Fall TV Preview
Supergirl Review CBS

Supergirl Review: CBS Drama Powered by Smart Casting, Sense of Awe

TV Review Grade B+When CBS’ Supergirl officially and finally takes flight (Monday at 8:30/7:30c), it will have been a full five months since the superhero series’ pilot first leaked online.

A second episode has not yet been made available to press, so there’s nothing groundbreaking left to say about the freshman drama. But a fresh viewing of the latest, double-secret official, for-broadcast pilot did affirm where and how it absolutely flies, and the one or two places it proves to be not impervious.

Supergirl (which starting with Episode 2 will air Mondays at 8 pm) stars Glee grad Melissa Benoist in the title role, and a series such as this can rise or fall based on the casting of its hero. The good news is that Benoist, just as fellow Glee alum Grant Gustin did with The Flash, inhabits Kara Zor-El/Danvers with a contagious exuberance, once she has cause to let fly with her powers in the course of saving a crashing airplane. The Gustin comparison is important, because two years ago there were those who stomped feet and deemed him “wrong for the part” (based on this, that or the other superficial thing) — but when he made his debut, they were proven wrong in a… jiffy.

Still, there’s a key difference between Kara embracing her powers and how Barry Allen did same, for the kryptonian hero has possessed yet concealed hers for years. As such, there’s a joyous release she feels upon getting to demo them in public, even as her human sister, Alex, chides her for doing so. NBC’s original Heroes showed us again and again how “sad trombone” it can be to see people horribly, horribly conflicted by the gift of powers. Luckily, The Flash and now Supergirl put the “Gee-whiz!” flip-side on vivid display.

Among the cast, Mehcad Brooks, as Jimmy “I’m James, Now” Olsen, brings a maturity (and yes, tall, chiseled presence) to Kara’s CatCo workplace brethren, whereas IT guy Winn Schott (Smash‘s Jeremy Jordan) fills the role of awed fanboy. As media maven Cat Grant — heretofore the most powerful woman in National City — I urge you to watch for the tiny moments, the fleeting looks, that Calista Flockhart winningly brings to what could have easily been an off-putting bosszilla.

Grey’s Anatomy alum Chyler Leigh plays Alex, and the problem here is that her most interesting scenes are when she butts heads with Kara over the decision to go public and her lack of readiness in assuming a hero role. Once Alex, an operative for an alien-hunting government organization, is sold on her sis as Supergirl, I have the concern of: So, who is Alex now? Elsewhere, guest star Owain Yeoman does his best to make Supergirl’s first foe, Vartox, a fierce one, but the pilot might have been better served to showcase a more colorful baddie, instead of what is little more than a bull-headed brute.

Among the pilot’s action-oriented set pieces, the plane rescue is a sharply directed, thrilling sequence, and Kara’s “test runs” as a crimefighter play to the series’ more light-hearted tone. Kara’s face-offs with Vartox, meanwhile, all take place in remote, generic locations — either as a means of controlled destruction or merely a practical production decision.

Akin to Smallville and The Flash, the pilot clearly lays the foundation for Monsters of the Week, though that in turn raises the question — which I believe the producers have said will be in some part addressed — of why Kara’s “cousin” aka “the big guy” aka the “superlative man” aka James’ “friend in blue” aka the “Man of Steel” (aka, you know, Superman), though glimpsed in the prologue and often mentioned, won’t be summoned to assist. And the episode’s final coda, though “twisty,” just as equally screams, “We wanted to have this actor on the show!” (To be clear, we want that actor on the show as well!)

As conceived for this TV take, Kara’s backstory echoes her Smallville origin: a kryptonian sent to watch over her cousin Kal-El, yet detoured by a stretch of suspended animation. While that of course bumps up against a more embraced DC Comics canon, it’d be boorish and pointless to dwell on the storytelling decision. Instead, Supergirl should and will be measured on its own merits, within the conceit it established — and at first blush CBS’ atypical foray into this territory looks like a super-fun one, a possibly brilliant pick for a family friendly Monday lead-off spot.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: “The world needs you to fly,” Kara is at one point charged. And fly, Supergirl should.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Luis says:

    Looking forward to the pilot, with reservations. i understand, logistically, why Superman will not be involved as a character. I don’t understand how, within the universe of the show, how Superman could not be involved in his cousin’s life. She’s the only other living Kryptonian, and now she’s chosen to follow in her cousin’s footsteps. James Olsen cannot be the sum total of Kal-El’s contribution to his cousin’s efforts to become a hero.

    • Phlerg says:

      I hear the pilot may clear up whether she is or is not the only other living Kryptonian.

      I need her to be more blonde though. Melissa is legit brown haired in my opinion, I hope they make her look more like she does in the comics, i’d rather she have brown hair forever, than have those terrible crotch high boots, though! Ugh!!!

      Cant wait for Monday!!

  2. Mary says:

    I think, from the clips we’ve seen, that part of Alex’s role is to train Kara to fight, so that she has skill and not just rely solely on her strength to stop the villains, Pretty sure that’s her in the scene of the glowing green room (using a little green kryptonite to weaken, but not kill Kara) flipping Kara to the floor.

  3. Dean says:

    Are you guys just watching the pilot now, I still haven’t watched it even after it leaked, morals and all that.

  4. Mr. Tran K says:

    So excited for the pilot come Monday. Really hope Supergirl won’t be a disappointment because CBS has high expectations for the series and the network better put some of its long running shows into retirement.

  5. ndixit says:

    So is there some substantial change to the pilot since the leak, because the leaked pilot didn’t offer any substantial reason to why Superman wouldn’t be involved in his cousin’s life? The leaked pilot was a bit iffy to me. Benoit was excellent with the Gustin comparisons being quite apt, but the rest of the set up and the supporting characters didn’t make much of an impact on me. But it was just a pilot so it’s too soon for judgement.

    • johnhelvete says:

      Interesting question. I watched part of the pilot again last night and the word “Superman” is said once and I thought when I watched the pilot months ago, his name was never mentioned.

  6. GraceM says:

    As soon as they announced a Supergirl TV show I was hooked. Then I saw the brief pilot and was hooked again.
    I really want to see this, but unfortunately I’ll have to wtch it online because here in Canada, CBC airs Murdoch Mysteries at 8:00 and I never miss it.

    That time slot has been reserved for MM for a few years now and I’m not going to change it.

  7. bizzarobrian says:

    Judging by the trailer this show looks Superlame. Cornball dialogue for starters.What age group are they shooting for?.

  8. lame says:

    Supergirl should be able to pick up fans of the long running series that’s coming to an end and looking for some light weight fun. Timing is everything.

  9. Guy says:

    I’m surprised by all the good reviews for this. I thought the pilot was cringe-worthy. Different tastes, I guess.

  10. N says:

    Can’t wait

  11. Diz says:

    I don’t have high hopes for it, but I’ll give it a shot.

  12. needanothertimmy says:

    I would like to thank the collective who have seen the pilot, who have not shared/leaked/spoiled information regarding the character played by “that actor on the show.”

  13. KC says:

    Not interested in this at all – I think it’s because I don’t like the actress.

    • tvjunkie says:

      I can understand that. I never watched Everybody Loves Raymond (a false title) or Roseanne for the same reason, I couldn’t stand the lead actors of those 2 shows. I’ve never seen the actress for this show in anything else so I have no reason to dislike her going into it. I think her previous show was aimed at young women and gay men and I’m not in either demographic.

      • MC says:

        I wasn’t a big fan of Ray Romano before ELR. I thought he was a pleasant, but lightweight comedian. However, I decided to watch the show with an open mind and I really enjoyed it. A great ensemble cast really made ELR work and I saw some similarities to my own family. It was a very relatable show. Roseanne was somewhat the same thing. Roseanne was a pretty good stand-up comedian before her tv show started. I liked her, but didn’t necessarily think she could carry a series. A great ensemble made it very enjoyable and I could often relate to the working class stories. John Goodman was awesome throughout his run on Roseanne. The show tackled controversial subjects in a very empathetic and cathartic manner. It was a great laugh/cry show. I would not have known that if I didn’t open my mind to watch it.

    • LK says:

      I actually like the actress and she is good in this role

    • If u don’t like Melissa u would hate the actresses on Arrow

    • fiberlicious says:

      I couldn’t stand her on Glee and wasn’t going to watch this but I caved and I’m glad I did. It’s much more engaging than I expected, as is MB.

  14. lima says:

    supergirl i bet, wont be that good but anyways melissa benoist is hot

  15. Fido says:

    The above mentions – Jimmy “I’m James, Now” Olsen, brings a maturity (and yes, tall, chiseled presence). With this being in stark contrast to the usual movie Jimmy representation, I hope they at least hint at him going thru a getting-into-shape period. Just a line or two. :)

  16. jj says:

    i saw the leaked pilot and found it pretty average. Personally I was a bit underwhelmed by melissa benoit however if there’s been some retooling i’ll definitely give the show (and the pilot) another chance

  17. liame says:

    I hope it works because I love comic book shows. These type of shows don’t take themselves too serious and we know it’s all in good fun! Some people/fans have high expectations and can easily turn on a dime. If the cast can act and have chemistry, this show may have a shot, plus the plots and story lines have to make sense. Good luck. I will get past the crying in the pilot episode, just do it right.

  18. Boiler says:

    I am likely one of the few who liked Melissa on Glee. What I have seen, and admittedly don’t like the genre, it doesn’t look that great. Hope it does do well for Scorpion but I won’t be watching

  19. Dr. M says:

    Why does this sound like Frozen?

  20. Mark says:

    so can we get this clarified have they made significant changes to the pilot to the one that was leaked / released earlier this year…. Or is this still the same one

  21. LM says:

    It will be interesting to see if this series has an effect on the upcoming “Batman v. Superman”, as the series looks to have a tone of hope and look of being uplifting, while the movie looks to be very dour with it’s angst-filled heroes and desaturated palettes.

  22. nevesnetwork says:

    I watch the Pilot from Supergirl The sister of Supergirl the act is really poor not believable and the outfit from Supergirl is really tacky witch mean looks like one the outfit from Party City invest more money to make it believable like The Flash

  23. fiberlicious says:

    I love the wink of Dean Cain playing her earthdad.