SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART ONE

Pilot:

Airdate: 26 Oct,2015

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg.

Directed by: Glen Winter.

Starring: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott

This is one of the best pilots for any comic-based series, which is remarkable given that the origin is necessarily similar to that of Superman. Over the last few years, the Krypton saga has been taken to levels of extended banality (i.e. Man of Steel), so it’s refreshing that the writing team of Supergirl shoots through it like quicksilver and gets us to the heart of the matter : Supergirl herself. Immediately, the series establishes its brightness. Kara jumps for joy from the couch, embracing her super-ness after saving sis Alex from a potential plane disaster. Supergirl’s pilot was so pluckily modern and amusingly entertaining that sexist fanboys immediately took to social media to show us their heads exploding. Of course that reaction is so predictable as to be yawn-inducing since the genre base is often hyper-right-wing male-driven, which of course means xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic, Oh My! Since Supergirl is contrary to all that, that means the recent news of being renewed for a fourth season is going to inspire still more exploding heads. Bring out the cheesy popcorn.

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Benoist’ enthusiasm for the role and show is contagious and although the cast is uniformly excellent, she’s the constant, even when the show’s writing occasionally slips (as it inevitably will in any series). She has strength in her innocence as both Kara and Supergirl and we can readily identify with both personalities. With her bun-haired nerdy demeanor, Kara lets her golden locks flow so fancifully as Supergirl that we completely buy her peers’ cluelessness. Benoist balances hero with mild-mannered alter-ego better than anyone in the man of steel role and that includes the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Her nerd qualities don’t come to the surface by walking into a wall, but merely by being a twenty-something who hasn’t figured life out. What she does know is that she loves being more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, even if she is initially out of her element, hugs too hard, and screws up more than she succeeds. Being a super girl is better than pizza and this lady loves pizza (and supergirl cake!) Unlike her famous cousin, Kara has no yearning to be human. What, are you crazy? She can fly and can’t wait to try out her powers. “Are you sure you’re bullet-proof?” “Hope so.” “I can do a car chase,” she says with voguish aplomb. On the other had, she tries on-line dating and it’s a friggin disaster. To heck with this jerk, time to go save some people. She’s excited about her secret and can’t wait to share it with National City CATCO co-workers, including future Toyman antagonist Winn ( the scene of ousting herself to him is pure adrenalin charm). Naturally, protective Alex chides Kara for loose lips and later in the season Supergirl herself will slip again on TV.

Benoist as Kara personifies the best qualities of millennials, who predictably are rendered a perennial demographic target of Trump Toons. It’s not that she means to provoke the barrel-bottom dwellers, but she’s having too much fun being a heroine to tiptoe through the tulips of their incessant hangups. For her unintentional exclamation point, she’ll even trump a villain who underestimates her because she’s a girl.

James Olsen is another co-worker that Kara bonds with. Brooks is so tight-shirt sexy self-assured as the African-American Supergirl pal that he should be able to help keep Milk of Magnesia in business with the series’ white-robed haters as long as he’s on the air.

Alex, being the crackerjack ninja that she is, gives Kara’s super-moniker serious competition, especially in her fight scenes and when it comes to heavy-duty pop emoting, Leigh, being the pro that she is, hooks us from the premiere on. She’s as essential to the series as Benoist. Alex will upgrade from kicking chauvinistic ass in season one to mantling David Cronenberg and napalming homophobe heads in season 2. Leigh and Benoist are the series’ yardsticks for gauging one’s broadness. If the idea of 21st century National City Valkyries clog your bowels, then you’re probably a Trump Toon and should stick to Hack Snyder fantasies.

CATCO CEO Cat Grant steals almost ever scene she’s in, as we would expect the former Ally McBeal to do. When she gives the reason for naming Supergirl, she does it with such style and conviction that we take her side over an objecting Kara and our own reservations. Cat’s the perfect inspirational model for coffee girls, superheroes, and us. She’s only a fixture in the first season and some have lamented her departure. Yet, she can be likened to a short, but sweet visit; knowing when to exit and knowing it will benefit the show to do so.

At this point Harewood as Henshaw appears to have a mixmaster up his ass and doesn’t know it, but… (stay tuned)

Jordan as Winn is one screwed-up sweetie and invites us to sympathize with him as the perennial Charlie Brown type (a quality that Kara occasionally shares). We hope against hope that he’s not going to turn. However, if comic lore is being followed here… (stay tuned)

The series establishes its cooler-than-peanutbutter-world of aliens in the premiere. Despite reservations, Henshaw recruits Kara to work with himself and Alex at the DEO (DEPARTMENT OF EXTRANORMAL OPERATIONS. How cool is that?). After an episode chock-full of hand-wringing over delivering cold latte and a couple of failed costume attempts, Kara is literally up to her x-ray peepers in dodging glowing alien tomahawks and ends her debut up, up and away.

For a girl superhero who likes being a superhero, two-African American leads, two women who can kick bad GUY ass, an empowered businesswoman, and Winn who thinks it’s cool that Kara’s gay (even though she’s not), “Pilot” earns an exploding Trump Toon Head.

Stronger Together

Airdate: 2 November, 2015

Credits same as pilot.

Kara is still adjusting to public superdom and per Cat’s advice, Supergirl backs up a tad from trying to be the quintessential hero. Her earnestness comes to full-flower when she saves a big snake stuck in a tree after being told it was cat. Even with her super-resistance, she hates touching the icky thing. Of course, being the trooper and animal pal that she is, she saves it anyway. Benoist invites us to keep it positive with her and we do. Of course there’s a couple of monkey wrenches: a bug-like alien who does gross things with his mouth and Kara’s badass Kryptonian Aunt Astra (Laura Bennati) fresh out of the Kryptonian prison Fort Razz (and gearing up for invasion).

After a humble butt-whipping, Kara is learning the ropes, gets taught by a mere mortal, and ready or not, prepares for the big interview.

For female empowerment (of course), having smart girls who refuse to be reduced to male receptacles (WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!?), feminine wit, Peta-like BS, and girls doin’ good GUY things, “Stronger Together” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

Fight Or Flight

Airdate: 9 November, 2015

Written by:: Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert
Directed by: Dermott Downs

In her interview with Cat Grant, Supergirl unintentionally reveals her family ties with Superman and sets the record straight: “This is my story.” Although a lot of viewers were already complaining about the lack of Superman, he’s not been missed.

Opening mouth and inserting foot yet again, Kara proves she can’t keep a secret or two or three or four. “Cat’s like a super-interviewing villain. It just popped out! She tricked me,” is the unconvincing excuse made by Kara to just about anyone who’ll pull up a chair and lend an ear. Henshaw snaps: “What’s next? A reality show?” At this point, he’s akin to super-grouch Dr. McCoy, but like that final frontier southern sawbones, rest assure that the DEO honcho is going to prove his mettle because there’s more to him than meets red-glowing eyes.

Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) emerges as a potentially interesting Dr. Pepper-loving villain, but first Supergirl is pounding away at metallic radiation victim Reactron (Chris Browning) who’s holding a grudge against Kal-El who, via a silhouetted cameo, shows up to save the day, then unwittingly receives all the credit. The rest of the episode deals with Kara trying to prove that she’s no Robin to Superman’s Batman.

For a Supergirl having the audacity to suggest she has her own identity apart from a SuperMAN, and for daring to display humor in a superhero show, “Fight or Flight” earns a spazzing Trump Toon.

How Does She Do It?

Airdate: 24 November, 2015

Written by: Yahlin Chang and Ted Sullivan
Directed by Thor Freudenthal

After besting a drone and erroneously blaming Henshaw for sending it, Kara sucks up to Cat who has finally beaten Lois Lane out of a journalism award. Unfortunately, Cat cannot attend the ceremony since her babysitter is currently out of commission. Offering to watch her employer’s pre-teen son Carter (Levi Miller), Kara is going to find out how a working woman does it (balancing family and career). Meanwhile, Olsen is having continuing issues with on-again/off-again GF Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and their tension is all about career VS. personal time. Their unresolved romance leaves Kara, who has a crush on Olsen, forever stuck in the friend zone-“more so even than in the Phantom Zone,” cautions Alex. As enticing as Olsen is, the “will they” or “won’t they” between himself and Kara doesn’t fully convince and we hope in vain that she’ll wind up with Winn (they have an authentic chemistry that could compare with Hermione and Ron).

This episode has a different writing/directing team and all the above bullet points tend toward the pedestrian. Still, there’s entertainment aplenty to be had in balancing the banal with action and it’s the slickly-executed latter that gives this episode flight.

Behind the drone and a series of horrific bombings is disgruntled Maxwell Lord employee Ethan Knox (Scott Michael Campbell) who’s apparently putting Supergirl to the test. However, anyone familiar with the Lex Luthor prototype can sniff out Lord as the potential evil rich guy long before he’s outed as such. Facinelli has charisma as an antagonist, but his potential hasn’t been fully milked yet.

Supergirl has a big choice to make and whether she makes the right one is debatable. On the plus side is Supergirl’s fallibility.

For suggesting an interracial hookup, girls saying girly things, and suggesting that a rich WASP can be bad,”How does she do it?” earns a spazzing Trump Toon.

Livewire

Airdate: 24 November, 2015

Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish
Directed by: Kevin Tancharoen

Due to the Paris bombing, “Livewire” (episode 5) debuted before the previous episode, which was likely confusing to viewers, but it was clearly wise to do so. Regardless, for the sake of chronology, it follows “How does she do it?”

“Livewire”has a superior antagonist in Britt Morgan who is so delightfully trashy that she leaves a trail. The episode also benefits in considerable fleshing out of Cat Grant. CATCO’s Shock Jock Leslie Willis (Morgan) hones in on Supergirl (‘that chastity belt of steel’), is demoted by Cat for criticizing our favorite heroine, gets struck by lightening in a helicopter, and becomes Livewire. Despite Supergirl having saved her, Livewire seeks revenge against the National City Kryptonian and former employer.

The Superman family has never had a rogue’s gallery colorful enough to compete with the likes of Batman and Flash, but Morgan’s Livewire is a worthwhile nemesis. Her transformation begins as something akin to a transgendered Max Headroom before she fills the room, but her propensity for electric shock therapy is her least quality. Actually, it’s not a quality at all because it’s the actress, not the character, who is so naturally gifted in animated malice that she inspires camera and viewer to root for her despite our better natures. She’s clearly a villain before the accident, which Cat astutely observes.

This episode gets an “A” for quirky originality in being the first science fiction television that I know of which is really about Mother’s day for potentially bad matriarchs. That list includes Cat’s own mother, the Danvers mother (former Supergirl Helen Slater), and Cat herself, who wretchedly mentored Leslie. However, it’s also about a dysfunctional thanksgiving among friends (shades of Charlie Brown), but not shorn of humor: “Chocolate pecan pie is the best dessert in the galaxy and having been to 12 planets, I mean that literally.” Cat makes considerable headway into an authentic mother/daughter relationship with Kara after learning that her coffee girl is orphaned and giving Kara an excuse to “slip away” and do her thing (does that mean…? You betcha). Later, Cat offers herself up as bait to lure out Livewire for her girl to be the hero that she is. Being Cat, her tongue is her best provocation: “You have all the wit of a youtube comment.” By episode’s end, we’ve succumbed to the thanksgiving spirit, such as it is, and while it doesn’t compare to the hypocrisy of puritans, there is a touch of pathos in Winn and Cat celebrating alone. For the darkened pumpkin pie finale there’s a budding mystery behind the fate of Jeremiah Danvers (‘Lois and Clark’ Superman Dean Cain) and how exactly Henshaw fits into this.

For this superior episode of good women and bad women alike who aren’t content to stay in the male WASP fantasied kitchen, “Livewire” earns a spazzing Trump Toon.

Red Faced

Airdate: 30 November, 2015

Written by: Michael Grassi and Rachel Shukert
Directed by: Jesse Warn

The best way to follow a good episode is to do another one and “Red Faced” succeeds.

Kara channels Charlie Brown as a 21st century supergirl. After a couple of road-raging rednecks almost kill a group of school children, Supergirl lets her anger get the better of her, scares the bejesus out of the kids (although that doesn’t quite register; kids tend to love a good fight), gets lambasted by the media and Maxwell Lord (mantling the hypocritical Trump model but lacking its cartoon charisma) and lectured by Cat, who is having anger issues of her own with mama Grant (Joan Juliet Buck, who is too cartoonish) and beautifully defends her coffee girl against matriarchal criticism.

It’s a shame that Livewire wasn’t around for this one because Kara drops that Pollyanna heart and gets dark after receiving a lot of hate, which is refreshing because even super people shouldn’t be one-note. Escalating Kara’s jealous anger over the love triangle with Lucy Lane and Olsen is Lucy’s daddy; General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower) who sees no reason that Supergirl should exist.

In an excellent scene, Olsen (who’s equally frustrated with General Lane) vents his anger out on a punching bag while Kara pulverizes a car.

Winn’s talents get accented here (shades of darker horizons to come) and what he discovers deepens the darkening questions that connect Henshaw to the fate of Jeremiah Danvers.

For the current episode, General Lane may have a solution to the Kryptonian problem when he introduces Dr. Morrow (Iddo Goldberg) and requests that Supergirl play Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robot with Morrow’s invention: The Red Tornado (Goldberg). Needless to say, Murphy’s Law applies.

The fight scenes are heavy metal cool (and I hate heavy metal); made all the more so by kick evil scientist ass Alex taking on Morrow while sis deals with the red guy. Goldberg is excellent in both roles and it’s a shame that it appears he’s been relegated to a villain of the week.

Still, this is a sizzling episode in both drama and action.

For continued interracial dating, making villains out of rednecks, a constipated army officer and a Trump-like rich guy, along with Kara and Alex fighting like girls (and winning) “Red Faced” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

Human For A Day

Airdate: 7 December, 2015

Written by: Yahlin Chang and Ted Sullivan
Directed by: Larry Teng

Some of the best episodes of the classic “Adventures of Superman” and Superman II  dealt with the theme of Superman’s vulnerability. Now it’s Kara’s turn. Having short-circuited from her fight with the Red State villain of last week, Supergirl must wait out her Blue Tsunami. She bleeds, gets a cold, breaks an arm, and is heartbroken over the death of someone she cannot help after a National City earthquake.

Maxwell Lord takes the opportunity to show what a great guy he is and what a demoness the alien Supergirl is (she gets double whammied in being an Eve-like succubus and an illegal). Thankfully, this isn’t “Gotham” and Supergirl misses being a superhero because it’s the best time of her life. Adding fuel to the angst flames, Lord predicts that Supergirl has lost her powers for good.

Meanwhile, back at the DEO, Henshaw is questioning the alien Jemm (Charles Halford) and something is hinted at in their dialogue. After Jemm escapes, it’s time for the Alex/Henshaw showdown and BIG revelations.

Enter Martian Manhunter.

Cool.

Anyway, with Supergirl MIA, Cat rallies the city and then we get Benoist’ best scene to date. She and the creative team behind the series find the pulse of what inexplicably alludes Zack Snyder and company: Supergirl isn’t super because she’s bulletproof, but because of faith and the ability to inspire faith. Sure it’s sentimental, but in the best way, like how Leonard Bernstein used to inspire us with his sincere, honeyed heart. One can mantle conservative cynicism (which is the quintessence of hypocrisy since they preach their Gospel of No claiming to be divine moral guardians) but when a very human and still fragile supergirl walks into a robbery-in-progress,you may not believe that a girl can fly that moment, but you’ll believe in the power to change. In the words of Rankin and Bass’ St. Kris Kringle: ‘Changing from bad to good is as easy as taking your first step. So, just put one foot in front of the other and soon, you’ll be walking out the door.” This is Supergirl’s Charlie Chaplin-like hour and we’re thankful before a return to normalcy of sorts.

For espousing authentic ethics and faith while finding the pulse that heroism doesn’t come from being put on a pedestal,”Human for a day” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.

Next Week: Season One, Part 2.