'Supergirl' Pilot: 8 Burning Questions Answered

Thursday, 09 July 2015 - 10:15AM
DC Comics
San Diego Comic Con
Thursday, 09 July 2015 - 10:15AM
'Supergirl' Pilot: 8 Burning Questions Answered
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For many of you, your burning questions about Supergirl were already answered after the pilot leaked online last month. But for those of you who missed the window of opportunity to download it, or who are sticklers for the law and whatnot, we saw the Supergirl pilot last night at SDCC Preview Night, and we have the answers to all your burning questions:

Is it really like that Black Widow SNL skit?

Honestly, those comparisons were blown way out of proportion. Yes, there is a subplot involving Kara's dating life, but it's relatively unobtrusive and doesn't make the overall show feel like a glorified rom-com.

And besides, look at superhero shows with a man in the lead role (read: all of them). The Flash, Arrow, all of those shows had love interests from the very beginning as well. Any show starring young, good-looking people, for that matter, will probably have some kind of love plotline. But ultimately, the most important relationship on Supergirl is the one between Kara and her foster sister, Alex. This provides the emotional core of the show.

But she wears glasses! And she's awkward and adorable with a menial job! Sounds like a rom-com to me.

All of that is true, and they're all clichés. But pilots can be forgiven a few clichés for expediency's sake, and I don't think it's a problem inherent to a female superhero show specifically. Supergirl is essentially all-powerful, so like Superman, she needs to have a bumbling, nerdy alter ego in order to make her relatable. Otherwise, we're just watching a show about a perfect, near-divine being, which would be incredibly boring.

So it's not sexist?

It's not actively sexist, at least not so far. Whether it's actually "feminist" is a different story, and really depends on what kind of feminism you personally ascribe to. There are tongue-in-cheek moments in which the show tries to deal with the fact the Supergirl is an inherently problematic character, like when she tries on a really skimpy outfit before settling on her more conservative one, or when Kara protests at being called "Supergirl" rather than "Superwoman." These scenes help the show seem more feminist, although it's worrisome that we're seemingly supposed to agree with Cat Grant when she gives a diatribe about taking back the word "girl" as a positive descriptor. There's a reason we've never had a Superboy, because it's infantilizing, and it's more acceptable to infantilize women than men. And there are several scenes peppered throughout the pilot that have the same problem, that exemplify "girl power" rather than actual feminism.

But that being said, Kara herself is a likable, perfectly fallible "strong female character," and Melissa Benoist's charming performance helps to give her dimension, even when she falls prey to rom-com cliches. And best of all, the representation of women doesn't fall solely on her shoulders, as all of the most important characters are women and all of the most important relationships are between women. She's a female superhero, with a female boss, who is best friends with her foster sister, and (mild spoiler!) will soon go up against a female villain. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and in case it still needs to be said, it's about damn time we had a female-led superhero show.

Is it as good as The Flash and/or Arrow?

If I had to guess, I would say it won't be quite as great as The Flash, but it's already better than Arrow was at the beginning. It's lighthearted, but still has emotional heft, and the general consensus of the people around me was that it was "good." Not "great," not "amazing," but "good." 

And I can tell you this right now: it's much, much better than Gotham.

Does the premise make sense?

Not really. Supposedly Kara didn't use her superpowers because "the world didn't need another superhero." But then when Alex was about to die in a plane crash, no one even thought to call Superman, so are we really meant to believe that he handled every crisis before that? And further, it's a little strange that she only felt the need to use her abilities to save people because her foster sister was in danger. Would she have let those people die if they were all strangers?

But like I said, Supergirl would be a very boring character if they didn't find some way to add vulnerability, and it's going to be a lot of fun to see her learn to use her powers. This conceit also provided some of the most subtle feminism exhibited in the pilot, as it served as an extended metaphor for women's ambitions being overshadowed by men's. In this day and age, it's not that Kara literally couldn't use her powers, but society was telling her that she didn't need to.

Does Superman show up?

Yes, briefly, but it's just a brief cameo, and we can't see his face. This could mean that we can hold out hope that their version of Superman is Henry Cavill, especially since the timeline is extremely convoluted in order to make Kara ten years younger than her cousin, but I wouldn't count my chickens for an actual crossover.

What about Helen Slater and Dean Cain?

Again, it's only a brief cameo, but it was enough to make Comic Con fans extremely happy, and they will clearly be recurring characters in the future.

Is Jimmy Olsen really good-looking?

Yes, Jimmy Olsen has been stud-washed, which fans of the comics might find a little jarring. That was everyone's problem with Mehcad Brooks' casting, right?
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Supergirl Pilot: 8 Burning Questions Answered