Currently Streaming On: Netflix, The CW’s website
Please note: This is current at the time of publishing in July 2017. Shows come and go from streaming services all the time so visit justwatch.com to see where (or if) it’s currently streaming)
Episodes Available: Netflix, 42 episodes (2 seasons) The CW, 5 most recent episodes (no sign-in required)
Best For: People who enjoyed seeing Gal Gadot kick butt in Wonder Woman, fans of the various shows in the Arrowverse on The CW (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)
Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s Supergirl streaming on Netflix. This series, which originally aired on CBS before switching to The CW in its second season, is a lighthearted, upbeat show that harkens back to the old days when superheroes fought for truth, justice, and the American way rather than starred in morally ambiguous tales that attempt to reboot their “cheesy” earnest qualities with gritty realism (I’m looking at you, Batman v. Superman).
I’ll admit I was skeptical when the show was first announced and they released the first trailer back in 2015. As this show predated this year’s excellent Wonder Woman, Supergirl had the distinction of being the first major female superhero on-screen outing, big screen or little screen, to come about in the modern cinematic universe era. This could be perceived as a preview of the female superheroes to come, and the first trailer unfortunately made it look like they were trying heavily to give it a Devil Wears Prada-esque romcom feel in order to pander to female audiences. Many compared it to the parody trailer Saturday Night Live had made for a fake Black Widow movie with Scarlet Johannsson.
Rest assured that Supergirl is safe from such romcom-washing attempts. While it does focus some time on Kara (aka Supergirl’s) relationships, there are plenty of other plot elements to supplement this.The story follows Kara, played by the charming Melissa Benoist, who is the cousin of Superman that was sent to Earth from Krypton to protect him after their home planet was destroyed. While traveling to Earth in a space pod she got stuck in a black hole that caused her to delay her journey from Kypton and thus age slower than Superman due to the time warp, explaining how she’s younger than him (I know this seems like a lazy plot device but it’s borrowed from the comics).
While on Earth, Kara is taken in by an adoptive family with ties to the study and protection of alien life. Her sister, Alex (played by Chyler Leigh), who works for an organization called the DEO (or Department of Other-Wordly Affairs), makes for one of the series’ most compelling characters and their sisterly bond helps ground the show in relatable and sincere elements that help balance the fantastical world of aliens, superpowers, and space travel. Similarly, the DEO agent known as Hank (played by David Harewood) provides a multi-dimensional character with some engaging, albeit at times a bit convoluted, plot lines.
The special effects used in the series look excellent for a TV show and lack the tacky characteristics one might associate with a “made-for-TV” movie. Even the transition from CBS to The CW in the second season didn’t seem to cheapen the appearance or scope of the series’ scale. There are certain parts of the show that may seem a bit jarring- the “bad guy of the week” plot lines used towards the middle of the first season seem to get a bit old after a few episodes, the completely wooden performance from Helen Slater (the original Supergirl) in a performance as Kara’s adoptive mother ruins some otherwise dramatic scenes, and certain political references in the plot seem like a tacky attempt to be topical (hey guys, we’re talking about “aliens” seeking citizenship- get it?!) that would have worked better in a more nuanced way.
Still the series has one thing that many superheroes stories of late, at least in the DC Comics world, do not. It has warmth, humor, and a genuine sense of heart that help ground the series. Melissa Benoist’s performance as Kara, a girl who is at times nerdy and bumbling but still manages to realize her power, is an anchor of the show. Her character has flaws and makes some serious mistakes throughout the series whose gravity is portrayed in detail. A complaint many might have of Superman and Supergirl is that they are TOO powerful, but the show successfully manages to neither make Kara an inaccessible goddess nor a weakened “Superman-lite.”
Like Tobey Macquire as Peter Parker in 2002’s Spider-Man, the producers of the show have made a character whose mild-mannered alter-ego makes you truly want to root for them when they don their tights and cape. That’s what truly makes this series, well, super.
I give it: 4.25 stars (out of 5)