‘Supergirl’ Continues To Set Itself Apart By Emphasizing Female Characters

11.17.15 2 years ago 3 Comments
supergirl livewire image


Whether or not you agree with CBS’ decision to flip the fourth and fifth episodes of Supergirl in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, that’s precisely what happened when the network aired “Livewire” on Monday night. The Thanksgiving-set episode is obviously out of place, as the annual American holiday won’t happen for nine days, but it did deliver one of the series’ most enjoyable villains to date. Plus, there were women. Lots and lots of women.

Let me mansplain explain clarify what I mean by that.

When the first trailer for Supergirl hit the Internet in May, Uproxx’s Dan Seitz thought it “struck an oddly optimistic note” given television’s recent recent history with female superheroes (e.g. NBC’s failed Wonder Woman pilot). Two-thirds of the six-minute trailer focused on everyday interactions between Kara (Melissa Benoist) and her adopted human family, friends and coworkers. The other third offered a little bit of action. This caused concern among fans who worried that the show would de-emphasize typical superhero story elements to please some idea of what female audiences wanted — regardless of what that audience actually wanted.

Seitz remained optimistic about Supergirl. Besides, all the fuss was about a long trailer for a single episode. Once the pilot and subsequent episodes aired in October, these concerns quickly gave way to praise and high ratings. It was evident that the show would emphasize its down-to-Earth moments just as much as its action sequences, and that such a balance wouldn’t alienate anyone.

But the series has remained adamant in focusing on female viewers. Whether they were avid comic book readers or totally new to the superhero genre, Supergirl‘s showrunners weren’t about to churn out yet another comic-book property.

Consider Benoist’s reaction to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s comment that she was “pretty hot.” She told CBS This Morning that she didn’t “know what I think about it,” and instead focused on her desire to be a “good role model” for “young girls.” In other words, Benoist didn’t directly address Bush’s words (or any other comments like it) because they didn’t deserve a response.

Consider also “Livewire,” which kicks the show’s emphasis on leading female characters into high gear with the addition of Kara’s adoptive mother, Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) and Leslie Willis (Brit Morgan), otherwise known as Livewire. The Danvers matriarch and the hammy villain-of-the-week present the episode with its strongest combination of drama and action.

Alex’s (Chyler Leigh) mother Eliza is critical of her own flesh and blood. When it comes to Kara, however, she doesn’t have a single negative thing to say. The Thanksgiving dinner that results is, needless to say, eventful. Willis, on the other hand, provides Supergirl with its first villain origin story. All the other antagonists in the show have been alien prisoners or B-side bad guys to Kara’s cousin, Clark Kent. Livewire, based on a villain first created for Superman: The Animated Series, is all her own. Quite literally: Supergirl accidentally transforms Willis into her electrified alter ego, white hair and all.

Throw in a few new layers to the professional relationship between Kara and Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) for good measure, and voila! You’re in for a story driven entirely by female characters, though not at the expense of the series’ male cast. Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) braves the Danvers’ Thanksgiving dinner, Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) reappears in flashbacks, and Hank Henshaw’s (David Harewood) odd nature becomes the focal point of the episode’s final moment.

Too bad viewers will have to wait two weeks to find out what happens next because the original fourth episode, “How Does She Do It?” airs next Monday.

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