Since it recently premiered on Netflix, I began re-watching the second season of Supergirl. Though I enjoyed the first season, the move to The CW has resulted in a marked improvement of the series and a stronger embrace of the source material. However, what struck me the most was Tyler Hoechlin's guest appearances as #Superman.
Like many, when it was announced that Season 2 would feature appearances by Superman, I was excited. Greg Berlanti seems to understand the #DC characters in a way that Zack Snyder and the #DCEU just don't.
The casting of Tyler Hoechlin drew a raised eyebrow from me. I remembered Hoechlin from Teen Wolf, but the dark alpha Derek Hale seemed worlds apart from either mild-mannered Clark Kent or the Last Son of Krypton, so could Hoechlin really pull it off?Any doubts were put immediately to bed in Hoechlin's very first appearance.
As Clark Kent, Hoechlin perfectly exhibited that mild-mannered Midwestern charm — on the phone, getting berated by Perry White while he stammers, using phrases like "lickety-split" was vintage Clark Kent.
Yet, the second trouble rears its head and people's lives are at risk, Hoechlin's Clark doesn't waste a second. He darts down an alley, tearing open his shirt and revealing the classic S-shield, the music rising up as he takes to the skies as Superman. The only way that scene could have been any more perfect was if the John Williams theme was used.
When Superman finally made it to the shuttle, he found Supergirl already there. We didn't have to sit through any superhero territorial arguments, thank Rao. Instead, Superman is genuinely happy to see his cousin and offers his help. Hoechlin's Superman was great in hero mode, but it's what came next that really cemented him as the Man of Steel.
After rescuing the shuttle, Superman and Supergirl land and bask in the afterglow of their first team-up together. Then, a family of cyclists comes by, stop, and stare in awe at the two Kryptonians. Supergirl tells her cousin, "I usually say hi." Rather than brush it off or just remaining silent, Superman just says, "Me too" and joins her.
Even in the face of Supergirl's playful teasing how she used to change his diapers, the smile never vanishes from Superman's face. He takes it all in stride and good humor.
When they go to visit the DEO, the agents have a similar reaction to being in the presence of Superman. Everyone lines up and makes a path for him, standing firm and looking at him as if he's a god. It's a similar reaction we see when people look at Henry Cavill's Superman in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, but the difference comes in Superman's response. Cavill's Superman largely ignores the people, never speaking to them, sometimes never even coming into contact with them.
But Hoechlin's Superman? He smiles politely and goes up to each of the agents and greets them as if he wasn't an alien with godlike powers walking around in a red cape. Even when one of the agents tells him it's an honor, Superman just says, "It's a pleasure."
After he saves a family from one of John Corben's aerial drones, one of the kids remarks, "That was awesome!" Superman turns, looks at the kid, gives him a smile and a wink, and then goes back to work.
The reason Superman isn't putting himself above any of the humans he saves in the series is because to him, he's just a normal guy trying to help out. It reminds me of that scene from Captain America: The First Avenger when the Red Skull asks what makes Cap so special and he responds with, "Nothing, I'm just a kid from Brooklyn."
It's clear that for Tyler Hoechlin's version of Clark, being Superman isn't some crushing burden. He doesn't feel cursed by his alien heritage or his powers. No, he genuinely enjoys helping people.
It calls to mind something Grant Morrison, writer of All-Star Superman, once said in an interview with Newsarama. Morrison described an encounter with a Superman cosplayer and how it informed his take on the character:
"My entire approach to Superman had come from the way that guy had been sitting; so easy, so confident, as if, invulnerable to all physical harm, he could relax completely and be spontaneous and warm. That pose, sitting hunched on the bollard, with one knee up, the cape just hanging there, talking to us seemed to me to be the opposite of the clenched, muscle-bound look the character sometimes sports and that was the key to Superman for me."
When I first watched Hoechlin on Supergirl, this hadn't really occurred to me. I knew his portrayal was great, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. On that second viewing, it finally became clear to me — it's the combination of godlike power and everyman charm exhibited by a guy who is totally comfortable with who he is and what he can do.
Hoechlin embodied that quality of the character. It was a quality that, upon reflection, Christopher Reeve also managed to capture. Though Brandon Routh's performance in Superman Returns had many echoes of Reeve's portrayal, relaxed isn't really a way to describe his Superman.
In a world where tensions are so high, our politics so divided, and pessimism becoming more and more common, we need a hero who can truly inspire. Hoechlin provides us with that. Now if only we can convince Warner Bros and The CW to sign off on a Superman series.
What do you think of Hoechlin's portrayal of Superman?