Sunday, November 1, 2015

Supergirl Season 1 Pilot Episode 1 - Recap and Review

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The latest DC Comics based TV show from the creative team of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg looks set to continue their astounding run of success. Starring Melissa Benoist as the titular character, Supergirl confirms that the successes of Arrow and The Flash were no flashes in the pan.

The show re-imagines Kara Zor-El's origin story as being sent right after Kal-El in order to protect him on the alien environment of Earth. But Kara's pod gets stuck in the Phantom Zone and when she finally makes it to our planet, 24 years have passed by. Kal-El is now known as Superman and has adopted the secret identity of Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet.

Superman rescues Kara and introduces her to her foster parents: Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) and Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater). They have a biological daughter, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh). Alex and Kara hit it off right away and look out for each other.

A grown up Kara Danvers works at Catco Worldwide Media, a media conglomerate in National City. Her colleague, Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) is an alien conspiracy theorist and has an unrequited crush on her.

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Kara's boss is Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), an insufferable and tough-as-nails lady. She shouts orders at Kara just as Perry White would at Clark Kent. The parallels continue further. Daily Planet's James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) takes Lois Lane's place at Catco. Winn Schott is the nerd here, subbing for Jimmy Olsen himself at the Daily Planet.

Kara reveals her powers to the world, when the plane carrying Alex develops problems mid-air. She also reveals her secret to Winn, who promptly sets to work on her costume. Cat, for her part, is presumptuous enough to come up with the name: Supergirl.

Supergirl is abducted by agents of a top-secret government agency, headed by Hank Henshaw (David Harewood). One of his agents is none other than Alex Danvers herself. Turns out that Alex was the target when her flight was sabotaged by unknown conspirators. 

Hank is suspicious of Kara's powers. Kara gets to test her powers again, when she is summoned by Vartox (Owain Yeoman) for an one-on-one confrontation. Vartox is a fellow Kryptonian and works for The Commander (Faran Tahir). Vartox was behind the attack on Alex and is determined to get Supergirl out of the way.

Vartox physically bests Supergirl and is about to finish her off, when Alex arrives in time to save her. Realizing that she does not have the brawn to beat Vartox, Supergirl uses her brains (and heat vision) to defeat him.

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This was a good pilot and promises a bright future for the show. The casting is spot on for the most part. Melissa is excellent as Supergirl, combining the innate goodness and charm of Superman (as the late Christopher Reeve did so memorably). Her bumbling act as Kara is a bit too reminiscent of Tina Fey's character from the show 30 Rock. I felt that Tina overacted and her character came across as irritating than innocent, as was probably intended. Hopefully, Melissa will improve as the series progresses.

David Harewood makes a strong impression despite his limited screen time. I look forward to more of him in the upcoming episodes.

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Rest of the cast is adequate in their roles. The only exception is Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen. Mehcad looks too self-absorbed and comes off more as a self-concious male model. He does not appear to get in character as James Olsen. An intelligent girl (like Kara) would probably find him obnoxious in real life, but I guess since this is a fictitious world...

I enjoyed the jab at Bill O'Reilly.

There are a couple of cameos that continue the DC tradition of casting former actors from the DC Universe: Dean Cain and Helen Slater. Dean played the Man of Steel in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Supermanthe TV series that aired from 1993 - 97. Helen Slater played Supergirl in the 1984 movie of the same name.

Fans of DC Comics will remember that the late Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder had cameos in Smallville. Adam West made a guest appearance as The Gray Ghost on Batman: The Animated Series.

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More recently, Mark Hamill (Joker in Batman: The Animated Series) played The Trickster in The FlashJohn Wesley Shipp who plays Barry Allen's father, himself was the Scarlet Speedster in the short-lived TV series The Flash (1990-91). Interestingly, Shipp voiced Professor Zoom in an episode in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

The airplane rescue that Kara performs and unintentionally makes her presence known to the world is a regular staple of Superman adaptations. In Superman: The Animated Series, Superman's rescue of a flight makes him an overnight sensation. In the 2006 movie, Superman Returns, after being gone from the Earth for five years, Brandon Routh's Superman again comes into the limelight by saving the plane carrying Lois Lane.

In addition, the manner in which Vartox communicates with Supergirl using a frequency that only she can hear reminded me of the 1978 movie: Superman. Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor spoke to the late Christopher Reeve's Superman in a similar way. This was a nice tip of the hat to the seminal movie, that marked the birth of the Superhero movie genre.

Another piece of trivia: Owain Yeoman (who played the hulking villain in this episode) portrayed Cromartie, yet another physically imposing antagonist in the pilot episode of another show: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The show (understandably) has some similarities to Arrow and The Flash. In both of these shows, the heroes have a supporting team giving them directions and advice. Here too, Supergirl has her sister Alex and presumably, the other agents to give her guidance.

As a fan of the DC Universe in general, and of Superman in particular, I enjoyed this episode very much. I loved his brief appearance in the show, especially his flight as he leaves the Danvers. Not to be outdone, Kara too uses her super powers throughout the episode. First, when she uses her super hearing powers to predict Cat Grant's impending arrival and later, when she uses her X-ray vision to view Alex in her apartment. Superman (and Supergirl) has some of the coolest powers of any Superhero and this show seems to be well aware of that fact.

Recommended watch to fans of DC Comics/Superman.

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Image Sources: Berlanti Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Pet Fly Productions, Warner Home Video, DC Entertainment

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  1. I really enjoyed this too - it had the feel of the more fun heroics of Flash and the lead was adorable and a great role model for the girls. Looking forward to the season! Good review!

    1. Thanks GK. I share the same hopes as you do :)