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Four Things Wrong with the Supergirl Show

An extended trailer for Supergirl, premiering on the network best known for its risky, complex storytelling: CBS, has arrived! And it has garnered some… mixed responses. Now, first off, this article won’t be lambasting you if you either loved it or hated it. That’s neither here nor there.

Instead I’m going to argue that, regardless of your feelings on it, Supergirl appears to be — objectively — a pretty weak television show. Which is horrible because the character of Supergirl has a ton of potential as a series, especially if you want to introduce the young girl demographic to comics. Why wasn’t this on CW, guys? This could be twice the super high school drama Smallville was!

Also, before we begin, I’d like to say that none of the problems I’ll be getting into are things like: its tone seems to light to the point of satire, or that it’s on CBS, or even that it seems built upon a foundation of worn-out workplace rom-com tropes. Though they’re still… you know… problems.

Superman’s Super Absence

All throughout the trailer, we’re given a bunch of implied Superman, though they never actually say the word “Superman”. Whether they can say it in the show or not (maybe they just say him and cousin and the guy over and over until you regret allowing yourself to live), I don’t know. What I do know, is that we’re probably not going to get much Supes, if at all. Maybe a cameo early on or late in the season. Maybe.

And this is, I think, a gigantic misstep. Now obviously, you don’t want Superman upstaging your main character, I get that, but he needs to have more than just an implied presence. Why? Good question! It’s because 1) the story of Supergirl is incredibly intertwined with Superman and 2) it gives you an advantage over all the other comic book shows coming out.

See, one of the classic dimensions to Supergirl is not just that she struggles with escaping Superman’s shadow, but more importantly how she deals with Supes’ crushing over protectiveness. She’s one of the last few of his species and, as such, he wants her to be as safe as possible (sorta like the weird sister character, huh?).

“WHERE ARE YOU FLYING TO AT THIS HOUR, MISSY?!”

It also allows you to break the “new superhero trying to figure out what to do” cliche. In the trailer, it becomes pretty obvious we’re getting a standard superhero origin story, the same kind we’ve seen a thousand times before. With more Superman, we’d automatically get the kind of origin story we haven’t seen on the small screen before. Instead of having our Supergirl follow the same path seen on Arrow or Flash, we’d see one already familiar with superhero-ing, one who just wants to do what she thinks is right (we’ll get to that again in a minute) even though her sun god cousin speaks against it.

As I said before, you don’t want to turn it into the Superman and Supergirl show. However, having him show up a handful of times a season would, in my opinion, do wonders to improve the show and set it apart from the tidal wave of superhero shows.

Unless CBS doesn’t have the rights to say or show Superman. In which case, uh… I don’t think I can help you.

After the first time, that is

Where Are All the Super Conflicts?

From the trailer you can kind of piece together the complete pilot, or at least get a good idea for it. As Supergirl starts figuring things out, some alien menace appears on Earth and she’s forced to stop it. Which is alright, it’s par for the course. But then what?

We see some government agency tasked with evaluating alien threats, so is it like a monster of the week type deal? Like… like The Flash and Arrow and Agents of SHIELD? So then, I assume that the over-arching Big Bad will make itself known sometime during the season.

However, what worries me is that the inter-office romance, Kara’s employment issues, and family drama are given more development in this teaser than any of the super-heroing. I mean sure, we have a throw away line that the general guy “doesn’t trust aliens”, but then a few seconds later we see him sending her into battle. That’s not a set up, that’s just telling you that they’ll be reluctant friends.

This makes me think the shows will be 40 minutes of CBS-style drama with 10 minutes of actual Supergirl-ing. Which itself might be fine if it wasn’t for…

Messy Motivations

This trailer leaves more questions than answers when it comes to motivations. It’s all contradictory and weird and I don’t think it’s just because they had to cut stuff out (it’s a trailer after all). I think it’s  indicative of a deeper issue.

For one, Kara suffers with wanting to be normal until she saves a jet then she doesn’t? Because people liked that she did that? I mean, she knew that she was capable of saving people, right? She’s just like her cousin. So if you want to be normal then… do that? I get you wanted to save your sister, but that could have easily just been a one time thing.

This strikes me as the show wanting two things. On one hand they want your typical “I just want to be normal despite these godlike poooowers” and on the other they’d like to follow Superman’s tropes beat by beat (someone who wants to save people because they can, who even joins a media giant because they think it will help). Since they naturally clash, it doesn’t work.

“Characters”

Admittedly, this could be a simple symptom of it being a trailer, but in all the six minutes we didn’t really get any glimpse of really good characters. Kara had the most depth, obviously, but there’s not much else. Think about it.

Take the sister. She spends most of the trailer playing devil’s advocate to Kara’s optimism, okay, but then at the end suddenly she’s completely flipped.  That doesn’t seem like character development, that seems like her attitude changes to fit the plot.

Cat Grant seems like your typical intimidating, powerful boss who’ll probably turn out to have a heart of gold. Nerdy love interest and Jimmy– James Olsen seem to be two sides of your typical love interest spectrum. I don’t even want to guess what the series’ true Big Bad will look like.

This?

I’m sure Supergirl will find some sort of audience out there. Personally, I wasn’t too confident when I first heard it would be airing on CBS and this “first look” didn’t really instill much more confidence. But what do you think? Did I miss the mark? Is Supergirl going to be the smash hit of the season?

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Comments

  • Irish Jim

    The first thing I said when I heard there would be a Supergirl show was “You can’t have Supergirl without Superman” . As you said, he does not have to be a regular, but he has to be around every couple of shows. I suppose you can completely re-write the story, but I would not do it.

    In Superman and Batman, DC has the 2 most popular comic characters in history. I am not sure who #3 is (Spiderman?), but it is not close, yet DC seems to want to run away from them, marginalize them and not use them effectively to support their shows. I don’t get it.

    They spend a lot of money putting on shows with lesser stars like Green Arrow and Atom, and let them hang out there with support only from the Flash (a B+ level hero) and Black Canary. How about they find Hal Jordan flying the Ferris Aviation plane? Maybe John Jones can join the Starkling City Police Department.

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