Supergirl Pilot - Oh god, oh god, oh god, this is soooo wrong.
A couple of days ago I received a review copy of the pilot for the new Supergirl show for reasons I will suggest at the end. With no embargo on it I feel free to tell you why I believe this could be a tragic mistaken production and what might be needed to correct it before it's too late.
This does contain spoilers.
A Supergirl show has the opportunity to do for women, and girls, what the recent flood of superhero TV shows and movies have been doing for men. And the producers appear to have blown the opportunity out of the atmosphere.
Supergirl could be a tremendous opportunity to show women empowered and just as strong, confident and capable as men, but instead Supergirl is shown as almost nothing but dependent on and controlled by a world of men.
I won't spoil everything but just go through the basics and leave you to watch and decide for yourself.
Supergirl is as capable as her big cousin and initially, in the brief origin scenes at the beginning, has a strong sense of moral and familial purpose of care to her cousin and the people of Earth. She has every opportunity to show the world of humans that women can be equal as saviours of the world, but not in this world. Instead her purpose and motivation is trashed and she can be subsequently seen submitting totally to the world, a submissive and whiney little girl who shyly hides her powers from the world and leaves it up to others, men, to do all the saving.
When this finally changes it's not a case of taking action of her own volition but of responding to outside events, she is just reacting on a personal level to a threat against a close friend and not acting from her own sense of morality or core strength whether as superhero or as a woman.
As she begins to "come out", her life remains dominated throughout by men. Men overpower and supervise her decisions to take action through one of those standard off-the-shell "secret organisations" dominated by alpha males, men protect her from her mistakes and men provide her with her with assurance and esteem, and a man even appears to design her costume.
Throughout the show it's men in charge of her direction, her movement and her sense of worth.
The only "strong" female character in the show is her human alter-ego's boss, who's portrayed as a loud, obnoxious, self-obsessed bitch and with whom she interactions only as a docile piece of office fluff. We never see Supergirl/Kara do any serious work other than as a dumb servitor to the bitch.
Supergirl or Superfluff?
If this show were written in the 1980s or 1990s I'd not be surprised but for today in the modern age, its sensibilities and the darker twist that the Man of Steel is taking? This is a complete dislocation. There appears no opportunity here to integrate a Supergirl show into a larger DC universe, cross-referencing with the past and forthcoming movies in the style mastered by Marvel Studios.
As for her forthcoming evil nemesis. I will only say soap opera, or should that be space opera?
Throwing all if this, origin narrative, character introduction, associated cast, one evil to combat, forces to deal with, alter-ego to manage and forthcoming nemesis to fight, into a single introductory episode left my mind spinning. This was too much, too quickly.
There was a tremendous opportunity to write a bold, new, confident modern woman, connected to the modern world and it's issues (including her cousin's trashing of New York/Metropolis?), and it's been subordinated to the dictates and power of men.
As a pilot for a long term show about Supergirl this fails on these points. There may be plans to empower Supergirl further as the show progresses, but from first impressions I feel we're going to be very short changed if we expect Supergirl to show us an intelligent, strong confident woman, governed by a strong personal inner moral code.
And that leads me to a key point. The pilot was released for review months early. Have the producers come to the same conclusion? With such an early "leak" I suspect they too have looked at the show and wonder if they're heading in the right direction. The formal release of the show is in November, six months away, giving them time to rewrite it if they receive enough feedback.
A Super Supergirl?
The only way I could see this developing further is if the studio and producers tore it all down and went back to the drawing board before it's too late. I believe Supergirl deserves a lot more time and attention to a more mature and intelligent, imaginative and bolder production. Perhaps there are budget constraints holding the them back, and here is the telling factor. With Hollywood still leery of strong female characters (unless you're a Mother of Dragons or a sisterhood of clones) I suspect they are holding back and not giving Supergirl their full support to fly the way she could and should.
That why I feel I can release this to you today. These are my opinions about what's gone badly wrong with Supergirl. Fixing it may be possible but it will take a herculean effort to deflect Supergirl onto a brighter, bolder path that we have all been wishing for her.
On this first review things are not looking good and Kara Zor-El could be heading for a crash, this is no Wonder Woman.
Okay, so could anything be done with Supergirl, to revitalise the show before it's too late?
I haven't seen anything from inside the production office, but from a production and broadcast point of view I remain confident there is plenty of potential for a strong Supergirl, but the show should really be rebuilt from scratch. NOTE: I am not commenting on the cast or costume, just the underlying style and potential story arc.
Under ideal conditions the show needs a rewrite now before it's too late.
Ideally suspend the show by six months for a release in Spring. If you can do it with movies then it's good for TV?
Rewrite the show from ground up and refocus the character in a stronger fashion.
Get some serious investment in there. If they can do it with Game of Thrones then here's a chance to make a grander production on the scale a Supergirl deserves.
Is there any coherent plan in DC/Warners to integrate in the same fashion Marvel are doing? Crossover with the movies or at least peripheral references to link them together? Any planning for this?
Change the story direction from episodic crime drama to something different. Has anyone learnt the lessons of The Wire in crafting a long storyline over many episodes?
Kara is on a journey of her own life and drives, given by her parents, her moral core and early life on Krypton. This is worth developing in the style of a journey, just as her little cousin went on a journey to discover his own identity, only Kara has a strong head start.
How about giving her a darker, sharper more mature edge to appeal to the older teen/YA market? Or more playful and fun, as an antidote to all the other darker DC Film/TV productions coming out?
Just a few thoughts from the last 48 hours.