Practically anyone who knows me, knows I love the character of Supergirl. Owing to this, most would assume I’m a huge fan of her self-titled television series. I thought I would be too.
A Promising Start
When I initially heard the announcement that Supergirl would be headlining her own series, I was dubious due to DC’s track record of inconsistency and mishandling of her character in various media.
However, upon seeing the first trailer, I was pleasantly surprised and willing to look past minor critiques (using her Kryptonian first name instead of the already established identity of Linda Danvers) and focus on what seemed like a great overall tone, character development in moving Kara past her naive teen years, and a practical costume.
Not surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying season 1 despite its flaws. I wasn’t enthused by her inter-office drama or arc with Jimmy, but I enjoyed the various alien species presented and the revelations of life on Krypton, albeit wishing we’d seen more of the latter. The guest appearance by Smallville’s Supergirl, Laura Vandervoort, made for a fun “passing of the torch” moment, and it was encouraging to see several familiar faces from the comics making appearances. That said, the introductions of Red Tornado and Lucy Lane seem to have been forgotten and left as dangling threads.
Quickly Lost Potential
While the pilot season and season 2 opener teased escalating intrigue, familiar characters, and Kara owning her independence, that all came crashing to a halt faster than a ship from Daxam.
With the introduction of Chris Wood’s out-of-character portrayal of Mon-El, the show’s tone took a sharp turn downhill. With many episodes focused largely on him and his forced, problematic romance with Kara, there was little time left for intriguing plot lines or room for our hero to grow. When she should have been developing and taking on new and bigger challenges, we were watching her slow down so he could keep up with the basics. Of course, supporting characters should have their own story arcs and development. But with Mon-El, Alex & Maggie, and J’onn & M’gann all having prominent plots of their own, the series became filled with more interpersonal drama than superheroic action. And the action we did see was far from original.
The Superman 2.0 Show
Season 2 also saw the beginning of a disappointing trend, with Kara becoming oddly and unrealistically similar to Clark. Consider this: A reporter with a dorky secret identity, is best friends with and keeping their secret from L.Luthor, and battling a Kryptonian engineered destroyer- one who thought they were human for most of their life.
The fact this accurately describes both Superman and the current Supergirl is a prime example of the series’ lax and unoriginal writing. It’s as if the writers wanted to make a Superman show instead, and assume they can simply recycle his traits and plots, ignorant of the fact Kara is and should be an entirely different person.
Would the Real Supergirl Please Stand Up?
It’s no secret that DC has a long history of inconsistency when it comes to Supergirl. Whereas Superman has been known universally as Clark Kent, Supergirl has had at least seven different pseudonyms- Kara Kent, Linda Danvers, Linda Lee, Linda Lang, Linda Lee Danvers, and Mae Kent, to name a few.
And from 1988-2004, the person/persons in the role of Supergirl were not Kara Zor-El. While there is merit in saying her malleable existence is a good thing as it allows flexibility in reinvention, the only reason she has said flexibility is because no one seems to have written a good enough story for her to stick to. Or if they have, it was eventually mishandled or discontinued, and the following reboot then veered in a completely different direction.
One thing that has been consistent, at least in her Kryptonian incarnations, is the fact she spent most, if not all of her formative years on Krypton. While Supergirl does have Kara arriving on earth at a younger age, she still spent the first half of her life on an advanced planet, and visiting other worlds. It makes complete sense for Kal-El to want to live a human life, as it’s all he’s ever known. It doesn’t make sense for Kara to be content living as an entirely different species which uses, as a true Supergirl once put it, primitive technology. She should also be allowed to showcase the intellect that comes with a Kryptonian education, instead of pretending Winn is always the smartest person in the room when it comes to tech and science.
What Can Be Done?
At this point, a change in direction is unlikely. In an attempt to make her palatable to everyone, the Supergirl showrunners have stripped Kara of a unique identity and made her unrecognizable to her biggest fans. People who’ve discovered Supergirl through the series know her as “basically a female Superman” instead of the brilliant, confident, original character she is in other iterations.
Another disappointment is how this “grown” woman continuously acts like the naive teenager Kara has typically been depicted as. With the pilot episode joining her story already in her mid-twenties, one would imagine most of her moody attitude and bratty personality would be past her. She may be new to being a hero, but the slew of “lesson” episodes make me wonder why she’s still learning the basics of how to treat others, especially when she has lived full-time as a human for over a decade now.
It’s not impossible to improve on though. With so many other planets existing in her universe, it would be both logical and much more interesting to shift her into the role of an interplanetary ambassador- possibly still operating from earth in order to keep her supporting characters involved- but put the focus back on Kara, and who she is independent of anyone else. She doesn’t need to constantly have a relationship plot to be interesting. Though as this is The CW, it’s a hard thing for anyone to avoid.
I’ll keep watching, hoping, but lately all I’m doing is shaking my head in disappointment. I think it speaks volumes when someone who has been essentially obsessed with Supergirl for the better part of a decade, and only knew of Black Lightning by name, is much more interested in watching The CW’s Black Lightning than Supergirl.