Kara Danvers—and ‘Supergirl’—lose their direction in ‘Girl of Steel’
Between Floriana Lima’s decision to leave the show and Jeremy Jordan’s absurdly tone-deaf, problematic “joke” about SuperCorp shippers during an SDCC interview, Supergirl had a pretty turbulent offseason. If “Girl of Steel” is any indication, National City’s skies won’t be clearing up anytime soon.
Supergirl is at its best when presenting optimistic narratives built on a foundation of female empowerment. Long ago, the show was nailing that paradigm week in, and week out. Then, everything changed when Mon-El attacked.
Thereafter, Kara was steadily transformed from an independent feminist icon into a xenophobic (borderline racist) love interest (Supergirlfriend?) with diminishing agency, while more and more screen time simultaneously became devoted to propping up Mon-El and his unstoppable superpowers of white privilege, ignorance and misogyny. In the season 2 finale, the Daxamite was shoved in a pod and shot off into space — unfortunately, he didn’t take his bastardization of the plot with him.
When you thought you were finally free but Mon-El shows up in the first 30 seconds of the premiere | The CW
In “Girl of Steel,” which takes place six months after the Mon-Exile, we’re introduced to a Kara that’s completely devoid of hope, happiness and humanity, to the extent that she can’t even be bothered to feign interest in Alex’s wedding. Essentially, the main plot line of a show founded on feminism and healthy relationships is now about a woman who’s decided that life isn’t worth living without the toxic-as-fuck boyfriend that she dated for, like, three months. Three. Months. College-me left dishes in the sink longer than that, but you didn’t see me self-destructing when they finally went in the dishwasher.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that grieving over a breakup is a sign of weakness, or that a female character has to be cold and emotionless to be considered “strong.” But, this just isn’t the type of grief that’s realistic after ending a short-term relationship. She isn’t locking herself in her room, staring at the ceiling while listening to “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie on repeat for two weeks (Which is totally normal, right? Asking for a friend) — she’s been cutting off her humanity because of this dude for six fucking months (side note: how did it take her friends THIS long to talk to her about it?), and “Girl of Steel” leads us to believe that her mental state is only deteriorating with time.
HE MADE ME HASH BROWNS ONCE ALEX. HASH. BROWNS. | The CW
But, don’t worry. Supergirl isn’t going to force Kara to go through some drawn out, healthy grieving process where she learns to cope with loss through introspection and open/honest communication with her support group — we’re fixing 6 months of emotional trauma in one problematic scene.
And, of course, who snaps her out of her funk? No, it’s not her own sheer force of will, a heart-to-heart with her sister or the voices of all of her closest friends pleading to her over the radio. It’s Mon-El, coming to her in a bizarrely well-dressed vision from beyond the space-grave-type-thing, screaming at her to wake up while she’s drowning in the middle of the ocean. Ok.
So, basically, Supergirl’s latest message is that life isn’t worth living without validation from the fuckboy down the street, regardless of how many other people in your life actually support you and care about you. Empowering.
This whole thing gave me “Twilight” vibes but, like, worse | The CW
With that said, “Girl of Steel” wasn’t a complete loss, and did have its share of redeeming moments. Of note:
- Melissa Benoist’s performance as a completely different Kara Danvers than we’ve seen thus far was excellent. The material she was working with was problematic, but she absolutely nailed the cold and detached personality shift, making her otherwise frustrating scenes palatable.
- Katie McGrath, save a few slips of her native accent, is pulling her weight as a freshly-minted series regular opposite Adrian Pasdar’s menacing Morgan Edge, who feels like the lovechild of Donald Trump and Malcolm Merlyn (are we really doing the “blow up the poor people” plot again?). Luthor’s story arc this season looks to be centered around being a woman in a business world infested with toxic masculinity and misogyny, which is a significant improvement over her cliché, “OMG is she good or evil!?!?!” arc from last season. Plus, watching pompous businessmen get emasculated is basically cathartic in 2017, so the more airtime it gets the better.
- Speaking of Lena, she bought an entire media empire to help out her TOTALLY PLATONIC FRIEND Kara Danvers. Because that’s, like, what JUST FRIENDS do for each other. They go to brunch, stare at each other longingly and make billion-dollar business deals on a whim. Duh.
- Calista Flockhart continues to steal the show as Cat Grant, even when her character only appears on a TV within a TV. Positioning her as President Wonder Woman’s Press Secretary was a brilliant creative decision, as it allows her to continue doing what she does best—drop hilariously vicious, politically-charged one-liners—without needing to be consistently on-set in Vancouver. Flockhart opted for a reduced role in season 2 due to production moving from California to Canada, but has been upgraded to a recurring role for season 3.
- Sanvers remains the only non-SuperCorp ship worth sailing on Supergirl, even with reduced screen time and increased drama being forced into their relationship due to Maggie being set to leave the show before the crossover (where Alex will, inevitably, have a rebound hookup with Sara Lance). Working out their wedding issues while on the lookout for an invisible missile attack that could destroy the city and kill thousands of people probably wasn’t the wisest (or most in-character) decision the pair has made, but I’ll look past it for the sake of savoring their fleeting moments of happiness.
- ALEX ASKING J’ONN TO WALK HER DOWN THE AISLE WAS SO AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL AND HEARTWARMING AND TEARJERKING AND A RESULT OF GREAT CHARACTER/RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN THEM AND I HATE THAT IT PROBABLY WON’T HAPPEN BECAUSE MAGGIE IS LEAVING THE SHOW. Life is pain. I’m going to go stare at my ceiling and listen to Death Cab.
I Wiiiill Remeeember Yoooouuuu | The CW
IN SHORT: None of these positives, however, can atone for Mon-El still being so dangerously integral to “Girl of Steel,” even while he’s off gallivanting through space. Unless the writers are able to rework Kara and Mon-El’s relationship and restore the show to its former integrity, Supergirl might find itself on a one way trip to the Phantom Zone.
FINAL SCORE: 3/5 Totally-Not-Gay Lena Luthor Lip-Bites