The “S” in CBS is looking a bit redder these days. On Monday night, the latest addition to the DC Entertainment universe, SuperGirl, took off with 12.96 million viewers and a 3.1 rating among ages 18-49. That number ties the 2015 mark set by NBC’s Blindspot for the most widely watched series debut within the prized demographic. Overall, the pilot was a good episode and if this latest comics-to-TV franchise can maintain a healthy slice of its initial audience, CBS will also be seeing a lot of green. Below is my “Good, Bad & Ugly” review for SuperGirl’s first installment.
The Good: The show makes a point. While its DC breathren (Flash, Arrow, Gotham) focus on the mainstay elements of entertainment - characters, plots, effects - SuperGirl is adding a message. Kara Zor-el has all the same abilities as a certain cousin of hers (delightfully referenced as “the other guy”), so why don’t the people around her value what she offers and contributes just the same? In the episode, Kara continually finds herself underrated, both from her “by-day” CEO at CatCO Media and from her “by-night” division head of the US Department of Extranormal Operations. The show seeks to be a story about equal opportunity for equal potential. In a year in which one of the major American political parties may nominate a woman for the presidency, it’s a particularly well-timed idea to discuss within primetime television.
While SuperGirl largely had a successful night at the plate, not every swing made contact.
The Bad: After SuperGirl’s first act of heroism, rescuing her stepsister Alex and the crashing commercial airliner she's on, Kara and Alex eventually meet back at Kara's apartment. Two problems arose. In the episode, rescuing her stepsister Alex and the crashing commercial airliner she’s on, Kara and Alex eventually meet back at Kara’s apartment. Two problems arose. In the moment, Kara was caught up in what she accomplished and seemed to give only cursory concern to the trauma her sister had endured. Watching this dynamic felt jarring and in an episode in which I hoped to immediately invest in the main character, I was put off. In this moment, I also grimaced at a line of dialogue between Kara and Alex. Kara compared the feeling of exhibiting her powers to a first kiss. This simile was as dangerously close to the SNL parody of a female superhero show as SuperGirl should get. The Scarlett Johannsen comedy sketch famously identified some of the bright lines that audiences monitor when it comes to how females are portrayed on television, and I sincerely hope that SuperGirl doesn’t find itself in the crosshairs guarding those boundaries. Fortunately, the end of the scene provided a course correction as Alex coldly dismissed Kara’s superhero coming-out. It was a gut-punch to Kara, re-establishing why you wanted her to triumph.
The final point to make on this episode is also a purely personal nit-pick and since it only involves demanding that TV cater to my own nerdish impulses, I’ll call it “The Ugly.”
The Ugly: Warner Bros, you had one job. I just needed one box checked if we’re going to have a show about a character with an “S” across their chest. You took it away from the needlessly dark Man of Steel franchise, so it was available and you didn’t use it. It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I’ve seen the pilot episode and I already have no idea what music was a part of it. Fortunately, YouTube fans are already getting it right. Don’t dis the John Williams.
Written by: Joseph Money