Supergirl Debut Recap/Review: The Devil Wears Prada Meets Smallville

In the Supergirl debut recap and review, Kara Danvers embraces her inner alien and takes to the sky like a bird, but this one is a kick ass girl much more powerful than a locomotive..

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

By now chance are you’ve read every review online concerning the new series Supergirl that debuted Monday night on CBS and admittedly I’m running a day behind posting this recap and review, but with good reason.

The first time I saw part of Supergirl it was the tail end of a screening back at San Diego Comic Con and from the 20 or so minutes that I witnessed, the series looked like a solid start but it’s never good to judge based only on a piece instead of the whole.

So I was finally able to indulge in the entire pilot episode of Supergirl this week and let me say one thing with a tip of the hat to most of the reviewers who have already talked about this new fall series — it’s fantastic.

Supergirl embraces the crazy in a way that only series like Arrow and The Flash have done recently, and it makes sense because they all share the same executive producer in Greg Berlanti. Add to that a spunky cast led by Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers aka Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl — who plays quirky just as well as she plays strong, vulnerable just as easily as she plays impenetrable.

From start to finish the debut episode of Supergirl was a whirlwind ride from Krypton to Metropolis to National City while introducing an entire backstory, a cast of supporting characters for Kara and a laundry list of villains that won’t run out for several seasons. Not to mention a great secondary leading lady with Calista Flockhart playing a Devil Wears Prada-esque publisher named Cat Grant.

So without further ado, let’s recap and review the debut episode of Supergirl

The History of Kara Zor-El

As great a series as Smallville was for 10 seasons, one of the most common complaints was how long it actually took Clark Kent to go from farm boy to superhero and considering it took him every episode until the very end just to learn how to fly, the frustration was somewhat understandable.

So from the sins of the past, Supergirl learns for the present as the series walks through her history essentially through the first five minutes of the show.

Kara Zor-El was sent to Earth by her parents in a ship that was launched just minutes after her baby cousin Kal-El left a soon to be exploding Krypton. Kara was spared from Krypton’s destruction with a job to protect her cousin once they landed on this strange new planet together. Unfortunately, while Kal-El’s ship cruised through the galaxy unfettered, Kara’s got blown off course thanks to Krypton going all Alderaan and she was sent spiraling into the phantom zone.

For the next few years that’s where she remained until she was finally dislodged and put back on course for Earth, but when she landed a few things had already happened. Because time moved much slower in the phantom zone, Kara didn’t age much but her famous cousin certainly did and by the time she arrived on Earth, Superman was already saving the day.

He helped her adjust by putting her with a good family named the Danvers (played through brilliant casting by Dean Cain and Helen Slater) along with a new sister named Alex.

Kara decided at an early age to live on Earth like every other human and never expose her powers because she could blend in without raising any suspicions while her cousin could swoop through the sky and continue to be the hero this planet always needed.

With Great Power

Now at age 24, Kara is working her way up the ranks at Cat Co. — a media conglomerate in National City run by the powerful Cat Grant, who orders up employee terminations like she does her hazel nut lattes. As much as Kara wants to be the next great reporter on the beat, she’s currently nothing more than an errand girl who can’t quite deliver hot coffee or get the right tickets, but she’s trying.

Meanwhile, Kara’s sister Alex is headed off for a business trip while once again explaining to her sister than no matter how much her urges tell her otherwise, hiding her superpowers is the best way to live because as long as she’s anonymous, no one can try to bring her down.

Kara agrees until later that night after a poorly executed blind date goes awry, she spots her sister’s plane having engine troubles and headed for a crash. Rather than see her sister die, Kara bursts into action, remembers how to fly, rescues the plane and saves the day.

The only problem is everyone saw her do it and now the entire world wants to know who is this flying blonde girl who seems to have all the same powers as Superman?

Great Responsibility

After saving the plane, Kara decides that she’s already outed herself to the world so it’s time to finally stop sitting on the sidelines and join her cousin in the world saving business. Much to her sister’s chagrin, Kara pulls in her friend Winn to help design a suit and before long she’s out on the streets running down criminals and stopping robberies all over town.

It’s all going well until Cat Grant decides in her ultimate wisdom to name the new super-heroine in town Supergirl. Kara hates the idea because it’s not as empowering as Superwoman would be — she is a woman after all and not a girl. Here’s where Supergirl tosses in a speech to knock down anybody who hated the name to begin with while establishing a title that women can own with power and dispelling any anti-feminist feelings that could some spring up as a result of the name of the show.

“What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? I’m a girl. And your boss. And powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent — isn’t the problem you?”

It’s a little heavy handed and they use the same tool a couple other times in the episode, but I can only assume it was done this way early so it wouldn’t have to be done over and over again. Arguing about a name seems rather petty when this show is giving us the first superhero TV show led by a woman since the genre exploded on the scene several years ago. Let’s be honest, it’s long, long overdue, Black Widow should have already had her first movie at Marvel and at least DC is getting it done now instead of later.

End of aside.

While at work, Kara also runs into dashing newcomer James Olsen — only the big guy gets to call him Jimmy these days — and sparks fly immediately. But there’s work to be done and Kara heads out on her latest duty as Supergirl, but her flight is cut short when she takes two darts laced with a growing green liquid that knocks her out cold.

Alien Nation

When Kara wakes up she meets a man named Hank Henshaw (comic fans will recognized that name) and he informs her that he’s part of the Department of Extranormal Operations or DEO if you will and he investigates all alien activity on Earth. The department was founded following Superman’s arrival and after that they’ve been monitoring all alien activity in and around the planet. Kara is also shocked to find out that her sister Alex is part of the DEO and now she understands why her sibling was so insistent on keeping her superpowers a secret. She didn’t want Kara to land on the DEO’s radar.

Henshaw explains to Kara about how they tracked her after she landed and how Alex got a job with them in large part because she was the alien’s sister. He also has some bad news that when her ship escaped the phantom zone, so did another large freighter except this one was filled with the worst of the worst criminals from around Krypton, all put in prison by her mother when she was a judge on their home planet.

They landed on Earth years ago but only now after Kara awakened her powers have they started to appear on the radar more and more and Henshaw attributes this problem to Sueprgirl’s arrival.

Kara gets dismissed like an afterthought but when an alien called Vartax contacts her through a high frequency sound wave that only she can hear. When Supergirl arrives and battles the creature, she nearly loses if not for the intervention of the DEO. Once again, Henshaw is convinced this Supergirl isn’t so super after all.

Redemption

A dejected Kara is ready to give up on her superhero pursuits, but her sister Alex shows up with a message recovered from her ship that she never saw with a video from her birth mother on Krypton. Alex tells Kara that the world does need her as a hero and the two of them go back to the DEO where they tell Director Henshaw in no uncertain terms that she can get the job done against the alien threat.

Henshaw finally relents and Kara is sent off to battle against Vartax, this time with a lot more confidence and the backing of the DEO. The battle scene is well orchestrated and executed with Kara finally coming out on top and vanquishing the big bad while also earning at least another day working with the DEO.

Back at Cat Co., Kara decides to share her secret with one more person — Superman’s personal friend and photographer James Olsen.

When she reveals her secret, James is not very surprised because as it turns out her red and blue clad cousin sent him to National City to look after her while also allowing the newly minted Supergirl to find her own way in the world without his influence. Now that she’s determined to join the family business, Superman passes along the blanket that he was wrapped in as a baby than is indestructible on Earth and now Kara has a cape that won’t shred every time she gets into a fight with a bad guy.

A Supergirl is finally born but she’s going to have her hands full because the final scene cuts away to the mastermind behind the phantom zone criminals that are now attacking Earth — it’s none other than Kara’s own aunt from Krypton, alive and well and looking to finish what she started with a new planet to enslave.

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