Thursday, 29 October 2015

Supergirl (Season 1) Premiere

The adventures of Superman's cousin in her own superhero career. 

Supergirl is the latest DC Comics adaptation from producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg. Taking a page from The Flash and Smallville before it, the series also seeks to establish via Kara's origin tale a deeper mythology and an excuse for Earth to be populated by  various super-beings. Supergirl arrived late in the booklet of comic book super-heroine that emerged after Wonder Woman in 1941. Though in the 60s she was a supporting player in the Superman family of titles. Until getting her first dedicated series in 1972. She has seen some reboots, pushed by publishers to diversify themselves. Did you know there's now a female Thor? A female Hawkeye and Spider-Gwen? This introductory hour holds closely to that pair producer's formula for The Flash, elevating an adorable Glee cast (there Grant Gustin, here Melissa Benoist) to a costumed-icon status. I'm glad Supergirl exists and I really want it to succeed. It's more than fine with me if it never becomes more than a solid superhero genre show with a female lead - especially since that lead is fantastic.      

Although Melissa Benoist is not unknown (especially to Glee viewers - like me - who made it past season 3) she's one of those rare casting miracle. She nails the title role: handling very well her dual role, it creates hope for the show going forward. Perfect casting. Her performance embraces, internalises and sells the character's contradictions and paradoxes. Melissa makes Kara feels real, she wears the costume proudly and easily while embodying joy and complexity all at once. Moreover, Calista Flockhart as the central character media mogul boss, Cat Grant, gives the show a Devil Wears Prada vibe. The first super-heroic act is a plane rescue that vaguely echoes the original Christopher Reeve's Superman. As in that movie there's a scene of exultation in which Kara explores her powers after so many years trying to blend in and be normal. A central idea in Superman's origin is that he is super not because of his powers, but because of the character cultivated by his parent. Here we're introduced to the Danvers, scientists and former TV show Superman father Dean Cain.       

Knowingly engages gender issues, including about the representation of women in pop culture. It's something rare: a superhero series that isn't about a superman. Indeed, writers smartly fit Supergirl's origin story to a very current feminist theme: that women must overcome being socialised to say sorry, o put themselves second or to efface themselves. Rather delivers its message with an enthusiastic bluntness that harkens back to its comic roots. The name "Supergirl" is ultimately explained, seeking to deflect any charges of sexism about the "girl" designation. The most meta scene comes when Cat Grant coins this name and defends it to Kara , who tries to argue that perhaps "SuperWoman" would be a more appropriate and respectful name. "I'm a girl" says Cat, "and your boss and powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive "Supergirl" as anything less than excellent, isn't the real problem you?". The argument she makes is debatable but worth having. Finally, Supergirl could be filling a shameful void after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. That needs to be followed by more contemporary properties such as (hopefully) the upcoming Netflix series, Marvel's Jessica Jones. In a field long dominated by men, Supergirl provides a superhero roe model for girls and young women while symbolising values anyone could admire. "Can you believe it? A female hero. Nice for my daughter to have someone like that to look up to." Yes that is nice. Now we need more. 

Overall, finding the right star and building a credible pilot are big parts of the battle. Thanks to those strengths if the producers can sustain the playfulness and action without going overboard, there's reason to believe this "girl" can fly.

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