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October 10, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

Between a potential career (and network) change, a complicated love life, and — wait for it — being Supergirl, Kara (Melissa Benoist) is practically drowning under the pressure of balancing work and play and saving the day. She’s no longer assistant to media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), but she still has to think about her next step before the deadline. She and Jimmy (Mehcad Brooks) finally admitted their feelings for each other, but they can’t quite seem to be anything more than friends. What’s an overworked superhero to do?

Good thing cousin Superman (a dashing Tyler Hoechlin) swoops in to carry some of the burden — and to add another welcome dose of charm to the most joyful superhero drama on TV. Hoechlin nails the bespectacled, gawky side of Clark Kent, and if he doesn’t seem quite as intense as other on-screen Supermen, the Teen Wolf alum hits the right, big-brotherly vibe with Benoist.

Still, more doesn’t always mean merrier: The second season premiere fails to take flight in its clunky introductions of new villains (look, a new Luthor — sort of!) and explosive-but-tiresome action sequences. And with Superman’s previously established connections to Kara and Jimmy, the addition of a subplot between him and Hank Henshaw, or Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), feels like overkill. Even the final tag, which teases a major throughline for the Big Bad of season 2, comes off as an afterthought and bears little weight or parallels to Supergirl’s story.

Instead, the hour shines most when it focuses on Kara’s struggle. Benoist, as vibrant as ever, conveys both Kara’s pleasure at being who she is and the pain of having that responsibility — a challenging line to walk. Her best moments in the season’s first hour comes from the scenes she shares with Cat, who, in between her usual verbal barbs, offers some sage advice. Flockhart’s move to a recurring role is a loss for the series and a major loss for Kara, who needs her steely boss’s blend of caustic humor and maternal guidance. But for now, Cat says what Kara can’t bring herself to admit. As it turns out, some heroes wear Valentino capes. B


2015 TV series
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