October 28, 2015
The panel I was most excited about being on last weekend at MileHi Con was called something like, Superheroes in Movies and TV: Oversaturated or Raising the Bar? I argued for “Raising the Bar” of course. We’re living in a golden age of live-action superhero drama and I’m absolutely loving it, because it means I can skip the drek and still have plenty to watch. And because yes, the bar on these things is now high.
It also stands to reason that with this massive proliferation of superhero movies (how many is just the MCU planning in the next four years? A dozen?) & TV shows, that eventually we’d have to get a good one starring a woman superhero. Statistically, the powers that be just couldn’t keep avoiding making a movie or TV show about a woman superhero without it looking like they’re just avoiding it. And the longer we went without one, the worse that avoidance looked. But everyone was scared of failing. I get that. Nobody wanted to be the one to screw this up.
So, I’m very, very happy to say we finally have a thing to point to say, Look, yes, it can be done. It can be done well. It can be FUN! Because yes, I watched the first episode of Supergirl, and I really liked it. Now maybe Hollywood will get off its ass and stop making excuses.
Two things to talk about with this, besides the fact that I cried like a baby through most of it — Kara is here, she’s adorable, and she’s super-heroic, and that’s all most of us wanted.
First, the pacing is astonishing. Conventional TV show pacing would have had Kara saving the airplane (the first superhero outing is usually either an airplane or a tenement fire, ever notice that?) at the end of the first episode and spent the rest of the time angsting and building up to it. Instead, it happened in the first fifteen minutes. And then we got maybe two more episodes’ worth of action packed in under an hour. This was a little jarring — I had to think about it some, because I’m not a fan of opening prologues/voice-overs, but I think this one worked because the show made a decision to blow through the backstory as quickly as possible. And as far as packing in so much other story: this is a pilot, and the show gave us an entire foundation right at the start. My guess is things will slow down from here out, but I kind of love that we’re not going to spend ages on an origin story, and that Kara gets to be a hero right out of the gate. The show is going to be about her being a hero, not her trying to figure out if she should be one. That’s excellent.
Second: you know how one of my big pet peeves about stories featuring Strong Women Characters (TM) is when they only have one strong woman character, which makes the story about a Chosen One and not strong women, really? Supergirl is FILLED with strong women. It has as many named women characters as men. Kara’s boss, her sister, her mother (and can I tell you how much I love that it’s her mother who inspires her, who she turns back to?), that mysterious bad guy at the end… Much like Agent Carter, this is a world filled with women, and lots of different kinds of women, with lots of different strengths. Just like, you know, the actual world. This is so appropriate for this story. We need women heroes because women are here, and they’re heroes.
So yes, I liked this show a lot. We’ll see if I like the second episode as much. Don’t screw this up, people.
(Also, I’m going to have to watch Ep. 1 again just because I missed the Dean Cain and Helen Slater cameos the first time through.)
Addendum: I’m suddenly debating about whether to call Agent Carter a superhero show. It’s a spin off of Captain America of course. She’s an amazing character, but I think what we’ve all been waiting for is a woman with superpowers. That’s been the missing ingredient. So while Agent Carter is magnificent, Supergirl hits that target we’ve been missing for way too long.