With the launch of Supergirl, DC's TV universe continues to grow (though it's still up in the air if it will cross over with Arrow and The Flash). From what I have seen so far, I've been really quite impressed with it. The action has been good and the special effects are decent for a television show. Melissa Benoist is also tremendously likeable in the title role. However, my one concern is the shows initial reliance on references to Superman.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Kara Zor-El, a survivor of Krypton's destruction, and are rightly given information on her backstory. We see that she is sent to Earth to protect her infant cousin and help him grow into the hero that he is destined to become. What actually transpires is somewhat different. Kara's ship gets lost in the Phantom Zone and ends up landing on Earth years after Kal-El has grown up to be Superman. We even get a glimpse of his arm as he takes Kara to her adoptive family. From then on, she takes inspiration from her cousin and is frequently reminded of his actions as a hero.
Episode 2 continued in a similar vein, Kara doubting herself until Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen inspires her using Superman as an example. This episode was not as subtle as the pilot and referred to him as Superman rather than using pronouns such as "your cousin". While it is not a problem that the show continues to reference Clark Kent, it is something that I feel Supergirl should try to get away from in future episodes.
I'm not saying it is a bad thing, of course Superman should be mentioned as he is a presence in the world. But, in my opinion, the show should develop Kara more and allow her to stand on her own as a hero before we rely on Superman to save the day. We already have obvious allusions to the character. For example, Supergirl's costume is basically Superman's with a skirt. Add Jimmy Olsen to the mix and you have a huge part of Superman's mythology as a regular character. But we need to see Kara's story - and this is why I feel Superman should take a back seat.
One of the things I found most impressive in episode 2 was the fact that Kara realised being a hero was not as easy as it seemed. Yes, she has fantastic abilities, but she had not yet learned how to channel them properly. This was something that had not really been covered in a superhero show (apart from maybe Smallville, where the whole concept was Clark Kent learning the ropes to one day become Superman). Usually on a show like this, the hero will get their powers and instantly become a success but here, Kara needed to take it slow. She needed to learn how to be a hero, how to save the day without wrecking the place first and how to gain the trust of her city.
There was a very real and relatable aspect to this sequence, just like when someone starts a new job, they are not always up to speed with their new way of working. Kara figuring out how her powers worked was a great metaphor for this. People, myself included, often criticise Superman for being "too powerful" because his powers are so amazing, but Supergirl seemed to have a vulnerability and an accessibility that he does not have. This was compounded by the emotional weight of her Aunt Astra being the main antagonist for the series (it seems).
There is one other element to Kara's story that is different to her cousin's, her memories of her time on Krypton. When she discovered that her Aunt was in charge of the escapees from Fort Rozz, Kara was immediately met with something she thought impossible, a survivor from Krypton. After the planet's destruction, Kara believed that only she and her cousin were left. After seeing her Aunt's face, all of her memories came flooding back. She talked about how she remembered sitting on Astra's lap as a child and playing with her. This is an aspect of the story that Superman would not be involved in at all due to being a baby at the time of Krypton's destruction.
I'm not saying that Superman has no place in Supergirl, he most definitely does, but I'd like to see him referenced a little less now. As I've already said, we need to see Kara standing on her own two feet. After all, the show is about Kara's story. I was pleasantly surprised by the first 2 episodes after the initial trailer had filled me with dread. I'd love for it to continue to defy my initial expectations and turn out to be really great! I'd also love for her to cross over with Arrow and The Flash, but I totally understand that they'd like to establish Supergirl as a hero in her own right first. With a little less Superman, we might be well on the way to that!