Much of the press surrounding the season 2 premiere of Supergirl has been centered around Teen Wolf‘s Tyler Hoechlin guest starring as Superman, and he does turn in the best performance as the Man of Steel since the last Christopher Reeve. However, “Adventures of Supergirl” is about a turning point in Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) life as she must decide what job she is taking at Catco, whether she wants to date James Olsen (Mechad Brooks), and basically choose what kind of person she wants to be. Sure, a mercenary with a British accent and a name that is familiar to comic book nerds shows up to wreak havoc, and there is some intrigue from Lena Luthor. But writers Andrew Kreisberg, Jessica Queller, and Greg Berlanti focus the main brunt of the plot on Supergirl’s “coming of age” and ably position Superman’s guest apperance as both a family member and someone she can aspire to be. It’s the bedrock of a pretty overstuffed premiere that also features a subplot about tension between Superman and Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) over the DEO keeping kryptonite as insurance against any rogue Kryptonians.
“Adventures of Supergirl” is a major episode in Supergirl’s continuing character arc, and Melissa Benoist shows some nice acting range as she goes from smiling while saving a plane with Superman to stuttering about filling out an Internet quiz to pick her new job at Catco. And even though she isn’t Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) assistant any more, Kara is a little unsure of herself as she and Superman (in disguise as Clark Kent) investigate Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) and in some of her interactions with Cat. However, she has never been more confident as Supergirl as she smiles while speed fixing L-Corp (formerly LexCorp) Tower and crack jokes about changing Superman’s diapers on Krypton to a family of bystanders she rescues. When Supergirl shields civilians or bullets or flies to save an airplane, it makes you believe in things like truth and justice. And this extends to her civilian life as Kara Danvers as she channels some of her life as Supergirl into an impassioned plea to Cat Grant to become a reporter at Catco. (Also, it’s the perfect job for a superhero, and you can get “exclusive scoops”. Just ask Peter Parker or Lois Lane.)
“Adventures of Supergirl” also features a trio of wide-ranging guest performances for the earlier mentioned Hoechlin, Flockhart, and McGrath. Hoechlin’s plays Superman as a human being, not an icon, and he channels the competent, mature reporter and hero that has settled down with Lois Lane as written in Post-Crisis stories by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Mark Waid (His investigative reporting in Superman Birthright especially.), and the DC Animated Universe. The writers give him just a dash of cheesiness in his dialogue to satisfy fond memories of “bumbling reporter” Clark Kent, and director Glen Winter frames the big “S” front and center in the action scenes and establishing shots before cutting to him making a dry quip or shaking DEO soldiers’ hands. Superman is a family man with godlike powers, and Hoechlin and Benoist have a cheerful chemistry with Superman giving her helpful tips about being a more efficient superhero while Supergirl tells him stories about Krypton. I’m glad that they will have a few more episodes to explore their relationship, grow together, and share more triumphant high fives and smiles.
Unfortunately, Cat Grant’s time as a main cast member of Supergirl has drawn to a close, but “Adventures of Supergirl” is hell of a curtain call for her. Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti build off the friendlier relationship that she and Kara developed at the close of Season 1 while still keeping some of her trademark sniping for good measure, like her constant reminders of the exact time Kara has to choose a job at Catco. Cat gets some of the most perceptive writing in the episode as she remarks that Supergirl’s beliefs are what make her a hero, not her abilities. Cat also gets a tiny bit sentimental when she talks about Kara’s potential to grow from an awkward, unsure assistant to a confident woman because she sees her drive to succeed in Kara. Flockhart excels at playing the mentor much more than the angry boss even though her one-liners are sharp as ever.
Finally, Katie McGrath brings an otherworldly presence to the role of Lena Luthor. Her calculated line delivery makes her initially seem like a femme fatale played by Eva Green, and Clark Kent doesn’t trust her, but she is really a woman, who wants to make something for herself apart from her family. She isn’t Lex Luthor’s plant, but a woman with a vision even though we don’t get to see her business acumen in this episode. Lena does end up being the one to take out Corben, and Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti do a twist on the Superman/Luthor dynamic by writing a favorable article about her and her company L-Corp because it’s the “truth”. But from the slow, measured ways that McGrath delivers Lena dialogue, and the “all too easy” ending of this episode, she may end up being a villain yet.
Despite strong performances and inspirational themes, “Adventures of Supergirl” does have its shortcomings. The lack of budget in the move from CBS to the CW definitely shows with Winter’s quick cuts to not expose the fact that Supergirl and Superman are flying against a generic cityscape green screen. The sad richness that David Harewood brought to his voice performance as the Martian Manhunter in Season One is also distorted in the sound mix. Besides these technical hiccups, John Corben is a pretty one-dimensional villain of the week as your standard run of the mill merc with a drone that looks bought off eBay. (He becomes immensely cooler in the stinger though.) “Adventures of Supergirl” is also juggling a ton of plots and subplots, and major one of them (Jimmy/Kara romance) doesn’t get the kind of attention and lingering camera shots it got last season as Kara decides to just be friends with James. It does make sense that she wouldn’t have time for a romantic relationship at such a transitional time in her life though.
A villain of the week and some special effects issues aside, “Adventures of the Supergirl” is a sparkling example what an inspiring show Supergirl is and features some excellent character chemistry between Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman, and Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant. The episode dedicates itself to establishing and shifting the character of Supergirl while setting up a couple of mysteries to explored down the road. Lena Luthor is especially captivating thanks to Katie McGrath
Overall Rating: 8.5