Supergirl Pilot Episode Recap
The Supergirl pilot episode was about what I expected. Maybe even a little bit better than I expected. Yes, it’s a prime-time network TV teen drama. But this pilot episode includes enough action to stay interesting, and the storyline was tight enough that I didn’t catch myself suppressing any eye-rolls. Here are some thoughts about the pilot. Spoilers ahead, I’ll try not to give away too much, but you may want to watch the episode first-hand before your read this.
An acceptable backstory.
I’m mostly familiar with the Supergirl backstory that was written as “Little Girl Lost”, from Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series, which I hold in high regard. In that version, Superman is performing a deep-space probe (I believe while working with STAR Labs) and comes across the wreckage of a sister planet of Krypton, and he finds Kara in some sort of cryosleep. He brings her to Earth, has her stay with Ma and Pa Kent on the farm, and eventually she comes to Metropolis as his cousin. Here, when Kal-El is sent away from Krypton just before its destruction, a 13-year-old Kara is sent minutes later to serve as his protector. But when Krypton explodes, a shock wave sends her ship into the phantom zone. Somehow her ship escapes the phantom zone and lands on Earth, but not until Kal-El has already grown up and become Superman.
All right, I’ll buy that. It’s a bit simplistic, but to their credit, the makers of this show get through this exposition really quickly and we don’t have to wait very long to see Supergirl get to work.
A few legitimate thrills.
The initial action sequence has Kara not just doing heroics for heroics’ sake. She’s told us she hasn’t flown in a long time. But there’s a plane that’s about to crash, and her sister is on board, and she can’t simply stand by and do nothing. There’s just enough drama here to make this work, and the pace and effects are well done, in my opinion. She gets back in the hang of flying easily enough, and guiding the jet to safety is just problematic enough that we feel like we’re there with her. Before she takes flight, Kara looks up into the sky, through a skyscraper, and into the aircraft, and the technique employed here works well, and looks really cool, too.
Mixed bag of visual effects.
Most of the visual effects in Supergirl are really good. The flying, taking off, and landing all work well. The heat vision effects are on par with Man of Steel. Even the residual heat-glow around her eyes when she’s cooling down looks great. One practical-effects shot stood out for me, even the first time — Kara kicks a kryptonian baddie into the tractor-trailer she’s just stopped dead in its tracks, and it splits perfectly right down the middle. Each side perfectly opens up like a set of french doors, not unlike an animatronic set at an amusement park. Now, I don’t want to be too harsh a critic; immediately following this, said baddie plows through the road, kicking up an avalanche of blacktop, and that looks awesome.
Lightweight hero logistics.
I try not to get too nerdy in deconstructing the pseudoscience behind superhero and science fiction stories. I mean, if you try to pick the story apart, it’s going to come apart. It’s all made up. But if you can suspend your disbelief, there’s a lot of fun to be had. The one thing I can’t get past here (and I hope it’s explained at some point) is how Supergirl here puts up any kind of fight against a Kryptonian escapee from the phantom zone. (By the way, in this Supergirl, Kara refers to her home planet’s language as Kryptonese, but I’m going to forget I heard that.) I mean, you could argue that Clark Kent might be able to overpower one of these guys, maybe because he’s cumulatively absorbed so many of the yellow sun’s rays. Or because he’s done so much fighting. But its hard to believe that Kara here, would be able to throw kicks and punches, much less take a punch in the face from a merciless criminal who’s a full-grown man twice her size. She has a little help, but it seems like she would have had a rougher time than she did.
Up, up, and away.
All in all, I’d say Supergirl is off to a good start. Is it going to be harder to accept that a girl who can knock down a building would be willing to be constantly talked down to by Calista Flockhart? Maybe. Is it more than a little weird that Jimmy (sorry, “James”) Olsen is now this tall-dark-and-handsome, well-muscled but non-threatening smooth-smiling dreamboat? Perhaps. But if you like superhero shows, I think Supergirl is worth a look.