Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Comic Book Wednesday: Meanwhile in National City...

I wanted to touch base about the Supergirl TV series airing Mondays on CBS. The El family continues to enjoy the adventures of my 5th cousin Zara Zore-El from the humble comfort of our Fortress of Ineptitude. However, it does seem that not as many others seem to be tuning in with us. After the dizzying heights of the pilot’s super high ratings, Supergirl has experienced a 2nd week of decline. 

Supergirl is up against two competition shows, The Voice on NBC and Dancing With the Stars on ABC. Typically, successful competition programs tend to skew more towards live viewing as results are made known in the media immediately after the show airs. It may be hard to avoid a plot twist on a scripted show but it’s even harder to avoid spoilers about who won a competition the night before. And NBC’s The Voice is particularly hot right now what with the real life drama of judges Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton being a couple. And following up The Voice is Blindspot, NBC’s own female led adventure show which launched weeks before, getting the jump on Supergirl. Blindspot has gotten great ratings which has already earned it a 2nd season renewal from NBC.  

Supergirl’s ratings are hardly a crash and burn scenario. It continues to edge past fellow DC Comics show Gotham over on Fox. Still, Supergirl’s numbers are only on par with sitcoms that occupied that time slot before, sitcoms that are much cheaper to produce than a show about a woman who can fly, shoot heat beams out of her eyes and punch through steel.  Assuming Supergirl’s numbers level off, will it be a level high enough to warrant giving the thumbs up to season two of a very expensive to produce action adventure show?

I hope Supergirl can find and keep a strong following, if for no other reason than what Supergirl represents. Supergirl’s struggles to find her place in the world and affirm her identity echo those of young women everywhere. She just happens to have super powers and a kick ass cape. A lot of the appeal of Supergirl and her civilian alter ego Kara Danvers owes so much to the performance of Melissa Benoist who navigates the river rapids of uncertainty and confidence that afflict every young person who’s ever tried to find the key to what works for them. I lover Melissa’s facial expressions and body language as Supergirl, projecting determination and power even as her humanity shines through. As Kara Danvers, Melissa has avoided making her a cartoon Clark Kent caricature but that’s because Kara is truly uncertain as she seems; but we see glimpses of Supergirl’s resolve coming through. 

Characters are what keep this show interesting. Mechad Brooks as James (not Jimmy) Olsen is a nuanced character and his chemistry with Benoist is undeniable. Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant continues to mystify as a woman who by turns seems so contemptible with the imperious way she dismisses those beneath her; yet there are times when maybe, just maybe, beneath that hard shell she’s built around herself, Cat could be almost possibly human. 

I’m starting to worry about Winn, Kara’s friend from work who is clearly enamored with her but she only has eyes for James Olsen. Winn seems sweet enough but there is a fine line between being sweetly attentive and scarily stalkerish. Is it possible we’re setting up a plot line where Winn becomes the Winslow Schlott of the comics and takes on the mantle of Toyman? I hope not. I do like Winn but I worry about his future.

I also worry about anyone created expressly for the show but not seen before in the comics and I’m looking right at you, Alex Danvers, Kara’s big sister. Also looking right at her are the creepy red glowing eyes of Hank Henshaw, a name we know from the comics as belonging to one Superman’s greatest enemies, the Cyborg Superman. On the Supergirl series, Henshaw is head of the DEO but I don’t think the producers of the show named him Hank Henshaw by accident.

One shadow that has loomed over Supergirl has been the caped silhouette of her more famous cousin. The show has twisted itself in knots around this topic, going as far as only referencing Superman by name once during the pilot. Instead he kept getting referred to as “Him” like he was some kind of unnamable deity. This week’s episode actually addresses this point head on in an effective and clever way. Superman foes Reactron is kicking Supergirl’s butt old school. 

Summoned by James Olsen, Superman saves his cousin. And yes, we get to see that and no we don't. Anyway, this ticks off Supergirl but good as she wants to establish herself as a superhero on her own, not some girl needing to be saved by someone else. Later Supergirl does something that Superman was never able to do: she defeats Reactron.  The text conversation between Kara and Clark at the end of the episode sums it up quite nicely.

Kara: Thanks for saving my life.

Clark: I spoke with Jimmy. I won’t let that happen again. :-) 

We’ve established Superman exists in Supergirl’s world and he’s there to help when she needs him to but she doesn’t need him to. 

A few random thoughts:

  • Maxwell Lord is established as some kind of Tony Stark wannabe. Oh, just what we need: another super smart scientist  businessman with a super ego. I’m not really enamored with this character.
  • The use of a human super villain instead of another alien refugee from Ft. Ra’azz was a good choice. The former Phantom Zone prison makes a great plot device to generate super menaces for Supergirl to fight but nice to see it won’t be the only game in town.
  • If you’re wondering how can Kara Danvers get away with not being connected to Supergirl, there is a scene in the last third of the episode where Kara is standing next to a life sized cut off of Supergirl in a crowded room filled with partygoers. And no one makes the connection.

Kara does hold herself differently than when she is Supergirl. Still, Kara’s playing a little too fast and loose with this double identity business. How long will Cat Grant remain oblivious that the assistant who brings her coffee has a similar voice to Supergirl? Then again, Clark got away with that sort of thing for decades.

I’m still willing to give Supergirl a shot. It's not a great show but it's not bad either. It deserve a chance to build on this foundation and become a stronger, better show. And whatever wobbliness there is in the plots is secondary to the character development and I’m sure the stories will strengthen in quality as every one finds their footing. I just hope the numbers remain strong enough to give the Supergirl gang a chance to continue.

Another post coming up tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You 

MUSICALS AWAY! Mamma Mia! AND Moulin Rouge!

It was a MUSICALS weekend at the Fortress of Ineptitude as the family gathered to watch two movie musicals this weekend. Both movies were ...