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Supergirl - Series Overview - Review: Hope, Help, and Compassion for All



It is extremely bittersweet to be writing what is perhaps my last article about Supergirl, the show that brought me to SpoilerTV. The show may not have been perfect; however, it has left fans with the enduring memories of the journey of Kara Zor-El Danvers (Melissa Benoist) as the Girl of Steel, her heroic sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), her surrogate “Space Dad” father, J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) and the many super friends she found along the way.

In general, Supergirl did so many things right and so many things wrong in its six-year journey as the Kryptonian superhero carved her place in the annals of the Arrowverse on the CW. Here’s a look back at some of the moments in Supergirl that made us laugh, cheer and cry and at times had us scratching our heads and wondering why they would do that to our beloved cast of characters.
Top of the list of what the show did right was the casting of Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl. Her portrayal of the superhero will be remembered as iconic and she set a standard for being a superhero on screen and off. The producers struck gold also in the casting of Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Kara’s adoptive sister who quickly showed that not all superheroes wear capes, and David Harewood as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, the tortured Martian who found a new family with the sisters. At its core, these three were and will always remain the foundation of what the show stood for—family.
Supergirl will also be recognized for bringing to life, one of the most realistic portrayals of a sisterhood/sibling relationship in television. The Danvers Sisters were instantly established as the heart, soul, and foundation of the show. The show was at its best when it focused on family, both those born in blood and those that were chosen. Sadly, a crowded cast in later seasons reduced time spent on this bond. It should also be noted the show should be soundly applauded for its LGBTQ+ representation, bringing to the screen in six seasons a later in life coming out story, a lead queer character’s two main relationships depicted to be with two queer women of color, an interracial relationship that resulted in both a wedding and an adoption, and the introduction of the first transgender superhero on television. The show should also be praised for paying its respects to the comic book heroes who paved the way for Supergirl by casting such former heroes as Helen Slater, Lynda Carter, Teri Hatcher, Laura Vandervoort, Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain in recurring or guest starring roles. And the show will forever be given thanks for casting the amazing Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant.
What the show did not do is pay respect nor honor the long and rich comic book history of the title character, choosing to make her a female version of Superman, complete with Superman’s most notorious adversary, Lex Luthor. By doing that the show often forgot how to keep the title character and her story the focus of the show. Another consequence of the rivalry with Lex is that in later seasons the show did not recognize, respect, or take advantage of the Danvers Sisters and their status and the heart and soul of the show. When a new crop of writers joined the show in Season 4, the Danvers Sisters, their bond, and their now iconic couch scenes began appearing less and less and were replaced by a Luthor obsessed overload. The show also made it a bad habit to have significant plot moments happen off-screen, Alex telling Kelly her sister was Supergirl in season 6 being one of the most egregious examples of this. Supergirl also did not do social justice issue stories well. While there is a long history of comics and comic book shows tackling social issues, what Supergirl did was shoehorn in the issues without tying them believably to the context of her story as they did with Alex’s frank discussion on racism with J’onn and M’Rynn. First season episodes subtly wove social issue stories into the storylines such as feminism and prejudice, but those messages began to drown out Supergirl’s story in later seasons. An exception to that would be the beautiful handling of M’rynn’s Alzheimer-like disease, which was touchingly presented and portrayed within the shows established structure. One must wonder if all the negative online chatter is why the writers kept Kara single and refused to introduce any more valid love interests after she had to send Mon-El off Earth. The show was remiss in not standing up to nor speaking out against an extreme toxic element of the fandom whose online harassment and bullying of cast, crew, writers, producers, and other fans contributed to negative opinions of the show and its fandom.

In the interests of keeping this article from becoming a book, the following categories will be limited and by no means is all inclusive of the what the show accomplished in six seasons.

EPISODES AND STORYLINES THAT WORKED
It will come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the reason I love the show that most of the episodes on this list are all sister centric episodes. It seems safe to say that easily almost everyone’s favorite episode of Supergirl is season 3’s Midvale which gave fans the first glimpse of young Kara and Alex growing up and how their tremendous bond was born. A key factor in the success of this episode was the spot-on casting and performances of Izabela Vidovic and Olivia Nikkanen as young Kara and Alex. Their resemblances to their older counterparts and the way they captured the character’s essences and mannerisms easily endeared them to Supergirl fans. For the Girl Who Had Everything is close to being the perfect episode encompassing in everything that made the show great in season 1 especially, a gripping story, the Danvers Sisters bond on display, superhero action, a dramatic twist ending all anchored by a powerhouse performance from Chyler Leigh. Later that same season it was Melissa Benoist’s turn to shine in Falling, another episode was deeply steeped in the sisterhood as Supergirl became the show’s most formidable villain following her exposure to red kryptonite. Season 2, episode 6 Changing brought Supergirl one of its first critically acclaimed episodes featuring an award worthy performance from Leigh as it beautifully told Alex’s coming out story. The highlight of the episode was a gut-wrenching couch moment between the sisters when Alex faced rejection by her first love, Maggie (Floriana Lima) that brought viewers to tears. And while season 4’s Red Dawn is a fan favorite episode of that season, for me, I prefer Suspicious Minds when Alex makes the painful decision to have her mind wiped of her sister being Supergirl to protect her sister’s secret identity. Going to add one additional kudo to the show’s 100th episode It’s a Super Life in season 5 that ended as the series should have ended the OG 3 of Kara, Alex and J’onn uttering the show’s catchphrase, “El Mayarah,” stronger together.

Storylines that worked must certainly include Alex’s coming out story, the Reign world-killer story, for me the majority of the mind-wipe story, the story of J’onn’s reunion with his father and dealing with his illness, Queen Rhea going Lady Macbeth, the birth of Dreamer, and a good majority of the Red Daughter story.

EPISODES AND STORYLINES THAT DIDN’T WORK
The first episode that comes to the minds of many people as being one that did not work is season 3’s Not Kansas which tainted a good hero’s story on Argo with a ham-fisted gun control message with the illogical conclusion of disarming the DEO, the only organization on Earth tasked with protecting the planet from dangerous aliens. Also disappointing was season 6’s Blind Spots written by series co-star Azie Tesfai, which had many of the main characters behave bizarrely to make its social justice point and serves as a reminder that Supergirl’s strength was found in its characters, not in its execution of special episodes. What made the writers/producers believe that fans wanted to see more of the villain’s story than that of the show’s title superhero? In season 4, Man of Steel told the history and creation of Sam Witwer’s Ben Lockwood, the Agent of Liberty. Season 5’s Confidence Women the story of the history of Lena and Andrea (Julie Gonzalo)’s friendship didn’t contribute much beyond showing the origins of Acrata. And then during its final season, the writers decided to inexplicably take a sledgehammer to the most important relationship on the show, the Danvers Sisters, by having them argue repeatedly and bitterly in Truth or Consequences. The episode also directed the majority of its menace and violence toward an innocent child, Alex and Kelly’s adopted daughter, Esme, played by the adorable and instant fan favorite Mila Jones.

The list of story arcs that just did not work or were not executed well include but are not limited to the following. The one that is likely not to be forgiven anytime soon is sidelining the Danvers Sisters relationship in season 6. Others that failed include Lena Luthor’s revenge storyline that dominated season 5 as fallout from Lena learning about Kara’s alternate identity as Lex died. Another Lena storyline that stumbled was the writers’ confusing decision to make her a witch in season 6 and to undermine her history of scientific innovation. The writers just clearly didn’t know what to do with the character of Lena and it showed by the way they ultimately let her achieve her season 5 goal of mind control via Non Nocere, they just had her do it with magic in the show finale Kara. The numerous reboots and overly convenient retcons following Crisis on Infinite Earths. Instead of using the opportunity to explore how the changes brought about by a new universe affected the characters the show chose to use Crisis as a catch-all excuse for the questionable and oftentimes head-scratching storytelling decisions they made following the crossover. Also lacking in credibility or storytelling depth was the entire Totems storyline of season 6 and the Red Daughter storyline that had far more interest in propping up Lex Luthor. Oh, and nearly any logic that was applied to a decision for or against utilizing time travel.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Instead of the above storylines that clearly did not work, Supergirl would have been much better served and generated far more compelling story lines by pursuing some of its greatest missed opportunities. So many scenes in so many episodes went to the wrong characters, a prime example of this was the scene in season 3’s Of Two Minds where James (Mehcad Brooks) and Winn (Jeremy Jordan) discuss dying should have been between Supergirl and the seriously ill Alex. Bringing back Supergirl’s first love Kenny Li in season 6 and rewriting the revered Midvale storyline made no sense especially after not using him again after those episodes. So many intriguing storylines or plot points were just suddenly dropped for no explanation. What happened with her mother’s necklace Supergirl gave to Mon El (Chris Woods)? Why weren’t there more episodes of Alex and J’onn working together to help aliens at his new detective agency? What happened to Mikhail, the little boy protected by Red Daughter? And where did Maxwell Lord and Lucy Lane disappear to after season 1? One of the biggest missed opportunities was bringing back Cadmus, a form of the Cyborg version of Jeremiah Danvers and the ultimate and best Luthor, Lillian (Brenda Strong) as the main villains in the final season. That would have brought the Supergirl story full circle and ended the series as strongly as it began and pay respect to its television beginnings by having the heart and soul of the show, the Danvers Sisters work together with a new team to find resolution to a storyline that was never brought to its full potential.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
These are the moments that turned good episodes of Supergirl into great ones and at times saved mediocre episodes. Sometimes a lengthy scene, and others a brief moment that had profound impact on fans, these are the scenes that fans still talk about today. For emotional impact you had Kara reaching back for Alex’s hand while viewing the first hologram from her mother in the pilot, Alex’s tearful confession that she killed Astra (Laura Benanti) and the true birth of the “Space Family”, any of the Danvers’ Sisters couch scenes, the verbal battle between Alex and Red Kryptonite Kara, Alex’s “I’m so humiliated” declaration after being rejected by Maggie, Kara’s reaction to Alex being mind-wiped, Alex’s desperate “take the grass” declaration to revive her sister and the powerful hand to hand connection on opposite sides of a spaceship Supergirl was desperately trying to stop from jumping into hyperspace with her sister on board. Powerful story changing moments came with Hank Henshaw’s reveal as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, Cat Grant finally calling Kara by her proper name, Supergirl tossing Fort Rozz into space, the initial arrival of Lex Luthor where Jon Cryer claimed the part, Alex getting her first Winn made superhero suit and Supergirl using Mon El's Legion ring to turn back time and rewrite the tragic ending of the first battle with Reign and the Krptonian witches. On the lighter side were Winn’s fear of Alex and what she could do to him with her index finger, Christopher Wood’s ad-libbed “start the car” on Slaver’s Moon in the first episode that Kevin Smith directed. In the epic battle category, you have Martian Manhunter vs. Indigo, Supergirl battling a Kryptonite infected Superman, Supergirl fighting Red Tornado, Queen Rhea and the world-killer witches, and of course the epic battle between Supergirl and Reign. Other notable moments include the Alex/Sara Lance team up in Crisis on Earth X, the introduction of the adorable scene stealer Esme, Dreamer and Brainy’s dance at the Midvale prom, and of course the wonderful duet by Jeremy Jordan and Melissa Benoist as Winn and Kara at Alex and Kelly’s wedding.

THE END OF SUPERGIRL’S STORY
For a show that began so strongly highlighting women power and justice as underlying themes beautifully woven into the actual story, Supergirl ended on a perplexingly weak note. Alex and Kelly’s wedding as a standout notwithstanding, the show emphatically dropped the ball on bringing Kara Danvers/Supergirl’s story to a close. They made Kara the ONLY Arrowverse superhero to end her story alone without a stable romantic partner. A majority of the characters ended up right back where they began in season 1, just from different perspectives. Think about it, Kara, still single, still a reporter working with Cat Grant at Catco; Alex and J’onn back working for the government by rejoining the new DEO after each of them leaving in previous seasons was among the best things that could happen to their respective characters. And Lena Luthor was once again rich and influential.

THE SHOW’S LEGACY
In the end Supergirl’s greatest legacy could very well be casting Melissa Benoist as the title character Kara Zor-El Danvers/Supergirl, which inspired young girls around the world and introduced a new generation of fans to the mythology of Supergirl. Another strong contribution to the legacy of Supergirl was the creation of the original character of Alex Danvers. In Alex, the everyman had a role model of how not every superhero wears a cape and emphasized the power of LGBTQ+ characters. The two of them together will be remembered as TV’s best siblings who were grounded in their belief of “El Mayarah,” stronger together.

Family, both blood and chosen, was a powerful thread throughout the series as evidenced by the ever-expanding number of super friends. Supergirl launched a new generation of chosen families with Alex and Kelly’s decision to adopt Esme in the final season, a nice nod to the parallel of how Supergirl’s story on Earth began.

What are your thoughts on Supergirl as a series? What were your most and least favorite episodes, storylines, moments? Share them in the comments below.

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