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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Up, Up, and A, Uh... Hm? Where Do We Go After Up? #Supergirl #PremiereWeek #3WeekRoundUp

Up, Up, and A, Uh... Hm? Where Do We Go After Up? #Supergirl #PremiereWeek #3WeekRoundUp

All pictures courtesy of CBS

Once again it is that time, ladies and gentlemen. It's been on for three weeks (wow! That went by fast). It's time for Supergirl's (#Supergirl) three week roundup. My initials thoughts for this show were sparse as it premiered so late into the fall season that I didn't see the need to think about it much. Suffice it to say that I enjoy all comic book stuff (frankly, I enjoy anything with a good story that can entertain me) and give most of it a chance just because I like seeing the stuff. Fun fact: I also really enjoy TV so, yeah. Amidst the crowded marketplace that is the comic book movie/TV shared conglomeration multinational corporate universe, how is the latest superheroine doing? More hot and cold than Katy Perry in that one song that she sang. God, what was the name of that song?

Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist as our titular character, follows the exploits of the supposedly lesser known cousin of the man in blue, Superman. For those who don't read the comics and didn't see the 80s film Supergirl of which I have fond memories of seeing, let me give you a little back story. As covered in the premiere, Kal-el's parents weren't just idiots who were going to send their baby son off to some alien planet alone while they died. Instead, they decided to send his cousin Kara-el in her own pod. A girl of 13 at the time of the planet's destruction, she was to take care of her baby cousin and make sure he was protected from whatever foolishness might pop off on earth.

Well, things didn't go as planned when her spacecraft got knocked off course and ended up spending 24 years trapped inside the phantom zone, which is neither a floating piece of thin glass like in the original Superman movies nor penis-shaped pods that go into a spaceship in Snyder's Man Of Steel. Here, it is somewhat of a cosmic mist/black hole/event horizon type thing. They try not to bog the viewer down with specifics but what we do know is that somehow after 24 years of frozen time in that zone, her pod escaped and crashed to earth.

Already established as Superman, her cousin finds her and her pod and brings her to the Danvers' family (do not get that confused with Marvel in any way) where she lives out her days with an older sister, gasp! Flash forward about 12 years and we find are humble hero being anything but heroic. A near carbon copy of her cousin, she finds herself wearing glasses, some of the cutest skirts and dresses I've seen in a while (yes, straight men do notice stuff like that) and working at a digital and print media empire founded, formed and run by Cat Grant played by TV vet Calista Flockhart (glad to see her back after Brothers and Sisters). Hence, Catco subs in for the Daily Planet, and National City (hey, that used to be a Midwestern bank for which my mother worked) is the fill-in Metropolis.

Funny, this city's Jimmy Olsen is the same Jimmy Olsen, though he's six feet of black hunkiness and prefers to be called James (OK, that may have gone too far, but I can admit when another man is attractive). Played by Mehcad Brooks, James just moved from Metropolis. Now, the pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist is running the photo department for Catco. It is established pretty early that not only is Superman very well established as he was wearing the costume when he found Kara years ago (somewhere around 11 or 12, meaning he's around 36 after spending 24 years on Earth without her; I did so many maths there), but he also has had enough time on earth to let a few people discover his secret identity. That probably means that Lois knows who he is by now. I guessed within the first few minutes that he sent James there specifically to look after his cousin Kara and maybe push her to become her own eventual hero. What he probably didn't expect were the goo eyes she'd make at James.

Is it hot in here, or do I just have the Fever?

That's right, if I were her friend I would give Kara a brush machete for Christmas to clear out some of that safari grass because she has the deepest jungle fever that I've seen allowed on prime time at 8pm on Monday nights in a long time. Never mind the fact that her other colleague who is a bit of a nerd (what Jimmy was to Clark Kent) has a huge crush on her, her guy is of the tall, black, bald and handsome variety, not to mention older. Due to what I see as one of the biggest problems of this show which I will cover later, he doesn't let on to knowing that she is Clark's cousin right away, so they have to do this dance which was a total farce in my eyes.

Currently a regular 24-year-old woman waiting to make her mark on the world, she lives alone in an apartment which is clearly too expensive for her if National City is any bigger than a pea. Her sister, played by the always lovely Chyler Leigh (still miss you on Grey's; still think Not Another Teen Movie is so underrated; we won't mention Taxi Brooklyn) has a talk with her before leaving for a flight. As luck would have it, Kara sees the flight in danger hours later and flies up to save it, performing her first heroic feat. Things get dicey when people complain about how she saved the flight, having to turn the plane on its side, scraping the wing across a bridge and landing the plane in the river where it slowly sank after all the people were rescued.

A clear novice, heroism felt good and contrary to her sister's demands not to reveal herself, she does. First she tells her love-struck coworker that she saved the plane because she, too, is a Kryptonian. Then she goes through a quick 90s Clueless shopping/getting ready for a party montage to find a proper superhero costume. No, seriously, she just had everything she needed lying around. The red boots, the golden belt, the modest but stylish skirt--I'll give you the S and even the cape but really? Come on!
And out to save more people. As she tries being a hero again, tracking down her first ever super-powered enemy, she gets into a real fight with him and realizes, "holy cannoli, I don't know how to fight." She is saved by, wait for it... wait for it... her sister! What? I know, right?

Turns out, her sister Alex works for an organization called the DEO--Department of Extranormal Operations. And in this organization is where I found my most beloved character. The head of the DEO is this deliciously over-the-top black guy that delivers his lines so perfectly that they run the line of complete cheesy camp and realistic seriousness. The closest thing I could think of to describe him would be the pilots or Leslie Nelson's character in the Airplane movies. His constant scowl and bad mood make me want to do nothing more than flick his nose and watch him freak out about it.

Anyway, Alex has been working for the DEO for a while. Since Superman's arrival, the governments of the world felt they needed to keep watch for more aliens. Remember that strange ill-explained phantom zone? Apparently Kara wasn't the only one in there. During her escape, her spacepod somehow tugboat-ed out a larger prison vessel which crashed on earth too. Housing not just Kryptonians but prisoners throughout the galaxy (or universe, whichever) this dropped a clue to the history of Krypton. It seems they served as galactic peacekeepers/jailers. With Krypton gone villains who got locked away by Kara's mom (a judge there) want revenge on the remaining Kryptonians as well as to take over the world. The DEO's job is to stop that. After a little back and forth about how she isn't ready and is just a hindrance whereas Superman is built for this, they support her in a fight against the big guy that was throwing her around.

Kara saves the day by heat visioning the crap out of his ax and standing nearby as he killed himself, talking about something that was coming. The day saved, she escapes with few scratches and lives to be given the moniker Supergirl by Cat Grant. There's some back and forth about calling her a girl as opposed to a woman, and Cat explains it away to make it sound cool. James tells her he knows her secret and gives her a present from Clark--an indestructible cape. I want to delve into what's wrong with this show so much, but I still have two episodes to get through.

The second episode shows more of what the first bad guy eluded to. Kara's gallery of rogues is led by a very familiar face. Before the planet exploded, Kara's mom sentenced one last criminal to the phantom zone, her own twin sister. Outside of the mind-blowing fact that Krypton had twins just as Earth, we are to understand that she was a general (cough General Zod cough) who wants to subjugate the planet. Why she hasn't already done this, I don't know as she has plenty of supervillains on her side.

My mother's evil twin sister Astra... or the other one. 

Kara's first brush with kryptonite, she and her adopted earth sister fight in a training chamber so Alex can teach her tactical sparring. She doesn't learn much but does leave sore. Cat not only treats her like crap but wants James to use his Supes connections to get her an exclusive sit down with Supergirl or else he's fired. She also suggests the heroine start small and work her way up to big stuff after she ruined an oil tanker by ripping it open when trying to pull it away from a fire--eco-disaster.

Over-The-Top Black guy, you make my day.
Taking the advice, she does start small, stopping robbery, saving snakes named fluffy from trees--the usual stuff. But when a bug-alien that disguises itself as human kills and feeds on power, she has to stop him, unknowing that he works for her aunt. She and her aunt tussle as her sister defeats the bug. Over-the-top black guy makes some snappy comments about not calling her Supergirl and it is revealed that he, too, is some kind of enhanced human or alien as his eyes occasionally glow red. Finally, to save James' job, she goes and talks to Cat.

The third show opened with the continuing interview where Kara reveals that she is Superman's cousin. James then slips up and blurts out that Clark Kent is superman (is there no secrecy anymore). They find a little office space down the hall from their desks that no one uses that they decide to make into their psuedo-base, and I was like whaaaa? So, you're really just gonna have your superhero HQ in an office down the hall from where you work? OK. And to top it all off Cat made Kara treat that redheaded man like a redheaded stepchild. "That's hair-ist!" you say? First off, don't yell at me, because the show decided to pick on the ginger. The villain of the week: Reactron, a human poisoned with radiation who lost his family during a Superman rescue mission. Now, he uses a suit to fly and fight against all superpowered beings but especially against Superman--he's nearly killed him a few times.

When he nearly kills Kara she is saved by her cousin who swooshes in last minute and rescues both her and this other guy who thinks she's nothing but a menace. The hero she is, she throws a fit about not needing his help and how James was wrong for calling him because she could have saved the day herself. Then, during Cat's party later that night, the guy comes back with his suit supercharged and tries again to kill her. James runs distraction and gets the guy to chase him while Kara is fed info on how to stop him, which she subsequently does. Her confidence at an all time high, she goes to possibly ask James out the next day but finds that Lois Lane's younger sister is there to visit James. As it turns out, she also has a fever hailing from where the lion sleeps tonight as James is implied to be her ex. Kara sulks and chats with Superman on the computer to cheer herself up. And as if the show couldn't get anymore cheesy, they end with her and Alex eating while the song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" plays in the background. Are you serious? Boy, where do I begin on my critique.

What's my rating? I give this show a B-. Before you chomp my head off superhero fans, let me explain. A few years back I was ordered to write a book entitled The Provocateur by a group of people. Not my proudest work, one of the things in the book is the idea that women are constant imitators and rarely originators outside of bringing life into this world. In other words, they will take something already formed and created by men and make it theirs. I know, that will piss off plenty of female readers but while the female Ghostbusters, the planned female version of Ocean's Eleven, the Expendabelles and a slew of other movies play into this very trend, none of them top Supergirl's imitation.

My laser beams glow blue because I don't want to be mistaken for Superman

I really like this show, but it is hella frustrating for the show to be packaged the way it is. As much as it tries to stay away from Superman, they mention him every single episode between every single commercial break. We get it, Kara doesn't want to be known as the lesser female version, but if she spent less time bringing it up, maybe people wouldn't notice. Oddly, this leads to my biggest gripe with the show--there wasn't enough Superman, or rather enough of his influence.

From what the show tells us, Kal-el found his cousin out in the middle of nowhere and dropped her with a loving family (Dean Cain from Lois and Clark, and the original Supergirl from the 80s movie). After that it suggests that was the last time she really saw or talked to him, and that even though he knows she is probably one of the only other people in the world who is similar to him, he isn't the least bit concerned with her. Even taking into account the crystals in his fortress of solitude, he doesn't want to know about what his parents were really like, how kind they were as an aunt and uncle, how much they really loved each other, or how Krypton was. What was it like to go to school there, to grow up there, the sunsets, the sunrises, etc.

This is your family! Don't contact me ever for anything. Love, Superman.

Apparently, he doesn't care about any of that because he's too busy saving the world? Also, he knows that she'll be dealing with superpowers but it seems he never showed her the fortress, or the crystals, or taught her how to fly, or anything... ever! Listen, I know that there's some filling in of the audience that needs to be done, but to have Kara be just as clueless about her cousin as everyone else is, if not more subverts one of the main purposes of the show and it also paints Superman in an even worse light than Man of Steel did. Superman is kind of a dick to not share or care anything about his little cousin. I understand family riffs and all of that, but there shouldn't have been any of that. Superman is acting more like Batman every day.

As I mentioned up top, one of the main purposes of the show was to be a pillar of feminism and femininity which I can understand. But I feel in more ways than one that the show misfires drastically on this thrust. First off, they called out Millennials (as is the cool thing to do now) as being the whiny bunch that constantly needs help. Not going to say that is or isn't true about some of the Millennials I've known, but I will say that it doesn't look good to possibly offend the very viewership you covet. Then, Supergirl plays directly into this. 

Not only does the show play into the stereotype that women don't know what they want (help or no help), but that they do need help. She has the entire DEO to help her defeat villains. Superman had, what, Jimmy with a camera and Lois who, let's be honest, was more of a hindrance than a help? She has a set-out model for what to do and how to be and she still complains because she feels it's unfair to compare her to Supes because he's a man? Because none of her criticism could be genuine like what Supes got as a hero, it all comes from a sexist slant? Ugh! Essentially the entire show is not Supergirl, not a story of its own making that could have taken these strange and wonderful turns, exploring how it is to adjust to a culture after living in another one for so long or figuring out how to be a better superhero than those that came before you. No, this is Superman in a skirt. This is why people (both men and women) complain about stuff like the new Ghostbusters, because the only change made is a gender swap. And with so much rich back story waiting to be mined and a virtually new character (people didn't look fondly on that 80s movie like I did), they could have done some really cool stuff. Instead, we get the same, "you aren't ready. Hide your powers. You can't do this. Oh you're a girl. I'm gonna prove that I'm just as capable as a man," shtick we've been getting for years from other superhero shows (minus the girl part). This was also the complaint people had with the shared universe thing for DC because they wonder how new superheroes will act when the old ones have been around for years. "Well, they'll act the same way and have the same struggles." Maybe, but not likely.

With that said, should you be watching? Yes. Look, with all of the stuff that's on Mondays at 8pm, it is difficult to type that definitive yes in there, but I did it because I do like the show. I enjoy the cast. I had doubts about Melissa (really only because I wanted a natural blonde for the role as Supergirl is supposed to be) but she does a fine job with what they give her. And that over-the-top black guy can give's Mr. Obvious a run for his money, and is worth the price of admission alone. As far as the female audience, though I actually find Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to be a smarter show, I think this is more family-oriented and has less chance at producing dead air. Don't, however, expect something ground-breaking. Also, don't listen to those supposed Hollywood insiders that say that this will revolutionize TV and film superheroes because Hollywood won't be afraid to make a female superhero anymore. Don't know where they got that BS, but Hollywood was never afraid to make a female superhero, otherwise the original Wonder Woman show, the 80s Supergirl and practically the first three X-men movies wouldn't have even gotten made, let alone Catwoman.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on the show? Were you expecting something a little different like I was, knowing that Kara hadn't come to earth as a baby? Were you expecting for her to at least have some family contact with Clark? Do you even watch this show? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new comedy novel Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking

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Until next time, "she's got jungle fever. He's got jungle fever. They both got jungle fever. They're in love."

P.S. I think I'm paraphrasing but Stevie Wonder couldn't have said it better. I'll try to think of something better next post.

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