'Supergirl' Season 1 Review: A New Hero Soars in Solid Freshman Season

"Manhunter" -- Kara (Melissa Benoist, pictured) debates trusting someone new with her secret identity and Siobhan (Italia Ricci) plots against Kara, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, March 21 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2016 WBEI. All rights reserved.

As the superhero renaissance surges on television, there have been a ton of superheroes that have made their impact over the past few years. But something that had been lacking was the presence of a lead female superhero. Cue CBS’s Supergirl, a take on Superman’s cousin as she discovered that being ordinary was far from fuflfilling.
Supergirl was a show that brought with it a lot of expectations and hype. And it delivered. While it was far from perfect, Supergirl was one of those shows that was so beautifully able to deliver messages of heroism and feminism all the while serving as a role model for young women – and everyone, for that matter. While it struggled with its romance, it capitalized on the strong family bonds between Kara and her adoptive family, as well as the new friends she made through the course of this first season.
While Supergirl might’ve fallen in the ratings through its first season as most new shows do, it was exactly the show that we’ve been waiting for. A lead female hero preaching hope and strength in a world that is far from perfect. It has us wondering why CBS hasn’t already renewed Supergirl for a second season (though we know it’s coming).

Overall Impression

Supergirl’s freshman run ultimately proved to be a success. While it had its share of issues as every young show does, whether that was with the romance or the big bad of it all, Supergirl at its heart focused on Kara and the people that contributed to her journey in this first season. Much like the superhero shows that preceded it, Supergirl isn’t all about the superhero of it all – it’s about hero underneath the suit and the personal connections that shape who she is as a symbol of hope. While there were some times where we felt disappointed – whether that was with the show’s failed attempt at an epic romance between Kara and James or the letdown that was the big bad – ultimately Supergirl had a solid first season that has us intrigued for Kara’s next chapter.

What Worked

"Better Angels" -- Supergirl (Melissa Benoist, right) is forced to do battle with an unexpected foe and must risk everything -- including her life -- to prevent Non and Indigo from destroying every person on the planet, on the first season finale of SUPERGIRL, Monday, April 18 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Also pictured: David Harewood (left) Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Kara’s Journey

When it comes to a superhero’s journey during a show’s first season, it’s important for the show not to make the journey an easy one. The titular hero-in-training needs to work to get to that place where they’ve learned what it ultimately takes to become a hero. Heroes aren’t born – they’re made. Something that I appreciated from the start was how Kara struggled with being Supergirl. She felt like because her cousin was Superman that she had to be a certain way, be like him, when actually this journey has never been about him; it’s about her. We watched as Kara struggled to juggle both her personal and hero lives, as well as how she handled criticism and failure and tackled the emotional aspects of her past. Kara did not have an easy go of it, which made it all the more believable and worth it in the end.

Cat Grant’s Evolution

One character that I never thought would have as much of an effect on me as she has was Cat Grant, who became so much more than Kara’s stuck-up boss the more the season progressed. This is how you do character development, people. Cat Grant went from someone who was a powerful media mogul to someone that we could all of a sudden relate to. She had to work her way from the bottom up, as we saw, and grew into an empowered woman and hero in her own right. We got to see what made Cat Grant, well, Cat Grant. But we also saw her tackle personal challenges, whether it was her mother or her relationship with her long-lost son, and she handled it with dignity and grace. Not to mention Cat’s relationship with Kara and Supergirl, which both helped shape Cat into the hero that she has become. The great thing about Supergirl is that there are several female role models for girls to look up to, Cat Grant included.

Kara, Alex, and J’Onn’s Relationship

A relationship that I never expected or knew I needed from this show became one that I can’t see Supergirl without. Kara, Alex, and J’Onn were exactly what this show needed. On all of these superhero shows there is one distinct relationship that defines the show as much more than a superhero show: for Arrow it was Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity, and for The Flash it was Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin, as well as Barry and Joe. There was a point just before we learned Hank Henshaw’s true identity where it appeared as if Kara and Alex would be the ones to take him down. And just look where that storyline evolved to. This was the perfect example of how to execute a storyline in a way that, while unexpected, makes sense and serves all characters as individuals. This relationship has easily become the heart of the show for me. How Kara and Alex, who had both lost their father (Kara twice), have gained another father, and how J’Onn, who had lost his daughters, had gained two new daughters. That was something truly beautiful and something I can’t wait to see more of.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Story

After watching the pilot, I was sure of two things: that Hank Henshaw was a bad guy and that I would never like his character. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Henshaw, as we later learned was actually J’Onn J’Onzz – the last Green Martian who unlike the person’s form he took on was a respectable, caring being. His story was one of my favorites this season as we were presented with J’Onzz’s story of loss and struggle and how it ultimately led him to a position where he could help protect people from destructible forces, as we saw during his leadership at the DEO. We learned about his tragic past – how the White Martians had obliterated his entire race, including his wife and daughters, and immediately felt a connection between him and Kara as they had both lost their family but found a new family on Earth. And as noted in the previous section, we saw how Kara and Alex became like daughters to J’Onn, in what was the most touching relationship on the show.

What Didn’t Work

"Myriad" -- Kara must find a way to free her friends when Non (Chris Vance, pictured) and Indigo use mind control to turn National City's citizens into their own army, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, April 11 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Kara/James Romance

This is the perfect example of why execution is so important when it comes to storylines. During the first few episodes of this show I found myself a fan of the potential Kara and James romance. The way that is was being treated as something significant that would pay off in the future instead of forcing an immediate romance. There’s no need to rush romance, and for a while there it seemed as if that’s what the show was doing. Until it fast-tracked the romance with the introduction of an unnecessary love triangle. The best relationships on superhero television – and television for that matter – have been the slowburns – the romances where they cultivate the bond between two characters and gradually guide them toward a romantic relationship. Ultimately the show struggled once it forced the Kara and James relationship to the point where the characters weren’t making sense. Like how James needed time to be with Kara. Excuse me, you’re the one that broke up with your girlfriend because you wanted to be Kara, and here’s Kara being brave in expressing her feelings, but you’re not ready to be with her? But also somewhere along the way Kara and James lost that spark of a chemistry that I thought I’d seen in the beginning of the season. I’ve been waiting for the show to fix this relationship. I just hope it’s not too late.

The Love Triangle

The reason why I feel the Kara/James romance ultimately failed to launch was due to the fact that it was spun off this love triangle between Kara, James, and Lucy that never worked. It was clear from the start that this love triangle was a device to keep Kara and James away from each other. But the thing is they didn’t need an unnecessary love triangle to do that. There were other ways to cultivate Kara and James’ friendship before romance in a way that didn’t involve a love triangle at the expense of a character – that character being Lucy Lane. That’s the unfortunate thing. Lucy’s character development suffered as a result. Her presence was more about her being a roadblock to Kara and James than about who she was as a character. But more on that later…

The Big Bad

While the Myriad of it all was a pretty compelling plan of mass destruction, the person that ended up leading the charge wasn’t. When it comes to these Greg Berlanti shows, I end up expecting some of the same things in all shows, which quite frankly isn’t fair. One of those things, in Supergirl’s case was there being a personal connection between the hero and the big bad. But to be fair, that’s how the show had set it up. Here we had Kara facing a big bad that was none other than her aunt. That was a storyline that had me intrigued. A show where Kara’s family had become these humans and where her blood – her Aunt Astra – wasn’t so much family anymore.  This was the makings of an epic big bad storyline for Supergirl’s first season. Even though we took a little break from the big bad action, as we often do during a 20-plus episode season, it was still setting up this Kara vs. Astra showdown. Until they killed Astra and made this all about Non. Non, a character that Kara never really had a personal connection with and paled in comparison to the complex individual that Astra had proven herself to be. The show had given us the perfect big bad decided to take her away in favor of a villain that felt more like a villain of the week than this major Kryptonian force he was supposed to be.

What We Wanted to See More Of

"Blood Bonds" -- With Astra in captivity at the DEO, her husband, Non (Chris Vance), captures Hank, leading to a tense standoff between the two sides. Also, Kara continues to refute Cat's allegations that she is Supergirl, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, Jan. 4 (8:00-9:00 PM) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Chyler Leigh, Laura Benanti and Melissa Benoist Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved

Astra as the Big Bad

When it was first introduced that Astra, Kara’s aunt, would serve as the antagonist to our young hero, it brought with it expectations and promise that ultimately fell short. Here we had a big bad that served a personal connection to our hero. It’s when shows like Arrow (Oliver and Slade) and Flash (Barry and Reverse Flash) were at their best with the villains because it served an emotional, personal significance. The only thing is that there was so more to be explored here. Sure, Kara got a final moment with her aunt, but Astra never got the redemption that it felt as if her character was headed toward. Her death was the result of her attempting to kill J’Onn J’Onnz, someone that Kara looks to as a father figure. While Astra was ultimately a foil for Kara initially, she fell short is being the antagonist that we deserved instead of Non, who was bland and of no significance to the personal feel that this big bad was taking on.

Lucy Lane as an Individual

When it comes to female characters that deserved better this season, Lucy Lane was one of those characters. Basically Lucy was brought aboard at the start as a romantic foil for Kara and James. That was one of the reasons I disliked her for most of the season because she wasn’t a character so much as she was a plot device. But at the end of this season the show finally gave her a storyline of her own as she fought the pressure of her father to be a certain way and became the stronger for defying him. Lucy became the acting head of the DEO during J’Onn J’Ozz’s absence and she became her own person in the process. Even when J’Onzz was reinstated in the season finale, he insisted that Lucy be his partner in heading this significant organization. So here’s hoping we do get more of Lucy as her own person now that the love triangle is dead.

What We Wanted to See Less Of

"Better Angels" -- Supergirl (Melissa Benoist, right) is forced to do battle with an unexpected foe and must risk everything -- including her life -- to prevent Non and Indigo from destroying every person on the planet, on the first season finale of SUPERGIRL, Monday, April 18 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Also pictured: Mehcad Brooks (left) Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Kara and James

For me, there’s no denying that the weakness of Supergirl this season was the romance between Kara and James. But the thing is that romance itself isn’t a weakness – when it’s done right. But in this case, it wasn’t. While Kara and James started off as a relationship with promise it almost felt forced throughout most of the season as Supergirl wanted to deliver its “epic love story” in a timely manner. The show always seemed to emphasize this relationship in a way that hinted as much, and then towards the end of the season sped up their progress because they wanted them “together” by the season finale. But with that said, their relationship isn’t toxic or something that can’t be ultimately be fixed unlike that one doomed romance in the Berlanti-verse. So one of the challenges that the show faces heading into season two is how to make Kara and James’ relationship something we should care about.

Favorite Episodes

“World’s Finest” (Episode 1×17) – This Supergirl/Flash crossover was everything and more than we could have asked for. It was fun, empowering, and inspiring as two of DCTV’s finest united.
“Myriad” (Episode 1×19) – This episode had it all: emotion, thrills, intrigue, which made it impossible for even the season finale to top.
“Falling” (Episode 1×16) – This episode was incredible as it depicted Kara as the antithesis of a hero as she struggled with the red kryptonite and showed that even the bravest of heroes can fall.
“Human for a Day” (Episode 1×07) – This episode showed the true essence of heroism; that being a hero doesn’t come from wearing a costume or having a powers, it comes from actions.

Least Favorite Episodes

“For the Girl Who Has Everything” (Episode 1×13) –This episode felt underwhelming in the grand scheme of things.
“Solitude” (Episode 1×15) – This episode strayed from some of the best elements of the show, including separating Kara from Alex and J’Onn J’Onzz.
“Childish Things” (Episode 1×10) – This episode when compared to others didn’t serve as much of an overall purpose that it could have.

Season Finale Impression

For three fourths of the episode, “Better Angels” was the season finale that Supergirl and its audience deserved. Until the final fourth when it wasn’t. Following a phenomenal penultimate offering with “Myriad,” the season finale had a lot to live up to. And in the beginning it did as “Better Angels” ramped up the emotion and stakes in a way where it felt like it was building to something heart wrenching but necessary. But then it didn’t. Then it gave us a happy ending instead of an ending that the show needed. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need someone to die so much as I needed Kara to be dealt a blow that would carry into next season. Whether that was the final sequence turning out to be a hallucination and Kara to still be floating in space or there being tension elsewhere. I needed to leave this season feeling like I cannot survive this six month hiatus rather than feeling “meh” as I do now. While the season finale wasn’t bad, it wasn’t spectacular.

Next Season Speculation

Following the season one cliffhanger, the main question heading into season two will no doubt be: who is in the spaceship? The season finale did a good job at setting up several storylines for the coming season, including the search for Jeremiah Danvers and Cadmus, Kara and James’ relationship, and that mystery new Kryptonian arrival. Regarding that arrival, it’s most definitely someone of significance for season two – whether that’s friend or foe remains to be seen, but I’m leaning toward the latter. Who is in that spaceship is anyone’s guess right now, but we do know that it’s Kryptonian given the pod in which it arrived. But with Supergirl herself being an alien and needing a viable threat – aka someone who is able to play on a leveled field – it would make sense that the someone inside that pod could prove to be a threat. Even if it that’s not at first…

What were your thoughts on Supergirl season one?

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