Readers, I am disappointed.
I decided to watch the first episode of the new series “Supergirl” recently. I had seen commercials for it, and it looked like it might be potentially interesting.
My response, however, was significantly less than enthusiastic.
It started off well enough. The scene at the very beginning was emotional enough. The young actress did a reasonable job of portraying a young girl saying goodbye to her family for forever.
After our heroine arrived on Earth, however, things went downhill. Granted, it was nice that she saw her cousin. However, if family was truly important, her cousin (Superman) should have taken an active part in her adjustment to life on earth. Instead, she gets placed with foster-parents who supposedly helped Superman figure out some of his powers and things, and their daughter. This leads to one of my biggest problems with the pilot episode:
The sister relationship.
As mentioned, we meet the adopted sister (who obviously is jealous of our heroine) only very briefly.
The producers even threw in the “staring moodily out window through the curtains” scene to indicate how the two “sisters'” relationship would start off.
Naturally, our heroine does not notice her new sister being less than thrilled, as far as we can tell. Actually, that is the extent we see of the “Younger Life” of our heroine. And that is all we see of developing relationships. Everything else is just assumed.
This is one of the big problems in the show, from my perspective. The writers appeared to want to have the sisters’ relationship be one of the main parts of the show. Our heroine reveals herself as a potential superhero only when her sister’s plane runs into difficulties. Our heroine angsts dramatically when her sister has a less than exuberant response. To audience members, it is clearly because the sister is jealous. Our heroine makes no comment about that, and simply continues to bubble. (That is not unreasonable– she is still on a flying-and-saving-people adrenaline rush.) The sister makes no comment about jealousy, and neither does our heroine.
Later, when our heroine is upset about not having performed as well against a villain as she would have liked, it is her sister’s total tell-not-show explanation of sister’s jealousy that leads our heroine to be ok with superhero-ing again.
The dialogue in that scene was painful.
And much of the painfulness could have been avoided by even a three-minute montage of our heroine growing up, and sister trying to hide jealousy when our heroine used her powers. Instead, we do get the sister needing to tell her jealousy.
Okay, to be fair, the entire thing could have been made better if there had been a montage of the sister’s jealousy during the ridiculous exposition bit.
But no. It stayed boring, stilted, and over-dramatic.
We have no basis for judging whether the sister actually gets along well with the heroine, or whether it is all another act. Similarly, I expect that the jealousy is “magically cured”. That causes me to be further annoyed.
My problem is not only with this sister relationship, however. Another problem lies in the very thing it is touted for:
This is supposedly a feminist show, and therefore worthwhile?
Please note, I was originally excited, in part for this very reason. I do not know of any reasonable female superheroes that have their own shows or movies. (I have heard mixed reviews of Agent Carter, but I have not watched it. Furthermore, I do not know if she qualifies as a true “Superhero”, since I do not know what her special talents are.)
My excitement, however, was based upon the assumption that the story would still be even somewhat reasonable. It is unfair to have a show that is not particularly excellent be praised as “worthwhile” simply because it stars a female. Deliberately calling attention to that fact may be part of the problem. There should be a natural quality to it.
Instead, this show appears to be relying on its “It is feminist!” message in order to get viewership. This is a problem.
What this show actually needs is good storytelling.
So far, this show has not delivered. I will consider giving the second episode a chance to redeem the show, but I do not go in with high expectations.
Hopefully the Marvel/Netflix Jessica Jones provides better.