Meet Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), she’s Supergirl and she’s here to save the world (but, she isn’t looking for someone to save her). Her story starts in the same place as her slightly more famous cousin with whom she’ll eventually share part of an alias. When she was 13, she escaped the doomed planet of Krypton in a spaceship right before the planet was destroyed. Her ship was right behind the one carrying her infant cousin Kal-El, who she was tasked with protecting once they arrived on Earth.
Unfortunately, Krypton’s destruction created a shockwave that knocked Kara’s ship into the Phantom Zone, a place where space is frozen and where she would remain stuck for 23 years before getting to her destination. By the time she makes it here, Kal-El has grown up and become Superman, while Kara is still 13 years old. Wanting her to have a normal upbringing, Superman places her in the care of the Danvers (Lois & Clark’s Dean Cain and Supergirl’s Helen Slater), scientists who helped him understand his powers and who also have another daughter, Alex.
“Even though I had the all same powers ‘he’ did, I decided the best thing I could do was fit in,” Kara explains in a voice-over. She reasoned that, “Earth didn’t need another hero.” (Supergirl will spend most of its series premiere fighting back against this idea and making a case that Kara’s story is just as interesting and worthwhile as that of Superman.)
The pilot of CBS’ Supergirl is fast-paced, charming, fun, and incredibly self-aware. It has the confidence and joy of The Flash, which isn’t a coincidence since both shows were developed by the same creative team. While the pilot might not be a great episode — it’s a bit clunky thanks to enormous amounts of exposition, a necessary evil — it is effective and makes me want to return next week and, hopefully, for many more weeks to come.
When we catch-up with Kara in the present, she’s working as an editorial assistant at the National City-based media conglomerate CatCo Worldwide Media, a job that mainly consists of fetching coffee. For Kara, fitting in means underachieving and becoming mild-mannered to a fault. She’s like a walking verse from Katy Perry’s “Firework,” except on purpose. At work, she’s friends with Winslow “Winn” Schott (Jeremy Jordan), a technology expert who also has a huge, unrequited crush on her.
Over on the opposite side of the personality spectrum we have Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), Kara’s boss who is the complete opposite of mild-mannered and is an obvious foil to Kara. Cat knows she’s the most powerful woman in National City (for now) — she has the wall covered in TVs that also doubles as metaphor for #PeakTV to prove it — and isn’t going to hide that fact.
After a meeting with Cat, Kara meets CatCo’s new art director, James “Jimmy” Olsen, who recently transferred from The Daily Planet in Metropolis, where he made a name for himself with a Pulitzer for snapping the first photo of Superman. As played by Necessary Roughness’ Mehcad Brooks, he’s probably the most un-Jimmy Olsen we’ve ever seen on screen. He’s tall, fit, mature, confident and clearly aspires to be more than just Superman’s (endearingly dorky) pal. Tiny sparks start to fly between Kara and James (only Superman and his mother call him Jimmy), and we can already see that the writers are planning to create a love triangle between Kara, James, and Winn. You can take the writers out of The CW, but you can’t take The CW out the show. (ASIDE: The CW passed on Supergirl before it landed at CBS, its corporate sibling.)
Tonight, Kara has a date with someone she met online, but can’t figure out what to wear on her date. So, she asks her sister Alex (Grey’s Anatomy’s Chyler Leigh) to help her pick something out. As Alex rummages through her closet, Kara worries aloud that she’s not living up to her potential because she chose to live a normal life even though she can do everything her Boy Scout cousin can. However, Alex doesn’t have time to talk this through because she has to catch a plane to Geneva for work.
Maybe, Lexie Grey should stop getting on planes, because her plane to Geneva starts having engine problems as soon as it takes off. Luckily, Kara sees a news report about the plane while on her date, which was going terribly, by the way, and springs into action. Without hesitating, Kara rushes into an alley, removes her glasses and takes flight… after several tries (hey, it’s been awhile since she’s flown). In an allusion to several Superman stories, she uses her super strength to save the plane and land it safely in the water. It’s a thrilling sequence and is hands down the best part of the pilot.
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