Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Death of Supergirl?

El-All Air

I am neither a Supergirl super-fan or a Supergirl hater.  I enjoyed the episodes that I saw, though throughout the first season there was a constant shadow falling over Supergirl that no matter how hard CBS tried to shake, it simply couldn't.
That shadow is known as Superman, Supergirl's Kryptonian cousin.
Through most of Supergirl Season One, the Man of Steel was incessantly referenced and name-checked.  The show went out of its way to mention him without actually mentioning him.  In a certain way, it was almost comical how Superman became "He Who Shall Not Be Named".  Most of the time it was a variation of "my cousin", but sometimes it was "the Big Guy", "The Guy in Blue", or maybe even "You Know Who". 

Now, I'll grant you that I have not finished watching Supergirl Season One so I am speculating a bit, but I always understood that Supergirl was going to be her own entity, a figure apart from her more famous relative.  As far as I gathered, Superman was not going to be a part of Supergirl.  Well, perhaps in the future he could be a guest star, but Supergirl was, if memory serves right, suppose to be The Girl (or Woman) of Steel, someone who would function both as well as and distinctly apart from Superman.

Reality, however, soon sat in.

Supergirl got raves (and again, I liked the episodes I had seen), but ratings weren't the greatest.  Try as she might, Supergirl was floundering.  Part of it might have been that CBS was, as some have suggested, the wrong venue: its audience still looking for Murder She Wrote on Sunday nights.  Thus, with a guest appearance by The Flash to help it along (already a sign that the show was not building up its own strength), Supergirl was relegated from the Major Network of CBS to the minor leagues of The CW. 

Part of the problem might have been from how the story was evolving.  I was beginning to worry that the show was slipping into a 'freak-of-the-week' serial, where Supergirl would meet up with a baddie (either from the comic books or a new one) and defeat him/her by hour's end.  That in itself isn't a death knell: for most of Smallville Season One, that was an issue (and a reason I stopped watching). However, Smallville went on for a full decade (whether it should have or not I leave up to those who've seen the entire ten old WAS Lex when it all ended?).

Then again, part of the problem might be that Supergirl, despite what appears to be a generally good cast (with Melissa Benoist and Jeremy Jordan being the standouts), the concept was ill-thought.  Were the people behind Supergirl making a television show that would appeal to a wide market that hungers for more comic book adaptations (in the vein of the more successful The Flash, Arrow, or the not-so-successful Legends of Tomorrow)? Or were they creating a television show to 'inspire girls that they could be the same as boys'?  In short, was Supergirl created to add to the comic book mythos, or to make some kind of point about gender equality?

If the goal of Supergirl were to show that they were boys' equals, it has decided that such lofty and admirable goals are not worth losing their jobs over.  I say this because The Shadow has now taken a discernable form.

For Season Two of The CW's Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin, formerly of Teen Wolf, will become the newest version of Superman (as a side note, he HAS to be a damn sight better than Henry Cavill.  Roast Turkey can act better than Henry Cavill).  So far, according to IMDB, he is set to be in four episodes, starting with the season premiere, though whether Hoechlin will be in more is left unclear. 

In my view, that's simply four episodes too many. 

Why is having Superman on Supergirl a bad thing in my view?  Quite simply, what might end up happening is that Superman will end up usurping Supergirl.  Clark Kent's alter ego may very well become what River Song was to the Doctor on Doctor Who: become the de facto star of the series and make the title character a recurring, or worse, guest star on his/her eponymous show. 

Already having Superman there, lurking in the shadows, diminishes Supergirl as a character.  Going back to the third episode (!), our Girl of Steel simply wasn't strong enough to do it on her own.  She needed her younger Kryptonian cousin to bail her out.  At least in that episode, Fight or Flight, she was open about her anger and frustration at trying to match Superman and not just failing, but having to have said Kryptonian cousin come in and rescue a damsel in distress.  If memory serves correct, Clark Kent via text/IM said he wouldn't do that again.

Yet, unless the concept of him coming round to rescue his (supposedly) equally strong female relative was introduced in Season One, Superman's appearance so soon into Supergirl's run is a betrayal of all that Supergirl was suppose to have stood for.

Now, I wonder, will Kara again express frustration that Clark Kent is popping up...or will she, horror of horrors, defer to him?  I'm sure that eventually you will see them working together (or would have anyway during the course of the show), but even so, wouldn't that defeat the original purpose of Supergirl (to show that a woman is just as capable as a man if they have the same abilities)?  The show is about Supergirl, her evolution into being what National City needs her to be, not about Supergirl's superhero relatives. 

I am at a loss to understand why Supergirl felt the need to instead of simply detaching itself further from Superman, it is instead bringing him on.  What good will having the one being who could outdo the main character do (apart from maybe, maybe jump-start ratings)?  To me, bringing Superman on board so soon, especially for the season premiere, is a sign of desperation and a tacit acknowledgment that few people are actually interested in Kara Zor-El, but in her famous relative Kal-El.

Bringing him back in any fashion (recurring, guest, or most disastrously of all, regular character) would be worse.  It would be distracting.  It would be diminishing.  It runs the risk of having viewers wait until HE gets back rather than have them invest time and interest in his more klutzy poor relation.  Should they opt to bring Superman in for ratings sweeps, then The Man of Steel would end up being her savior rather than a mentor.  After all, Supergirl would bring him when it needed a boost rather than rely on the title character to do that.

Again, this is total speculation.  Hoechlin may just appear in the season premiere, then (if IMDB is accurate) sporadically later on.  He may even be well-integrated to where my fears are not materialized and he doesn't diminish Supergirl or Benoist.  However, for me, I think bringing Superman to a show called Supergirl will eventually, perhaps irrevocably, take attention from the title character and make her the opposite of what she was suppose to be: independent and strong, one to be judged on her own merits as opposed to what 'the men' could supposedly outdo them in. 

I fear that no matter how good the intentions, how clever the scripts, whenever Superman (in the form of Hoechlin) is there, he will be the center of attention, not the title character (that River Song Problem again).  I cannot really imagine that Superman will defer to anyone, even his cousin.  It would be interesting, even great if he did, if he ceded control to Supergirl, if they truly were equals.  Whether they end up being is still at this point unknown. 

I can only hope that Superman will not eventually slip into a central character/role.  Should that happen, Supergirl will have failed in both her missions: to protect her cousin, and in developing as something distinct from him, serving not as a heroine to little girls, but as proof that when given the chance, girls still can't quite be as good as boys.

Above all else, that would be the worst result of any Superman preeminence on Supergirl.

A New Start, or The Beginning of the End?


  1. Looks like a desperate attempt to save viewer's flagging interest in the show. Personally speaking, I thought the show was more of a miss than a hit.

    Except for a few good episodes (featuring Martian Manhunter's introduction and the one with Supergirl unleashing her heat vision on Red Tornado), many were so-so and some were just plain boring. Especially the closing episodes (with a Mystique like villainess and an uninspired acting choice for the male Kryptonian villain) ...

    Martian Manhunter himself got sidelined heavily after that great introduction.

    Let us see how Season 2 unfolds. The original Wonder Woman herself (Lynda Carter) also makes her appearance as the president.


    1. There is much to lament about "Supergirl". Whatever is said officially, moving it from CBS to the CW is NOT a vote of confidence. Bringing in Superman so early isn't either.

      I feel "Gotham" mostly corrected itself to be a better, more focused show in Season 2. Hopefully, "Supergirl" will do likewise, otherwise we will see that part of the DC TV Extended Universe fall (as will the idea that comic book-based projects w/female leads are worthy).

  2. What a pessimistic article. The episode with Superman was a hit and fans and critics alike (for the most part) agree that Superman fit in very well and yet did not take the spotlight from Kara. Superman was always going to crop up- to be honest having him become more distance and even less of a presence would have just been weird! As if the two would not communicate/collaborate especially when it's an all over world threat- finding excuses every-time there is a major disaster as to why Superman didn't help out (as they did in S1) actually hurt the shows credibility! Fans generally love when other DC characters appear- the Flash/Supergirl crossover was a total success also, so just because this character is "Superman" it's no reason to think it would spell trouble for Supergirl as a series.

    1. Thanks.

      That remains to be seen. The whole point of "Supergirl" was to have her, independent of her Kryptonian cousin, save National City. I never thought Superman wouldn't appear, just wonder why he appeared so soon w/in the series' history.

      As for what fans 'love/don't love', a show's direction should be guided by the creative team, not by its viewers.


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Thank you.