It has been almost a year since Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) a.k.a Kara Danvers first streaked across the sky of National City and the small screen on CBS. It was a rocky season, filled with alien prisoners who escaped from Fort Rozz and shaky, uneven writing, but Supergirl has proven herself strong enough to make it to her very own Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD release.
The story is a familiar one. Kara Zor-El escaped Krypton moments before it was destroyed via an escape pod just like her infant cousin, Kal-El. Kara was sent to Earth with hopes of her own survival, but also to help raise Kal-El. Instead of a smooth trip to Earth, her pod was lost in the Phantom Zone. She was raised by her adopted parents who already had their own daughter. Kara was not allowed to use her superpowers and lived in the shadow of both her foster sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh) and her cousin, the fully grown, and now famous, Superman.
Like many twenty-somethings, Kara struggles to find herself both personally and professionally. She works for the multi-media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) and longs for her recognition and respect. Kara finally decides to use her superpowers and embrace herself as a hero with the help of her co-worker and friend, Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan). Superman sends his confidant and former coworker James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) to help Kara grow as a superhero and juggle life as a regular AND a super girl. Kara is not the only Danvers daughter with a secret alter-ego. Alex is not a bioengineer with a lonely boring life in a lab. She is a secret agent with the off-the-grid Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO) who is charged with keeping the Earth safe from aliens under the watchful eye of Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) while Henshaw himself is secretly J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter!
I am the first to admit that the show’s first season has many issues. The writers seem to be in their own battle with where to take the characters and struggle showing dimensions to their personalities. Instead of shrewdly showing that the characters are fallible and not 100% always good or always bad, the writers clumsily wrestle with taking the characters on a roller coaster of extremes. The characters do not show us or prove to us that they are good, they tell us “this episode, I’m a good guy” or “this episode, I’m a bad guy.” It makes it difficult to establish a vested relationship with the characters. We need to be able to forgive the characters for their mistakes and agendas on our own terms, not because the character has learned a very special lesson during the episode a la Saved by the Bell.
The show also dances around Superman. The dialogue is worked around to discuss Kara’s “famous cousin” instead of saying his name. It is done in such an awkward way that it distracts from the show. We also do not get to see Superman! In a few episodes, we are lucky to get a blurry streak of red and blue that is supposed to be Superman. It just makes you feel cheated. Supergirl does not need to include Superman for validation, but by skirting around his name and image, it makes the show seem generic.
Although I had already watched the first season as it aired on television, I enjoyed watching it again on Blu-Ray. It is easy for me to remember the weak points of the series, but the Blu-Ray reminded me of its strengths. I try not to jump on the rally cry of “Girl Power,” but it is exciting to see a female superhero take main stage. Gender inequality runs rampant on television, especially amid the superhero genre. There are not many female superheroes for young girls to emulate and, up until this series, those superheroes existed in live-action versions from the 70s and 80s and wore embarrassing costumes that children should not imitate. Personally, I wish this show could exist without the gender discussion, but because female superheroes are not brought to the forefront, it must be addressed.
The show also is full of Easter Eggs for comic book and superhero fans. I absolutely loved the fact that Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl the Movie) appear as the Danvers, the parents that adopt Kara. It is fitting that the actors portraying Supergirl’s parents have a past steeped in superhero tradition. It is especially exciting that the cameos are filled by two of my favorite superhero actors.
When the writers get it right, they really hit a home run with this show. The best episode of this show by far was Episode 13 “For the Girl Who Has Everything.” Taken straight out of the pages of the comics, this episode turned a storyline that was written for Superman and tweaked it for Supergirl. This episode could have won awards. It is the best example of the potential this shows has and can achieve if done correctly. The show needs to stick with the comic book stories instead of worrying about the forced dramedy of Kara’s love life. In fact, the show really needs to abort the romantic aspect of James Olsen and Kara. The two lack chemistry and it just is a predictable turn for the show. The writers really shine when it comes to Kara as Supergirl, but struggle when it comes to Kara the normal girl who craves love, success, and acceptance.
Episode 18, “World’s Finest,” is another stand-out episode. It is a crossover episode that introduces The Flash (Grant Gustin) to National City from an alternate universe. It was a fun to see The Flash and Supergirl enjoy each other and enjoy their respective super powers. They were able to almost play together and played off of each other very well. As someone with limited exposure to The Flash, it made the character appeal to me.
The Blu-Ray delivers a crisp picture and amazing sound. As someone who still uses a VCR regularly, I was completely blown away by watching the Blu-Ray. I do not live under a rock. I have seen movies on Blu-Ray before, but my tastes and age still allow me to be impressed by technology others have become callous to. The Blu-Ray release of Supergirl: The Complete First Season will include 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. The 4-disc set features a high-definition Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy of all 20 episodes.
Supergirl: 2015 Comic-Con Panel – The longest of the special features are almost 15 minutes, the Comic-Con Panel was a miss for me. I could take it or leave it. Perhaps if the panel could have been edited to remove any spoilers, it would have served as a nice introduction to the series. The producers discuss the appeal of Melissa Benoist and the need for a female superhero-driven series, but other than that, the panel seems to be cheap filler. The moderator of the panel simply gushes over the producers and actors insincerely. Instead of allowing the show to stand on its own merit, he seems to be trying to convince the Comic-Con audience that this show is a good idea. The charm of Benoist shines through her all too brief comments. The absolutely worst point of the panel is when the moderator forces Mehcad Brooks to show off his “Abs of Steel.”
The Man from Mars – This new featurette works great for someone who has little knowledge of Martian Manhunter, but you must watch it after you watch all of the episodes as it contains spoilers. I struggle with the character of Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onz, but I appreciate the insight the producers and actors bring to his portrayal in this show. It was interesting to hear how actor David Harewood views the character. I always thought his portrayal was way too stiff, but hearing how he views Henshaw’s motivations made me see the character differently and change my opinion. One great point that is made in this featurette is that J’onn J’onzz must change his entire appearance to be accepted by the world whereas Kara is also an alien, but is more easily accepted because she looks like an attractive human being.
A World Left Behind: Krypton – This is by far the strongest of the special features and could have easily lasted an hour instead of a paltry ten minutes. In this featurette, producers discuss how Krypton has been portrayed in the past in comic books and the Richard Donner films. They also explain the choices they made in depicting not only how Krypton looked visually, but also the people of Krypton. They remind viewers that Kara has a memory of Krypton, the culture, and family members she lost while Superman does not share those memories. It also provides more insight into Astra. This featurette is undersold by its title and description. I could not get enough of it.
Gag Reel – I am NOT a fan of gag reels. They seem to be like a visual yearbook for the cast and crew. They provide moments of righteous laughter of tired crew and actors that I have never enjoyed. Tired actors flub lines, giggle after bleeped out swear words, and just mess up. It is neat to be reminded that the actors are human and a little bit “just like us.” The best moments of this gag reel include a dancing Mehcad Brooks and a seemingly down to earth Calista Flockhart who was noticeably absent from interviews in the featurettes and Comic-Con panel.
Deleted Scenes – The unaired scenes are hard to navigate to and, removed from the context of their specific episodes, are just clips that, for the most part, do not add anything to the episodes from which they were removed. The only one of any merit that might not have been littered to the cutting room floor was from episode 17. It provided a little more history and insight to the dynamic between Alex and Kara during Alex’s wild days.
If you enjoyed the first season, I would encourage you to invest in the DVD or Blu-Ray. CBS decided not to renew the show and it is being moved to The CW for its second season. Luckily, the players all stay the same, so we should not worry that it will lose its charm and cast. I personally feel that CBS did not know what to do with the show or how to advertise it. In a channel full of aging sitcoms that are losing their wit and appeal, Supergirl struggled to find its niche. With the popularity of Gotham, Arrow, Daredevil, and The Flash, CBS jumped on the superhero bandwagon. The channel did not successfully speak to superhero fans and treated the show like a typical sitcom dramedy instead of embracing the fact it is a superhero show. I am hoping that the show will benefit by moving to a channel known for successfully exploring not only the superhero world but specifically DC characters.
I worry that if the fans of the show do not stand behind it, the struggling show may be canceled and could negatively impact future superhero shows with a strong female lead. If Supergirl falters, then suits will not stick behind Wonder Woman or She-Hulk. Even though Supergirl should not have to validate the appeal of female superheroes it is forced to.