In its sophomore season, Supergirl confidently rests on the shoulders of its star Melissa Benoist, not because she's the lead but because she imbues the show with a necessary kindness and earnestness as Kara Danvers and a confident boldness as her alter ego heroine. But can the series, which recently moved to The CW after a single season on CBS, survive without fan-favorite character Cat Grant now that Calista Flockhart chose not to return as a series regular when the show moved production to Vancouver from Los Angeles?
Since the show's debut last season, Cat has — in addition to running media conglomerate CatCo Worldwide seemingly without sleep — acted as a mentor to Kara, providing guidance both in the office and outside of it. She has been the loudest voice for equality on a show that prides itself on telling the stories of powerful women in what could be thought of as traditionally male-dominated positions.
It was Cat who named Kara's superhero Supergirl — and then expertly explained why the word girl was only offensive if you let it be. It was Cat who pushed Kara every step of the way so that she could see herself as a powerful and resourceful woman who knew her worth. It was Cat who took Kara under her snarky, frequently exasperated wing in order to challenge Kara to become a better, strong person. Even when Cat's monologues veered into preachy, the mentor/mentee relationship that existed between them was one that traditionally hasn't been explored too often. It's only in recent years that we've seen a rise in female mentors on TV, and Cat was one of the best.
Although the show's producers are hopeful they'll be able to work out a time for Flockhart to return, there are no plans in place yet. And as this week's "Welcome to Earth" — the first episode without Cat — made an attempt to prove that fans needn't worry about the show losing some of what makes it special because the character's spirit lives on in others.
President Marsdin (guest star Lynda Carter) and her pro-equality stance on the rights of aliens proved that there are other empowered women to act as role models for Kara when she needs reminding of the person she can be and the world that's possible. But to be honest, Cat has done her job incredibly well, which is why she was able to make the decision to leave both her company and her potential protégée to find her next adventure. After all, Kara didn't need Superman (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) by her side to be successful — though his support was certainly welcomed.
Although we'd likely be singing a different tune if production hadn't played a factor in Flockhart's role on the show, Supergirl also has a solid enough foundation at this stage that it's fairly believable that Kara no longer needs to constantly be reminded of the power she wields. Much like how she saved the world from Myriad with hope (yes, really), Kara simply has to believe in herself, and believe herself capable, and she'll be the woman Cat knew she was. Yes, Kara may periodically doubt herself — everyone does — but the important thing is that she generally knows her value, much like another female hero of sorts. As executive producer Andrew Kreisberg recently told reporters, the biggest feminist statement that the series could make involves the actions of Kara herself.
"When you compare [Supergirl] to our other shows like Flash and Arrow — there's nothing she goes up against that they don't go up against. She's just as valorous, just as confident, just as emotional, just as flawed and just as strong as any of the other male heroes that we've created," said Kreisberg.
What all of this really means is that Cat's absence and how it affects the show will largely be determined on how individual viewers felt about the character. For many, Cat and Kara's moments together were the series' most genuine — and mostly genuinely moving — outside of the interactions of the Danvers sisters. Their relationship helped to ground the series and its out-of-this-world elements. So although she won't be there with her quick remarks or to offer Kara advice, Cat's spirit will live on as long as Kara continues along the path Cat set her on and as long as fans are okay with the show's signature heart-to-hearts moments shifting a bit to include more of the cast.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.
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