Supergirl Had A Show

It’s several years late, but I have finally managed to finish watching the Supergirl show. Now is as good a time as any to do a post about my thoughts on it.

Now, I have to be honest first of all. I didn’t love the show. It’s definitely a show I would not have watched if it had not been a part of the “Super” franchise, as it were. But that fine. That was also true about Smallville. That was also true about the Superman movies that have come out since I was a child. That is also true about the currently-running Superman live-action show (on which I am similarly years behind). I don’t feel like I was the target audience for this show, so I never felt too insulted by how it wasn’t doing what I wanted, but it did do plenty of things I didn’t like. Some of the things that annoyed me the most:

  • They brought Jimmy Olsen into the show. When this was first announced, I saw people on the Internet complaining that this Jimmy was buff and handsome and confident, not the little dweeb that Jimmy often is. I argued against these people, saying this was a Jimmy who spent a decade working alongside Superman, so it makes sense that he would be transformed by that (they also complained that Jimmy was Black, but I didn’t feel the need to argue with them about that, because their opinion on that was self-evidently dumb). But then the show never really did anything good with Jimmy. It was a real waste of a version of Jimmy Olsen we don’t usually get to see.
  • Speaking of the supporting cast, they almost all get turned into superheroes. This is something I’ve complained about happening in all superhero stuff these days, but it always irks me when the stories suggest that characters only have value if they can get in fights. If that’s how we judge people in superhero stories, I don’t agree.
  • Another thing this show does that most superhero shows do now is to have the hero working with SHIELD. Sure, they don’t call it SHIELD, but it is basically SHIELD. Why is every superhero with a SHIELD now? Stop it, superheroes.
  • The SHIELD on this show is about fighting alien threats, so the show eventually settles into a worldbuilding situation that treats aliens the way Buffy The Vampire Slayer treated demons. They’re just regular people who exist in a little subculture around town. I don’t hate the setup (apart from Kara working with SHIELD, as I say), but most of the times the aliens are just TOO human. This show aspired to have aliens as cool looking as Star Trek. Usually, it treats aliens as if they are just humans with super powers, and those powers can just be turned off, as if human is actually the default state and those powers aren’t biological necessities to the aliens, they’re just extra stuff that isn’t actually needed.
  • Characters from non-Super-related DC stuff was ubiquitous. Martian Manhunter is there from the beginning and, honestly, he works well enough that I could almost forgive it if there weren’t all the crossovers with other ongoing shows I wouldn’t watch without being paid. And there’s even a big continuity-rewriting crossover in the middle of the run, and if the show can’t maintain its continuity for six seasons, why should I be invested in anything that happens? But it was done more as a gimmick reference to DC comics than anything.

This show was for people who look at the way the superhero genre is today and thing “Yes, I like this.” And that sure isn’t PDR.

But there were things to like about the show and it may be better for me to focus on them a bit. First and foremost: Melissa Benoist in the title role. She’s pretty much perfect in the role. Personally, I would list the show’s depiction of Supergirl as a weak spot above, they too often just try to plug her into Superman/Clark Kent roles without letting her be her own thing, but Benoist does such a good job with it, I simply can’t consider her to be even slightly a weak spot here.

The show also does spend time on the kind of social justice and political stories I actually want in my superhero stories. They do it both in allegory, in which bigotry against aliens is used to show the evils of racism, but also they deal with issues like actual racism and feminism and stuff too. A lot of times the actual results can be clumsy, but at least they’re trying. With the state of things, I’ll take what I can get.

There were other things I liked about the show, but I feel like every one I bring up will come with some downside and I don’t want to bury the show in negativity. It was fine, probably great for the intended audience, and mostly I’m glad the show happened. I will even give it this compliment: I may go back and watch episode again (but certainly never the whole show).