Rebel, the show—just like the character—comes with plenty of baggage.
Kara Danvers is special.
It’s not that she’s double-jointed or can touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. No, her skills are a little more … extreme. I mean, we’re talking X-ray vision, super-strength and the ability to fly extreme.
Like certain other superhero in red and blue, Kara was born on the now-defunct planet of Krypton. She spent a good 13 years there, actually, and she was sent to Earth to keep Superman, um, safe. ‘Course, Superman was just a wee infant named Kal-El at the time, so perhaps he could’ve used some protection. But Kara got diverted along the way by a strange time vortex, and when she actually reached earth—24 years later—Kal-El was all grown up and, clearly, didn’t need much protection from a 13-year-old girl. She had to figure out something else to do with her time. So, hey, why not follow in her cousin’s footsteps and become an international superhero? Seems better than fetching coffee.
Heroism doesn’t pay the bills, and Kara works as a reporter for CATCO Global Media. It’s not a particularly glamorous gig, but it allows her a certain amount of freedom. And she gets to hang out with a couple of unofficial crime fighting assistants. But that might change now that CATCO has been bought out by multibillion-dollar corrupt corporation, Obsidian North, in Season Five.
Then, since Kara certainly didn’t travel 2,000 light years to be a reporter, she uses her free time to work alongside the supersecret Department of Extranormal Operations, obviously donning her superhero outfit to do so. “Nothing says covert operation like a flying woman in a red skirt,” quips former DEO head J’onn J’onzz, a Martian who’s taken on the identity of a guy named Hank Henshaw. But quips don’t keep the baddies at bay, so Supergirl takes them all on—some of them perhaps more daunting than the ones even Superman tackles.
See, when Kara’s craft finally came to Earth, it somehow pulled a galactic maximum-security prison with it, filled with the worst collection of rogues in the cosmos—renegades who, coincidentally, Kara’s mother was instrumental in imprisoning. They kept a low profile for a while, but now they’re ready to wreak a little earthbound havoc.
Supergirl is admittedly derivative, and she always has been, ever since DC Comics first brought her to life in 1959. CW (which picked up the show after CBS dropped it after its first season) is not shy about the fact that she and Superman literally share some alien DNA. But that’s not such a bad thing.
Kara, like the original Supes, is a straight arrow—a charmingly goofy worker bee when not in costume, a fearless champion of truth and justice while in it. And she’s oddly humble, given her gifts. Indeed, whatever inner demons Supergirl has seem to be wrapped up in her own blushing insecurities: Is she really strong enough to fight that superstrong ex-con with the radioactive ax? Can she be as good a hero for her town, National City, as Superman has been for Metropolis? Can she be Kara Danvers and Supergirl?
These doubts are sometimes fed by both her enemies and the people she’s trying to protect. In the pilot she’s criticized for how she acts and dresses, with people dismissing her as a “me too” type of superhero. Kara’s adversary demeans her, telling her that it’d be an honor to fight Superman: Her, it’s “just exercise.”
All of that serves as an allusion to persistent real-world sexism that we still see in society; how women are sometimes judged more by what they wear than what they can do. Even Supergirl, it seems, must deal with such shortsightedness. And so she does, in a winsomely strong way. She is both feminine and feminist, proving that a woman can save the world and wear a skirt, too.
“Can you believe it?” someone marvels, watching Supergirl on television. “A female hero. Nice for my daughter to have someone like that to look up to.”
It is nice. But the show has some rough spots, too, and they seem to be getting rougher. It can be violent (naturally) and the language can be a bit extreme. Meanwhile, Kara’s adoptive sister, Alex, has been embroiled in a handful of same-sex relationships. And in Season Four, Nia (a new reporter) made a much ballyhooed entrance as television’s first transgender superhero (and this transgender superhero now has a boyfriend). These are worldview issues that families with younger fans will definitely have to decide how to navigate.
So while Supergirl does fly in many ways, there’s some drag on the cape as well.
Supergirl and her crew of alien vigilantes set out to stop a now immortal and superpowered Lex Luthor, who has managed to brainwash half the planet and intends to irradicate the other half.
Superheroes and aliens fight against one another using their powers (and a few are disintegrated). Two Martians (in alien form) perform a ritual to meld their minds and destroy several satellites equipped with technology to kill humans. A man calls himself a “god.” A character sees a vision of the future.
Lex uses a Kryptonite ring to kill Supergirl, but a machine brings her back to life. He then teleports her to the Phantom Zone—the area where she was trapped before she came to Earth—and vicious-looking aliens descend upon her unconscious form.
A man drinks champagne. We see cleavage on a woman. A woman says she sold her soul for her father’s company. We see a mouse get destroyed in an experiment. A man complains when his mother refuses to let him kill his sister.
Lena Luther finds out that Cara Danvers is Supergirl, and Lena plans to use the information against her. Cara and other superheroes battle an evil shapeshifter. Obsidian North, a multibillion-dollar corporation, buys out CATCO and makes uncomfortable changes.
Supergirl saves a group of students who are nearly killed by an oncoming bus. Lena Luther takes out her frustration on Kara Danvers using a virtual-reality machine to practice punching Kara. A young shapeshifter, who we’re told is “fueled by death,” turns into a T-rex and hurts a few innocent bystanders. This same creature tries to kill Kara and various superheroes. A group of women discuss who they believe is the greatest villain of all time.
Nia, a transgender reporter, gets serious with her boyfriend and the two kiss. Alex flirts with and kisses her girlfriend. A few women wear cleavage-baring dresses.
A woman plans to ruin Kara Danvers’ reputation by lying and betraying those close to her. God’s name is misused once. Men and women alike sip on beer and hard liquor at a bar.
Magic, characterized as both evil and good, is utilized by multiple characters. An evil doctor shocks an innocent girl. A man shoots a gun and nearly kills innocent citizens. Men and women engage in hand-to-hand combat, people are thrown and death threats are uttered.
Men drink beer and hard liquor and discuss the effects of alcohol. A woman is encouraged to marry another woman and have children. A man and woman get pregnant out of wedlock. A couple kisses. God’s name is misused four times and profanity includes one or two uses of “h—,” “son of a b–ch,” “d–k” and “bada–.” Someone shouts “go screw yourself” and a man is called a “dweeb.”
In the latest season’s premiere, Supergirl works with Alex Danvers (the new head of the Department of Extranormal Operations) and her team to take down a group of anti-alien terrorists, bent on destroying pro-alien advocates. John (the former DEO head) helps Fiona, leader of an alien therapy group, welcome aliens into the world as equals. Lena Luther secretly helps boyfriend, James (also known as a superhero calledthe Guardian) win a legal battle. Nia, a new reporter, is mentored by Kara Danvers.
Supergirl saves people all around the world, rescuing them from collapsed bridges, burning meteors and burglars. She also makes sure that the baddies are taken down (often by force). People kick, punch, stab and harm others. One alien is burned with a laser and his horns are removed. A woman is stabbed (we see blood on the knife). Hate crimes are committed against aliens (terrorists bomb buildings and utter death threats). A hate chat group is formed on the dark web. We hear about dead, buried bodies. Aliens discuss their differences and their desire to be seen as equals.
A bottle of hard liquor is offered to someone as a gift. A woman drinks a glass of wine. Characters kiss and one woman discusses her interest in other woman (and the possiblity of marriage). The word “a–” is heard once. Supergirl is called a “filthy roach.”
Supergirl, the Department of Extranormal Operations and a SWAT team bust into a home looking for Julia Freeman, who’s been serving as the human host of an alien entity (called a Worldkiller) named Purity. She’s placed in a holding cell at headquarters until she reveals the whereabouts of Reign, head of the Worldkillers. But as Supergirl and Alex debate whether Julia was possessed by Purity, Julia escapes and wreaks havoc in the subway. Meanwhile, Supergirl’s ex, Mon-El, is back on earth, working at the DEO and trying to repair his ship. But he and his wife, Irma, are having marital difficulties as she suspects he still loves Supergirl.
Samantha and her daughter, Ruby, go ice-skating, but Samantha vanishes mid skate, and Ruby is left to wonder what happened to her.
Explosions, hand-to-hand combat and guns are used. We hear references to someone’s heart being eaten, as well as the words “d—mit,”, “h—” and “a–“. Two bottles of “Martian Moonshine” are consumed, and someone makes a reference to tequila. Someone says “I swear to God.”
In the season three premiere, Supergirl embraces and kisses Mon-El in a daydream (in which she’s wearing a gauzy, almost translucent dress with a low-cut neckline). She’s called out of that fantasy as new villain, Robert DuBois, fights off police in a huge, conflagration-filled battle … which Supergirl soon stops.
Then there’s Morgan Edge, another villain working with Dubois, who’s trying to destroy the people of National City through his media corporation and by buying up the city’s prime real estate. Oh, and he’s also planning to buy out CATCO to control that important company—now owned by Lena Luther—as well.
Just as CATCO is most needed to fight against these villains, Kara Danvers quits her job as a journalist there. She’s battling internal conflicts, striving to be only Supergirl and mostly rejecting her earthly identity as Kara Danvers. The whole team is worried for her, both at CATCO and DEO; but the more they encourage her to open up about her grief over sending Mon-El out into hyperspace (in the Season 2 finale), the more she pulls back. And pull back she does: away from her best friend, Lena Luthor; away from her sister, Alex, who continues to make wedding preparations with her lesbian partner, Maggie; and away from her job and friends at CATCO.
As Supergirl struggles, Dubois and Morgan Edge plot to take out the city during the unveiling of the “Girl of Steel” statue. Their explosive plot nearly succeeds, trapping two people beneath a tower that topples over. But Supergirl comes to her senses, battles the baddies and makes amends with her friends.
Comic book-style violence fills many scenes. We see dead soldiers and injured civilians. Elsewhere, Maggie and Alex enthusiastically continue their wedding planning, with Alex gushing that it will be the “biggest and gayest” event of the year. Kara and her friends down shots at the bar after work. Sexist comments are made by Morgan Edge.
Project Cadmus, led by Lex Luthor’s dastardly mother, Lillian, plots to unleash a weaponized virus that would destroy the (surprisingly large) alien population of National City (except folks from Krypton). Supergirl and her allies try to stop it.
Alex, Supergirl’s adoptive sister, comes out to her mother, worried that she might be rejected. Her mother instead accepts the situation with a hug and affirmation. “Why would you being gay ever let me down?” she says. Maggie, the woman who triggered Alex’s homosexual feelings, stops by Alex’s apartment carrying pizza and beer, telling her she wants to begin a relationship. “We should be who we are, and we should kiss the girls we want to kiss,” she tells Alex. They share a series of smooches before the camera leaves.
Supergirl also is kissed by Mon-El, a fellow alien from Krypton’s neighboring planet of Daxam, when Mon-El believes that he’s dying. (Later, he forgets, or pretends to forget, that it ever happened.) An alien flirts with Mon-El in a bar. “So are you looking for some company?” a female alien asks him. “I am very good company.”
Mon-El and Supergirl both battle (at different times) a guy named Cyborg Superman. J’onn J’onzz also fights CS in his monstrous, “White Martian” guise (a corruption of his true nature, but intimidating nevertheless). People punch, kick and throw each other to the ground. Bits of sculpture are torn up and smashed. Someone’s nearly crushed by a shipping crate. The killer virus, released in a bar, kills several aliens: We see them lying lifelessly on the ground. Supergirl destroys a robot with her heat vision (and cooks a turkey with it, too).
People drink beer and wine during Thanksgiving dinner, with Alex perhaps drinking to excess.
Kara Danvers struggles with her dual desires: to be normal and to help National City is a super way. Her path forward becomes pretty clear, though, when her sister is trapped on a crashing airplane … and it’s Supergirl to the rescue!
Afterward, she tries to reveal to Winn her true identity. “Last night, I embraced who I am, and I don’t want to stop,” Kara tells him. Winn assumes that she’s coming out as a lesbian at first—convinced that that’s the reason she isn’t attracted to him. And Winn’s first costume proposal for Kara features super-tight short shorts and a midriff-baring top. “I wouldn’t even wear it to the beach,” Kara says, vainly trying to cover herself up with her arms. (Of course, the skirt she ends up with is still on the short side, and we also see her rip open her shirt, Superman style, to reveal her supersuit underneath.)
A planet blows up. Male-on-female violence (and the other way around, too) takes the fore when Kara goes toe-to-toe with another superstrong alien: She and the “man” kick and punch and throw each other through walls. Kara destroys a tanker trailer in a fiery explosion by letting it plow into her. Her adversary cuts her arm open with a mysterious ax. “I never felt pain like that before,” Kara says, before amending, “I never felt pain.” (Her adopted sister, Alex, reminds her that she’s not immortal.) While flying, Kara is brought down by Kryptonite-infused darts (and hits the top of a car pretty hard). A bad guy kills himself, stabbing himself in the chest to keep from getting captured.
Cat disses her mother. Kara goes on a blind date, and the two spend time in a bar, drinks in front of them. (The guy later tries to pick up someone else.) There are references to kissing.
We hear a half-dozen irreverent exclamations of God’s name.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).
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