Warner Brothers and CBS are close to the premiere of the DC Comics TV series “Supergirl.” The premiere will show how a young relative of Superman decided to stop hiding her powers on Earth and become a hero in her own right - and if that sounds boring, it’s because it is.
[SPOILER-FREE PREMIERE REVIEW FOLLOWS]
From the get-go, “Supergirl” rehashes the very familiar, if not tired, plot of the Superman story. As planet Krypton is on the verge of destruction, the Kryptonian’s last hope is a young baby boy, whom they send to Earth in an escape pod. What fewer people know is that, following directly behind Superman’s pod was a 13-year-old girl named Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist). Her parents sent her to earth as well to protect her cousin, but as everyone knows, Superman and the city of Metropolis need no help.
So, rather than team up with her cousin, she moves to the fictional National City and hides her powers from the world. Since that would make for a pretty boring show, it’s needless to say that she eventually finds herself in a situation that forces her to use her powers and become Supergirl. Naturally, the touch of fame the act gives her prompts her to become the city’s first superhero, and she’s a girl, which isn’t exactly the bonus the show says it is.
It seems as though a scene in the pilot isn’t complete without someone either referencing the fact that she’s a girl or lamenting the fact that she’s not Superman.
“Can you believe it? A female hero, it’s nice to have someone my daughter can look up to,” a random waitress says after seeing a news report with Supergirl on it.
It’s just one of many occasions in which the show directly tells that audience that they should be impressed with its gender-bending gimmick, without actually giving them a reason to be impressed with it. While there’s many young women that are probably thrilled to see a female superhero they can relate to, it’s just not enough. The problem is the fact that there’s nothing particularly female (or male for that matter) about being a superhero. Gender just doesn’t factor in enough for a series to hang its hat on the concept. As it should be, her being a female rarely comes into play while she’s fighting crime or super villains. Unfortunately, that puts a lot of the show’s interest in her powers, which are just a re-skinned version of the Man of Steel’s well-known origins.
So, with the show constantly patting itself on the back for having introduced a female superhero, a lot of the weight falls on her secret identity, which also falls flat. First of all, she’s just a worse version of Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) from the CW series “Arrow.” For those unfamiliar with the character, she’s a strong, socially-awkward member of the Green Arrow’s team. Her weapons are her intelligence and bravery, not her fists. This makes her a fantastic role model for viewers, particularly women, who would rather relate to a real person than a powered player. Unfortunately, all the things that make Felicity work, are taken out of Danvers. Her weapons are her fists, making her alter ego just a sheepish parody of a gal that can’t win.
Her boss is awful to her, she’s in love with the handsome new guy, her best friend is in love with her (although she “charmingly” can’t see it) and her career is a constant uphill battle for success. She overcomes none of these problems in the series, but she does wear a red and blue costume, so the audience is supposed to understand that her life is awesome - it’s not.
At the end of the day, CBS is already resting on its laurels 20 minutes into episode 1. Its lead character’s biggest claim to fame is that she’s a woman, which surprisingly only serves to undercut its otherwise worthwhile feminist goals. Otherwise, the series is simply a lack-luster rehashing of the classic “Superman” story.
Still, for those that are fans of Superman, odds are good you’ll find something of note to take away from “Supergirl” when it premiers on Oct. 26 on CBS.