By Scott Murray
When it comes to TV pilots, I've learned that negative knee-jerk reactions aren't always fair. After watching the first episode of Gotham, I was deeply concerned about how long I would stick with it. I love that show now. After watching the first episode of The Flash, I knew I liked it...but wasn't sure how much my passion for the series would grow. I loved it more than Arrow this year.
See the pattern?
Fortunately this has better prepared me for watching and reacting to a TV series pilot. With that in mind, I bring you my initial reactions to the first episode of the upcoming CBS series, Supergirl.
The stamp of Berlanti is definitely present
It's been a joy watching Greg Berlanti show TV networks how to effectively produce a series with a fully-costumed hero - no origin series needed. It's a formula that has definitely worked, and if you watch Arrow and The Flash, you will see some familiar elements to his recipe.
This includes how Kara's secret identity looks a bit like Felicity Smoak, the nods to Superman/Supergirl stories of the past and well-placed lines of humorous dialogue. However, the thing that stood out the most in this familiar formula was the fact that just like Oliver and Barry, Kara has her own "Control Central". Though this time instead of a lab or basement computer center, she has a mini-NORAD.
The special effects are...SUPER!
I've often commented about how solid the visuals are for The Flash. Supergirl wastes no time showing audiences that this series will have it too. There are scenes where the flights, heroic feats and fight sequences are complimented with great special effects. And yes, you see all of those elements in the pilot.
But they could be a little better.
Supergirl has superhuman strength and we need to feel that when she kicks or throws a punch. It's not enough to have her swing or fly into someone and quickly cut to a shot of the badguy hurling away. A common theme of this show is it's HER time to shine. Let's make the most of that, please!
The character standouts
It's the first episode, so obviously some characters are going to connect to us quicker than others. There's going to be those we like, and perhaps, those we need more time with. In my mind, the three standouts are Melissa Benoist, Mechad Brooks and Calista Flockhart.
Melissa is is a charming, engaging and even fun Kara/Supergirl. I like her enthusiasm, her ability to pull off the "everyday" working girl and a superhero. There was only one time where she said something that made me raise an eyebrow. At one point in the show, she's on a date and a guy asks here were she's from originally. She struggles with the answer and eventually says, "Um...up North?" I have to think she'd be a little more prepared for a question like that nowadays. It seems it would be the type of thing she'd even sort out before leaving her (Earth) home and going into the real world.
I think Mechad Brooks was already a likable James Olsen after seeing him in the preview trailer. I can tell you that he definitely carries that likability well into the pilot episode. It's also fun to learn more about his relationship with Superman and how he ended up in the same media company with Kara. I really think that he is going to be an audience favorite.
There has been some debate about Flockhart's character and by the way - I get it. Does it come off a little Devil Wears Prada? Yes. Does it come off a little bit much (almost trying too hard to be this characterization)? Yes. Yet, do bosses that talk and act like her exist? YES. I've worked for them. And yes, they were female. I think she effectively embodies some of the traits I've experienced.
The villains idea is a good one
I love how the writers figured out a way to drop Supervillains into this show. Without giving too much away, I thought it was very Superman II of them. I also thought the first hero/villain fight scenes were pretty darn good - way better than what we got from the first episodes of Smallville. The first villain doesn't have the gravitas of a Lex Luthor or General Zod, but he's not supposed to. This is all about letting you know what's to come.
Now the real work begins
The pilot for Supergirl shows promise, but there are some things that will need to improve for it to be a long lasting show on a major network. I recently voiced concerns about the Supergirl trailer on the podcast, and I will say I feel a little better about the show after watching the first episode. However, my concern about the tone of the show remains. While I like Benoist as Supergirl, I don't completely buy her as a Superhero just yet - and that's okay.
As Kara continues to learn how to use her powers to help people, I hope we'll see a much more serious side to her persona. I'm not saying she has to be Bruce Wayne, I just want to believe the happy-go-lucky character can flip a switch and become serious hero when she has to be one. If she can, it will be easier to get invested in both personas.
I remember feeling somewhat similar after the pilot for The Flash. Back then, we just knew it was going to be a lighter/less dark tone than Arrow. I worried about how seriously I could take the show, how invested I would become in the supporting cast and how strong the villain element would be.
All of those questions have been answered in big positive ways. Since Berlanti has a successful formula to work with, I think there's reasons for optimism.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.