When Supergirl hit CBS, I read numerous reviews lauding the show for its strong and likeable female lead and its ability to craft a superheroine that works in the modern day. That, it was not. When Supergirl began it was a cheese-fest featuring some woefully inept action and direction with laborious origin story aspects that dragged down the effervescent personality of series lead Melissa Benoist.
Thankfully, with the show-stopping introduction of Martian Manhunter, Supergirl transformed itself from a horribly boring show into one of geek-worth and infinite entertainment. The writers started to have fun with their characters, opting to play with their figures like children rather than executives looking to check boxes.
However, recently Supergirl has become an utter joke. Some have argued that Supergirl may not get renewed for a second season and as a result, the show’s writers are looking to cram everything and everyone into their first season, in a bid to knock it out of the park. It isn’t working at all.
The first problem with Supergirl is its insistence on keeping Superman out of the storyline. The fact that they only include him via text messaging and blurry shots really isn’t working for the show. Granted, in a recent episode Supergirl introduced a younger Kal-El through a hallucination but Supergirl really needs a Superman to paper over some significant cracks. The first few episodes were plagued by phrases like ‘your cousin’, ‘he’s busy’, ‘up, up and away’ etc. in a bid to satisfy the rabid Superman fans. But the fact of the matter is that Superman was needed on Supergirl because the two characters rely on each other. On her own, Supergirl isn’t enough, hence, the writers introducing Martian Manhunter and focusing so much attention on the ludicrously horrible Jimmy Olsen. Cast Superman, show the cousins coming to terms with their powers, their place in the world and give us a relationship that doesn’t feel forced at all.
Perhaps the worst aspect of Supergirl is Jimmy Olsen. The writers don’t know what they’re doing with the character. In the 14th episode, Olsen gets cold feet over Supergirl’s incarceration of Maxwell Lord after Lord’s attempt to kill Kara. The episode spent a lot of time, kill me now, with Jimmy Olsen and his muscle-busting moral high ground. Here’s what I didn’t get, why was a character that indulged in breaking and entering, hacking his superiors and bending the rules around every corner taking the high ground when Maxwell Lord, a man who tried to kill his friend, is incarcerated? It simply didn’t make sense. It’s artificial drama and that, above everything else, is my biggest pet peeve – artificial drama. It’s also a case of the writers not understanding their bloody creations. This Jimmy Olsen has been set up as a macho rule breaker who looks out for his friends whilst providing entirely unlikeable comedy but suddenly, with no real impetus, he’s a messiah. Give me a break. If you’re going to craft a horrible iteration of Jimmy Olsen, at least, have the fortitude and balls to stick to it rather than flipping the character on his head without showing any real progression or development.
Yet another worry is the lack of progression technically. We’ve had 15 episodes so far. The first episode featured really bad wirework and visual effects and guess what? The 15th episode featured really bad wirework and visual effects. You’d think that the obviously talented team behind Supergirl, believe it or not, there are some positives to the show, would find a newer way to feature Supergirl flying and fighting. Alas, they didn’t because at this very moment when she’s fighting aerially it just looks like two actors, absent of any direction, grappling and struggling for grip as they swing hopelessly from glaringly obvious wires. Yes, this is a show about a humanoid alien combating various murderous aliens but there has to be a certain level of immersion. Take that wirework, lock it down and fix it. Because it’s just plain laughable right now.
And in recent episodes, the writers have committed the biggest sin: not understanding their main character. After Alex kills Kara’s aunt Astra, Hank takes the fall, looking to protect Alex and Kara’s relationship. Suddenly, the altruistic and cute Kara turns sour towards Hank. Look, I get that Astra is Kara’s aunt but they said some pretty terrible things to each other over the previous 14 episodes and Astra said that at the end of the day, family would not matter in the battle. But then, suddenly, after Astra’s death, Kara can only remember the good times she had with her evil aunt. Guess what time it is again? Artificial drama time. Kara, one of the most likeable characters on TV right now, developed into an incandescently annoying shit show that still needs a kick up the arse. Part of the hate is to do with how altruistic and good-natured Hank is but most of it is leveled at the writers. How can you get your main character so damn wrong? How can you ruin such a budding partnership for two episodes? How can you mess up a show that was quickly and vastly improving? Simple, just watch the first season of Supergirl and you’ll see how.
And what could be worse than crafting problems that could have easily been avoided, ignoring the show’s best aspects in favour of them. The best aspect of Supergirl is Kara’s yearning for belonging. She gets that with Hank, the last Green Martian, and she gets that with memories of Krypton. The best scene in Supergirl thus far came in her final battle with the horribly designed Red Tornado aka Red Tomato. As she roared and blasted her laser eyes towards Red Tomato, the show cut to Krypton, her family and her loss. It was a deeply emotional button that needs to be pushed at the right time. That was the right time. But it has yet to be used sufficiently ever since. Instead, the writers are focusing on Jimmy Olsen and love triangles and awkward secretary battles instead of a universal message about family and inclusion.
The relationship between Kara and Cat has always been a highlight. Part of that is down to the chemistry between Melissa Benoist as Kara and Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. The relationship works best when the dynamic parallels that of mother and daughter. Cat’s advice, Kara being stern and the few episodes we had of Cat claiming Kara is Supergirl were not only intriguing but also well done.
Since then, that relationship has developed into one akin to something off Jersey Shore. Kara starts dating Cat’s son for a while, she stands him up a few times, so Cat turns on Kara. She hires a competing secretary and guess what we have? An Ugly Betty narrative enters the fold. The mark of a good show, and the mark of good writers is noticing what works, developing that whilst trying new things on the side. And if the new things don’t work, they adapt them. Granted, they tried something new with Cat and Kara and it didn’t hit. So what did they do? They stuck with it. Good lord.
You know that idea of sticking with what’s working? Yeah, let’s expand on that. Two underappreciated, by the writers, characters are Hank and Winn. The show spends one episode with Winn, his father and his history and it is infinitely and exponentially more entertaining than any of the romantic bollocks we’ve seen with Jimmy, Kara and Lucy Lane. You can tell that the writers really enjoyed that episode, with Toyman playing the villain, so why did they reduce Winn to a background player again? If you brought him forward and it worked, keep him forward. If Jimmy Olsen is forward and works better in the background, move him back. Jesus.
And then there’s Hank. If you have a weapon like the magnetic David Harewood starring in your show, how stupid must you be to not only labour him with utterly stupid storylines but also minimal screen time? Not only is Hank burdened with Kara hating him for no apparent reason, the man, who just happens to be the beloved Martian Manhunter, is also losing screen time to the likes of Siobhan Smythe, Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane. Give me a break. If you have a reserve like Harewood and Martian Manhunter at your disposal, use it. When Hank told Alex he wasn’t actually Hank, that he was really J’Onn J’Onzz, Harewood delivered a deft and subtle turn and produced one of the best scenes of the show up until then. Granted, since then Hank has had some nice little scenes. But he has always been pushed into the background. They need to realise that he is a far more important character than they give him credit for.
I am really worried about Supergirl. Not only because I told a few people to start watching the show because it gets much better – only for it to revert to being utter crap – but also because it can be so much better than it is right now.