I’ve written for this site for about a year now, and I’d like to think I don’t just rip on every show I review. Jeff Ross, a comedian made famous by the Comedy Central Roasts, once said, “I only roast the ones I love!” Likewise, if I’m writing negatively about a show, it’s often because I actually want that show to do well.
That is the mentality I have when it comes to Supergirl, a show that actually has a lot going for it—no, really! However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out what bothers me. Wouldn’t you guys respect me less if I didn’t? Exactly! However, let’s talk about what is working first, because I feel that it is actually worth mentioning.
I think that Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) gets a bum rap because she’s the teenage cousin of Superman, and audiences tend to see her as just a way to cash in the Superman empire. Why do I think that? Because you never hear about her. However, that really changed when Supergirl premiered. In my eyes—Superman, though one of the most powerful characters that DC Comics has to offer—is, in fact, pretty dull. Think of all the Superman movies and television shows that have existed throughout time and tell me that Superman is charismatic. Tell me Superman is charming. Tell me Superman is funny. You can’t! Superman isn’t any of those things, yet he’s probably the most popular and lucrative hero DC has other than Batman.
The success of the current Supergirl comes down to two important things, the first being that someone had to stop and say, “Listen, Superman has been done. He’s old and boring. Let’s try Supergirl, and let’s do her justice. Superman is quiet and stoic; let’s make Supergirl goofy and lovable.” God bless that person who may or may not exist, because it worked! The word I like to used to describe Supergirl is one I nabbed from one of the first episodes: adorkable. Supergirl is delightfully nerdy, dorky, and adorable, so adorkable is the word that fits her just right—and as we are the geeks of the world who read and write for this site, I think it speaks on our level.
The second thing that helped conceive the perfect Supergirl is having the right actress for the role, and that of course was Melissa Benoist, who appeared as if from nowhere (unless you watched Glee, which I didn’t). Benoist is able to portray a strong woman who also questions her abilities which ultimately make her a better hero. Her Supergirl can be as serious as the situation calls for, but you can see her laughing and doing something silly in the same episode. I can only really compare her performance to that of Tom Welling‘s Clark Kent in Smallville . . . in that it is the complete opposite. Welling barely spoke, really, and Benoist talks incessantly, which is actually part of her charm. I’ll admit it: I was late to watching this show, but once I got hooked, I was smitten. (She has yet to respond to my Twitter declaration of love.)
I thought long and hard on how to articulate my issue with Supergirl because I’ve become such a big fan, but I think I’ve got it. Have you ever seen The Secret Life of The American Teenager? I don’t think I’m using hyperbole when I say this, but it very well could be the most poorly written and poorly acted show to ever become popular in the recent history of television. However, despite its horribleness, Secret Life was very addicting to watch. I didn’t like it, and I was fully aware that of the cheesy dialogue and mostly insufferable acting, but I had friends who watched it, and when I was over while episodes were airing I found I could not look away. Now, Supergirl does not compare to Secret Life and its subpar . . . everything . . . but there are not so great things about the show that I think fans ignore because they, like myself, are mesmerized by the good parts (namely, Melissa Benoist). I’ve narrowed it down to two things in particular: one, writing that is sometimes overly convenient or simplistic, and two, the completely over-the-top “acting” of David Harewood, who portrays J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter.
Now, What do I mean about the writing? For an example, I’ll use a recent thing to have happened on the show (so the rest of this paragraph contains spoilers if you’re not up to date!). J’onn recently got a blood transfusion from a White Martian, which had the side effect of changing him on the DNA level into a White Martian. This lasted all of a few episodes, whereas such a plot would normally last a couple months if the writers wanted it to mean something. However, more than the fact that they wrapped it up so quickly, it was how they wrapped it up that I found overly convenient and frankly quaint. At the time, there was a virus of sorts threatening the lives of all aliens on Earth, and while the characters developed a cure, they had the know-how to morph that cure into a cure for J’onn. Even in a universe in which Cisco from The Flash can manufacture complex weapons every episode and make me go along with it, this seemed to tip the scale into “too much.” It seemed like something you’d see on Batman from the ’60s—but hey, we are talking campy, aren’t we?
That brings us back to David Harewood. Now, I am not the leading expert on the Martian Manhunter from the comics, but I do know he’s sort of quiet and normally portrayed as somewhat gentle. Harewood’s character, on the other hand, is constantly angry. That sort of makes sense in the context of the show, but all of Harewood’s lines are seemingly yelled and done over-the-top to the point that it’s annoying. The best comparison I can give is a scene in The Chronicles Riddick—there is a scene in which Vin Diesel (someone not exactly known for his acting range) is talking to a character in a normal voice while they escape a prison, and then just growls “Keep moving!“ in the most over-the-top voice you can imagine. That is what I hear every time Harewood speaks. If you think I’m way off base in my analogies, please prove me wrong.
In the end, I’m a fan of Supergirl and all the fun it provides, as well as the great role model for girls. But if these few things were fixed, it could make a fun show into a great show—or rather, dare I say it, a super show!