Alright, so I’m probably gonna piss off some fans right now. I’m also not going to make any friends within some feminist circles either. Despite this, I’m going to say it any way. Supergirl is a terrible show that should be cancelled!!! If for no other reason, to create space for a better show to take it’s place. Please note that I do not make this proclamation lightly, I suffered through 15 episodes, far more than the agreed upon four episodes required before passing judgement. Ultimately I wanted to like the show, but it is too bad for even my 1980’s nostalgia to withstand. Also, unlike my fellow geek brother Phayce, I don’t write this out of a disdain for all things Superman related, I actually like the alien boy scout in red and blue underwear. Supergirl sucks, and here’s why:
The acting and storytelling are not very good. Melissa Benoist has been tasked with leading this franchise, however, her acting is unconvincing. I don’t find her believable as a bumbling Kara Danvers or as Supergirl, arguably one of the top five strongest beings on earth, at least within the context of the show. After hiding in the shadows for so long, Kara finally decides to come out as a hero, that’s great, but she still lacks the determination to assume the mantle. She spends so much time second guessing herself that she might as well be useless. Between her limited range as an actor, and the litany of tropes used for her character, I honestly don’t see how this show still has a viewership. Speaking of storytelling, the “love triangle” between Kara, Wenn and James, plus Lucy, is lame. So lame in fact, I’m just not going to elaborate any further.
This brings me to my next point, Supergirl lacks agency. All of the second guessing and insecurities have seriously undermined this character. Supergirl is just as powerful as Superman, who’s basically a god walking among men, but she acts as though she needs validation at every turn. As the father of a young daughter, I would hope that I’m teaching my little girl to be confident, self assured, self reliant, you know, strong. Supergirl in my opinion, had, I guess she still has, an opportunity to serve as a fictional role model. But she fails to embrace her true strength. Her relationship with Cat Grant further serves to diminish her agency, as she spends most of her working day getting bullied by her boss. I understand the argument about managing bad bosses, or having the power to hurt and choosing not to, but this is different. She can find another job, but she chooses to be Cat’s punching bag. It’s like watching a codependent abusive relationship. I’m not saying every female character should be Agent May a.k.a. the Calvary, but can we get a little more Agent Carter and a little less lost babe in the woods.
Which leads me to another point, the most interesting character on Supergirl, is not Supergirl! Between episode seven’s (Human for a Day) big reveal that Hank Henshaw is actually J’onn J’onzz a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter, and episode eleven’s (Strange Visitor from Another Planet) back story which reveals how J’onn lost his family, Hank is the most interesting character on the show. In addition, David Harewood is probably the best actor on the show as well. That’s a sad statement given that the show is called Supergirl and not Martian Manhunter.
In bringing up J’onn, I must note that the special effects for the show are lacking. I honestly feel as though CBS dialed it back ten years and skimped on the special effects budget. In epsiode 14, the Master Jailer’s costume looked more like really good cosplay, than an actual network television costume designer’s sincere attempt at a design. The same can be said for the Kryptonian unitards, Livewire’s makeup, and Red Tornado. I could go on, but I think I made the point. In addition, the wire work is stilted and the fight sequences are stiff. As an example, J’onn’s fight with Astra in episode 13 was like watching a clay-mation puppet show. I also think they weakened J’onn somewhat for the show, but I’ll save that critique for another rant.
The thing that really separates a good superhero show from the failures, are the villains. Jessica Jones and Daredevil excelled beyond expectations because of their writing, character development, acting and villains. Good villains are the secret ingredient to making a great superhero show. Villains push heroes to reach beyond their perceived limitations, they force them to grapple with their hubris, their own mortality, their sense of morality. Without the mirror and counter weight villains provide, heroes are just villains waiting to be born. Supergirl has yet to present a compelling villain, which explains why she can’t see her own failures as a character.
Lastly, I think Supergirl has to make a decision, is it going to be a female version of a Superman coming of age story, or will it begin to chart new territory. Netflix, Fox, the CW and ABC have all proved that it’s possible with shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, AGENTS of Shield, and even Arrow and Flash. CBS will have to do the same with Supergirl, if not, I’m fully tapping out for season 2! As always, these are my thoughts, I would love to hear yours in the comments or on Twitter…