“Supergirl” Season 1 – How Superman as a Character Can Work

supergirl

   “Supergirl” is one of the most underrated shows on television. After watching “Season 1” I can’t believe it took the CW to save the show given that the writing on this show runs laps around “Arrow” and is even comparable to the best of “The Flash” and “The Defenders.” This is a show that gets the Superman mythos and does some amazing things with it.

    The show was developed by Ali Adler, Greg Berltani and Andrew Kreisberg.

    The premise of the show is Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) was sent from Krypton to look after Superman but due to mishap she knocks Fort Rozz (an alien prison) out of the Phantom Zone and arrives after Superman has already grown up. She is adopted by the Danvers family but after having a normal life starts something more as new threats arise tied to her past on Krypton.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The DC Universe is a great world and this is coming from a guy who was only really a fan of Superman as he related to Bruce Timm’s Justice League and JLU or Batman: The Animated Series. This Universe goes in depth and makes it count and honestly made me want to seek out the best Supergirl and Superman comics.

The Action – The action is solid. There is a lot of stuntwork and for a show with a limited budget every death and hit counts. That is saying a lot given “Supernatural” and to some degree “Marvel” have been slinking away from this.

The Characters – The characters were the strongest part of thsi series and drove the action since a lot of the villians were very much “villain of the week” even if they directly related to the plot (with a few exceptions). I cared about the main cast and all of them grew on me.

Indigo – This is the “Supergirl” Brainiac and she is great for what she is. She revels in extinction and manages to be one of the greatest threats in the last half of the series.

Astra – Astra was fantastic and the actress Laura Benati does an amazing job in the role as both her and Supergirl’s biological mother. Astra is complex, she was right about the destruction of Krypton her approach of mind control is just wrong and even she realizes that at the end. I really wanted her to be the final boss, but Alex killing her complicates her and Supergirl’s relationship is a fascinating way.

Cat Grant – Cat is wonderful, she is quite narcissistic and she uses her podium to advocate for others while still trying to remain fair. She is someone using the pulpit of the talking head for better and I really like how she helps Supergirl grow. We also see her step out from under her mother’s foot and fully become empowered. She is a feminist, CEO, advocate and all around fantastic character who Calista Flockhart does wonderfully.

Maxwell Lord – This character is the Lex Luthor to Supergirl except rather than being a villain all the time he buys into her hope. He is portrayed as a self serving objectivst through most of the series but changes in the end when Cat Grant and Supergirl show him that people can be better. I really liked this character and hope he appears in “Season 2.”

James Olsen – I didn’t care about Jimmy Olsen until this series. He dies in “BvS” I heard but honestly…I don’t know the character. This series showed me what he means. He is Superman and Supergirl’s tie to the life of normal and what you can accomplish just by living. He is my favorite character at this point and Mechad Brooks is an actor I’d love to meet someday.

Winn – Winn is the brains that every series like this has. Sisko is it in on “The Flash,” Willow on “Buffy,” etc. He works and it great and I like that he is the Toymaker’s son…but his whole crush on Supergirl was awkward, though I’m still counting him a plus.

Martian Manhunter -J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is my favorite character on the show. He’s a survivor who learns to trust a bit more and mercy over the course of the show from “Supergirl.” Can’t wait to see what they do with him in “Season 2.” He was one of my favorites in the original Bruce Timm “Justice League” along with that versions “Green Lantern” and obviously “Batman.” This one is more fleshed out though and more relateable which is only a plus. Seriosuly, watch the show to see his reveal.

Alex Danvers – Kara’s sister Alex is pretty fantastic. She’s a protector who can see the bigger picture and helps Kara grow through the show. She is truly both sister and mentor and I really love their relationship.

Supergirl – Kara Danvers is a wonderful character, she is the refugee trying to fit in and at the same protect her adopted world even though so much is out of her control. What she wants is what “Man of Steel” missed the point of. Superman is one of us both because he has to be and wants to be and their is even more responsiblity in that. Kara Danvers aka Supergirl captures that beautifully and watching “Season 2” now I hope for many more seasons. She shows us the dilemma of being different but a part of a community but also the power of hope. We can inspire in our actions and she does with mess ups and learning throughout the show.  Melissa Benoist rules in this role. She’s the first character of this type I’ve actually cared about…even Thor I could care less about as she captures the role of power and responsibility so much better.

Getting the Archetype of “Superman” Right – Superman should inspire us to be our better selves. As Clark Kent he is meant to be us and show us that the impossible can relate to the daily struggle and Kara in her job captures that so well. Even in classic “Superman” I didn’t feel this or animated Superman, but I got it with “Supergirl.” For once the narrative was captured perfectly on screen on my Superman is so iconic and it was in the amazing Supergirl who is everything in her own right using those archetypes.

Okay: Non – Non was an unformed idea. He wasn’t Zod but he wasn’t Astra. He should have been full Green Peace or full Dictator but instead we got the inbetween and that just hurt the narrative. He was okay and wasn’t bad but he wasn’t good.

The Final – Myriad controls Superman forcing Supergirl to work with her allies (Martian Manhunter and Alex her sister) to solve it. They do but I never got Non’s aim. He never felt wholly formed like Astra and that hurt the overall narrative.

Monster of the Week – There are a few “Monsters of the Week” like Red Tornado and Livewire that could have been more and they worked but it showed the show playing it safe. Which is why I only rated it as okay.

  This is a series that was severly unnderated. Kara Danvers in her arc is sympathetic and I got a lot of Buffy from “Buffy” vibes from her. She’s doing her best in the circumstances she’s in and at the end of the day want’s to succeed but also be more. She’s human but has all the abilities to accomplish more in the saving from disasters and there is power in that. That is the core of the Superman mythos. If you have the power to make a difference in another way, do so. That in and of itself is empowering and this show knows that way more than “The Flash” which in way embraces the alien part more so (Flash being a Meta-Human) than Supergirl. I highly recommend this series. It is well worth your time and CBS just gave up a gem to the CW.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

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“The Flash” Season 1 – Fun and Light Finally Comes to the DC Cinematic Universe

The Flash Season 1

   A show that manages to have both drama, fun and keep a consistent tone. I never expected such a thing from the CW as so much of there shows are grimdark and have characters stuck in a cycle (like the Winchesters) so no growth happens. Not so for the 1st Season of “The Flash.” Every episode has consequences and leads to something greater. There are obviously issues, mostly that come from being a CW show and falling into some of the traps that seem to come with the territory of that network hosting your show but it is counterbalanced with fun and joy while still keeping drama.

      “The Flash” was created by Greg Berlanti, Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg.

 The story involves the Flash’s creation after Dr. Wells’s Collider sets off an explosion that creates Meta-Humans in Central City. From here Barry Allen must become the hero the city needs while solving the mystery of his murdered mother and stopping the Meta-humans in Central City.

The Pros: Central City – Central City is awesome! It is a city with hope that still has to deal with the problems of Super Humans who can cause problems. The fact that our protagonists made it this way adds another layer to that conflict within the city as well.

The Tone – The tone is uplifting even with Barry’s mother being dead and his father in prison. It’s very Disney in that way. It works and it is the only hopeful DC project I’ve seen so far. “Gotham” doesn’t have any for obvious reasons as that doesn’t really mix all that well with modern Batman and even Superman has gone grimdark. Not-so for the Flash who is still allowed his hope and innocence.

The Meta-Humans and Rogues – These folks are interesting even with many of them just being common thieves out for revenge. There were two who stood out though.

Everyman – Hannibal is a shapeshifter  and takes a lot to take down. He’s good at getting into our heroes’ heads.

The Trickster – Mark Hamill (who played “The Trickster” in other shows including the animated “Justice League”) is so much fun in this. He is like the Joker who he’s also played as we see him hold people hostage and put on a show. I can’t wait to see this character return as he almost outsmarts and beats the Flash, showing besides Captain Cold and Reverse-Flash and Grodd, that he is the best opponent.

Captain Cold – This guy is cold as ice and manages to manipulate our heroes to free the Meta-Humans. He isn’t a meta-human and more than makes up for it with his guile and his own version of honor as he never reveals who the Flash really is.

Allies – I enjoyed the allies even though they can fall a bit too much on to referencing “Arrow” sometimes. I get they are in the same universe but there is a better way to do crossovers.

Dr. Caitlin Snow – Snow is awkward and also one of the smartest members of the team and helps save Barry from the foot he often puts in his mouth on many occasions. I liked her character and that it took her a long time to come around to Dr. Wells her mentor being a villain.

Cisco Ramon – Cisco is the guy coming up with names for all the Meta-Humans. I really liked how we discover he is a Meta-Human as he remembers an alternate timeline where Dr. Wells kills him. Their relationship is great as he is the mentor and father Cisco never had and it is at S.T.A.R. Labs where he finds acceptance and family.

Oliver Queen/Arrow – He is the Batman to Flash’s Superman and the brood to the Flash’s joking and hope. That is really where their friendship really works. He joins the final fight and neutralizes the Alternate-Flash.

Felicity Smoak – She has  a great chemistry with Barry and the members of S.T.A.R. Labs and would have worked perfectly in this show. She helps characters grow and never stops being a friend.

Primary Antagonists – The main antagonists are a lot of fun. This is one thing the show did amazingly. Whether it is Grodd, Eiling or Thawne…these folks are intriguing.

General Eiling – Clancy Brown is in everything! In this we see him as the hunter of Meta-Humans as he hopes to weaponize them to stop the evil ones. To him people are a means to an end and he has a respect for the Flash even as Flash is probably on his hit list too.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd was experimented on by Eiling and Thawne and continues to evolve. He is psychic and makes Joe nearly kill himself. He is also extremely strong and survives getting hit by a train. I can’t wait to see where his evolution takes him. I hope we get to see the Grodd of the animated Justice League as he was a Gorilla who felt like a threat and was on par with Lex Luthor in schemes at times.

Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash – Thawne created the Flash since in his future he and the flash were enemies. He goes back in time to kill Barry as a child but fails due to the Flash saving his younger self so instead kills Barry’s mother as well as Dr. Wells to speed up the event and creation of Meta-Humans. He’s ambitious and complicated as even though he is a sociopath he clearly had feelings for his mentees and Barry. Tom Cavanaugh does a great job.

Protagonists – The primary protagonists are wonderful, even though the romances don’t really work.

Iris West – Iris goes from someone who is all about the social to an active journalist who first breaks the existence of the Flash to the world. Her arc is standing up for her agency as she shoots down Eddie or Barry whenever they try to speak for what she wants or what she should and shouldn’t know. This is what makes her compelling, not the love triangle.

Joe West – Jesse L. Martin (last saw him as Tom Collins in “Rent”) is awesome as the detective who adapts pretty quickly to the changing world of Central City. He works with Barry closely and has to deal with how his overprotectiveness alienates him from his daughter. He was one of my favorite characters and he is good at holding his own against the Meta-Humans.

Barry Allen/The Flash – Barry is kindness with a refusal to kill as we see him do all he can to see the best in people, even when he gets burned. He is naive and hopeful and it makes him a lot of fun and he deals with letting go of his mother and moving on with his life, taking all he learned from her to heart. He’s a bit of an obsessive nerd and it works for the character. I liked him when he wasn’t in romance mode.

The Parent Relationships – Wells and Barry, Barry and his Dad, Joe and Barry and Joe and Iris. These relationships really define the show as we see them grow in love and the relationships change overtime. Joe is overprotective but comes to trust his daughters choices in the end just as he does for Barry and Wells’s betrayal is contrasted with the fact that he wanted to give Barry what he had taken away and gives him the chance to save his mother.

The Flash and Reverse-Flash Relationship – These two are foils and contrasts made all the more complicated by the fact that the Reverse-Flash created Flash and became his mentor and friend. This makes his final demise sad in a way even as the writers write him as just ambitious and evil by the end.

The Cons: Eddie Thawne – There was the idea of a character here but in the end he was the trope “Noble Sacrifice” as he cornily says all he wanted was to be Iris’s hero. Lies, he wanted to be in a relationship with her, though due to plot it could never go anywhere.

Ronnie – Ronnie is the boyfriend who is just kind of there. He never feels like a character and just needs rescuing. He does save Flash a few times at least but he wasn’t needed for Snow to feel guilt over what happened. So in the end he was redundant. He does marry Doctor Snow at the end though.

Atom – What is it with boyfriends not being written all that well on this show? He’s the rich nerd billionare who bought out Oliver Queen’s company and is in a relationship with Felicity Smoak. He’s also just kind of there and exists only to have a mini-plot with Cisco. He is the reference part of the show.

Love Triangle – This didn’t work. I could see the ideas they were going for but in the end they just made everyone involved look like manipulative dicks. Whether it was Eddie and Iris passive aggressively fighting but still being together or the Flash lying to Iris and justfying himself by saying she likes him. Just didn’t work. The romances just didn’t work.

CW Look – Everything is too polished. It works sometimes but it makes it so destruction never looks real. It’s all too polished and CG.

Reference – Arrow and The Flash fight and it is cool until you think too hard about it. I get a meta-human making people angry and turning the Flash on Arrow but it felt more like a contrived reason to have them fight and to bring Arrow into things when The Flash worked fine with Felicity being the only reference to Starling City.

The Cliffhanger Ending – Future Flash stops Present Flash from saving his mom (no explanation is done but he does get to say good-bye. Eddie kills himself which erases Reverse-Flash who is his future descendant from existence and a big giant singularity forms above the city for the Flash to stop. The End.

    This was a good show and one I would definitely recommend. The Flash is one of the most underutilized characters in the DC Universe and is usually the glue of the Justice League. It is wonderful to see his comedic nature and charm put to good use here and allowing him space to breathe. This show could have easily been grimdark given the Reverse-Flash killed his mom, but he always manages to keep some level of innocence to him and light, even when he’s facing the dark. For this reason alone I’d recommend the show. It’s broken out of the dark tone the DC Cinematic Universe (Nolan “Dark Knight” Trilogy, “Man of Steel,” “Arrow,” etc.) seems to be trapped in.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.