Supergirl - The Advance Pilot Review (some spoilers)
So thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the pilot episode of the 'Supergirl' series has been leaked five months before its November premiere. The special effects are complete and it appears to be a best-and-final copy. So what is it like?
Since the story of Supergirl isn't as well-known as that of Superman, there's a lengthy voiceover explaining the concept. Kara Zor-El is a thirteen-year-old Kryptonian and the cousin of Kal-El. Her parents send her to watch over the infant Kal, but she gets stuck in the Phantom Zone and arrives on Earth 20+ years after Kal arrived, learned about his powers, and announced himself to the world as Superman. Since her now-adult cousin didn't need a 13-year-old protector, Kara is turned over to a foster family to be raised as an Earth child, just like Kal was.
Flash-forward 10 more years, and Kara (Melissa Benoist) is now working as an executive assistant/gopher to Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the head of a major media company in National City. Ms. Flockhart is probably the "funnest" character in the pilot, wildly chewing scenery as the Type-A Cat Grant.
When her foster sister Alex's plane goes down, Kara remembers how to fly and flies off to bring the jet down. This makes her a hero to the citizens of National City, and Cat dubs her Supergirl. This also makes Kara the target of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations. Their director, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), suspects aliens and takes Kara prisoner. It turns out that Alex (Chyler Leigh) also works for the DEO. They know that Kara is Supergirl, and conveniently explain that there were alien prisoners locked up in the Phantom Zone. They made it to Earth when Kara did, and now they have come out of hiding for something big.
Kara fights Vartox, the first of what will undoubtedly be several dozen escapees. She wins, Hank still doesn't fully trust her, and Kara is off to fight crime and a bunch of Phantom Zone escapees as Supergirl. Rounding out the cast is Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott, and Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen. They both know that Kara is Supergirl as well. So if you like shows where pretty much everyone knows the superhero's secret identity, this is the show for you.
The pilot does an adequate job of establishing Kara as Supergirl. Melissa is bright and chirpy as Kara, but seems to have enough depth to handle the bigger emotional scene. I liked Kara's relationship with Alex, her foster sister who knows more than she's letting on. Jeremy Jordan seems more like Jimmy Olsen then the Jimmy Olsen they have. 'Supergirl''s Jimmy Olsen is a confident slightly older man (the actor is 34) who is tough enough to stand up to Cat. He's Superman's Pal but seems more like an equal than a younger sidekick. Winn is more the gee gosh guy that Jimmy typically is in the comics and movies.
Speaking of Superman, we don't get to see him, no doubt to avoid conflicting with the movies. So we see hands, and silhouettes, and distant photo shots.
The pilot sets up the basic premise of Kara tracking down prison escapees. They were imprisoned by her mother, Alura, and it turns out that Kara's aunt is behind the whole scheme. The "recover the escapees" plot is a decent framework, although 'Smallville' used something similar in one season. One wonders how they'll imprison any escapees that Kara captures, or if they will all conveniently die or escape as Vartox does here.
I wouldn't rate this as highly as 'The Flash'. 'Supergirl' tends to hit many of the same notes with its young enthusiastic superhero discovering/rediscovering superpowers. There's also not an actor to match Thomas Cavanaugh as a bad guy. But it's light frothy entertainment, with plenty of superhero action. 'Supergirl' is a worthy addition to the current crop of TV superhero shows.
If you want heavier spoilers, you can go to TVRage's episode page here. We have quotes, a photo gallery, and a recap. If not, the promo is available on Youtube.