Between it’s initial Pilot leak and multiple ‘early screenings’ at Cons, this wasn’t my first time watching the Supergirl “Pilot”; and yet each time I loved it just as much as the first. Initially I was a little suspect of this series, but the moment I watched the Pilot episode, I knew this show had potential to be “Super”. Is it perfect? No, but it certainly deserves a watch and I can’t wait to see what this Season holds!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. So here’s a Closer Look at Supergirl’s “Pilot” episode and what high flying adventures we’ll see this season.
A Girl On A Mission… To Find Her Mission:
The most poignant thing to point out about Kara’s backstory is that contrary to her cousin Kal, Kara came to Earth knowing everything. She knew what the Yellow Sun would make her stronger, she knew of her role and – most powerful of all – she knew her parents. Though after getting trapped in the timeless Phantom Zone for 24 years, things changed and when she finally made it to Earth Kal-El was the Superman we all know and love. Superman brought her to the Danvers household so that she may have a childhood like his, but it is those initial differences that would shape Kara’s past and present life.
Rather than discover her powers, she’s spent a lifetime trying to suppress and minimize them. She never learns her adopted parents aren’t her real ones; but rather knows this from day one, which is why we see her so emotional at the holo-image of her mother. Now Kara has chosen to once again embrace her powers and I’m willing to bet we’ll see more – via flashbacks and upcoming battles – about how much Kara misses her real parents. Though it’s this dedication to her Kryptonian parents that will help her with the largest ‘story’ aspect of her origins: her mission.
As I said, Kara came to Earth knowing her mission: to protect and watch over Kal-El. From day one her ‘purpose’ – or at least a large part of it – was to protect someone, but by time she arrived at Earth, that mission was no longer needed. Seeing Superman act to protect her – someone who was meant to protect him – flips her role upside down, and instead of the Protecter she is now the Protected. This first episode – and this series in general – is about Kara moving past her original ‘missed-role’ and deciding upon a path of her own making. It is upon that path that Kara not only finds herself as Earth’s newest protector, but also embracing her powers and finishing what her parents started decades ago – thus combining all three of her pivotal – and contrary to Superman – backstory elements.
Feminism & Superheroing – A Not So Subtle Theme:
Now to everyone who thinks ‘feminist’ is a bad word, it’s not. In a TV perspective it simply means that this show can’t just be a regular hero show with a female lead pasted in rather than a male. It needs its own voice and style, and that has always been part of the Supergirl history. She is after all an offshoot of the Superman series, so she has to relate to the character while not becoming simply a female version of him. She has her own battles and stories to tell, and that is what this series is about. So when the series trailer came out, it seemed like the series framing was a simple mix of romantic comedy and teen-drama; but now that we’ve seen an actual episode our fears have been put aside.
“What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’. I’m a girl, 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?” – Cat Grant
Sometimes it seems like the show is trying to hit you over the head with the theme (ie: ‘girls kneel to men on my planet’, all the ‘but she’s a girl’ moments and Cat’s speech about ‘girls’), but aside from these overt references, the series does create a very strong – and human – female lead. Though making a strong female lead shouldn’t be done by lessening the importance or character of men around her; but rather showing that they can stand on par together and help each other. This is why the character of James Olsen is so important. If the only male roles in the show were the belittling general and love-struck coworker, that wouldn’t be doing Supergirl justice. By having James around we have a strong charismatic character that not only represents something bigger but also has faith and trust in Kara. But I’ll talk more about him in a moment.
Superior Graphics – Powers, Planes & Crashes:
Considering how The Flash really upped the effects budget for the Arrow-verse shows – and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is pushing it even further – it should be no surprise how well done the graphics were in this Pilot. And yet, I was still shocked by just how well! The Arrowverse hasn’t used too much flying yet so when we did see it, it was usually just some quick shots and random 1 second close ups. Supergirl on the other hand makes fantastic use of the flight shots and isn’t afraid to show slowed down full body shots.
Though the applications of Supergirl’s powers in general was fantastic! From epic fight scenes with heat vision and ‘destructibles’ to seeing Kara stop a truck with her body, everything was incredibly well executed. In fact, some of these graphics looked even better than any film counterpart we’ve seen thus far.
Familiar Territory – Similarities To Arrow & The Flash:
With Greg Berlanti acting as Executive Producer of Supergirl, you can be sure there’ll be a similar feel to Arrow and The Flash; but we didn’t realize how much of a similarity. As such, here is all the similarities we found worth mentioning.
- The show opens with “My Name Is Kara Zor-El”, which is in keeping with the usual “My Name Is” + 4 Syllable Name opening
- Despite giving off a very Felicity-esque vibe, it is Kara’s coworker Winn who fills the role of tech-savy sidekick (who gives off a major Cisco vibe) – yes pun intended.
- The first episode finds a ‘family-like figure’ (her sister Alex) disapproving of her hero antics until finally supporting her and spurring her on in the end. Sounds like ‘father-figure’ Joe West and Dr Wells in The Flash.
- Similarly to The Flash where Barry’s father is played by John Wesley Shipp (who used to play Barry Allen in the early 90s TV series), Kara’s adopted father Fred Danvers is played by Dean Cain (who used to play Clark/Superman on the Lois & Clark TV Series) and her adopted mother Sylvia Danvers is played by Helen Slater (who not only played Supergirl in the 1984 Supergirl movie but also Superman’s mother Lara-El in Smallville series).
Retaining & Reimagining Superman Lore – Family Crests, James Olsen & Mysterious Female General?:
If you’re a long time Superman fan – or even a moderate Superman fan – then you would have noticed a lot of great and interesting Superman references. For starters, we can look at the iconic ‘S’ symbol, which we learn here isn’t an S but rather the Coat of Arms for the House of El. This isn’t actually a reference to the Comics – nor the recent Man of Steel film – but rather a reference to the original Superman: The Movie (1978). Additionally, the ‘detour to the phantom zone’ helps work out the discrepancy with how Kara is usually portrayed as Superman’s younger cousin. Though just as with the initially differing age, some major elements of the Superman Lore appear to have been changed for this series – for the better!
For starts, let’s talk about
Jimmie James Olsen. The Jimmy we’re familiar with is a little clumsy and often in awe of Lois and Clark. Here we meet James who is no side-kick but a leading man in his own right. He’s tall, sarcastic and quite charming. Though despite any differences you might find, he still retains that heart of gold and strong relationship with Superman. I for one am very pleased with this change up, but not all changes are apparent … yet.
At the end of the episode we meet a mysterious Kryptonian woman who claims to be Kara’s aunt. Considering how she looks exactly like Alura Zor-El (and is also played by Laura Benati) it’s safe to assume this woman is Alura’s twin sister. Though deciphering just who this woman is besides her bloodlines will be a little more difficult. She could be Faora (aka Ursa from the Superman films) who is usually seen as Zodd’s right hand woman. Though it’s also important to note her strand of white hair. This isn’t necessarily a stand-out trait, but it did remind me of the character Mala – the second in command to Jax-Ur – Superman: The Animated Series. Is this Mala or a female version of another more central candidate?
The constant reference to her as ‘The General’ could mean that we are actually looking at a female reimagining of General Zodd himself – or perhaps the occasional Zodd stand-in Jax-Ur. This show has already changed one of Superman’s allies, so why can’t they do it again? Either way, I’m very interested to see this mystery villainess face off against Kara as well as how Kara will react to this woman looking exactly like her mother.
Up, Up And Away – Easter Eggs, Quotes & More:
- In the comics, Cat Grant was once a potential love interest for Clark Kent and gossip columnist of Daily Planet. At first she didn’t like Supergirl and called her a menace, but then became a supporter. Whether Cat will follow a similar story here remains to be seen.
- Kara Danvers? I can’t help but hear than name and think of Carol Danvers (aka Miss Marvel). Which is strange because I remember Supergirl’s aliases being Kara Kent and Linda Danvers. Is DC giving us the Supergirl and Miss Marvel series we’ve always wanted? Probably not 😦
- The reporter who chastises ‘Supergirl’ for wrecking the bridge is very reminiscent of what Cat did to Supergirl in the comics.
- Speaking of planes, it seems like the first thing Superman does is always save a plane.
- Someone needs to tell Kara she needs a better “Identity Concealer” than just glasses/no glasses. She really needs to “Wear a mask”. – Arrowverse reference
- Wait, does Kara usually carry Johnny Walker Blue in her apartment? Being Cat’s assistant must actually pay pretty well.
- In the comics, Vartox was a hero, but as I explained above, this show seems open to changing things up.
- Flying, Kryptonite, X-Ray Vision, Heat Vision and the resistance of lead. This show wastes no time in setting up Kara’s powers and limitations
- Department of Extranormal Operations is of course in the comics and they do monitor and protect Earth from extraterrestrials. Though similarly to ARGUS, they’re not always the nice guys.
- Hank Henshaw is a comicbook character, and is quite similar to the fantastic four in a sense. The short version is that he and a bunch of coworkers are hit with radiation and gain powers and or die. Henshaw is able to transfer his consciousness and gains a new body, thus becoming Cyborg Superman. And no, he’s not a good guy. Season 2 baddie perhaps?
- Fort Rozz is indeed the Kryptonian Prison housed in the Phantom Zone.
- It’s hard to tell who those aliens of the DEO screen could be; but the purple one in the center did catch my eye. At first I figured he could be Parasite, but since these are aliens it’s much more likely that he is Despero.
- Winn says “The Superfriends are back”, which was what the early Justice League was called.
- “What was your plan, to get yelled at and fired? Because that was working!” Seriously, I starting to love James Olsen!
- So Kara fell into the Phantom Zone and just happened to fall out 24 years later – with Fort Rozz behind her? Does anyone else think her ‘release’ from the Phantom Zone will play a bigger role eventually and learn HOW she just happened to escape this Max Security Prison within a Prison?
- It seems like that trailer a few weeks ago was all from the Pilot episode. Well in that case, good! Nothing spoiled after all.
- Considering this world is quite familiar with Superman, it’s almost certain that the Arrow-verse doesn’t exist within it. Though you can’t rule out a cross-over just yet. With The Flash Season 2 exploring the Multi-verse, anything is possible.
All in all, Supergirl might seem a little campy at times, but you have to remember this show is the first of its kind we’ve seen in a while: a TV series based around a Super Heroine. Buffy might be the standard by which we measure all attempts at TV heroine-writing; but you loose something by not treating this show as its own thing. Supergirl was always an add on to the existing Superman story, and differentiating her from that while also maintaining the same world and feel is really tough. Yet this Pilot episode seemed to do it brilliantly.
Are there moments for her to be a little ditzy or goofy? Sure. Will she make mistakes? Of course! But we have to remember that these all happen because she [was raised to be] human. Superman/Supergirl stories always have that human/more than human aspect; and this show looks like it’ll balance both sides of that coin beautifully! This Pilot not only gave us a strong loveable female lead, but also a very rich world in which larger than life obstacles will present themselves. This isn’t a simple ‘coming of age’ story, but rather a “forging your own path” story – and that’s something everyone can get behind.
I will definitely be following Supergirl this season; and secretly hoping for CBS and the CW to have an Arrowverse/Supergirl crossover. The Flash introduced multiverse this season so anything is possible! Though all in all it is important to note that this show does have some odds stacked agains it. Tt’s not the show’s fault though, but rather the network. Demographic-wise “Supergirl” is already taking a bigger risk than it would on CW with the other hero shows. That being said, the biggest problem is the airing time of 8:30. Thank God there’s not many shows on Monday night because this inter-hour programing would otherwise result in many people either missing the first or second half due to other programs.
Whatever the future holds, Supergirl as a show is wonderful and I will be following it. So stay tuned here for more ‘Closer Looks’ as Supergirl continues it’s first season!
4 thoughts on “A Closer Look: Supergirl “Pilot” – Analysis, Easter Eggs & More”
One correction to this five month old article: Jax-Ur was not a female in Superman: The Animated Series. He was a stand in for General Zod, whose name the creators didn’t want to use given his use in the Chris Reeve films. Mala was his lieutenant, and is a stand-in for Ursa from Superman II, who was herself a stand-in of sorts for Faora from the Silver Age comics.
Edited. Ugh, I don’t know why I wrote that. I knew Mala was the girl. Strange. Either way, thanks so much for the heads up. And sure it might be five months old, but since the series is premiering monday perhaps it’s just five months early lol
To be fair, Kara Zor-El -never- took the alias Kara Kent. Kara In-Ze, the Argoan Supergirl from the Superman Animated series lived on the Kent farm and called herself Kara Kent. And, for a time, the Matrix Supergirl in the comics lived on the farm for a while as Mae Kent. Kara Zor-El’s only aliases have ever been Linda Lee and Linda Danvers (after she was adopted).
Also, in the comics, the Justice League was /always/ the Justice League. It was only referred to as the Superfriends on the Saturday morning cartoon show of the same name. Even in the Superfriends comics, the Justice League was called the Justice League.
Other than that, this was a great article. As a fan (obviously) of Supergirl, I’m glad the show does her proper honor.
Thanks for commenting Superdoug! I’m honored a Superfan like you enjoyed this article and thanks for the info 🙂