Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Supergirl - Pilot

Playing on the classic version of the character while giving her super-hero alter-ego a thankless job in a modern media company, CBS' Supergirl premieres with a solid "Pilot" episode that, while rough around the edges, manages to entertain and show room for improvement. Melissa Benoist seemed like an odd casting choice for Kara Zor-El, Superman's older (but younger) cousin from Kyrpton sent to Earth to protect him as a baby only to get lost in space and show up years later, but has spirit and spunk that serves her well here. The episode has some nice winks to comic and TV history for both Superman and Supergirl including giving Dean Cain and Helen Slater cameos as the human couple who raised Kara on Earth.

Although Superman does make an appearance (of sorts) in the "Pilot," he's always just out of frame or blurred leaving fans to wonder if the Man of Steel may ever make a real appearance on the series. The episode not only sets up Kara's first adventure as a super-hero (finally choosing to stop hiding her powers and follow her cousin's example to help mankind), but also the career of Kara's foster sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) as a bio-engineer of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations who, by the end of the episode, Kara has agreed to work with. The show also gives us a premise for a super-villain of the week with escapees from the Phantom Zone loose on Earth (but only troubling the planet after years of inactivity?).

Helping to fill out the show's regular cast we get Calista Flockhart as Kara's boss Cat Grant, Mehcad Brooks as Superman's black friend James "Don't Call Me Jimmy" Olsen recently relocated from Metropolis to National City, and Kara's friend and co-worker Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan). There's also David Harewood as Alex's boss Hank Henshaw who, if his path follows his comic counterpart, will eventually become more enemy than friend.

The first super-villain to kick our hero's ass is The Mentalist's Owain Yeoman as Vartox, one of the former prisoners of the Phantom Zone who attempts to kill Supergirl just as her super antics are getting started. The action scenes, particularly Supergirl smashing into a semi and getting knocked around by the formidable Vartox, work well while the more the show struggles a bit to balance the worklife's comedic and dramatic elements of the show (and Alex's more than a little ridiculous secret government job). While entertaining, Supergirl doesn't feel as well thought-out as The Flash which hit the ground running (honestly, it feels more than a little like a cribbed version of The CW drama), and does have its share of more awkward moments (both in character interactions and plot points). There's certainly enough here for me to give it a chance but will have to wait and see if this Supergirl can learn to soar.

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