Season Three, Episode One — “Girl of Steel”
By Jarrod Jones. Y’know, for a show that underwent so much upheaval in-between seasons, Supergirl kicked off its third without missing a beat.
“Girl of Steel” felt very much like an epilogue episode to Season Two’s heart-rending family affair, re-establishing the show’s fickle hearts and myriad subplots while making room to introduce a new series heavy and a promising new season-long arc in the process. What made it work as well as it did was probably due to its blasé attitude towards making a big stink out of everything. By all accounts, it was a relatively modest season premiere for Supergirl.
There were no series-defining action sequences this week, nor were there any show-stopping (and, um, super-distracting) guest-stars hovering up in the skies above National City. Just our hero, Kara Danvers, blithely luxuriating in Hallmark reveries about her space-faring boyfriend, Mon-El, until an inappropriate pop-in by a re-cast mother figure went and spoiled the wistfulness with an aura of foreboding. (Erica Durance, Smallville‘s Lois Lane, steps in for Laura Benanti as Alura Zor-El. Erica Durance, by the way, is only ten years older than her on-screen daughter, Melissa Benoist, so do with that information what you will.)
A change in casting isn’t all Supergirl had to cope with this year. Showrunner Ali Adler went CBS exclusive over the summer, which means the Maid of Might has two new bosses guiding her future adventures: Robert Rovner (Dallas) and Jessica Queller (Gilmore Girls) join Andrew Kreisberg in guiding Supergirl through this third year.
In terms of flavor, Supergirl felt natural as ever. It certainly helps that most of the characters on the show are in pretty good places emotionally: Maggie Sawyer and Alex Danvers have struck a balance between their work and personal lives (they’re so close to being hitched we can practically taste the hors d’oeuvres), J’onn J’onzz has never been more assertive in his role as DEO director (he even chastises none other than General Sam Lane), and there’s Winn Schott, who’s just great. He’s doing great.
As a matter of fact, the only character who had a hard time with things this week — beyond Lena Luthor, who seems forever stuck in a nebulous space between good and maybe-not-so-good — was Kara, who coped with the loss of her boyfriend by leaning heavily into her superhero work. As for her career as a journalist, or her family, Kara gave both the brush-off for most of the episode. (Side note: Kara Danvers quits her job like she doesn’t have to worry about paying for her fabulous arena-sized condo.)
As for any lingering plot threads from last season, it seems Supergirl is using its second season trajectory wisely. That pod baby from Krypton — launched into space in last year’s finale by what looked like those Benedictine monks from that Enigma video — grew up to be this season’s big bad to the surprise of no one. What is surprising, however, is that Reign (Odette Annable) turned out to be one of the more captivating parts of the episode.
Referred to as “Samantha,” Annable was a natural fit the second she bumped into Alex with her adorable daughter, all chillax and banter. If the foreboding teases surrounding the character are any indication, she will be a different kind of antagonist for Supergirl. (“Heartbreaking” is how the showrunners have described her arc.) However, Reign’s night-terrors about Kara’s mom insinuate more of the same — but there’s still a whole season to get into that. For right now, Reign is a mystery, and these CW DC TV shows are always at their best during those flirtatious first days of a mystery. Just ask Eobard Thawne.
Speaking of villains, there’s a new suit lurking about. Heroes‘ Adrian Pasdar enters the fray as Morgan Edge, another multi-millionaire innovator with a mean streak (as if the world needed another one of those). Pasdar gives Edge a terrific lack of self-awareness, brooding out loud during boardroom meetings and putting around his office like a low-rent Gordon Gekko. He’d be Maxwell Lord with a more challenging hairstyle, were it not for the obvious real-world parallels at play here.
In fact, Supergirl — a show that’s never been shy about its politics — makes a point to acknowledge the precarious nature of our political system in a couple of ways this week. There’s Edge and his adversarial bent towards the free press (he threatens to buy CatCo just to skew its editorial voice to his favor), not to mention his condescending attitude towards powerful women (Lena Luthor takes the brunt of it this week). But then, just to underscore the mood, there’s the cameo from Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant, who, as the new press secretary for President Marsdin, articulates the widening partisanship within the fictional White House. (Cat’s cameos, filmed in Los Angeles and screened on televisions throughout the episode, is a shrewd way to keep both Supergirl fans and the L.A.-based Flockhart happy.)
“Global warming is the biggest threat of our time,” Cat Grans declares with her trademark ardor. “And I’m happy to report that the intellectual capacity of our President is not inferior to that of an eight year old.” *sighs* How much are tickets to Earth-38?
“I thought it was bad when she skipped pizza night, but skipping free apps? I mean, come on. These are like the beginning of the dark days.” – Winn Schott, whom I have missed.
“Let me get you a drink before that compliment leaves a bad taste in your mouth.” – Morgan, to Lena.
BEST MOMENT: Reign takes the stage — and tosses it. Was it her Kryptonian strength that saved her daughter, or sheer adrenaline in a moment of crisis? (It was her Kryptionian strength; I know, I know.) Odette Annable’s performance during this crisis sequence was so arresting that, in the heat of the moment, the particulars didn’t matter to me.
EPISODE’S MVP: Morgan Edge. Channeling just enough Trump to make us squirm and frown at our screens, Adrian Pasdar is the misogynistic heel Supergirl needs right now.
– Oh, and Laura Benanti? The original Alura? Only nine years older than Melissa Benoist. Come on, TV.
– Robert DuBois, codenamed Bloodsport, is a Superman baddie from DC’s early Post-Crisis days. He first appeared in Superman #4 in 1987 and was created by John Byrne and Karl Kesel.
– Reign is a New 52 era Supergirl baddie, so clearly I’d never heard of her. (I kid, I kid!) Her first appearance was Supergirl #5 in 2012. She’s a Kryptonian biological weapon, designated “Worldkiller.” So, y’know. Expect big things.
– Morgan Edge is more than just a suit and a haircut in the comics. He’s the leader of Intergang, a mob of criminals emboldened with alien technology. (Edge first appeared in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #133 in 1970.) I dunno if Supergirl will ever delve into the lore of the New Gods, but if there ever was a character that could bridge National City and Apokolips, it would be Edge.
– “You know, you can take the ‘Luthor’ logo off your name, but people still aren’t going to trust you,” Morgan tells Lena this week. What’s Lena Luthor’s trajectory this season? Hero? Villain?
– Speaking of Lena, Katie McGrath’s Irish brogue kept popping up in her performance this week. Litrilly. I didn’t hate it.
– So what did you think of this season premiere, Super-fans? Did you love to hate Morgan Edge as much as I did? Will Reign be the iconic villain this series desperately needs? Sound off in the comments below.
7.5 out of 10
Before: “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” here.