I recently started a new job which has kept me pretty busy – last week, doubly so. This means time spent on the tabletop or before a TV screen has been at a premium, reserved only for The Walking Dead and Zombicide (which you can expect a review of soon. Spoiler: it’s brilliant). However, at the end of a busy few weeks I found myself blessed with a whole mess of TV to binge on; including the new Arrow and Flash, and even one episode of the new hero on the block, Supergirl. Which brings me back on topic.
I’ve always considered Arrow and Flash to be very much the light entertainment corner of the superhero market as it stands today. Though their storylines deal with some fairly dark subject matter, it’s always framed in a way that tries not to take itself too seriously – except the first series of Arrow, maybe. That whole “nobody must know my secret” shtick was laughable after he’d brought half a dozen people in on it. I don’t know if the comics were similarly light-hearted, but I assumed that Supergirl would be.
To a point, I was right, and to another point, I was too right. There’s a caricature of a horrible boss, a standard colleague in love sub-plot and everything’s generally bright and cheery. Along with all that, Supergirl has a tendency to tell you what’s happening, rather than show it, which goes against the old writer’s maxim “show, don’t tell”. You’re spoonfed information at the beginning about Kara’s origin story, rather than devoting a decent bit of screen time to it, or having Arrow-like flashbacks (though to be fair, I’d have judged them harshly for copying that too).
The female empowerment element of the show is also thrust awkwardly into the spotlight on a dozen different occasions, making for some of the clunkiest dialogue I have ever heard. The main villain of the episode also declares that on his homeworld, females bow before males – while he’s swinging around a massive over-compensatory axe. We get it. We got it from the trailer, we got it from the title screen, and we got it when you said that as a woman who wanted to make a difference, you were sick of just fetching somebody’s coffee. That’s why you saved the plane.
We understood the subtext, the implied meaning, the dissatisfaction she obviously felt during the scene at work. The show detracts from its point by continually bringing it up – which is sad. Writers like Joss Whedon have been creating strong female characters since the 90’s, so seeing the subject of heroines handled so poorly, bordering on comic disrespect, was a real disappointment…for the most part. There were a couple of decent scenes, the aforementioned expression of dissatisfaction, and the scene where her boss creates hashtag Supergirl rather than Superwoman, and comes up with a decent argument for why.
Also making the list of redeeming features are the outfit selection montage, which managed to charmingly poke fun at itself, and the well-acted awkwardness of Supergirl showing her powers off. The costume is definitely a winner, portraying her as a confident woman, retaining her sexuality without becoming a sex symbol. The fight scenes were also a fairly refreshing change from Arrow’s martial arts and Flash’s growing list of somewhat dodgy abilities – seeing a super-punch knock somebody skywards for them to fly back into the fight is always a cool move.
That said, if there’s only so much time in your lives for superhero action, you could do a lot better than Supergirl. It managed to overcome my general disliking of Superman, a hero with some seriously incongruous abilities whose only weakness is a rock you can’t even find on Earth, but it has too many of its own problems. If you’re looking to scratch your comic book itch – Daredevil on Netflix, Constantine on Amazon, they were shows that commanded my attention. Arrow and Flash, I sometimes muck about on the tablet or read the Fallout wiki, but I always enjoy having them on. Supergirl, I’m not even sure if I’ll bother with episode two.