Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I'm (very cautiously) optimistic for Supergirl Season 2

I liked Supergirl from the start, but not enough to watch consistently. When episodes aired out of order due to real events, I decided that I'd wait one episode to watch them in order. I caught up 15 episodes later with the Flash crossover. It's not a promising endorsement, but it's where I'm coming from.

The show has been renewed for a second season, and I'm in for it. It has its frustrations, but enough promise that it could pull itself together.

The most obvious issue came up early and often. This is a spinoff of a show that doesn't exist. At times I wanted them to get Tom Welling in as Superman, even if it made no sense, just to explain why Superman is so awkwardly handled. The last two episodes illustrate the worst the best.
Superman pulling Supergirl out of her pod in the pilot

When you have a shared universe, people are always asking why other heroes don't show up all the time? It's not a big problem for me, but I understand. When an entire city is under mind control, Superman should show up. Kara looks for him at the Fortress of Solitude, but he's off-world. There, problem solved, nothing here to see. Then he comes back, but is now controlled by Myriad because he's more human than Kara. That is an interesting idea to explore, but not in this story. Later, when she undoes the mind control, he's somehow out of commission again.

Kara and AlexThey're running in circles, trying to be too clever. Kara could still save the world without Clark's help if he was off-world. Because they also wanted her to save him, they twisted the story in a few knots. Instead of meaning anything, it ended up falling flat. See also the fight between Kara and Alex, and Alex in the pod saving Kara.

I liked this season, but not the finale, which makes this hard. Everything leads to this last moment, and if it falls flat, the rest suffers. The enduring image of  Kara and Alex's relationship is the flat moment of Alex in the pod. That image should be Alex admitting that she was the one who killed Astra. The finale's failures drown out the moments that hit hard earlier in the season.

A de-powered Supergirl talking down a man with a gunThen there's the cheese factor. The show was good at this, but they learned too far into it for the finale, going too big with it. Kara's heroics are as much about giving people hope as saving them. The peak this season was when Kara lost her powers, trying to talk down a guy robbing a store. With just her words, she got him to hand her the gun and stand down. It is ridiculous and cheesy, but Melissa Benoist sells it completely. The finale didn't work as well, again souring their successes with the finale's failures.

Much like The Flash, the leads are outdone by supporting characters. The first is Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord. In the comics, he's best known as a villain, so many fans give him more villainous baggage than he actually has. He's an antagonist, but not a straightforward villain. He's more pragmatic and self-motivated, which just works to make a good character.

Calista Flockhart as Cat GrantThen there's Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. The show moving to Vancouver for Season Two might diminish her role, and to my surprise, I'm afraid of that. Her first appearance, she was a ripoff of Miranda Priestly. Good luck living up to that. Instead, she seems like that on the surface, but is far less of the domineering, insane boss. The scene that summarizes her character is dinner with Adam, her older son. After every sign that she is not overly emotional, this scene destroys that idea. She balances a feeling of regret and acceptance that I can't adequately describe. This scene shows who she is underneath it all, which plays out across the whole season. Instead of a sleepwalking role by someone who can do better, she turns into an interesting character I would hate to lose.

This is why I'm so conflicted. There are some great parts that carry many others that don't work. The whole season feels like the first half of the first season of The Flash. Both had places where you could see the edges of something great. Unfortunately for Supergirl, it never quite came into focus. There's enough good right now that I'm in for the second season, with hope that they nail it later.

Oh, who/what is in the ship? I don't know, and don't care. It's a bad cliffhanger, leaving us asking "What happened?" rather than "What happens next?". It's cheap and lazy storytelling, so I'm going to forget about it for a few months.

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