Monday, October 26, 2015

Real Time Review: Supergirl Pilot

In case you’ve never read one of my Real Time Reviews, it’s where I watch a show and write down my immediate impressions. I will sometimes pause the show if there is something particular I need to reflect on, but I typically wait until “commercial” breaks to do so. For some shows, there are long pauses because I’m so caught up in it I’m more interested in watching than writing. If there is a lot of exposition, it’s likely the show didn’t click with me because I’m happy to pause and reflect on my gut reactions.

Interested in superhero movies and TV? The fantastic Crysstal Hubbard (director of the upcoming fan film Supergirl: Unburdened) and I take over the IndieApocalypse podcast and don't hold back.

From the IndieApocalypse site:

"We discuss both Marvel and DC and pull out some deep cuts in film, comics and animation. Crysstal and Rich steal the show and we are now more educated on comics than ever before."

First Thoughts: Trailer

Before starting Supergirl, I need to make it clear what I thought about the trailer, just in case I need to eat my words.

Finally having a female-lead superhero show is just awesome. There are so many incredible things you can do with Kara over Kal, actually growing up on Krypton gives her knowledge of technology far beyond your average Earth human. She knew that her powers would manifest before even going to Earth, and as a teenager would be able to explore them more efficiently (especially if she gets Kal's help). She was fully aware of losing her entire planet, her friends, watching her family die, making her deep and interesting and contemplative in a way Kal can only imagine. 
Unfortunately none of this was shown in the trailer. 
The opening sequence on Krypton was awesome. As soon as they showed her with a coffee on the phone making appointments for her clearly terrible boss they lost me. Aside from the debates about whether or not Supergirl is more likely to be in that position than Black Widow, it’s just horrible, cliche writing. They pulled the first stereotype off the shelf and went with it. They could have done so much more, but chose not to. 
Though the assumption by many was that she was working for a fashion magazine, I didn’t see anything that confirmed that. I think Cat Grant likely runs an actual news company. I’ll be incredibly disappointed if I’m wrong. 
I hated the multiple times she needed the approval of a male authority figure to do what she does. Again, it’s just bad writing. Someone argued with me that she was simply being polite and there’s nothing wrong with a girl being polite. I agree. I want my daughter to be polite. I don’t want my daughter waiting to use her superpowers to help people because a male in authority said “I don't trust aliens”. 
I didn’t mind the older sister and I think she could be an interesting add to the mythos. I also like Jimmy growing up to be James, as well as his casting. The actor seemed like he can hold his own on screen. Unfortunately, he also happens to be one of the many male figures she plays second fiddle to in the trailer. 
Finally, the “It’s not a bird, or a plane, or a man. It’s a girl.” campaign tells me that this may not be a show about a hero who happens to be female, but about a heavy-handed point being made which is never good.

With that out of the way, let’s watch this thing.
  • Blue are positive thoughts.
  • Red are negative thoughts.
  • Black are neutral observations, or issues I’m letting slide assuming they’ll address it later.

Real Time Review

On Krypton. Even better than what I liked about the trailer because the Kara in the scene is an active participant, genuinely and bravely stepping into the unknown on a mission for her family. The dialogue is overly formal and stiff, but I can get over it for now.

The math is weird. She says “24 years ago, my planet, Krypton, was in serious peril”, which means Kal would be 24 at the time she’s recording the voice over, which is fine. The problem comes when she lands (according to her) 24 years later at the age of 13. Which means if she’s, say, 24 in the series, 10 years have passed since she landed. Which means it was actually 34 years before that Krypton died. [The math bothered me on this one so I did go back after the show and re-watch it in case I missed something.]

They don’t say exactly how her pod escaped the Phantom Zone. Wonder if that’s going to be a reveal later in the season.

The Danvers family adopting her is a nice twist on the Kents. Makes more sense to have scientists that helped Superman help her. Dean Caine and Helen Slater are fun to see.

I like the older sister. She’s looking like a strong and independent influence on the (strangely) meek and timid Kara.

I still hate that dating is the first personal plot point, but they seem to be blowing past that pretty quick.

I really like James/Jimmy, both in casting and character. I hate that her first reaction to him has to do with falling “in infatuation” with him.

Having Cat Grant be the head of an internet news outlet works. I don’t like Callista Flockhart in the role so far. Something about her superior arrogance bugs me in an “I don’t want to watch you” kind of way, which isn’t good for the show.

I love that they wasted no time diving into the plane rescue sequence and getting straight to the action.

Strange that the sister is worried about what people would do “if they find out” considering there is a direct parallel in Superman. So the answer is, "they’ll love her?"

It still bothers me that a confident and brave 13 year old that watched her parents, and planet, die and had to spend her childhood processing that kind of loss is somehow this oddly passive wallflower. There really should be a middle ground.

I liked that they commented about the classic “save the plane” incident as the first thing Supes did.

Only 20 minutes in and she’s already revealing her identity to someone close to her, which I like. 

“Can you believe it, a female hero?” That line was freakin’ terrible. Yes, I can believe there is a female hero. WTH? Ugh.

“General’s arrival is imminent.” Zodd? Cool. Overly done, but cool.

Costume/crimefighting montage was short and sweet.

An entire prison within the Zone. Felt odd at first reveal, but after a few minutes to absorb it, that is actually kind of cool. Makes sense. If you’re going to use the Zone as a prison, which is classic, makes sense to build an actual facility there. 

“Go back to to getting someone’s coffee.” Seriously. Ass. And not a well written one, either. Just a terrible person I’m not wanting to watch on screen.

The “she’s dangerous” cliche conversation was disappointing.

What's Wrong with "Supergirl"? speech: Calling a grown man “boy” is condescending. Though I appreciate what they were trying to do with the “aren’t you the problem” speech, and I do love Supergirl as Supergirl, that seemed a little heavy handed. I agree with Kara. There is nothing wrong with being a girl. Nothing wrong with being a boy. There is a maturity level associated with those pronouns I've never thought much about until Cat overshot her point. Now I want Kara to grow into her own name, like Robin graduating to Nightwing.

James saving her from being fired was, ugh. I’m glad they painted it red, but not enough. 

“On my planet, women bow to the men.” They really need to ease up on these heavy-handed lines. Can we please just accept her as a hero? Or at least not make 8 comments in a 45 minute show pointing out, badly, that she’s a woman?

Whoa. Firing full missiles into a civilian zone? That’s just terrible. Who the hell isn’t going to report that? Pretty clumsy secret organization. Also, she’s being rescued again. At least this time it was by her sister.

“Great job letting that guy nearly cut you in half.” Now he’s just a badly written, poor representation of a male.

I hope they explain what these criminals have been up to for 10 years. Also, is the military/DEO/Superman doing something about the prison-spaceship that landed in the desert? It’s not a huge complaint, just an observation to see if they’ll explain it at some point.

They didn’t give her the black box from her ship?! Her sister didn’t tell her about it? Kara should be more pissed about that, but okay.

“I told you, I don’t trust aliens.” Aside from the negative observations I’ve made, I’m actually enjoying the show enough to keep watching. If they don’t fix this terrible dialogue, though, that feeling will quickly go away.

“She’s not strong enough.” “Why, because she’s just a girl?” As much of a jerk as Henshaw is, that wasn’t implied in his statement. She is younger and untrained, irrelevant of her sex, so this comment just felt (once again) unnecessary.

The heat vision effects are awesome!

The “I can’t do it” line, so disappointing. Please, in the future, have her make the decisions to be a hero herself instead of relying solely on external support. We all need help sometimes, but good heroes make their own choices, like the Kara from the Krypton sequence of your own pilot for example. 

“I wasn’t only recruited because of my sister, was I?” Her sister starts off the show being confident and focused, and ends by being meek and looking for outside (read in this case, male) approval. So disappointing.

And James proves my point. Making choices for yourself makes a hero. Thank you, James.

So the “general” that arrived is her aunt? Where did she arrive from? Not sure how I feel about this, mostly because it’s not that interesting a twist and she delivered terribly stale lines.

I love that they have Faran Tahir in the show. I like him as an actor. It’s unfortunate that his superior is a terrible actress because he’s great. 


Blue: 14
Red: 15
Black: 11

More positive comments than I expected, but still outnumbered by the issues. Also, the intensity of the issues were subjectively stronger than my passion for the positives.

The first 30 minutes was better than I expected. They blew past most of the cliche rom/com stuff pretty quick and got to her becoming a hero. The final 15 minutes was packed with poorly written dialogue that undermined almost every character except James, who has a great presence on screen.

I will give it a couple of more episodes, but will continue to mock terrible dialogue, any time she relies on someone else to make her decisions, and every moment that someone points out she’s a girl just to point out how crazzzzy it is that a woman could possible be a superhero.


Episode 2

I couldn't make it to the end. It didn't take them 30 seconds to remind everyone that she's a girl. Just stop. Two seasons of Young Justice with arguably the most diverse team of any superhero animated show to date and I can think of only 1 episode where the sex of the heroes even came up (regarding an all-female team sent to scout Queen Bee's organization, and the person who made the comment was called out on it).

We need more female heroes as the lead in their own shows, being heroes without comment as to their sex. It's just bad writing. Show, don't tell. Show us Kara being amazing, learning, filing off her rough edges. Try going 1 episode without even mentioning she happens to be female. Then try doing 1 more. Then, maybe, we'll have several seasons of a show where people are allowed to accept her as a hero instead of being constantly told that they shouldn't.

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