When the first two Superman films became smash hits, the producers thought they could probably make a bit of cash out of his cousin too, so in 1984 Supergirl came to the big screen. The lead role was perfectly cast in the form of Helen Slater – as beautiful and as perfect in the role as Chris Reeve was as Superman – but sadly the film proved a bit of a dud, mainly due to an awful script.As with Reeve, Slater played the role straight and took the character seriously, but the film around her is so silly and slapstick her performance can't save it.
Cut to 2015 and the character of Supergirl now makes her way to TV, thanks to the producing team behind the hit shows Arrow and The Flash. And this time the character is given the chance to truly soar, thanks to good writing, some terrific special effects and a phenomenal central performance from former Glee star Melissa Benoist.
And so to The Story So Far. Kara Zor-El (Benoist) is the daughter of Superman's aunt and uncle. When Krypton was dying, and the infant Kal El was sent to Earth, teenaged Kara was sent to protect him. Howver, her ship went off course and into the Phantom Zone, and when she eventually arrives on Earth, Kal El is now a full-grown adult called Superman. After being adopted by the scientists Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers (in a lovely twist, her Earth parents are played by former Supergirl Slater and former Superman Dean Cain, from TVs Lois & Clark), Kara grows up keeping her powers hidden, eventually goling to work as the personal assistant to Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), boss of CatCo Worldwide Media – and Flockhart plays her deliciously as a cross between Ally McBeal and Rupert Murdoch. Kara has grown up keeping her powers hidden, believing that the planet only needs one hero and her cousin already has that job. But when her adoptive sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) is on a flight that's in trouble, Kara realises that it's up to her to save the day. And so she decides to go into the superhero biz, adopting a similar suit to her cousin's and, buch to her dismay, being labelled Supergirl by Cat.
As the series goes on, Supergirl learns that her sister is actually an secret agent for the DEO – Department of Extra-Normal Operations, headed by Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) who has a secret or two of his own – and helps them out when she can. And her skills certainly come in useful thanks to some fellow Kryptonians – led by Kara's aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and her husband Non (Chris Vance) – who have also escaped the Phantom Zone and arrived on Earth to wreak havoc and take over the planet (because that's what aliens always want to do).
Some have criticised Supergirl for being "light and fluffy", but for me that's one of its strengths. On the big screen, the DC characters have become very dark and brooding – and, if you've seen Batman vs Superman, even a bit deadly – but on TV, especially with The Flash and Supergirl, the characters remain true to their comic book origins and are simply loads of fun. The brilliant Benoist is an absolute joy as Kara/Supergirl, being super cute and charming, bright and bubbly while still bringing the inner (and outer) strength required to play a hero. The show is also unashamedly feminist and presents a wonderful role model for girls to aspire to. It easily passes the Bechdel test, and also nicely celebrates sisterhood. When was the last time we had such an empowered female hero on a regular TV series? Probably not since Wonder Woman in the 1970s.
The first season of Supergirl aired on CBS in the US, but from its second season it's moving to join stablemates Arrow and The Flash on The CW - which is good news, because it is sure to mean more crossover episodes; the first-season episode World's Finest, which saw Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) team up with Supergirl was one of the best of the run. ANd it's also been announced that Superman will be finally be seen in season two. In the first season, he was seen briefly in sillhouette, or flying away, or simply in text message exchanges between Kara and Clark – this was to try to keep the TV and film worlds separate. But now we'll get a proper Superman, in the form of actor Tyler Hoechlin, who was last seen in the wonderful Richard Linklater film Everybody Wants Some!! Supergirl is great, escapist fun, a very watchable show which proves (although we already knew it) that girls can also be heroes.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes on several episodes; the featurette The Man From Mars (9:36); the featurette A World Left Behind: Krypton (10:41); the Supergirl panel from the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con (14:50); and a Gag Reel (4:05).