Jul 6, 2021
Supergirl: Everbody loves Superman
Last season on Supergirl: The makers of the CW’s hit show The Flash copied the formula and brought it to CBS, applying it to Superman’s most famous cousin. The end result was 20 episodes of awkward dialogue, bottom-tier DC villains, endless emotional speechifying, Superman being treated like Maris Crane, and ratings that failed to live up to the network’s high expectations. And yet, the series showed enough promise for the Powers That Be to make the nearly unprecedented decision to move Supergirl to its sister network the CW, where budgets will be slashed, regular cast members will be demoted to recurring, network-wide crossovers will happen (but don’t think for a second I’m going to waste my time keeping up with Legends of Tomorrow, CW), and hopefully the series will be allowed to appeal to a hipper, savvier audience of superhero fans as opposed to its previous demo of elderly women watching with their granddaughters. And oh yeah, we finally get to see Superman. In the flesh! Played by an actual, human, non-CGI actor!
We pick up right where we left off in the season finale, with the whole cast celebrating a hard-fought victory against Non’s evil plans to enslave humanity, and Kara showing off the Superman II champagne trick right before a rocketship streaks past her window. We get a bit of added action with J’onn and Supergirl chasing down the rocket before Supergirl rips it open and again gasps, “oh my God,” as we finally see what she finds so stunning: a sleeping guy, in a mock turtleneck.
They bring the mystery man back to the DEO, and between his spaceship looking exactly like Kara’s pod, and the fact that he appears to be invulnerable, Supergirl is convinced he’s from Krypton. However, they can’t know for sure because he remains unconscious, and will for the entirety of the episode. Meaning that after a summer-long cliffhanger, this plot is being pushed to the back burner for at least one more week. (Of course, it’s pretty easy to scan the interwebs to find out who this guy is, but I try to avoid unnecessarily spoiling upcoming episodes.)
Instead, our main plot kicks off with the launch of a new space plane taking rich people into low earth orbit. But as luck would have it, one of its engines explodes in space, which takes us to Metropolis where a reporter named Clark Kent immediately gets word of the accident. He rushes down an alleyway and rips off his tie and shirt in slow motion to reveal that he is in fact… Superman!
Also responding to the emergency is Supergirl, and the two team up for the very first time ever to save the space plane and help it land safely in a field. And then the two completely ignore the crash survivors to soak up the adulation from random people riding by on bikes.
Supergirl then brings Superman over to the DEO, where everyone stands at reverent attention staring at him and shaking his hand. Supergirl has brought him here to see the mystery man who crash-landed in the rocket, but Superman doesn’t recognize him, and soon enough they’re back onto the space plane business and the suspicious nature of the explosion.
Superman decides to hang around National City and investigate as his mild-mannered reporter alter-ego. Kara says Clark Kent can work out of CatCo, which conveniently allows him ample opportunity to interact with old friends and colleagues like James Olsen and Cat Grant. He does an odd soul brother/salute handshake with Jimmy, and then has to deal with Cat heavily flirting with him, despite informing her that he’s still in a happy, committed relationship with Lois Lane.
Eventually, the DEO figures out that there was one passenger who was supposed to be aboard the space plane, but canceled at the last minute: Lena Luthor. In the comics and other adaptations, Lena has fluctuated between being Lex Luthor’s sister and his daughter—try and figure that one out—but here, she’s his adopted sister who happens to have just moved to National City.
Clark and Kara question Lena, who denies having anything to do with the space plane explosion. Also, we find out Lex is currently in prison for life (thanks to Superman), and now Lena Luthor is trying to rehabilitate the image of his company Luthor Corp, and rebrand it as “L-Corp” and make it a force for good.
Meanwhile, an evil British guy buys killer drones (of similar design to the ones that Maxwell Lord once used to spy on Supergirl), and immediately uses them to kill the guy who sold him the drones. British Guy’s name is John Corben (a clue for you comic book fans), and he’s the one who sabotaged the space plane, and while on the phone with an unseen person, he promises not to “let the Luthors down”.
Eventually, it comes out that Lex himself engineered the sabotage of the space plane from behind bars, and Lena was the intended target. Corben sends his drones after Lena’s helicopter, and Superman has to fly around the city taking out drones with his heat vision while Supergirl protects the helicopter, though apparently not well enough to prevent the pilot from being shot (and killed?).
Superman saves a random family from a drone attack, and the dad reacts by saying, “We’re moving back to Gotham,” which is this show’s latest shout-out to Gotham City (after Supergirl’s oblique mention last season of a city where everyone wears masks).
Despite the attack, Lena Luthor goes forward with her big renaming ceremony in a public square. Predictably, the ceremony is rocked by explosions, and Corben has attacked Luthor Corp’s headquarters (which have been in National City this whole time, apparently) and managed to blow up the one beam that was supporting the entire building. Thankfully, Superman is here to hold up the skyscraper while Supergirl repairs that one extremely important beam with her heat vision.
On the ground, Alex gets into hand to hand combat with Corben. He defeats her and is about to use her as a hostage to make his getaway, when Lena shows up and shoots Corben herself. And that’s the end of this plotline (except for the stinger, which I’m getting to), but I get the distinct impression that Lena Luthor will be a recurring character, perhaps filling the probably-evil CEO role left open by Maxwell Lord. (Peter Facinelli, like Calista Flockhart, will only be showing up in a handful of episodes this season.)
In another subplot, James and Kara finally have their first official date. Which doesn’t go as planned after she first rushes off to save the space plane, and again when Kara seems less than enthused about rescheduling. It seems her feelings have changed (even though in the actual timeline of the show, it’s only been a few days since their first kiss), and she’s searched her heart and she realizes that she and James should just be friends.
And I suppose I should be annoyed that the show spent an entire season on a will-they-or-won’t-they plotline that ultimately came to nothing, but I’m more impressed they finally owned up to the fact that James and Kara have zero chemistry. Now if only The Flash would get the same memo in regards to Barry and Iris.
In another continued plot from last season’s finale, Cat is still waiting on Kara to decide what her new job should be at CatCo. At first, Kara suggests boring jobs like marketing, but Cat knows she’s just afraid to take that leap and find her passion and become something other than Cat’s assistant. And so, after spending all of fifteen minutes around her cousin Clark doing some reporting, Kara decides she really wants to become a reporter. And it seems Cat is in full agreement, and knew Kara was destined to be a reporter the moment she hired her as an assistant.
And it seems Cat already has a new assistant, personally picked by Kara, and her last name is “Teschmacher”. Which is odd, considering this very episode also implies the events of Superman: The Movie happened in this continuity (Winn specifically asks Superman about the earthquake Lex Luthor triggered in California). So is this Eve’s daughter? Niece? And how would Kara have even met her?
Meanwhile, there’s some obvious tension between Superman and Hank Henshaw AKA J’onn J’onnz. I was sure the reason would turn out to be something stupid, but it seems Superman has a very good explanation for being standoffish: He doesn’t like the fact that the DEO keeps a stockpile of Kryptonite, and he’s especially worried that one day, the government might order the DEO to use it on him or his cousin. However, the way they finally get to this reveal is tortured and weird, and involves Alex digging into the history of a vague mission called “Project: Emerald” where Kryptonite was discovered.
Oh, and Winn now officially works for the DEO. Did anyone not see that coming?
And finally, after Corben is shot by Lena Luthor, he’s secretly taken to Project Cadmus. A doctor (Brenda Strong) tells him he’s dying, but promises to give him new life as Metallo, the Kryptonite-powered cyborg from the comics (hence the reason they named the character James Corben).
The change in network has brought with it a few changes. For one thing, the opening credits now include a shot of the Flash, suggesting more crossovers to come. For another, the DEO now has new digs. Instead of that dark, mostly empty cave, it’s now at the top of a skyscraper. The change obviously happened because the show is now being filmed in Vancouver instead of L.A. to cut costs, but they do give us a funny bit where everyone pretends this new facility has always been around and Supergirl just didn’t know about it.
And if you look close, you’ll see subtle differences in sets like Cat Grant’s office, but that’s to be expected when a show relocates to another country.
But frankly, those are the only noticeable changes. It’s pretty much exactly the same show as it was before, now on a new network. It’s still the same light-hearted, optimistic series that’s more focused on the feelings and hopes and dreams of its lead character than any actual action hero plots. And while I’m tempted to say the show seems a lot less stupid in terms of plotting and dialogue now that it’s on the CW, it’s hard to say for sure based simply on one episode, particularly one that had the benefit of a guest appearance by the single most beloved comic book character in the world.
I wasn’t really expecting much from Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman after that terrible promo photo came out. He looked too young (at 29, Hoechlin is less than a year older than Melissa Benoist), the hair was all wrong, and the costume looked awful. Well, the costume is still pretty awful, but the actor does look a lot more like Superman once you see him in full motion. Dialogue tries to explain away why Superman looks so young by implying Kryptonians age at a slower rate on Earth (which I guess would also explain why Aunt Astra didn’t age at all in 12 years), but honestly, I wish they had cast an older actor in the role, because this one doesn’t really come off as much of a mentor. Also, Superman being younger than the guy playing Jimmy Olsen just seems wrong. Still, Superman is depicted well enough for what’s basically a two-episode guest spot, and I’m sure people who loathe Henry Cavill’s gloomy take on the character will appreciate this version much more.
And I think it goes without saying that I’m thrilled they finally ditched the James and Kara romance angle, which was easily one of the weakest aspects of the first season.
However, Kara as a reporter just feels lazy. And yes, I am aware that Supergirl/Linda Danvers briefly worked as a reporter in the comic books; it still feels like the show couldn’t think of anything better to do with her Cat-free personal life other than turning her into the female version of Clark Kent. I suppose it could have been worse—they could have taken a different cue from the comics and turned her into a soap star.
But despite everything mentioned above, it still fundamentally feels like the same Supergirl that aired on CBS last season. If you didn’t like the show before, you’re probably not going to like it now, and if you loved it, you should be beside yourself that you’re about to get—sigh—22 episodes of more of the same. (Can the CW get onboard with the cable/Netflix model of shorter seasons, already?)
Next up: Superman’s hanging around for at least one more episode, and we could be in danger of returning to the “punching a Z-list villain until he falls down” formula as he and Supergirl face off against Metallo.