Supergirl is back for round two on a new network, and the CW did not pull any super punches on effects, plot, or upping the character ante! This was a fantastic first episode that felt fun, fresh, and exhilarating at a time when most of the other superhero shows such as Arrow, Flash, Luke Cage, while impressively dramatic and entertaining in their own right, feel a bit dark and heavy. It felt elementally comic-y and very much a “Supergirl” show reminiscent of the comics.
Kara (the awesome Melissa Benoist!) is going through lots of transitions in her life in our season opener. Fresh off her victory against her rival Kryptonians bid for world domination led by the evil Non, the demented computer, Myriad, and her estranged aunt Astra from last season, she is celebrating with her friends and her sister, trying to balance her identity as Supergirl with her life as Kara. Very succinctly, she tells her sister that she spent that last year trying to figure out how to be Supergirl, and now she has to figure out how to be Kara (indeed the Flash TV show followed a similar pattern, pitting Flash against the villain of the week in order to develop his powers in the first season, then in season two, fleshing out his character with more complex motivations outside of his Flash identity). This kind of feels like the mission statement for season two, and this episode did a great job of balancing her trials as Supergirl with her trials as Kara. She is unsure of her motivations and station in her life now, as she tries to figure out if she wants to be with Jimmy, what job she wants at CatCo (so happy to see Calista Flockhart back as Cat, as she is the boss you love to hate!), and how much of herself she can afford to put in to being Supergirl.
Luckily, she has her cousin Superman to help figure things out! Yes that’s right! The big man himself shows up after lurking behind text messages and shadowed appearances all first season. At first I was worried his presence might steal Kara’s spotlight and undermine her position as a powerful lead female in the show, but instead he accentuates her strengths, is a resource for her growth, and an uplifting confidant that understands her plight as an alien trying to fit in. Played by Tyler Hoechlin of 7th Heaven and Teen Wolf fame, he is very much the Superman we have been looking for. Definitely not the emo, moody, weighted, lawful good hardliner portrayed by Henry Cavil in the new films: he is exuberant, funny, encouraging, and kind with just a touch of cheesy, which is what Superman should be. He leaves Kara feeling hopeful, helps her with her problems both as Supergirl and Kara, without doing everything for her, which is crucial for her character growth and to his credibility as Superman. Kara shines brighter because of him, and it doesn’t feel like a competition at all.
Plot dump time! After the intro celebration, Kara and the crew find an unknown man unconscious in the a crashed Kryptonian pod, which they then store at DEO. He is later found to definitely be Kryptonian, but remains unconscious and out of play for the entire episode, though his identity may be hinted at the end. Meanwhile, as Kara prepares for a date with James (cue girly dressing music montage), the much hyped launch of the first commercial spaceship Venture suffers engine failure and falls to Earth, but Kara saves the craft with help from a surprise assist from her cousin Superman! They discover after investigating that it was a sabotage job and target another awesome new addition to the show, Lena Luthor, the new CEO of Luthor Corp after her brother Lex was convicted, as the culprit. Katie McGrath does a great job in this roll as a powerful woman, trying to fight the darkness of her family heritage and in herself, and it will be interesting to see her walk the gray line this season. Clark is immediately distrustful of her, given her brother’s actions, but Kara looks for the good in her and is eventually proven right by the end of the episode, and Clark admits his mistake. Lena is trying hard to take her family business Lex Corp legit. In a ceremony to rename the company L-Corp, she is attacked again by John Corben, an assassin (for comic fans, we know this name to be associated with the evil villain, Metallo!) Alex engages him while Kara and Clark stop a building from collapsing (cousin team work!). Corben reveals he is working for the imprisoned Lex Luthor before he is killed by Lena, who coldly shoots him, showing she still has some of that Luthor family darkness going on.
By the end of the episode, with the help of some family counsel (i.e. “How do you be a reporter, a boyfriend and a superhero?) from Clark and bitchy, inspirational speeches from Cat (gotta love that!) Kara chooses to be a reporter for CatCo. And Kara, seeing that a relationship with Jimmy just isn’t a good thing for her right now in her life given all the transitions and responsibilities, decides to keep their relationship friendly, a decision which Jimmy reluctantly agrees to. Winn, the lovable techy side-kick is formally hired to work with the DEO with Alex and Hank, though these three kind of take a back seat in this episode. I’m sure we will get much more on them later in the season. We also get a hint of distrust and strain between Hank the Martian Manhunter and Clark, which is an awesomely interesting twist. Hank reveals to Alex that he was the one who discovered Kryptonite on Earth and decided to keep it to protect against other Kryptonians against the wishes of Clark, who wanted to destroy it. However Hank’s precaution proved valuable against Non and the others last season, so Clark is understandably disgruntled.
And now for the awesome set ups! We get a glimpse of Cadmus Labs, the labs in the comics which cause no end of trouble to be sure, and an unnamed woman revives our seemingly deceased assassin Corben, turning him into the Kryptonite fueled cyborg, Metallo. This may be a case where Clark is right instead of Hank, and keeping the Kryptonite around could have been a huge mistake! BUT! Remember our unconscious Kryptonian in the pod? Given the threat and discussion of Kryptonite in this episode, it is a good bet this is none other than Mon-El, who in comics is another Kryptonian, who unlike our other heroes, is not weakened by Kryptonite, but by lead, and may be the solution to the Metallo problem. We will see!
All in all an amazing first episode. Clark and Lena are great, fresh infusions to the cast and there are interesting plot lines for both Supergirl and Kara, as they both start on fresh paths this season. I think it was wise to take Jimmy off the table as a romantic interest so Kara can focus on herself and on being Supergirl. The uplifting, thrilling tone flies over lots of the darkness and dreariness of some of the other superhero shows out there right now. This show is bright, fun, a bit cheesy, but in a good way, and is just deep enough to keep it from being too sickeningly sweet. A must watch! And don’t forget, the epic Supergirl, Flash and Arrow crossover later this season!