Supergirl has been in the news a lot this past week. After months of speculation, CBS finally confirmed a multi-network crossover event for The Flash and their own Greg Berlanti-produced series in late March. Then they released promotional images of a young Kal-El (Daniel DiMaggio) from the latest episode, “For the Girl Who Has Everything,” which is partially based on a classic Alan Moore-penned Superman annual from 1984. Of course, instead of telling a Superman story, Berlanti and company adapted it into a narrative fit for the developing Supergirl mythos, a mythos that, 13 episodes in, has expanded into a much larger television world of spectacular and everyday heroes and villains in its own right.
Is Supergirl perfect? No. Does it suffer from the same problems Berlanti’s other DC Comics-inspired shows (Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow) do? Absolutely. Depending on the episode, the adventures of CBS’s own Kryptonian too often try to stuff way to much into 45 minutes of programming. Everything from ample amounts of fan service to lackluster attempts to string it all together into a coherent narrative. Sure, it all mostly makes sense by the end, but viewers often find themselves suffering from sensory overload by the time the end credits begin to roll.
At the same time, much of said sensory overload is what fans and critics point to as being their favorite things about the show. (I’m guilty of the same, as the Uproxx Supergirl tag demonstrates.) All we seem to care about are all the crazy additions, connections and references to the comics Berlanti can manage to include. Hence why, when Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) was revealed to be J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, it was all we could talk about. When news of a young Kal-El’s appearance first broke, it made bigger waves than anything Supergirl herself had done on the show. As for The Flash crossover announcement… well, you already know.
The thing is, Supergirl succeeds far more than it fails, even apart from these nods to the show’s comics inspirations. This isn’t just a feminist pipe dream, in which supporters argue that the show is important because it presents an example of a strong central female character. That’s true, of course, but it’s not the sole reason that Supergirl is (or should be) good. Rather, much of this positivity has to do with two major components of the series — Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) herself, and the ensemble of supporting characters that surrounds her. The better members of the cast have often shined during this season’s best moments, and “For the Girl Who Has Everything” unleashes even more of these performances at once.
Take Benoist. She doesn’t just show up to work dressed in a slim-fitting Supergirl costume, ready to deliver a few timed lines about being a strong young woman and beat up the bad guys (or girls) whenever necessary. Hers is the most difficult gig — not only because she is the face of Supergirl, which she is, but because she must juggle two separate roles in a convincing manner. Kara Danvers and Kara Zor-El aren’t supposed to be the same person. One is a mousy assistant for media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), and the other is a displaced alien immigrant trying to fit in. Benoist doesn’t undergo a major transformation to pull off the dual roles, as this wouldn’t be all that practical. Instead, she simply puts her hair in a ponytail, wears glasses and acts a little clumsy to distinguish human Kara Danvers from superhuman Kara Zor-El. Cheesy? Yes, but considering the means by which the character hid her true identity in the comics (not to mention her cousin’s methods of secrecy), it’s all in keeping with the spirit of the source material. And you know what? It works, mainly because Benoist pulls off the caper so well.
As for the supporting cast, not everyone is great all the time — especially when the writers send them into one of the many subplots and tangential storylines crammed into certain episodes. That being said, whenever they come together for the main story, Supergirl soars. Nowhere has this been more evident than in “For the Girl Who Has Everything,” in which the heroine sits out during much of the action due to an alien parasite called the “black mercy.” While Kara endures a hallucinogenic trip to Krypton (also known as la-la land), Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), Henshaw and the rest of her friends try to pull her out of it. Hell, they even let the villainous Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) out of his cell long enough to contribute.
The group’s efforts to save Kara culminate in two final battles. The first pits her conflicted aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) against her adopted sister, Alex and Henshaw (as J’onzz). Meanwhile, the second sees Kara face off with Astra’s loyal, but increasingly ruthless husband, Non (Chris Vance). Both fights do much to advance the show’s main arc, but Vance’s hammy line deliveries, Alex’s costly, penultimate act of heroism and Kara’s rage all stick out as worthy examples of just how good these characters, their performers and the show can be.