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In its third season premiere, Supergirl relies on the formula that made Season 2 (mostly) successful: namely, a big, bright dose of superhero punch-em-ups with thinly veiled allegories to current events. Unfortunately, “Girl of Steel” also perpetuates some of the previous season’s most egregious sins, including inconsistent characterization and plotting. What this season premiere lacks in comparison to Season 2 is the “wow” factor created by Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman. In fact, “Girl of Steel” has a businesslike feel in the way it introduces new characters and plotlines. Rather than feeling like a dynamic opening to a season, it plays like a necessary, if narratively dry, step toward more exciting events in the episodes to come.
When we last left our hero in the Season 2 finale, Supergirl was forced to sacrifice her relationship with her beau, Mon-El, in order to save Earth. The Season 3 premiere spends an inordinate amount of time on Kara’s heartbreak as she throws herself into her Supergirl activities in an effort to forget. Thus it seems as if Mon-El’s presence dominates the series even when he isn’t on it (aside from an opening dream sequence featuring him and Kara’s Kryptonian mom). The emotional arc Kara takes from an emotionally removed stoic back to the big hearted hero we all know and love feels inevitable, which is why it has a hard time working as compelling drama. As audience members, we know that Kara’s attempts to remove herself from human concerns won’t stick—even the “temporarily quit CatCo” ploy fails to convince, especially since the showrunners played that hand last season.
It’s unfortunate that the drama component is less than compelling since “Girl of Steel” has little to offer in the way of action either. Supergirl’s primary antagonist in this week’s episode is Bloodsport, a D-list Superman flunky who doesn’t get elevated in stature. He’s a paint-by-numbers baddie whose whole raison d’etre is to give Supergirl someone to punch. Of slightly more interest is the other new character introduced in the premiere, Morgan Edge, who looks to be a thorn in Supergirl’s side. As portrayed by Adrian Pasdar of Heroes fame, Edge is a sleazy, sexist real estate developer whose ideological resemblance to Donald Trump is glaringly obvious. Supergirl is a series that wears its feminist sympathies on its sleeve, so it’s only natural that the showrunners would invent a Trump analogue, particularly since the US president is a woman in their universe.
Edge drives much of the external conflict in this episode, from threatening to buy CatCo in order to control the press narrative surrounding him to bankrolling Bloodsport in a nebulous plan to increase interest in his real estate properties. Making Edge a media mogul would’ve been an appropriate direction to take the character, given how closely it would mirror both his character in the comics and real-life figures like Rupert Murdoch. However, Edge is edged out in his acquisition of CatCo by Lena Luthor and is later confronted by Supergirl over hiring Bloodsport. Pasdar’s portrayal offers some promising glimpses of potential, but it’s a bit disappointing that the opening episode reduces him to a mustache-twirling villain caricature. Hopefully the character will be allowed to evolve other facets of his personality as the season goes on.
On the plus side, we get to see Cat Grant as White House press secretary deliver a side-eyeing critique of climate change deniers. On the downside, her current role means that her presence on the show will be limited to cameos at best. Still, a little bit of Cat Grant is better than nothing. There’s also hints of tension between the newly engaged Alex and Maggie, but aside from that things appear to be more or less status quo for the support cast. All in all, “Girl of Steel” serves as an obligatory head-clearing exercise of sorts—not a bad episode by any means, but not one that they’ll be enshrining in the Museum of Television and Radio. But we’ve got a long season ahead of us, so surely there’s still time for Supergirl to “wow” us as it’s done before.