Supergirl Series Premiere Recap: “Pilot”
Welcome to Earth, Kara Zor-El!
Supergirl has finally premiered on CBS, and you know what that means … recaps here at The Mary Sue! The series opens with the requisite origin story, the requisite battle with a villain, and lots of adorkable from Melissa Benoist (not to mention some serious hotness from Mehcad Brooks). Welcome to Supergirl!
**THIS IS A RECAP – SPOILERS ARE PART OF THE TERRITORY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**
S1, Episode 1 – The Basics:
- The Origin – Kara tells us how she got here in a beautiful (and thankfully brief) sequence during which we see Adorable Widdle Baby Superman put into a pod and sent off, and Young Kara (Malina Weissman) promising not to let her parents down. She seems really, really together for a kid. No pressure, Kara—just BE OUR LAST HOPE. But this girl looks like she can handle it. Except that she ends up in the Phantom Zone by accident (oopsie!). She gets out just as mysteriously as she gets in and accidentally brings an alien prison out with her (double oopsie?). But more on that later.
- Cut to the present – Kara Zor-El is now Kara Danvers, foster daughter to Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers (Helen Slater and Dean Cain! Scientists who helped Clark Kent figure out his powers when he was young) and foster sister to Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh); put-upon assistant to Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), who owns the CatCo media conglomerate; and all the while hiding the fact that she has superpowers and is related to what’s-his-name. (P.S. They never mention his name. He’s like Voldemort now.) Oh, and guess who’s newly employed at CatCo? James “The Grown Man” Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), who only lets “Him” and his parents call him Jimmy. Pulitzer Prize-winning Hottie alert! Kara seems smitten. She also seems really flattered and flustered when he tells her that she looks like Him. (Sheesh, now I feel like I’m talking about Jesus!) Also working at CatCo is Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan—not the 90s pop star, the other one, who was in Smash and The Last Five Years), he of unrequited crush on Kara. Sorry, dude. But he makes a killer outfit and knows how to hack stuff, so … yay!
- The Moment – After arguing with Alex about what does and should constitute a “normal life” (not to mention going on a really bad Tinder date), Kara finally has the chance to step up to the plate and be a hero by saving a plane from crashing. Oh, and bee-tee-dubs, it’s a plane Alex is on. Kara saves the day, gets press, FEELS AWESOME. But then, Alex has to harsh her vibe by being all, “You have to keep your powers a secret,” and, “I’m trying to protect you.” Sheesh. You’re welcome.
- Desperately wanting to tell someone about her superpowers who won’t yuk her yum, Kara tells Winn, but only after he thinks her secret is that she’s a lesbian (because that’s the only POSSIBLE explanation for her not being into him *eyeroll*). He then does the whole sidekick thing really well—crafts her costume, hacks into the po-po to tell her about crimes she can go stop … all to the dance beat of Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” which was pretty sweet. Never mind that that’s a song about how stacked a girl is. Now, it’s also about a superheroine kicking ass and taking names.
- Except HOLY CRAP KRYPTONITE DARTS SHOOTING HER OUT OF THE SKY. Damn, DEO. Why you gotta play Kara like that? It turns out that Kara’s not the only one with secrets and a secret identity, although that’s TOTALLY HER THING AND STOP BITING HER STYLE, ALEX! Ahem. Alex Danvers works for the Department of Extranormal Operations reporting to the ever-gruff and ever-suspicious Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), and the whole reason Alex has been such a pain in the ass about Kara keeping her powers under wraps is that all those Fort Rozz
prizzonersprisoners have escaped, hate Kara’s mom, Alura (Laura Benanti), for putting them in jail, and want to exact revenge by—you guessed it—killing Kara. (P.S. Kara is totally pissed that Alex kept her DEO-ing from her.)
- Meanwhile, Cat Grant names #Supergirl in the press, and is thrilled that National City (dumbest name for a city ever) has its own flying hero. But after a heavy-handed lecture to Cat about “girl” being diminutive and anti-feminist (and an equally heavy-handed retort from Cat), Kara feels funny in the head. One of those escaped prizzoners, Vartox (Owain Yeoman), is on the loose and lures her out to fight him by speaking to her on a painful frequency only she can hear. Then he mentions Kara’s momma, and you do NOT talk shit about Kara’s momma! *CUE AWESOME, ICONIC SHIRT RIP.*
- Kara goes to fight Vartox and … gets her ass handed to her. He’s got this super-hatchet thing (a leftover from Lumberjack?) that totally cuts her! Luckily, Alex and the DEO swoop in to rescue her. Sister saves sister again, but in reverse. Hug it out, you two. After more gruff-gruffing from Hank about how Kara can’t really help with their escaped prizzoner problem, Kara goes off all depressed, like this. Womp-womp.
- While Kara’s depressed at home later, Alex goes to see her with something very special. It’s your mom in a box/your mom in a box, gi-i-i-irl … But seriously, though, in the most touching scene of the episode, Alura’s holographic image tells Kara to be brave and strong the way she knows Kara can be. This mom pep talk pulls her out of her funk, and she goes back to the DEO with Alex full of confidence. There, they hatch a plan to defeat and capture Vartox.
- Then … KARA HANDLES BIDDNESS. Luring him into a false sense of security, because he thinks she’s “just a girl” (OK, seriously though, we get it), Kara uses her heat vision on his super-hatchet in a tense moment that eventually sends him flying. Apparently, heat vision was one of those powers she was less confident about, so she could only use it now, and only with another pep talk from Alex. Hank becomes slightly less gruff, acknowledging that maybe working with Supergirl might be useful, and telling Alex that while she may have been hired at the DEO because of her relationship with Kara, the reason why she’s managed to stay is because of her extraordinary talent.
- After all that, James finally confesses that he knew who she was (and to whom she’s related) the whole time. Because it wasn’t bad enough that He left her with randos when she was a kid instead of with the family that raised him, he had to send His Pal Jimmy to
stalk herkeep an eye on her. Superman really is a dick. At least he has the decency to send her a present: the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby, which doubles as an untearable cape. Kryptonian fashion is so versatile!
- Oh, and by the way, Laura Benanti is also playing Kara’s aunt, Astra, who has sinister plans! Whaaaaaat?
The Review Bit, Wherein I Express OPINIONS:
This was a perfect little nugget of an episode. It was paced well, it did everything a pilot needs to do to set up a series, and the actors all brought their A-games to the party. In lesser hands, a lot of this material could’ve been super-cheesy, but this cast is great. And Melissa Benoist? She’s phenomenal as Supergirl, bringing nuanced humanity to the part of an alien being. She balances dorky charm and heroic charisma really well, and I’m looking forward to watching her grow into this character.
Meanwhile, the writers have clearly done their geek homework, and it was interesting to spot what they chose to keep, alter, or throw away.
Was the episode perfect? No. As I mentioned, lots of heavy-handed feminism that hit us over the head. I imagine that they kept the story simple (which is fine), and kept the heavy-handed moments (not fine) in an attempt to speak to the audience of young girls they hope is watching. Here’s the thing: little girls already know girls are awesome. It isn’t until they get older and the world ruins them that they start feeling crappy about themselves. So, you don’t need that heavy-handed dialogue for them, and you can be way more subtle for the grown-ups watching with them.
Still, the episode as a whole was fun, hopeful, and indicative of a promising series ahead. Supergirl is a show I know I’m going to love. Tell me what you thought of the pilot in the comments!
NOTE: While Supergirl aired this week at 8:30 ET/PT after The Big Bang Theory, its regular time is Mondays at 8PM. So, don’t show up late to Supergirl next week!
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