Supergirl Review: Pilot

The DC cinematic universe expands… Except that Supergirl, who flew onto the screen last night, doesn’t connect to the Flash/Green Arrow TV shows or the Man of Steel / Justice League franchise. Or, thank Rao, to Gotham.

Will she connect with viewers?

Director: Glen Winter
Writers: Allison Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg

Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Briana Venskus as Agent Vasquez
Pilar Holland as Female Newscaster
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott
Laura Benanti as Alura Zor-El
Laura Benanti as Astra
Faran Tahir as The Commander
Helen Slater as Sylvia Danvers
Dean Cain as Fred Danvers
Malina Weissman as Young Kara


Kara Danvers, another survivor of Krypton’s destruction, bides her time being an awkward nerd before following her celebrated cousin’s lead into superheroics. Unfortunately, ancient, alien enemies of her family have been living in the shadows on earth….

High Points

She’s a hero. Sure, there’s self-doubt, but in this version of the DCU, everyone admires Superman, and Supergirl wants to become a symbol of hope, and an inspiration. The series, for its part, has cast a likeable young actress whom we can rally around.

Apparently, someone working for Warner Brothers understands every character doesn’t have to be the Dark Knight, and that certain characters require a healthy side order of cheese.

They’ve also decided we can handle a female superhero.

Low Point

This version of Supergirl would have had to try to be even less original. They’ve shoved Kara Zor-El into the Clark Kent mold, with a media job, nerdy double identity, confident co-worker, and admiring fanboy coworker.1 Her support staff seemingly resulted from a boardroom brainstorming session that tried to copy the key elements of Team Flash and S.H.I.E.L.D. The story unabashedly borrows from Superman: The Movie. It’s well-done, but it has more to do with other successful superhero franchises than it does with DC’s Supergirl, especially the recent version of the character.

And when Kara (why not “Linda Lee?” Kara was always her Kryptonian Supergirl name) finally dresses for success, my wife said, immediately, “She looks exactly like Felicity!”

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 Okay, they did give her a sister.

Effects: 6/6 The pilot obviously has a budget for convincing comic-book effects, and they gave us more superheroic action than I was expecting.

Acting: 5/6 The show has a strong lead, who seems to understand the blend of tones necessary to make a superhero show work. The stunt casting of Dean Cain and Helen Slater worked fine.

Story: 5/6 It’s a pilot and it was entertaining.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 I accept changes—they have to bridge the Otto Binder version and the more recent incarnations with a saleable TV character—and I’m willing to give the show a shot.

In total, “Supergirl: the Pilot” receives 32/42

Note and Lingering Question

1. Although Jimmy—sorry, James— Olsen is in the cast, he’s the attractive coworker, and not the admiring fanboy. I’m fine with the fact that he’s not a redhead, but the rewriting of his personality seems off.

2. So, did Superman just never see Kara ever again? Because that’s just stupid.

9 replies on “Supergirl Review: Pilot”

  1. I didn’t even notice that that was Helen Slater. I must be losing my touch.

    Overall, I enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to the next episode. On the other hand, it feels like they’re treating the show with kid gloves (though I can’t say why), and that doesn’t leave me optimistic. I’m hoping it’s just the generally uncomfortable nature of pilots.

    P.S. Where did footnote 2 come from? Am I missing it somewhere?

    • The second one is a “Lingering Question” rather than a “Note,” but that’s not especially obvious. I should’ve put in two separate titles.

  2. Also interesting is Winn Schott who would have I liked better as a love interested, but who is likely to becomeThe Toyman later.

  3. So I wasn’t the only one who thought Felicity!

    Ok, let me start by saying this thing definitely has potential, and was enjoyable, but boy do they have some growing pains.

    First, a bunch of this episode was really ham-fisted. Dean Cain and Helen Slater, for example. I mean, yeah, funny, but seriously.

    Second, the SFX seemed like someone really wasn’t trying very hard. I’m not sure how you gave that a 6/6. 4/6, maybe. A lot of it was very, very obvious CGI.

    This show’s going to need a LOT of SFX. The bad guys are fighting Supergirl, for goodness sake, so they’ll need to be super-powered to match, which means, yes, lots of SFX. If they continue to be this quality, I dunno.

    Now, I’m not complaining that Jimmy Olsen is now a super-hot guy rather than a scrawny nerd, but… well, that was weird.

    And Calista Flockhart… ugh. I get a huge uncanny valley reaction to her. She just looks wrong. Head too big, limbs too small, I kept thinking she was CGI.

    But, like I said, good potential, and Melissa Benoist definitely seems like she can pull this off (another way she’s like Felicity). So lets see how it goes!

    • I didn’t find the F/X that bad, but yeah, I was awarding them an extra point for the amount of F/X for a TV show. (Compare also the obviousness with the Flash this week).. Some of this review must be read with our typical “Pilot Goggles,” where we tend to let some things slide of first eps.

      Maybe that F/X should be a 5….

      • The bad SFX wasn’t just bad CGI. There’s a part where the bad guy throws Kara into a bunch of logs, which clearly split in a 100% uniform way before she hits them, for example. Stuff like that. Plus the bad CGI (:

        It only worries me because this show is going to need a LOT of CGI. More so than The Flash.

  4. I’ve watched this twice now. Once when it was on, and then again last night with my son since we weren’t sure if it would be OK for him the first time.

    Not sure how keen I am on the long arc yet, but I’ll stick with it. I’m also not too happy with the personality changes for Olsen.

    Overall it feels like they wanted to make a Superman show but were unable to get the rights to do so, which resulted in some tweaks to make it Supergirl instead. If they don’t at least acknowledge Supes nabbing a couple of the prisoners over time it’ll be very suspicious. I doubt something like that could be kept secret from him or that he’d let them roam free knowing they’re out there.

    That’s always the problem in a shared universe, same thing happens in stand-alone Marvel movies where you have to wonder why the rest of the A-team didn’t show up and left a world-ending catastrophe for one to handle alone. At least on Flash/Arrow they seem to cross over at appropriate times to cover that.

  5. The dialogue on Krypton had me cringing, and while that improved, the originality went even lower. There are too many good shows on to waste time with this one.

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