On Monday, October 26, 2015, CBS released the pilot episode of its new series Supergirl, which follows the adventures of Kara Zor-El, cousin of Superman, as she learns what it means to be a hero.
Having newly embraced her powers as Supergirl, Kara Danvers anticipates serving National City as a hero–but it seems that every time she attempts to help, she only creates a mess. With popular opinion turning against her, Kara begins to lose faith in herself. But aliens from a crashed space prison are loose are on Earth and they seek domination. Can Kara convince herself that she is worthy of her cape before it’s too late?
Supergirl continues to impress with its fast-paced plot, its focus on characterization, and its commitment to exploring the gender issues that arise when a woman dons a costume typically associated with a man. The show expertly balances the serious issues with lighter moments to keep viewers thinking and engaged. Not for a long time have I enjoyed a show this much (and dare I suggest that this is, in part, due to its treatment of its women?).
It might have been easy for Supergirl to rely on the fame of Superman to sell itself, but though the show throws out constant references to Kara’s cousin, this episode dedicates itself to differentiating Kara definitively from Clark Kent. From the beginning (indeed, from the title), the episode announces Kara’s commitment to teamwork–and it is that network that will ultimately define her. Superman works alone, Kara notes, but she finds power in the people around her. The ability to accept help, she says, is not a sign of weakness but one of strength.
Kara’s network and her gradual acceptance of her need to rely on them warmed my heart, particularly in light of her relationship with her sister Alex. Understandably, the two have found their bond tested by recent events, and I feared constantly that the show would ultimately pit the two women against each other. But, in a surprising move, the show recognizes the strength of sisterly love, allowing time for the plot to focus on matters more important than a forced cat fight between females. This moment may be one of the more subtle feminist moves made by the show, but it is by no means the most insignificant. Supergirl demonstrates that action and drama can still unfold in a show when women work together.
Notably, even the testy Cat Grant proves inspirational to the show’s hero in a moment that suggests the root of her bitterness. Women, she announces while discussing Supergirl, have to work twice as hard as men to receive the same recognition–one understands she is also referring to the trajectory of her own career. But she continues on from her bitter statement, offering pertinent advice to other women who want to follow her and chart their way through the world. Start small. Work hard. One might have expected the show to depict the formidable Cat Grant as utterly heartless at this stage of her career, but instead it shows her as standing in solidarity with other women. I wanted to stand up and cheer.
So far Supergirl has done right by its female superhero and by the rest of its cast. My one complaint is that the show still relies too heavily on allusions to Superman, but I have hope that as the season progresses, Supergirl truly will be allowed to stand on her own.