One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
“Earth didn’t need another hero,” Kara Danvers, aka Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, states during the opening minutes of CBS’ new series based on the DC Comics character. She’s talking about her cousin, the man in blue, or any number of illustrious pseudonyms the writers have come up with to avoid saying “Superman” for some reason. See, Kara was sent to Earth not five minutes after Kal-El, with a mission to protect her younger cousin, but an unfortunate redoubt leads her into the “Phantom Zone,” where she sits in sleep for two decades while Kal becomes a hot shot on Earth without her.
Once Kara arrives and gets placed into the adoptive custody of the Danvers (hey, Dean Cain!), she has to readjust to life with no clear mission – a two-decades-in-the-making superhero doesn’t exactly need protection – or a purpose. Rudderless without meaning, she decides to acclimate. Be normal. And that’s where the new Supergirl shoots off into the stratosphere, successfully combining a small-girl-in-the-big-city story with a rip-roaring superhero saga that strips all pretension away with a pure and simple narrative that all but wraps you up in its gloriously cheesy – but never over-the-top – world.
With nothing better to do since her cousin is out saving the world, Kara (played, it should very much be mentioned, by an eager and adorable Melissa Benoist) becomes the assistant of the deliciously honest head of a global media conglomerate Cat Grant (Calista Flockheart). Instead of changing lives and inspiring youth, she mostly just makes her rounds doing coffee runs and using her super-hearing to warn everyone when Cat is riding up her private elevator.
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That’s the first thing Supergirl gets right, and the hint is in the name: this is a show about a girl finding herself, and may leave diehard fans of the genre wanting. She has a job, she has a nerdy best friend who loves her, she has a bitchy boss, she has a super chic loft no 24-year-old could ever afford – she just happens to punch bad guys through walls on her off time.
Whereas shows like Arrow and The Flash build up their hero’s “hero time” as the center for the series, Supergirl cleverly inverses that. This is about Kara’s life, and that life does eventually include alien-related antics once she decides to save a passenger jet from crashing and burning outside of her home of National City. She does that before the opening credits roll in the pilot. Six minutes later, she’s divulging her big secret to Winslow Schott (Jeremy Jordan), the best friend who loves her, even though she has eyes for James Don’t-Call-Him-Jimmy Olsen (Mehcad Brooks).
That’s the show’s biggest achievement in a genre overcrowded with long-gestating secret identities and crises-of-conscious that over spool into years of drama: Supergirl deals with both of those plots in the first 40 minutes alone. And because of it, the show gets some of its funnest moments, especially a costume montage that gets intercut with a bad guy beat-down all the while “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” plays in the background. Supergirl knows how silly it is, and embraces it, obviously treating its source material with poise, but largely uncaring of the leagues of fanboys and girls who wait to pick its mythology to pieces.