Born on the doomed planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El escaped at the same time as her cousin, Superman, but didn’t arrive on Earth until years later after being lost in the Phantom Zone. Raised by her adopted family, the Danvers, Kara grew up in the shadow of her foster sister, Alex, and learned to hide the phenomenal powers she shares with her famous cousin. Years later, at age 24, and now living in National City while working as an assistant for Catco Worldwide Media mogul Cat Grant, Kara has spent so many years trying to fit in that she forgot to ever stand out. All that changes when she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always destined to be. With the help of Daily Planet photographer James Olsen, her bioengineer sister Alex, and the research of the super-secret, off-the-grid Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO), who are tasked with keeping the Earth safe from aliens, Kara takes to the skies to protect her world.
There are a number of instances of 'perfect casting', where the actor or actress so embodies the character, that it's hard to imagine anyone else ever taking on the role. It happened in the late 1970s when Christopher Reeve was hired as Superman, and it's happened again with Melissa Benoist in 'Supergirl'. Benoist brings a warmth and joy to the role that is so special, it's hard not to immediately fall in love with her. Whatever success this series achieves going forward, a big chunk of it will be because of this fantastic young actress.
After the folks at DC spent the last decade trying to get the big-screen version of Superman right (something they still haven't been able to accomplish), executive producers Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg take all the attributes that have been missing in the movies and put them into this character. She's brave, she's intelligent, she's caring, she's introspective...but most of all she's heroic. She's someone young girls and young boys can look up to – a superhero role model that has sadly been missing from DC's cinematic universe.
The series forms around some of the more modern mythos of Supergirl's origin (no Argo City here), with Kara Zor-El being sent to Earth by her parents at the age of 12 to be a protector for baby Kal-El (that's Superman for those of you with only passing knowledge of this universe). However, her spaceship gets caught within The Phantom Zone, and she doesn't make it to Earth until years later. She hasn't aged a day in the process, but Superman is now all grown up, and gives her to the Danvers family (with mom and dad played – in a wonderful bit of 'stunt casting' – by 1984's Supergirl Helen Slater and 'Lois & Clark's Superman, Dean Cain) to raise. But Kara's spaceship isn't the only thing to make it out of The Phantom Zone – so has a prison ship called Fort Rozz, full of Kryptonian villains, not the least of which is Kara's own aunt, Astra, who viewers will learn more about as Season One progresses.
Like her cousin, Clark Kent, Kara winds up getting a job in media – for the conglomerate CatCo Industries, owned by the bitchy Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), a character that is a bit grating for a while but whom the showrunners eventually soften a bit as the series progresses. She's co-workers with an IT genius named Winn (Jeremy Jordan), as well as a familiar name from Metropolis: James (don't call him 'Jimmy') Olsen (Mehcad Brooks). Kara also has an older sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), whom she saves from a plane crash in the first episode. This is the first heroic act by Kara, and it's not long after revealing herself to the world that Kara learns her sister works for The Department of Extra-Normal Operations (or DEO), a government agency assigned to keep track of all extraterrestrial beings that have arrived on Earth. The DEO is headed up by Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), who is harboring a few extraterrestrial secrets of his own.
As solid as the cast is here, the first season of 'Supergirl' isn't without its share of growing pains, due primarily to a large number of stories – particularly early on – that fall into the standard 'villain of the week' routine. There are a lot of episodes where a new alien threat is introduced, Supergirl faces off against him/her, gets her butt kicked, goes back to the DEO and figures out the villain's weakness, then faces off with them a second time to emerge victorious. Thanks to the actors, these shows are still entertaining to watch, even if they're completely predictable.
Fortunately, as the second half of 'Supergirl's season gets underway, the writers are willing to take a lot more risks, including mining DC Comics history to adapt some fun episodes for the show. One of the first entries to show that 'Supergirl' can be more than just her fighting off bad guys comes in the 13th episode of the season, 'For the Girl Who Has Everything', in which the writers adapt one of the comics most popular Superman stories (written by the great Alan Moore), which is kind of a It's a Wonderful Life tale, where Supergirl (under the influence of an alien parasite-like creature) imagines what her life on Krypton might have been if the planet was never destroyed and if she never came to Earth. But the best episode of Season One by far is the 16th entry, 'Falling', in which Kara falls victim to the effects of red kryptonite and starts acting like...well, a bitch. It's not just a chance to see Melissa Benoist play the bad girl for an episode (although that's certainly part of the fun), but it's a show that explores the impact that Supergirl is having on those around her, and what happens when trust is lost. Finally, while 'Falling' is the best of Season One, the most fun is found in Episode 18, 'World's Finest', when fellow TV superhero The Flash pays a visit to National City to team up with The Girl of Steel.
All in all, this first season of 'Supergirl' is very enjoyable and shows a lot of potential going forward. As many of you already know, the series aired on CBS but has been moved to The CW (which CBS also owns) for its second season, which should ensure that 'Supergirl' has a long life, as it will have to be less concerned about pulling in large ratings and can focus more on just telling great stories. Season One is a good introduction to the character – let's just hope the showrunners know what they have in Benoist and put her in more stories where she can show off her acting range, and less stories where she's clobbering the latest alien threat.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Supergirl' soars onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, with the first two 50GB discs held on an attached plastic hub and the third disc on the inside right cover. The keepcase slides inside a sturdy cardboard slipcover, with artwork matching that of the keepcase. In addition to an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet copy of the first season (the flip-side of which contains information about an online Warner Bros. survey), a tri-fold insert containing a brief synopsis of each of Season One's 20 episodes and the bonus materials on each Blu-ray is also included. There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the discs, and the main menu is the standard Warners' design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Each episode of 'Supergirl' was shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras and is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The overall image looks pretty good here, not quite reference quality and not as sharp as I've seen some other DC shows on Blu-ray (like Gotham), but nevertheless full of color and pleasing to the eye.
The biggest problem with the image has less to do with the transfer than in the way that the show has been shot. Most of Supergirl's flying sequences in the series – particularly those that take place in daylight have a very soft focus and a slight blur to them – no doubt to mask the less than big-budget effects. Most of the fight scenes in the series seem to take place at night or in darkened areas, and black levels – while solid – aren't exactly inky deep. However, when the show is in brightly lit areas (such as the CatCo offices) the image really pops and shows how good this transfer is when the source material is adequate
The nicest surprise was that I was unable to detect any noticeable aliasing issues with the image. With so many pans across the city skyscrapers that are part of National City, I figure I'd detect a lot of it...but it's virtually non-existent. Banding and pixelation/noise are also not an issue here.
The featured track for each episode is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one, which – much like the video quality – is solid, but never really approaches anything close to reference quality. Once again, I couldn't help but compare the 5.1 lossless audio in 'Supergirl' to other DC series releases, and this show doesn't quite match up...although it's still often very good.
The 5.1 track for each episode rarely has an immersive feel to it. Dialogue is exclusively front and center, while the rears are used to mildly (not often noticeable) enhance the soundtrack music and every now and again provide some directionality when Supergirl (or one of her alien opponents) swoops through the air, throws something, etc. There's some LFE use throughout these episodes too, and while it's certainly detectable, it didn't provide that low bass 'oomph' that great LFE does. In other words, there's not the 'weight' to it one would expect.
Still, we need to remember that 'Supergirl' is a TV series, not a major Hollywood release, and as TV shows go, the sound here is above-average. It's also free of any obvious glitches or issues.
In addition to the English lossless track for each episode, Portuguese 2.0 tracks are also an option. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Dutch, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
Although 'Supergirl' does fall into the formulaic TV superhero trappings of having a "villain of the week" in many of its Season One episodes, the real joy to be found here is in star Melissa Benoist, who brings a sense of joy and wonder to the character that made even a cynical critic like myself instantly fall in love with her. This is a solid start for a series that has a lot of potential going forward. Recommended.