oh gosh, maybe there really is a need for something like this if they’re already making a skit about it.” Clearly people are wanting to talk about why there’s not more female heroes represented. What’s interesting about Winn is, as he says to her in an upcoming episode, “I liked you before I found out about the S.” That’s the thing that’s interesting to Kara. BERLANTI: What I’ll say about the network element crossover is what I always say, which is, “Never say never.” And then in terms of the connection to the feature side, we are writing a Superman who is not the same as the one that’s represented in the film. So we have nothing to do with them, because we reference him quite a bit on our show in different ways, and my sense of it doesn’t line up with that film.

Ours is a different Superman. “Stronger Together” — When Kara’s attempts to help National City don’t go according to plan, she must put aside the doubts that she — and the city’s media — has about her abilities in order to capture an escapee from the Kryptonian prison, Fort Rozz, when SUPERGIRL moves to its regular time period, Monday, Nov. 2 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

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