I am not one of those mad literalists who thinks that any adaptation needs to be absolutely wedded to its source material in order to be successful and more importantly, enjoyable. I’ve seen more than my share of TV adaptations of popular books and movies that have come to be far and above the material they came from. One need not look any further than Buffy or Justified to see projects that have become far more outstanding than they the work they came from.
I also share this same feeling towards comic books, mainly because, not having viewed most of the original source material, I don’t care how close it has to stick to it. I realize that I am in a minority when it comes to this, but honestly I feel that, like so many other projects, comics could use a push away from their origin stories if they are to survive in the modern era. What I care more for is entertainment, not viewing DC and Marvel as if they were the Bible.
Which brings me to Greg Berlanti, the man who has been more responsible than anyone for making the CW a success story. He has gone above and beyond in making many of the second string superheroes of the DC-verse far more appealing than some of the more recent adaptations on film. But the problem is, he sometimes gets too stuck on message than entertainment, and nowhere is that more apparent then Supergirl.
Now, let’s be honest, with all the comic book adaptations out there, television was crying out for a series with a female lead. And by far, the best thing about Supergirl is the title character. Melissa Benoist does a fine job making Kara Danvers, Superman’s cousin, a far more realistic person with insecurities and flaws than so many of the others. It can be fun watching the Girl of Steel fight villains twice her size, as well as try to deal with her place in the world in National City. And as long as the stories were entertaining, I honestly could give a damn about how far away the series was from its source material. I didn’t care that Jimmy Olsen (Mechad Brooks) was now African-American or that Kara’s sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) was now a lesbian. As long as the stories were engaging, who cared?
The problem is that the messages behind the show got heavy-handed. Now this is nothing uncommon to Berlanti’s series. The difference is on Arrow, and to an extent, The Flash, watching the characters work through all of their issues was much of the fun, and the message delivery was subtle. In Supergirl, the message is far more heavy handed and has less entertainment value as a reward. This was particular clear when it was revealed in last season’s finale that the President of the United States was actually an alien. It came as a climax to many heavy handed message about xenophobia and the upper class throughout the second season, that were neither as clever or as entertaining at the writers thought.
As the third season unfolds, Supergirl has managed to lighten up on the heavy hand material. Unfortunately, its ideas for new storylines aren’t particularly original either. We’ve got another evil billionaire, Morgan Edge. We’ve got Lex Luthor’s sister, Lena purchasing Catco, and trying to be friends with Kara. And we’ve got this mysterious woman who seems to have some superpower that only her young daughter truly suspects. Intriguing ideas — except they were all done on Smallville, and its not that encouraging that Berlanti is now borrowing from another CW show. Granted, it was a hit, but one that took a long time building up to be a great series.
Supergirl is not a bad series, especially compared with what Fox and ABC offer as comic book derivations. The performances are generally better, particularly Dorian Harewood, as head of the DEO/Martian Manhunter. But its by far the weakest of the Berlanti DC series, and its not clear that its found a serious foundation. after two years. It needs more power than its title character seems capable of providing.
My score: 2.5 stars.