First Impressions: Supergirl the TV show & the pros and cons of cinematic universes

I’ve made no secrets of the fact that I vastly prefer Marvel – both in print and onscreen – to DC. The little DC I do read is limited to anything Gail Simone has done (Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Wonder Woman) and anything that genuinely looks interesting (Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Wonder Woman). Yeah, I prefer my lady superheroes – deal with it. I don’t have anything against Superman, except for the shocking Man of Steel film, but for some reason, I’ve read a lot of Supergirl. But then the Supergirl trailer came out.

It’s a pretty long trailer, considering most are only a minute or two long, but it does pretty well at covering what I assume is a season’s worth of television. It’s a fun ride, more like Flash than Man of Steel (thank God). The show stars Melissa Benoist (who you might remember from Whiplash) as Kara, who was sent to Earth at the same time Kal-El was. I’m not sure how the ageing is meant to work or if the timelines are different, but Kara looks much younger than Kal does in Man of Steel.

Unfortunately, I’d just watched SNL’s Black Widow film parody, and wow, my first impression was that it was pretty much a step by step checklist of chick flick cliches. While there’s nothing really wrong with using them, it comes off as a bit stale. Let’s list them, because we can:

  • Protagonist works for a mean but impressive woman in menial position but cool office (Devil Wears Prada)
  • Works hard doing menial tasks and wishes for a real purpose in life
  • Cute best friend has obvious crush on protagonist who is strangely oblivious
  • Hot new guy (I sense a love triangle coming on) who renders protagonist speechless
  • Weird post-feminism speech about how “girl” is more empowering than ‘woman”???
  • Protagonist lives in amazing apartment that makes no sense considering her likely income
  • Peppy background music
  • A whole scene about how she is dorky and needs help choosing clothes to go on a date

Supergirl TV show still 1

Still, I have to say that I’m excited for this show, maybe simply because dudes on Youtube are crying about how it isn’t dark and gritty and testosterone-filled enough. It legitimately looks kind of fun once the day-to-day origin story stuff gets out of the way, and it is the first female superhero DC have put on-screen. Unless you count Peggy Carter’s Agent Carter, it’s also the first show of both DC and Marvel to have a female superhero as the lead (not counting Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as it’s an ensemble show.)

With Flash and now Supergirl, it looks like DC is moving away from exclusively serious, gritty shows which is a huge relief – there’s only so much washed-out, greyish colour you can take, and only so many tall dudes with stubble and raspy voices. It also looks much more youthful than any of the films or the other shows, apart from Flash.

Supergirl TV show still 3

From what I can tell, the TV show matches up to the Man of Steel film’s continuity (Kara also features in the official Man of Steel tie-in comic), and thus takes place in the same universe as the other DC films that will be leading up to Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC/WB haven’t set all of their screen properties in the same continuity and universe: there are pros and cons to each approach.

For example, the interconnectedness between shows and films in the MCU means that there were neat easter eggs for fans that watched say, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It also gives us more to the universe – for example, those who watched the excellent (and thankfully renewed) Agent Carter got to see what happened after the events of Captain America, and how the founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. got to where she was.

On the other hand, the MCU is a delicate interweaving of properties, and the fact that both Marvel and DC have announced films so far into the future means that if at some point in the future, a movie crashes and burns (my money is on Ant-Man), it could potentially have a knock-on effect on future films and TV shows. On the other hand, while DC’s Constantine has been cancelled, it doesn’t have much effect on any of the other shows as no continuity was ever really established.

What about the approach DC is taking? We know that Man of Steel and the Nolan Batman trilogy were set in the same universe, and we also know that Arrow and Flash are connected. Since Gotham takes place in the past, it’s not 100% established that it is set in the same universe as the films.

Whichever way Supergirl goes, it looks like a worthy addition to DC’s stable of screen properties.
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Sharona Lin

Founder and editor-in-chief of Pop Culture-y. Also writes, works in the public service and watches a lot of TV. Graduated RMIT with a Bachelor of Communications in 2014.

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