Spoilers ahead for “The Adventures of Supergirl,” the Season 2 premiere of The CW’s Supergirl!
With the series setting up shop at The CW this fall, the second season premiere of Supergirl almost had to serve as a re-piloting of sorts for fans who maybe didn’t check it out last year at CBS. For the most part, it worked. This show was always a weird fit at CBS, and this episode showed just how well the world of Supergirl can mesh with the Arrow-verse. The series felt like a natural extension of the network’s other superhero fare, though it still managed to retain its lighter and brighter aesthetic (to get aplomb!)
The short version: Superman helps Supergirl save a spaceship. We meet Lex Luthor’s (not evil?) sister. Plus there’s a boatload of Superman lore.
Dany: There are two questions that dominated Supergirl's move from CBS to The CW: is this still the Supergirl that her fans already love, and can new fans start watching now without even so much as a Google search into what happened last season? And the good news is that the answer to both those questions is "yes." Melissa Benoist is as affable as ever, both Winn and James remain as faithful a Scooby gang as ever, and J'onn and Alex continue to hold down the DEO fort. The core is still the core, and they are reintroduced in such a way as to make even the newest of new comers able to follow along.
There's a fun duality to the season opener's narrative -- as Kara struggles with who she is in relation to her has-it-all cousin, Clark, Lena Luthor is struggling to get out from behind the shadow of her brother, the loathsome Lex. That story in particular, of a woman in search of her identity and her passion is one that Supergirl is well served by. While Barry and Oliver dedicate their energies towards why they are at fault for everything, Kara still feels like the welcomed respite for people who just want to watch someone work on how to balance the everyday challenges of life... even if one of those challenges is fighting supervillains.
And the story for episode one of season two is certainly super in its simplicity: Supergirl must divert attention from the mysterious arrival of a new comatose Kryptonian to save The Venture (and advanced new shuttlecraft) and, with the help of her cousin Clark, discover if Lena Luthor is behind the sabotage or if something even more sinister is at work. The basic framework leaves plenty of room for the B-plots like Kara struggling to understand where James fits inro her life, J'onn and Superman arguing over kryptonites place in the homeland security conversation, and even the goofy misadventures of Cat's new assistant Eve Teschmacher (sound familiar) as she fails to understand how to deal with the impossible-to-please Cat Grant.
As was Supergirl's strength last year, the show's best trait remains the lack of heavy-lifting required to enjoy the ride. This isn't continuity-heavy melodrama nor is it overly complex and dark journeys of the soul. Supergirl remains what it was last year on CBS -- a fun adventure with the just the right touch of drama to carry intrigue over into the next episodes.
Trent: They did a great job of establishing the basics, reintroducing the characters, and moving some pieces around the board. Season 1 was a jumping off point, and now Season 2 is barreling in its own direction. Bringing Winn into the fold at the DEO was a good way to keep him involved in the story, though it’s still a bit far fetched to think he’d be more qualified than the agents who have been doing this all their lives. But hey, apparently on-the-job training goes a long way.
The effects were also top-notch, and you could tell they were throwing a chunk of that action budget at the screen in the opening scene (plus that city-wide drone battle) to try and hook in some curious Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow fans. Which might work, because the action looked excellent for CW standards. Heck, they even updated some of the sets along the way for Season 2 to spice things up (Kara’s surprise that there’s a high-tech, well lit DEO base she never noticed was a nice way to brush that off).
Then there’s the elephant in the room: Superman. As soon as it was announced that Tyler Hoechlin would be joining the series in a guest role as Clark Kent, the pressure was on to get it right. Superman is a hard character to pull off, but this is arguably the best version of the Man of Steel we’ve seen in years. Maybe it’s just the hangover from Batman v Superman talking, but this was a breath of fresh air. Literally. He’s human. He’s happy. He’s funny. He’s a hero. He’s likable. He’s not GRIM DARK. They knocked it out of the park, and honestly, I’d love to see a series following this version of Superman on his own adventures.
Which brings us to one of the episode’s biggest problems…
The Not-So Super
Trent: As much as they tried not to let it happen, and even made some jokes about Supergirl saving the day and getting the credit, Superman still overshadowed Supergirl. The rest of the supporting cast understandably geeked out over him (Winn blowing him up with questions about the minutia of his past adventures was hilarious, and Cat Grant’s swooning was a hoot), and it makes sense — he’s Superman. Bringing him into Supergirl was a risky move, and though the team-ups were great and the character was well done (and Superman’s appearance will almost certainly attract some eyeballs), it still stole a lot of Kara’s thunder.
Yes, the two of them saved the day, but Clark Kent led the investigation into the explosion (with Kara tagging along). It was obviously a journey of discovery for Kara as she realized her own calling to be a reporter, which was nice, but it still felt like she was just following in Clark’s footsteps after getting a taste of the beat. This is Kara’s show, and as much as I loved seeing Clark Kent kicking around National City, it needs to make sure that focus doesn’t shift.
Dany: You said it, Trent. From the moment Hoechlin was cast, I had serious reservations about introducing Supergirl's far more famous cousin into the mix. And while The CW try to play things even-handed, it's impossible not to feel the conversation shift from Kara to Clark. And while it's very nice that we've finally got a Kal-El who feels like the hero many of us grew up with, the conversation over his inclusion and Hoechlin's more light-hearted approach to the character dominate more of the Supergirl re-pilot than it ought to. This is supposed to be a show about how women get things done, after all, and it's the only lady-led super show we've got. iZombie's impact on The CW is all well and good, but our TV landscape sorely needs someone like Supergirl front and center.
And then there's the ongoing role Superman seems destined to fill. With Cat Grant musing on taking risks (and Calista Flockhart's down-grade from series regular to recurring guest), it's all but inevitable that Kara is about to trade a female role model for a male one. And that... stinks. No matter how great Hoechlin may be as Superman (and he's certainly charismatic thus far) he can never replace Cat Grant nor what the powerful connection between she and Kara means to women (and young girls) desperately in search of familiar faces and relationships in the world of superheroes.
The Super Questions
Trent: There are a lot. The big mystery at the end of last season was the crashed alien pod, and actor Chris Wood spent the entire run time in a coma. It was announced a while back that he’d be playing the alien character Mon-El (though that was not revealed here). So look for him to take on some type of role down the line.
Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant continues to be one of the best things about this show largely due to her mentor relationship with Kara, and her absence will be felt once her role is reduced (due to production moving from Cali to Canada). They seemed to be planting those seeds here, with Cat acting strange and talking about taking risks. So we’d imagine she’ll be gearing up for a trip or something soon.
The introduction of Katie McGrath as Lex Luthor’s little sister Lena was nicely done, and though she didn’t get a ton of screen time, you could see the friendship brewing between Kara and Lena. Following her journey to change the legacy of her family could be an interesting one.
The friction between Superman and the DEO makes a lot more sense now: Apparently Martian Manhunter and Superman discovered the first shards of Kryptonite, and the DEO opted to keep it around despite Supes’ protests.
Dany: In addition to all of the above, obviously Project Cadmus is a big question mark, not just in terms of the villainous John Corben but also for the future of all villains on Supergirl. Last season most of our baddies came in the form of Kryptonian ne'er-do-wells and other alien forces. Could Cadmus be the Supergirl equivalent of Indian Hill from Gotham last season? And is Lena Luthor really that unlike her brother, or are their darker depths we've yet to see?
Super Easter eggs
This episode was cram-packed with easter eggs. After a season of flirting with the larger Superman mythos, we got it all this hour. Reference’s to Perry White, Lois Lane (and even Gotham City!). We got to see Metropolis and the Daily Planet. All the stuff they’d kept on the back burner hit the screen. There was also the post-credit tease of Metallo’s introduction, and you just know he’ll be causing trouble very soon.
Super Best Lines:
“Sleeping is for slackers,” - Cat Grant
“A bat bit me in the last one!” - Kara
“I used to change his diapers,” - Kara
“We're moving back to Gotham,” - Guy on the street