Throw a rock in any direction and you are bound to hit a television show based on a popular comic book property, specifically those based on superheroes. In just the last the several years, audiences have been treated to a plethora of successful superhero shows like Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, and Daredevil – all of this coming off the heels of Smallville’s ten-year run. Supergirl is the latest hero to dawn the small screen and her debut was quite memorable.
The shows’ stark contrast to darker and grittier shows like Gotham make it a refreshing take on the superhero genre on a major network (it airs on CBS), and it’s even comparable in tone and direction to that of The Flash. In fact, the show opens very much the same way any speedster episode might with narration introducing the character. However, instead of hearing the hero say, ‘My name is Barry Allen and I am the fastest man alive,’ you’ll hear Melissa Benoist narrate that she is Kara Zor-El, a Kryptonian, and her story is that she was sent to Earth to protect her cousin Kal (Superman).
However, Kara Zor-El doesn’t make it to Earth until twenty-three years later when her faster-than-a-speeding-bullet cousin rescues her from the Phantom Zone (in which she did not age). It’s revealed immediately that Kara grew up on Earth hiding her abilities from the world and never felt a true need to display them with her cousin constantly saving the day. That is, until her sister boards a sabotaged plane that she is eager to save from falling out of the sky (Superman Returns, anyone?). Supergirl is revealed to the world, and the show truly takes off from there.
Supergirl parallels The Flash in more ways than just using narration as an expository device for the audience’s benefit. The show moves fast in introducing the character and her still developing superpowers. Her backstory is fast-tracked to introduce her adopted Earth family; including former Superman actor Dean Cain playing her adopted father and Kal’s trusted friend, Jeremiah Danvers. The show also makes use of the The Flash’s meta-human-of-the-week storytelling device introduced by the particle accelerator explosion in season one or season two’s multiverse concept. However, Kara will instead be dealing with Kryptonian prisoners (who would have similar powers to meta-humans) from Fort Rozz, a prison that crashed on Earth after Kara unknowingly lured it out of the Phantom Zone.
The CBS’ latest phenomenon also takes command of acknowledging a larger comic book universe, albeit in a minimal way so far. The ‘Man of Steel’ is referenced often and is even seen peripherally a few times, while his photographer friend and popular DC Comics character Jimmy Olsen (played by Mehcad Brooks) is a main character on the show. While it’s not likely that Supergirl will crossover with Arrow or The Flash any time soon, CBS Entertainment’s chairman, Nina Tassler, is cautiously open to the idea. It helps that CBS Entertainment also owns The CW, the network that airs the collective adventures of Barry Allen and Oliver Queen.
Supergirl may set a new bar for what superhero TV on network television can strive for and should hopefully do big business for the most-watched network several years running. Fans of superhero TV shows don’t have to worry about ‘superhero fatigue’ when it comes to Supergirl because the big-budget, exciting, charming, and extremely fun show is poised to be on the air for a long, long time.
Knock on wood.
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