Last September, I took a look at all the geek/comic TV heading to screens, including then-reigning champ Arrow’s third season and comeback kid Agents of SHIELD’s second.
Well, there’s some new kids on the block, and they both have trailers out, so let’s take a deep-dive into Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
…Still do not love that title.
The first look at Supergirl has been a little controversial. Some like it, some find it too… for lack of a better word, “girly,” as though that’s a bad thing for a show about Supergirl that might be trying to attract a younger female audience. Some compare it to the satirical Saturday Night Live sketch in which Black Widow’s solo film is a romcom.
I do not agree, but we’ll get to that. Let’s take a good, close look at this trailer.
0:04: “My name is Kara Zor-El.”
Yup, it’s from the Arrow/Flash guy alright. Wouldn’t be a Greg Berlanti joint if the main character wasn’t telling us their name and a brief synopsis of their life at the start of each episode.
Although, since we’ve paused… I found it odd they pronounce it “CAHR-ah.” I usually think of it pronounced “CAIR-ah,” and certainly Smallville backed me on that. But, you know, whatever.
0:09 “My cousin, Kal-El…”
Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the trailer right now. I don’t know why, but they never once use the name “Superman.” It’s always “Him” or “Your/my cousin.” There cannot possibly be a legal reason why a show about Supergirl can’t say “Superman” out loud, I refuse to believe in something that pointlessly stupid. Spider-man used the word “Superman.” I can imagine a narrative reason why Kara and company wouldn’t say it, maybe she knows him as “Kal” or “Clark” and hearing him called “Superman” feels weird to her, but… this whole “Don’t say his actual name” thing is just off-putting right now, and it’s not just me who thinks that.
Wow, we just skimmed over a lot… I mean, a lot. All of Kara’s teen years on Earth, and our only glimpse at her adoptive parents, played by former Supergirl Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain.
This is something that Flash, and before them Smallville, liked doing. What I call Legacy Guest Stars. Heck, both of these actors were on Smallville at least once, now that I think about it. As Clark Kent’s birth mother Lara and a guest villain who was almost but not quite Vandal Savage, who we’ll be talking about when I get into Legends of Tomorrow.
That we just fast-forwarded through that much exposition makes me wonder if this is gonna be a two-hour pilot. I mean, there’s a decent chunk of plot in this six minute trailer even without all that backstory.
0:48 “Fun. Dating’s… fun.”
Kara at work. Where we meet her friend and co-worker whose crush on Kara is either unnoticed, or she’s just trying to be gentle about how unrequited it is. Guys? If I may? Let’s add “friendzoned” to our list of forbidden words instead of “Superman,” okay? Please? Trust me, you’ll be better off.
0:53 Enter Cat Grant
Cat Grant is a decent character when done well. Will that be the case here? Only TIME… will tell. Now, I can see why some people would think, at this point, that the series feels a little more Devil Wears Prada than Agent Carter, but let’s press on.
1:11 James Olsen
And here enters Jimmy–sorry, James Olsen, Sup–“That guy’s” best pal. There’s been a lot of race flipping in comic properties lately. Man of Steel’s Perry White, Powers’ Deena Pilgrim, Daredevil’s Ben Urich, Preacher’s Tulip, Thor’s Heimdall, Flash’s Joe and Iris West, and that’s just off the top of my head. And I’m fine with that. It’s more than okay, it’s a good thing. As a white male Superman fan, I don’t feel I’m losing something by having Perry White or Jimmy Olsen be black, and if that causes a black viewer to gain something, then by all means, let’s make the superhero world a little less gleamingly white. The only real issue is that an article about Asian representation in Daredevil made me notice that with the exception of Polynesian Aquaman, the positive examples of race flipping (that is, the ones where a traditionally white character is cast POC and not the other way around… looking at you, Prince of Persia…) are all going to black actors. There are other ethnicities to choose from.
What I’m less okay with is tall, buff, pretty, confident James Olsen. I don’t care that Jimmy Olsen isn’t white. I care that he isn’t a nerd.
But, you know, I’m sure I’ll bounce back.
1:28 “Oh… gosh…”
You can tell me Kara going a little awkward fangirl over Jimmy–James, sorry, still feels weird– is a little romcom. But you can’t tell me it isn’t adorable.
1:46 “I feel like I’m not living up to my potential.”
So I feel like this is where the people bringing up Black Widow: Age of Me stopped watching. Up until this point, the trailer for our TV show about a superhero has involved Kara stressing about work, not noticing her friend’s crush, being tongue-tied because she met a boy, and needing her big sister to help her pick out an outfit for a date. Not exactly Peggy Carter, and bringing up comparisons to David E. Kelley’s failed and apparently awful Wonder Woman pilot, which tried to make the Princess of the Amazons and current God of War into a crime-fighting Ally McBeal. (The presence of Ally McBeal herself, Calista Flockheart, doesn’t necessarily help with this.)
But if you pay attention to this scene, she is saying that all of those things people seem to be complaining about shouldn’t be the things that define her. She wants to be more than that. Why don’t we all calm down and see if she gets there? Alright?
1:57 “I can fly! At least I think I can.”
I also think the haters missed some significance here. Kara is a woman who, for the last decade and change, has had to work every single day to keep a huge part of herself secret. She’s so committed to hiding her Kryptonian heritage that she’s never even tried to fly. Why wouldn’t someone like that be a little awkward around people? Especially if they’re trying to model themselves after their cousin’s (great, now I’m doing it) mild-mannered routine?
Okay, so, there is a second, more action-oriented trailer that briefly leaked but has been pulled which does remind us that the guy behind this show, Greg Berlanti, also brought us Arrow, which as a reminder is great, and The Flash, which is amaze-balls. Seems they’re experimenting with ads targeted at different demos, and this main trailer isn’t aimed at the people who gravitate to the DCW-verse. Or maybe they wanted to downplay the connection since they won’t be crossing over anytime soon.
Or at least they really shouldn’t. Superman exists in Supergirl’s world (even if no one will say his name), and has for at least a decade. Over on the CW? Not so much.
Anyhoo, this is the part where Kara learns to fly in a panic so she can save an entire plane. Don’t remember any parallel to that in Age of Me.
2:51 Kara gets squeeful
Given that the primary complaint about DC properties is that they’re too grim (with the sole exception of The Flash), maybe we should all be okay with a Supergirl who gets a little excited seeing herself on the news after her first flight successfully saves an entire plane. I know I am.
3:18 “What do you think is so bad about… girl?”
This would be a nice little speech about reclaiming the word “girl” as a positive term, and how calling her “SuperGIRL” doesn’t diminish her as a person… if I didn’t kind of suspect it was written by someone named Greg.
Perhaps I’ll just move on. Except to say that I really, really don’t see why anyone thinks Botox is a good idea.
3:36 “I’m going to tell you something about me…”
Clue number two that the Flash/Arrow braintrust is behind this… she’s already telling her friend her secret identity.
If three seasons of Arrow and one of the Flash have taught us anything, it’s that “I must hide my identity from the people closest to me” gets old fast. And kind of illogical. Before long you’re thinking “Wait, the entire League of Assassins knows Oliver’s secret, but not his sister? That makes what kind of sense?”
Plus giving the hero confidants helps immeasurably from a narrative standpoint. Arrow didn’t really take off until Diggle became Oliver’s partner.
So yeah, tell Ducky or whatever his name is your secret. Especially if it allows this next montage.
I like that it takes some experimentation to figure out a) how to successfully fight crime (her steering’s a little off when flying after a car), and b) her outfit. Especially when they open with one that seems to make fun of all of Supergirl’s past questionable costume choices.
Also, does that guy die later? He’s not in the preview at all after this section.
4:58 “Welcome to the Department of Extranormal Operations.”
The DC Universe has its share of shadowy governmental or extra-governmental organizations. There’s international operatives Checkmate, about whom I could write an entire separate article; there’s ARGUS, who in the comics exist to monitor/liaison with superheroes (especially the Justice League), and do… other stuff, I guess, on Arrow and the Flash; there’s SHADE, who specialize in the freakily paranormal… and then there’s the DEO.
The DEO are dicks.
I say this because their most recent appearance, comics-wise, involved hunting down Batwoman, almost letting her cousin die to uncover her secret identity, and then using the information to blackmail her into being their operative and going after Batman.
Here, they deal with all things alien, which sometimes leads to a group you can trust (Doctor Who’s UNIT), and sometimes really quite does not (Doctor Who’s Torchwood, pre-Captain Jack).
So, in short, no, I’m not surprised that the guy in charge is kind of a dick to Supergirl here.
5:17 “Go back to getting someone’s coffee.”
Okay, so, yes, it super looks like the general or whatever from the DEO was mean to Kara and she went home to cry about it and consider giving up being Supergirl. The second, leaked trailer lends some important context: she also gets her ass whupped by the bald alien with the axe. So her first time out goes badly, and she wonders if this was a good idea. Before you complain that makes Kara too much of a girly-girl, an observation.
The same thing happened in the pilot of The Flash.
Barry tried to catch a villain, did it so badly a civilian died, and he needed Oliver Queen to convince him not to give up, and Harrison Wells to convince him to keep fighting when round two proved difficult. That’s a part of the Hero’s Journey monomyth, called the Ordeal. The Green Lantern movie took some flak for spending its entire second act here, but it’s still an important step. This time, it’s Kara’s adopted sister (who is played by Chyler Leigh, who is awesome, so shut your pie holes) who inspires her to keep going.
I wonder why they cut this trailer to skip that kind of important context. I wouldn’t have. It’s just so helpful to explaining things. Making it look like she quits because the DEO guy was a dick isn’t helping your pitch, guys.
This first-look trailer has one key thing in common with the Flash trailer from a year ago… both kind of sum up the entire pilot. But while Flash ended with a 25 words-or-less summary of the climatic battle between Barry and Clyde Mardon (not-quite-Weather Wizard), this ends with a montage of action beats and Kara flying… oh yes, and James Olsen knows who she is too. In fact, Superman may have sent him to check in on Kara, and certainly gave him a gift to pass along.
Which, like I said… sure. Fine. The secret identity thing gets old, like I said.
And there’s this, which… oh my yes.
As movie/game critic and unofficial Marvel pundit Moviebob said… it’s a light-hearted comedy/adventure show geared towards a female audience, which is exactly what a show about Supergirl should be.
Overall? Kara’s adorable (still pronouncing it CAIR-ah in my head…), the action looks well done, the humour works for me… yeah, I’ll give it a go when it starts up.
In six months. Dang it.
Well. No time left to talk Legends of Tomorrow. I guess we’ll get into that over the weekend, after tomorrow’s Writers Circle Confidential.