In an age of television and film where superheroes are the hot commodity, it’s hard not to notice the lack of female-led superhero projects. After successfully bringing “Arrow” and “The Flash” to the small screen, producers Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti joined forces, yet again, to bring audiences a fun new spin on the iconic myth of Superman.
“Supergirl,” which premiered Monday, follows Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist). She is an optimistic young assistant at a reputable media company who is desperately trying to lead a civilian life. She also happens ro be a super-powered alien. Although she is equipped with the same abilities of flight, invulnerability and enhanced strength as her cousin Superman (Clark Kent), Kara initially fights her calling to heroism. It took a falling plane and a few cries for help before she took to the skies and reveals herself to the world for the first time.
After coming to the realization that saving people from imminent danger is what she was born to do, Kara dons a red and blue outfit (like her cousin) with a familiar “S” symbol proudly displayed on her chest and takes on the persona of Supergirl. This premiere doesn’t do much to halt the perception that the Supergirl character is just a gender-swapped version of Superman, but it certainly succeeds in other areas.
For one, Benoist’s portrayal of the titular heroine is nothing short of super. Benoist is able to bring a much-needed human element to this alien character, which instantly makes her a likeable and relatable leading lady. She’s vulnerable without ever having to rely too heavily on the clumsy office girl routine. When she puts on her suit, no matter how silly it may look, the fact that she carries herself with so much self-assurance and toughness allows for a believable dichotomy between Kara and Supergirl. It doesn’t matter that the only thing separating the two characters is a pair of glasses, because Benoist sells it with ease.
Even though the series premiere episode feels awfully “been there, done that” as far as comic book origin stories go, what sets this show apart from other offerings of the genre is the playful tone. A darker, more realistic approach might have worked for Batman in the films and more recently, “Daredevil” on Netflix, but the creators of “Supergirl” seem to grasp that this character needed a vastly different approach.
Targeted to a younger audience who may be going through some of the same growing pains as Kara, the show contains traces of teenage drama and lighthearted comedy, a program one might stumble upon while watching ABC Family. While some of the jokes don’t land and Kara’s dynamic with her adopted sister often comes dangerously close to “cheesy” territory, there’s no question that the decision to make “Supergirl” a more family-friendly show makes sense for this particular character.
As well-realized as the Kara Danvers character is, none of the supporting players make any lasting impact. Calista Flockhart plays a one-note, egotistical boss. Kara’s best friend is only there for the potential of a romantic relationship later down the road. The villain of the episode shows up so that Supergirl can have someone to punch. It’s only one episode, but the show will have to do a better job throughout the season of giving the side characters more to do.
The ratings were better than expected. According to “TV by Numbers,” the show’s season premiere scored a 3.2 in adults 18-49 and 12.94 million viewers, “both of which are the best for a series premiere this fall.”
Who said adapting a female superhero was impossible? “Supergirl” is one of the more entertaining new shows of the fall season. It’s not super just yet, but it does have an engaging premise, decent special effects for a modest television budget and a legitimately strong lead actress in Benoist.
The legend of Superman casts a huge shadow. For now, his little cousin seems to be doing just fine on her own.