The future of Supergirl on the small screen is looking bright.
The pilot episode of CBS' Supergirl series debuted Monday night with more than one (literal) bang, delivering on the hype leading up the premiere. Supergirl presented a refreshing modern take on the iconic DC Comics superhero, thanks in large part to star Melissa Benoist.
The pilot is not completely devoid of flaws, one of which is co-star Calista Flockhart's hammy performance as Kara Danvers' boss, Cat Grant. (Flockhart apparently attended the Gene Hackman School of Scene Chewing.) I noticed one online comment comparing the episode's often cheesy tone to that of Saved by the Bell, a sentiment I can understand.
Supergirl's strength lies in the performance of Benoist, as the titular character and her magazine assistant alter-ego, Kara (Zor-El) Danvers. Benoist brings the right mix of playfulness, empowerment, grace and toughness to the role; she embodies Supergirl as much as the late, great, Christopher Reeve did Superman. (Superman, by the way, is shown via flashback, though his face is obscured by sunlight.) You can see the joy on her face when Benoist's Kara suits up and flies into action. She saves a crashing plane, stops a bank robbery, bullets bouncing off of her body, and tussles with the episode's antagonist, a revenge-fueled alien warrior named Vartox, in the all in the first episode. It really is fun to watch.
Until now, Supergirl's live-action track record has been spotty, at best. The 1984 Supergirl film -- despite an equally memorable turn by actress Helen Slater as the Girl of Steel, who shows up again in the Supergirl pilot -- was a critical and commercial flop, hampered by shoddy special effects, a confusing and overstuffed plot and a ridiculous amount of camp.
Actress Laura Vandervoort portrayed Kara Zor-El in a recurring role on Smallville, introduced during the series' seventh season. However, Kara was not given much room to shine as the fan-favorite superhero she is in the comics. The character instead spent most of her time crushing on Jimmy Olsen, schooling Clark on how to use his powers and getting trapped in the Phantom Zone, before she eventually decided to bail and leave Earth for good.
Supergirl, the TV series, is giant leap forward from both previous interpretations. The special effects alone are more impressive than what you see in the Slater film. Supergirl's writers clearly embrace the whimsical and brighter elements of the source material, establishing that feel early on, while successfully differentiating the show from its much grittier TV cousin, Arrow. (Series co-creator Greg Berlanti is also a producer on The CW's Arrow and The Flash.)
The arrival of Supergirl to television is a welcomed and promising start to what is shaping up to be a strong television series about the adventures of the "Maiden of Might."