This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
Did you watch the Supergirl season finale? Sadly, we still don’t have confirmation that there’ll be a second season, but even if we never find out who was in that [SPOILER], this show has been an absolute joy from start to finish. Though by no means perfect, Supergirl blew past my lofty expectations and showed the world my all-time favorite superhero in her brightest possible light. Here’s a short list of things I’m grateful to Supergirl for:
1. Thank you for a joyful, sunny, optimistic tone. In a world where we have an unimaginably dour film Superman and a comics Supergirl who has spent too much of the past decade angry and disconnected, TV’s Supergirl has been a breath of fresh air. Kara Danvers beams her way through a world drenched in sunlight and bright colors, where people care about each other and aren’t afraid to be earnest; where hope isn’t a placebo or an indicator of naïveté, but a guiding principle. For too long the world of superheroes, especially in live action, has been the domain solely of the broody and the sardonic. There’s a place for those heroes – I love you too, Matt Murdock – but come on. Supergirl gets her power from the sun.
2. Thank you for Melissa Benoist. A superhero show is only as strong as whoever’s wearing the cape, and Supergirl is very strong indeed. The corn-fed wholesomeness of the House of El can be a difficult sell, but Benoist manages to radiate goodness while keeping Kara flawed, believable, and above all human. (Ish. You know what I mean.) Like Grant Gustin, Chris Evans, and our best Supermen, she makes a character who could easily be flimsy or wooden into someone you truly believe will catch you when you fall. Plus, she’s cute as a space button.
3. Thank you for being explicitly feminist. At a time when female celebrities are quizzed on whether or not they’re the dreaded F-word and even Wonder Woman’s creative team doesn’t want to apply the label to the heroine who graced the first issue of Ms. Magazine, the fact that not just Kara, but every woman on Supergirl proudly embraces feminism is vitally important. And it’s not just lip service. Women on Supergirl are scientists, soldiers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, politicians – and mothers, sisters, and friends. The show embraces female-coded values like compassion, unashamed emotion, and collectivism over lone wolf-ing it. Cat is teaching her son to respect women for their brains and personalities; Kara calls out the patriarchy for denying her her anger. Supergirl’s feminism fails, and fails hard, in its lack of inclusivity – all of its main and prominent supporting female characters are thin, able-bodied, presumably straight and cis white women – but saying the word, and saying it proudly, is a major step.
4. Thank you for Kara and Alex. Supergirl’s core relationship is between two sisters. Not love interests; not the sacred bond of bros; not two enemies locked in an eternal battle, yea, even unto the end of time…but sisters, bound not by blood but by their love for and devotion to one another. It’s not a pat relationship or one that’s always easy – there is jealousy there, and resentment, and these are things that are acknowledged and worked through, because the love these characters have for each other is that important. A complex, functional, loving relationship between sisters is rarer than unicorns in the male- and male-relationship-dominated world of comics and their adaptations, so to see this one as the show’s fulcrum – not to mention the obvious parallel of Alura and Astra and the subtler one of Lucy and an unseen Lois – is wonderful.
5. Thank you for Kara’s anger. Last year, I asked for women in superhero TV shows to be allowed to get angry: “Even Supergirl – as sunshiney as Kara seems, and as I want her to be, I also want her to be allowed to get pissed when the situation warrants it. Girl’s got laser-eyes for a reason.” Boy oh boy did I get my wish. Kara gets furious multiple times throughout the series, and though she’s cautioned to keep an eye on her strength, she’s never punished by the narrative for having that anger. Instead, she’s allowed to be a cheerful, sweet person who also gets very angry when the situation warrants it. It shouldn’t be so groundbreaking, but it is. Bonus points for how wonderfully unpretty the heat vision is; it’s the show’s best effect and it makes me so happy that the most common physical manifestation of Kara’s rage isn’t the slightest bit cute.
6. Thank you for Cat Grant. Cat’s a character who’s too often reduced to Lois’s bimbo-esque competition for Clark’s gawky affections in both the comics and television. Thank Rao, then, for Calista Flockhart’s brilliant, hilarious, touching, and often endearingly bizarre performance. Cat is a mercurial weirdo, complex and contradictory: a good mother and a bad mother; a great mentor and a horrible boss; loyal and bloodthirsty; the smartest person on the show and a self-involved space cadet. She gets all the best lines and steals every scene she’s in and her wardrobe is a thing of beauty. Thank you, thank you, thank you for Cat Grant.
7. Thank you for #HotJimmy. Supergirl is the first adaptation since the 1940s radio show where he was born that has had clue one what to do with Jimmy Olsen. Instead of aimless comic relief, he’s a core cast member who actually, like…does stuff? Revolutionary! Though I’d honestly like to see a scootch more of his traditional bowtied dorkitude, I’m not complaining about a Jimmy who is smart, thoughtful, fiercely loyal, and willing to call Kara out when she needs it.
8. Thank you for Grumpy Space Dad. I made a lot of jokes in my early Supergirl recaps about Hank and his secret cyborgy ways, but the surprise reveal (clearly a midseason plot change but who cares) that he was actually J’onn J’onzz went straight to my DC fangirl hindbrain and basically sent me into hysterics. AND THEN the show doubled down on “stuff Jess likes” to position him as Alex and Kara’s father figure, hitting me right in my Annie feels and giving me a reason to burst into happy tears at least once an episode. And then he ate Chocos!!! LET ME LIVE, SUPERGIRL.
9. Thank you for all the relationships between women. The complex interactions between women don’t stop at Kara and Alex, or even Kara and Cat. Kara and Allura, Kara and Astra, Allura and Astra, Alex and Eliza, Cat and Leslie – all of these relationships are complicated and fraught and believable. I particularly love the way the show’s handled Lucy Lane, another character who usually gets short shrift in the comics, and her growing friendship and trust with Kara instead of some tired romantic rivalry.
10. Thank you for all the female supervillains. Superman’s rogues gallery is actually pretty meh once you get past Lex, Zod, Brainiac, and THE GREATEST VILLAIN OF ALL TIME, Mr. Mxyzptlk (Darkseid’s more of a shared rogue and Doomsday is the actual dumbest thing), but Supergirl has carefully pulled from the comics’ sparse array of female supervillains to give us Indigo, Silver Banshee, Livewire, and a glimpse at Maxima, plus the creation of Astra and a female-presenting White Martian. It’s so rad, you guys!
11. Thank you for using Clark exactly as much as was necessary. It would have been so easy to have Superman’s presence overwhelm Supergirl’s, or alternately have him so absent that every episode left viewers going “…But where’s Clark?” By trotting Superman out early and having Kara establish firm boundaries around their relationship, Clark emerges as supportive and connected without stealing Kara’s thunder. Also, I’ve cried pretty much every time they Skype or whatever. I just have a lot of Superfeelings, guys.
12. Thank you for having the wisdom to redirect a romantic plotline that wasn’t working. One of Supergirl’s only serious missteps was sticking Winn in the tiresome and vaguely creepy “Nice Guy” role. Instead of dragging out an uncomfortable love triangle, the show had Winn confess his feelings for Kara and move on, allowing the show to focus on Jeremy Jordan’s sheer charm instead of how sadly he can gaze at Kara from afar.
13. Thank you for the unashamed immersion in deep-cut Supernerdery and comic book silliness. Of all superheroes, Superman and his extended family might be the ones who suffer the most from any attempt at realism. Yes, they’re cheerful dorky space gods who can fly. Yes, glasses are a totally effective disguise. Yes, journalism abounds with career opportunities. Supergirl embraces the gleeful unreality of Kara’s world, and peppers it with comic book minutiae (The key to the Fortress of Solitude! Super-breath! A whole episode about freaking Red Tornado!) without a hint of embarrassment.
14. Thank you for literally every second Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin shared the screen in the Supergirl/Flash crossover episode. It was magical.
15. And thank you for the greatest photograph ever taken:
Now let’s get ready for Season 2!
(All gifs from cbssupergirlgifs.tumblr.com.)