Roush Review: Flying High With ‘Supergirl’
She’s neither bird nor plane, but you knew that already. The great news is that CBS’s spiffy Supergirl is anything but plain, and as primetime’s newest superhero Kara Zor-el—you can call her Kara—Glee‘s Melissa Benoist rises to the occasion, cloaked in an endearing dorkiness and earnest gumption that compares well with Christopher Reeve’s classic interpretation of Kara’s better-known Man-of-Steel cousin.
Steely really isn’t Kara’s thing. Think sunny. As we learn Kara’s back story, charmed by Benoist’s aw-shucks lack of attitude, it’s her bashful, klutzy modesty that initially defines her. Originally sent from the doomed planet Krypton to be her baby cousin’s protector, adolescent Kara got lost in space and didn’t crash-land until long after Superman had already become front-page news. She may have decided that “Earth didn’t need another hero” so she hid her gifts into her early 20s, but TV is always hungry for a new Super-star—and so is Kara’s Devil Wears Prada-style boss, brittle publisher Cat Grant (an amusingly wispy Calista Flockhart), who declares, “Besides fatty foods, there is nothing people love more than a hero.”
Cue a damaged jetliner plummeting toward National City, and Kara finally leaps into action, revealing herself to a public that’s only slightly less astonished than she is: “I almost forgot how to fly, and how it felt.” And how did it feel? It felt good. Like Barry Allen on the CW’s The Flash, Kara is exhilarated and liberated by her powers, not tortured. Despite the trepidation of her adopted sister Alex (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Chyler Leigh), she’s eager to share—confiding in smitten co-worker Winn (Smash‘s affable Jeremy Jordan), “I embraced who I am and I don’t want to stop.”
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Supergirl doesn’t overdo the empowerment theme, although when Kara sheepishly complains to Cat about the media instantly giving their new idol the patronizing moniker “Supergirl,” Cat barks back, “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? … Isn’t the real problem you?” The show, created and produced by (among others) the prolific Greg Berlanti, delivers a proper blend of wonder and danger, spiced with workplace humor and even a hint at romance. The newly arrived James (not Jimmy) Olson, photographer turned art director, is a Pulitzer-winning hunk played by Mehcad Brooks, who leaves awkward late-bloomer Kara even more tongue-tied than usual.
The trajectory of Supergirl presumably will chart Kara’s embrace of her outer hero and inner woman as she combats super villains who, like her, were trapped in the Phantom Zone and only now are coming into their own. I’m rooting for her, hoping she’ll find a happier reception than NBC’s moribund Heroes, reborn but not nearly as revitalized as this fresh twist on an enduring legend.
Supergirl premieres Monday, Oct. 26, 8:30/7:30c on CBS (regular time period: 8/7c, Mondays).
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TV critic (and occasional TV therapist) Matt Roush answers viewer questions and concerns in his Ask Matt column each week. Wondering about plots, characters and twists on your fave shows? Submit your query to Matt via the form below: