Few shows come into the world as maligned and with as much ill will as “Supergirl,” which premiered on CBS this past Sunday. Although shows like “The Flash” and “Arrow” prove that live action superheroes shows can be good, “Supergirl” shows exactly how they wrong they can go.
The pilot starts off pretty rocky, with a monotone voiceover and an exposition dump by two characters the audience doesn’t know. Krypton itself looks pretty awful CGI-wise, almost as though they were filming inside the space mountain ride at Disneyworld, but the special effects overall are decent.
Flash forward 20 years and we rejoin Kara Zor-El, or Supergirl as we’ll call her, in the midst of a work-related crisis. Played by Melissa Benoist, Supergirl is the personal assistant to a media mogul, but while you might think that this could provide some interesting parallels about powerful women, it doesn’t.
The relationship between Supergirl and Cat Grant, her boss, is most reminiscent of Kimmy Schmidt and Mrs. Vorhees in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” It’s a jarring change in tone considering the audience just witnessed an entire planet blow up, taking the main character’s parents along with it.
Something tells me that “Supergirl” was, at some point in its development, meant to be a superhero sitcom, but although that doesn’t really work, there are still some corny jokes left over from that phase. Attempts at humor fall flat time and again, as the show’s writers attempt to use awkwardness and dramatic pauses in place of wit and actual humor.
All of these flaws are evident in the first two minutes, but there is a very interesting scene that drew me in. Supergirl calls her own number and desperately tries to save a plane that’s falling out of the sky. The special effects are great, the music is appropriately epic and all of the characters who aren’t screaming in fear are mercifully quiet.
But right after that awesome scene, the awful dialogue comes back. I can’t tell if the writers want the audience to think Supergirl is an airhead, but her dialogue is like word vomit, spilling out in a relentless assault on the ears. Other characters aren’t immune from this terrible writing either.
“You can’t do anything like that again,” one character says literally minutes after her life and the lives of hundreds of others were saved.
But about halfway through the pilot, I realized that I just didn’t care about any of these characters. “Supergirl” barely has time to establish its lead as a real hero, with scenes of heroics like interrupting a bank robbery cut short for an outfit-changing montage.
New characters are introduced in an attempt to add some intrigue and a touch of that covert-ops feel that Marvel pulled off with “Agents of SHIELD,” but it basically falls flat. The Department of Extra-Normal Operations, or DEO, feels like a humorless, low budget SHIELD clone.
That boring sequence is followed by an extremely awkward conversation between Cat and Supergirl about whether the name “Supergirl” is, to quote the main character, “anti-feminist.” Cat gives a throwaway explanation that basically boils down to “girl power,” but unfortunately for CBS, it’s too late to retcon the entire 1970’s.
But while the writing is consistently bad, I at least thought that the special effects would be consistently mediocre, which in retrospect was foolish of me. As good as they looked early in the episode, the special effects look absolutely awful in a fight scene near the climax of the episode.
Oh, and that covert organization I mentioned? They bring an attack helicopter and start firing missiles into the fray in broad daylight in the middle of the city. It makes you wonder why they bothered spending 24 years in the shadows if subtlety means nothing to them.
The villains, who look like normal British people with stickers on their heads, also suffer from bad writing and bad acting. In the episode that’s supposed to draw us in and make us fear the villains a little bit, the main bad guy is an alien trucker with a really sharp axe.
In retrospect, DC and CBS should have spent a lot less money on advertising during football games. Then they might have been able to afford things like consistently good special effects, a good script or even acting lessons for most of the secondary characters. “Supergirl” is the first big television flop to come from DC, and just isn’t worth the time for anyone who’s not a huge Supergirl fan.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.