Here she comes to save the day! It’s been years since we’ve had a live-action version of Supergirl soar across the screen, and this series from CBS has the potential to become something really special in the mythos of Kara Zor-El.
Superheroes, they’re just like us! Kara feels put-upon by her boss, can’t figure out what to wear for her dates, and feels unfulfilled with the direction of her life. Supergirl wastes no time in establishing its story. Before the first commercial break, we’re treated to Kara’s origin story, given a look at her daily life, and shown her first public act of heroism when she stops a plane from crashing into National City. There’s a couple of glimpses of “The Big Guy”, as well, but this is not his show. It’s hers.
In the opening scene, we’re shown that 13 year old Kara was actually sent away from Krypton at the same time as an infant Kal-El, and being the older of the two, it was to be her mission to watch over and protect her cousin. After a shockwave from the exploding Krypton knocks her ship off course and into the void of time known as the Phantom Zone, she ends up arriving 24 years after her cousin. With her new earthbound dynamic now changed, she no longer has to concern herself with protecting her cousin. Superman is protecting all of the citizens of the greater Metropolis area, and is certainly not in need of protection himself. He places her with an adoptive family of scientists — The Danvers’ (Helen Slater and Dean Cain!) — who had previously helped him understand his powers.
She decided when she was young that the world didn’t need another hero, so she kept her powers hidden for the following 12 years. It wasn’t until the flight that her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) was taking to Geneva started to circle the city in distress that Kara (Melissa Benoist) decided it was time to shed the secrecy and save some lives. The malfunction of the plane turned out to be a targeted attack, but more on that later.
Afterward, when the sisters are talking in Kara’s apartment, Alex expresses her fear for Kara now that she has exposed the fact that the world now has two heroes. There’s almost a tinge of jealousy to Alex’s chastisement, but she seems genuinely worried for Kara’s safety now that the cat’s out of the bag.
During Kara’s first outing with her costume, she’s tagged with two kryptonian darts and taken into custody. It seems Kara isn’t the only Danvers sister with a secret side gig: Alex turns out to be an agent for the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations) a well known agency in DC Comics titles dealing with monitoring extraterrestrial activity on Earth after Superman’s arrival.
The pilot dealt heavily with the theme of identity, and not just with the obvious “secret identity” trope. Kara is shown grappling with the fact that saving the plane felt more right to her than anything she’d ever done. She was sent to Earth with the mission of protecting Kal-El, after all. She left her home planet with a directive of service, and since Superman is holding his own, she’s got her own city full of people to aid and save. Alex wrestles with her own sense of identity, telling her adopted sister that she felt jealous when Kara was placed in her home. Being an only child for years and suddenly gaining a 13 year old sister is no easy task when you’re trying to navigate your own place in social hierarchies. “Before you came to live with us, I was the star. But how could I compete with you, someone who could touch the stars.” With an air of shame, Alex admits that Kara choosing to eschew her powers and feeling like “less” made Alex feel like “more.” Later, Alex questions the director of the D.E.O. if her sibling relationship to Kara, and not just her biochemistry training, was the reason she was recruited to join the organization. He responds that Kara was indeed the reason for Alex’s recruitment, but it was Alex’s contributions that kept her there. Both sisters have had fate thrust upon them in different ways, but they’re proving their worth in each respective path.
Kara’s final big battle in the premiere is with the alien criminal Vartox, who had targeted Alex’s plane earlier in retaliation for her work with the D.E.O. It turns out that when Kara’s ship managed to exit the Phantom Zone, it allowed the criminal holding station Fort Rozz to tag along to Earth with her. Vartox was one of the jailed thugs, and he holds a particular grudge against Kara because of her mother. Alura Zor-El was the Kryptonian responsible for his imprisonment. It’s revealed to the viewers that Vartox is only a piece of a much larger puzzle, one that includes Alura’s twin sister, General Astra.
I expect that family will be a driving theme for the first season of the show, with Kara and Alex’s sisterly bond likely strengthening now that Supergirl and the D.E.O. have one successful mission together under their belts. Moreover, Supergirl will no doubt find herself compared to her cousin, Superman often, and her aunt Astra will prove to be an interesting foe, as she has the twin face of the mother Kara so sorely misses.
“When in doubt, go with blue. It is your color.” – Alex Danvers
“Cancel sushi with my mother. Oh, and cancel my therapist. I won’t be needing it if I’m not having lunch with my mother.” – Cat Grant
“If she’s anything like him, she’s a hero. Saving people is what they’re born to do. She’ll be back.” – James Olsen
Blink and you’ll miss it: Alura gives Kara her necklace before the ship departs, but the scene depicting the actual handover was cut for time. Instead, we see Alura wearing the necklace before the two hug, and then Kara wearing it while she’s in her escape ship.
Listen for: “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” by Carl Carlton
Did you super-love Supergirl!? Did you know you can watch all episodes at CBS’ All Access site? Let us know below!