Supergirl – The Complete First Season DVD Boxset (DVD review).
Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl has never been treated too kindly by mediums outside of the world of comicbooks. She turned up in one season of ‘Smallville’ but was never given too much of a focus, whilst many remember the flop 1984 film starring Helen Slater as the eponymous lead. So would Superman’s cousin fare much better when given her own TV series? Despite one or two flaws, the answer is ‘yes’ as the CBS series manages to find a balance between super-hero antics and personal drama creating a series that manages to stand out aesthetically from the current glut of super-hero television shows.
The premise is simple and dealt with in some refreshing narrative swiftness in the show’s pilot episode. Young Kara Zor-El is sent to follow her baby cousin Kal-El as Krypton self-destructs. An unscheduled stop in the Phantom Zone means she arrives on Earth 14 years after Kal-El and is now technically younger than him. Now established as Superman, Kal-El places Kara with the Danvers family with the parents, in a spot of canny casting, played by Helen Slater and Dean Cain, who famously played Superman on TV in the 1990s who are to raise her in a normal environment.
A few years later, Kara is working in National City as an assistant to media mogul Cat Grant and trying to live a normal life. When her sister Alex is involved in an emergency on a plane, Kara decides to use her powers and, after deciding that she likes helping people as much as her cousin, Supergirl is born. She soon finds out that her sister works for a government department tasked with saving the world from alien incursions and begins assisting them which is handy as one of their main problems is from escaped criminals from a Kryptonian prison that crash-landed on Earth. With her family and friends, including one James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), relocated from Metropolis, by her side, Kara/Supergirl spends her time saving the city whilst trying to life a relatively normal life.
Originally, it seems that ‘Supergirl’ is positioning itself as a modern day version ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman’. It’s aesthetically different to the darkness inherent in many other current super-hero series. All gleaming white buildings and hip coffee shops that owes much to the likes of ‘Sex And The City’ and ‘Ally McBeal’, which is also recalled thanks to the casting of Calista Flockheart in the role of Cat Grant. It also focuses the usual trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be a young woman, albeit one with incredible powers. There’s a particularly funny and clever moment when Kara takes umbrage at the fact that she’s been dubbed ‘Supergirl’ rather than ‘Superwoman’.
There’s plenty here to appeal to a hardcore comicbook audience. One episode bravely attempts to adapt an Alan Moore story in ‘For The Girl Who Has Everything’, a loose reworking of his classic Superman story ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’. It’s not entirely successful but still miles ahead of ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentleman’. There are many characters that make their way in from the ‘Supergirl’ comicbook mythos including Livewire, a female version of Bizarro and one major DC Comics character whose surprise reveal almost mid-way through the series is very well done. Indeed, there’s plenty of action here though the show sometimes has problems in balancing the two. Episodes such as ‘Childish Things’, featuring DC villain Toyman, come across as a bit of a muddle with the more soap opera elements never meshing with the overtly comicbook ones. The same goes for the series arc, which sees Kara’s Aunt and Uncle trying to ‘save’ the Earth as they failed to save Krypton which sometimes seems to be shoehorned into an episode making everything feel a little rushed.
A large elephant in the room is Superman himself. Never fully appearing on screen, a swish of cape here, a blurred background image there and the constant need to explain his absences from major events throughout the series do become a little contrived, though it is cleverly lampshaded in the series finale. With Tyler Hoechlin now announced as the new Man Of Steel, this may be avoided in the show’s second season.
Performances are generally good throughout. Melissa Benoist is an engaging presence as Kara, with a ditzy human persona matched with a strong yet uncertain super-hero presence, though as she becomes more sure in his powers, Benoist becomes more bold in her portrayal of Supergirl. Calista Flockheart also does well as the seemingly ruthless Grant while David Harewood is full of surprises in his role as Hank Henshaw, the head of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations.
When it does it right, ‘Supergirl’ can be enormous fun. Episodes such as ‘World’s Finest’, which features the Flash who, despite his show being on a different network at the time and in a different universe, manages to find his way to Supergirl’s reality, are full of fun banter and action with just about enough drama to keep everything watchable. It never feels like ‘must watch TV’ but still remains a hugely enjoyable and entertaining super-hero show. Considering that many of its counterparts have gone done the ‘dark route’, including the Marvel TV shows, somewhat ironic when you consider their cinematic offerings, it also feels refreshingly different.
A worthwhile take on the mythos of Krypton, ‘Supergirl’ is currently close to completing filming on its second season. With its new US network being the CW. which also homes ‘Arrow’, ‘The Flash’ and ‘Legends Of Tomorrow’ and the promise of a big crossover episode between all the franchises, it will be interesting to see where Kara heads next.
The season one boxset comes with a few extras including a gag reel and a vaguely interesting panel from the San Diego Comic Con which seems less a launch pad nowadays than an event to provide DVD extras for innumerable genre projects.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Warner Home Video. 5 DVDs 841 minutes 21 * 45 minute episodes and a couple extras. Price: £ 16.49 (UK). ASIN: B018SBS8G0)
cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Calista Flockheart, Chyler Leigh, David Harwood and Peter Facinelli,
check out website: www.warnerbros.co.uk/