So as a fan I was thrilled when it was announced that Supergirl would become a staple in the greater BerlantiVerse (as it’s known online). (For those unaware, that simple refers to the various DC Comics television programs created under Greg Berlanti, TV producer, writer, and director.) Mr. Berlanti is responsible for shepherding Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow onto the Boob Tube, and I – like so many – was initially surprised when CBS ponied up for the broadcast rights to ‘Girl’s inaugural season; however, they passed on a renewal, and the popular show transitioned to The CW (maybe where it should’ve been all along) though not without some “primping.”
With this change, some of the faces changed as well. The luminous Melissa Benoist still impresses as the choice to lead this show as Supergirl, though she’s been hamstrung a bit with changes for her alter ego Kara Danvers. Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant appeared for an episode or two, but as the actress didn’t wish to relocate to Canada wherein Supergirl is now filmed her character was kinda/sorta written out (though there’s been talk of her inevitable ‘return’ for special events). Peter Facinelli’s kinda/sorta villainous Maxwell Lord – a Lex Luthor wannabe if there ever were – also vanished but his departure was largely without a trace; I don’t even remember a passing mention in the second season explaining where the prominent National City citizen went off to in such a rush. And Jenna Dewan Tatum’s Lucy Lane didn’t make the cut either, leaving the playing field free for Kara and Mehcad Brooks’ “James” Olson to once and for all consummate a romantic relationship.
To a certain degree, much of Supergirl’s first season followed the tried-and-true ‘villain of the week’ format: some new baddie showed up in or around National City each week, and Supergirl had to come to grips with these unanticipated challenges, rise to the occasion, and allow good to rule the day. There were occasionally attempts made to build minor arcs – i.e. Jeremy Jordan’s Winn Schott falling in and out of love with coworker Kara; Maxwell Lord’s latest attempt to corner the market on ____ (insert whatever); James Olson’s on-again-off-again relationship with Lucy Lane; etc. But the bulk of the action remained on the formula – get the villain in, give Supergirl a challenge, and resolve the issue so that it could all begin again next week.
In short, I’ve found most of this second season to be a narrative mess.
Even worse, one of first season’s stand-out relationships was that between Kara and her adopted Earth sister, Alex Danvers (played by the comely Chyler Leigh), has been completely sidelined, almost if that sisterly strife so evident in those earlier episodes was never all that important to the show’s fabric. Now, Alex has been bound by the writers with an “is she/isn’t she” homosexuality that entirely derailed any momentum she’d made as a person of substance in the first season. Don’t get me wrong: it isn’t the homosexuality I take issue with but rather the fact that this personal discovery came quite literally out of nowhere based on what audiences knew of the character before her epiphany. While this may be un-PC of me, I thought we as a society have been led to understand that gayness wasn’t a choice but something folks have been since birth; were that the case (even for a fictional character), shouldn’t there have been SOME inkling earlier? A few throwaway scenes suggesting she’d long known it but never faced the reality (along with a scene wherein her fictional mother always suspected it) felt not only troublesome but downright offensive to such a personal revelation.
Despite my complaints (and, yes, they are complaints), The CW program has still managed to deliver some good moments, though I’d argue that there hasn’t been a great episode from this early batch of eight. Kara’s cousin – Kal-El, aka Superman, aka Clark Kent – joined the BerlantiVerse; while I wasn’t much enamored with actor Tyler Hoechlin’s performance as Big Blue I think he delivered a spiffy TV version of Clark. The season opener was a two-parter giving Hoechlin and Benoist a chance to show their stuff as family had some great chemistry, so much so that I think fans will be happy to see the two working together in future hours. Thankfully the writers have expanded David Harewood’s role; as the head of the DEO, he also harbors the secret of being the Martian Manhunter. Several episodes have given him some material to work with as he finds he may not be the true ‘last survivor’ from Mars after all. While it was decidedly awful to watch a U.S. President giving legitimate aliens (from space!) unquestioned rights to U.S. citizenship (without having to earn it whatsoever), it was terrific to see Lynda Carter back on television in the role.
Supergirl isn’t necessarily a ship that has to right itself. My take as a viewer is that the show has been forced to go through some growing pains precisely because of the network shift, and my take as a critic is that these first few hours of its sophomore season may be little more than a creative hiccup that’ll disappear once the tales begin again after the winter break. Supergirl boasts a talented cast, and – as a superhero property – it often times finds stories to tell that project popular values though some may not be as traditional as purists would like. I still believe a man – or a girl – can fly. I just want more action and less exposition.