Well it's about time.
Supergirl finally (finally!) takes off on Monday at 8:30/7:30c on CBS. With the glut of superhero properties duking it out in film, on TV and streaming services, the lack of female-fronted superhero projects has become glaringly apparent and actually kind of embarrassing. With only a few exceptions, most of the women on today's superhero shows play supporting roles.
Is Supergirl worth the wait? Maybe. The show is fresh, funny and energetic, but also feels incredibly goofy and contrived in a way that only a rom-com can. It's an unsettling (some may say off-putting) tone to encounter in an action series, yet is cheeky enough that it just might work. The one episode screened for critics isn't enough to judge, especially since so much time is spent on exposition and the introduction of Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) to her superhero life.
It's this very in-between quality, which also mirrors Kara's struggles with her newly adopted identity, that really makes the series feel modern. Here's an examination of why this Supergirl is a hero to reflect our time:
She's the ultimate feminist: Kara isn't the only strong woman on the show. Her older sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) is a badass spy and doctor, her media mogul boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) has razor-sharp business acumen, and many more powerful women, including villains, are on the way. These roles alone should be enough for Supergirl's feminist agenda, but as too many of today's women know, the conversation doesn't end with compelling representation.
Supergirl is also unrepentantly, deliberately girly. Fashion choices play a big part of the first episode -- twice -- which even includes the requisite chick-flick staple, a trying-on-clothes montage, but with a twist. Take a look:
But don't be fooled by Supergirl's frilly veneer. As Cat Grant challeges Kara in one scene, there is nothing wrong with being girly or even using the word "girl" to describe oneself. While this scene in part tries to head off critics who want to know why the show isn't called Superwoman instead of Supergirl (nevermind the fact that Superwoman is the name of an entirely different DC character), it also reflects the everyday struggle of women who understand that femininity is often mistakenly equated with weakness or feeble-mindedness.
"I think we need to say it out loud before people ask us that," executive producer Ali Adler tells TVGuide.com. "We would never want to make this property any less than what it is. Like we wouldn't want Kara to be any less than who she is."
She's an immigrant: "We'll see in flashbacks her time on Krypton as a young girl, which you can't ever do with the Superman story," executive producer Greg Berlanti. says "For all of the sadness that is sometimes present in the Superman character, he's essentially American. He was a baby when he came here, he was brought up by [human] parents who loved him. It was very different from Kara, who essentially grew up on this futuristic, amazing alien world, exposed to an entire galaxy of knowledge. She had friends, she had family and parents who really, really loved her. And all that was taken away and suddenly she was in junior high in Northern California. So, I think Kara carries around with her a wound and a hurt that Superman doesn't."
She chooses to be a hero: Teenage Kara Zor-El and her infant cousin Kal-El, whom she was instructed to protect, were the only two Kryptonians to get escape ships when their planet was about to blow up. But after her ship got shunted to the Phantom Zone, where time stands still, she missed 24 years on Earth. When Kara finally broke free, she found that Kal-El had already grown into Superman and no longer needed her protection. Kara was left to make a life of her own as a normal Earth girl, adopted by the Danvers family.
"This sounds strange to say, but her having spent half of her life on Krypton actually makes her more human [than Superman] because she grew up without powers," executive producer Sarah Schechter says. "When she comes here, and suddenly the yellow sun gives her these extraordinary powers, it's not second nature to her. It's a real struggle. To be a 13-year-old girl is really one of the hardest things to be in the world, on any planet. I think you see teenage girls are told not to be who they are and to suppress the things that make them weird or different. And so she has to overcome that as well as embracing these things that are a strange gift, even to her."
Check out this clip of Kara struggling to live a "normal" life:
She has a squad: OK, Kara may not come close to boasting Taylor Swift's number of friends, but by the end of the first episode, you'll see that she has quite a few people privy to her secret and willing to help out. This is contrary to the usual practice of drawing out the revelation of a hero's secret identity to those near him. Check out how she revealed her secret to her work pal Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan):
"With Clark Kent, it was always a secret; hardly anyone knew," Benoist says. "But I think that's one of the differences between the two of them. Kara is so open and shares with people and wants to live up to her potential and realize her strength. Most of her confidants show support, but [for] some of them ... there's some tension."
She has a sister: None of the previous incarnations of Supergirl had a sibling, and many of the more mainstream heroes lack siblings as well. (See how many on this list you could've named.) Alex Danvers is a completely new creation, which not only sets Kara apart from Clark Kent even more, but also adds a fresh twist to Kara's story.
"I feel like everybody with their sibling can very often feel like, 'We came from the same family, but why does this person have all these abilities or strengths that I don't have?'" Berlanti says. Adler adds: "We talk a lot about living in someone's shadow on the show, in Superman's shadow. Alex was this only child of these two scientists that Superman brought Kara to live with. And then all of a sudden, she's in the shadow of this new foster sister... So, she went out of her way to prove herself academically, with her athleticism and ultimately finds herself in this organization and trying to break free of the shadow."
She's the one with a crush this time: Smallville's version of Kara was the object of affection for Jimmy Olsen, but this time around, she's the one who's got the hots for Jimmy, excuse us, James Olsen (Mechad Brooks), who's also been updated. Gone is the redheaded cub reporter who idolizes Superman. Enter an award-winning photographer who's moved from Metropolis to National City and is making Kara lose her cool. Watch:
Are you ready for the all-new Supergirl?
Supergirl premieres Monday at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)