First let me say that, overall, I did mostly enjoy the premiere episode of Supergirl. The reason is about in equal parts because 1) I was charmed by in Melissa Benoist's portrayal of the character, and 2) I am a huge Superman huge fan in general, and in particular of Zack Snyder's recent vision for the character and his Kryptonian roots in Man of Steel. (Note: I have come to prefer the Cavill/Snyder version to the Reeve/Donner version, although I do still hold much affection for the latter.)
Reportedly DC's cinematic and television universes will remain separate, apparently except for the SyFy Channel's upcoming show Krypton which is a prequel to MoS that is set beginning 200 years before the death of the alien planet. Anyway, between Supergirl and Krypton, I'm very intrigued. As a fan of the lore of what figures to be some impressive world-building for the Kryptonian civilization, I'm eager to learn more. For example, the Man of Steel Prequel comic book or graphic novel, whatever its considered (which best I can tell centers on the story of Kara Zor-El, or Supergirl) is on my Christmas list.
So... in other words I'm nerding out big time on Kryptonian lore, which marks the Supergirl TV show as essential watching for me. For now at least. Unless it turns out to be too insubstantial and whifty.
I'll keep this review relatively simple. I'll begin with the main thing I liked about Supergirl. And that is that I found Melissa Benoist to be charming, endearing, and inspiring as all get-out as Kara. I like the whole awkward/shy yet plucky thing she has going on. Which in turn raises the controversy about how to interpret this show in terms of feminist ideals.
When Scarlet Johansson appeared in a Saturday Night Live parody of a fictional Black Widow television show last spring, many commentators at the time noted the parallels of Supergirl's bashful and girlish characterization in the pilot's trailer released the following week (? thereabouts). However I can appreciate this portrayal as the alter-ego aspect of a fully realized Supergirl which, like Superman's traditionally fumbling Clark Kent persona, is basically the opposite of the empowered superhero.
In other words, Kara being 'girly' helps dichotmize the character; and that makes Supergirl more multi-dimensional and interesting dramatically. It's fine. I think it is also fascinating that Kara can be empowered by allowing herself to be traditionally feminine in such a way versus androgynous or masculine. It is ultimately her individual choice, after all. If that is the theme the writers are trying to establish, I think it's great. Empowerment is about personal choice! Both the dominant culture and more radical feminist counter-culture provide templates for identity (the latter is also as 'imposed' to be honest--it just happens to be by academia). But it ultimately a choice to accept or reject any of them, and it boils down to a matter of personal comfort.
Okay, actually I will add another thing that I did like. Skip ahead one paragraph if you don't wish to be spoiled:
I liked the whole Department of Extranormal Operations plotline. Not necessarily that a Kryptonian prison landed on earth along with Kara per se (we'll see how that goes). But the fact that the government is on the lookout for extraterrestrial threats adds a nice touch of realism (without a doubt the government would have such a Men in Black agency). This provides a great opportunity to develop some good science fiction, featuring many extraterrestrial races. And of course the government is not only monitoring and protecting but also researching and weaponizing meta-human superpowers and ET technologies. I actually would like to see something analogous to that from the government in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Of course Amanda Waller is out there controlling and weaponizing meta-humans, as we'll see in Suicide Squad. I guess I have some reading up to do re: comic book source material. I only remember key points from the Silver and Bronze Age comics when I was a kid. All the stuff that came after the early 70s is new to me.)
What I did not care for is a kind of a 'paint-by-the-numbers' approach to storytelling in which content is reduced to a set of very simplistic black-and-white dramatic formulas. (Incidentally, this is one reason that I will pass on continuing to follow the The Flash TV series this year, which is very similar in its approach. The other reason being that I only have time right now to follow one show.) Kara's relationship with her sister, for example, see-sawed back and forth in a way that felt contrived strictly for the sake of plot development, and consequently that I did not buy-in to. Actually, to be perfectly honest, all of the characters felt contrived in this way. Kara's guy pal Winn Shott, Jimmy Olsen, Kara's boss Cat Grant, all felt sort of obviously stamped out to fill various roles.
Also, I realize that superhero shows keep the action moving at a brisk pace. But the character development moved so fast and in such broad strokes that I felt that there was no time for any nuance or subtlety to emerge from it. I realize that this is just a pilot episode that had a lot of ground to cover. But for my taste it felt like they tried to cram too much into a single episode.
Anyway, I did mostly enjoy the show and I will continue to watch it with hopes that Supergirl will, as it evolves, occasionally surprise me with some unexpected plot twists; and that it will develop that character in intriguing and evocative ways. My hopes for that are based on DC's/Warner Brother's broad vision for telling human stories with superheroes. I love what Man of Steel did with Superman as a more complex and mythic character than we have ever seen in film or television; and that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seems to be headed in a similar vein with the Justice League core trinity. I love the way that the DCEU's Justice League members are slated to be developed from the New 52, for example. Prior to all this I only knew the JL's members from the comics of the Silver Age (my childhood), and its wonderful to see them reinvented (for me) in these new forms.
I'm not sure if a comic book superhero TV shows are really going to try to do anything that sophisticated, though. If not, I'll just have to accept Supergirl as a simpler and perhaps much more predictable form of entertainment. Or not! That is, if it ends up being too simplistic for me I'll simply stop watching and focus on the DCEU films.