Supergirl: Season 3 premiere “Girl of Steel” — a review

Supergirl

Kara Danvers was mostly missing from the first episode of Supergirl: Season 3, “Girl of Steel.” And that’s what made this premiere just okay for me. Not bad, certainly, but a little bit lackluster for my tastes.

Supergirl was very present. Omnipresent, in fact. Kicking ass and taking names. We find out that the crime rate in National City is at an all-time low, mostly due to the fact that Supergirl is refusing to take a break. By her own words in the episode, we discover that Kara is denying her own humanity so that she doesn’t have to deal with the pain of losing Mon-El at the end of last season. And she does this by freezing out her friends and co-workers, becoming the “All Work and No Play” Supergirl rather than Kara Danvers. She even (briefly) resigns from CatCo after James Olsen begins pressuring her with deadlines. Her internal logic, at least for this episode, is that what she does as Supergirl is her only important work.

I find myself understanding her viewpoint, at least to a degree. However, the underlying message is that it’s Kara’s humanity that makes her a true hero. Of course, most of these personal issues are resolved by the end of the episode, so that we can return to some sort of status quo and kick off the new season. However, I think the absence of Kara’s cheerful, and slightly goofy, optimism in the episode lowered my opinion of it. Just a little.

What is our new status quo as Season 3 kicks off?

Kara is having dreams about her mother, Alura Zor-El, and, of course, Mon-El, at the beginning of the episode. We’ve no real reason to think these dreams are anything more than just dreams until later in the episode, when the dream Mon-El helps save an underwater Supergirl by telling her to “Wake up” (which, I notice, is also the title of an upcoming episode. Hmm.), and a new character seems to be having similar dreams. I suppose we’ll find out more about this later, these seeds planted to grow during the season.

What instantly struck me was that Alura Zor-El was portrayed by Erica Durance, who was Lois Lane back on Smallville. She was one of my favorite actors on that show, and I was surprised that I never noticed her as Alura before. I had to convince myself that I was holding on to at least some sanity, and I looked it up. She wasn’t the actor who played Alura previously. Durance replaces the actor Laura Benanti, who had also played Alura’s twin sister, Astra. I’m not sure what’s really behind this casting shakeup, since Benanti proved herself to be excellent in the role, but, at the same time, I applaud this new casting. My Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, is the President of the United States. Helen Slater, who was Supergirl in the movie, is now Kara Danvers’ Earth foster-mother. Dean Cain, one iteration of Superman, is her foster-dad. Casting my favorite Lois as Supergirl’s birth mom is just perfect. I also have to assume that this means Alura will play a more prominent role this season. Could she still be alive? Now I need to see Tom Welling as a villain on the show. I need this, Greg Berlanti.

This episode also includes the debut of Adrian Pasdar’s Morgan Edge, another billionaire villain with a penchant for urban renewal/gentrification, the go-to plan of all comic book supervillains. It always boils down to real estate. Maybe that’s truer to real life than I want to admit. Pasdar must be one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood or Vancouver. He’s jumped comic book ships from Marvel to DC with this move. But, as far as I know, he’s still on the under-appreciated Colony as well. His fanboy pedigree goes back to the show Heroes, where he was sort of a Superman stand-in. I like Pasdar, and I like him as a villain, or quasi-villain. I look forward to seeing what he does on Supergirl. In this episode, he attempts a hostile takeover of CatCo, which is ripe for the picking with Cat Grant serving as the President’s press secretary. Lena Luthor manages to pull the rug from underneath him by buying it out herself, which should also prove to be an interesting dynamic for the season. Lena is Kara Danvers’ friend, but she’s also a Luthor, perhaps a supervillain in the making. Just like the Clark Kent/Lex Luthor dynamic in Smallville, perhaps, which was one of my favorite things about that show. By the way, it is high time we see Michael Rosenbaum’s return as Lex, and why not on this series?

Pasdar’s Morgan Edge was also working with the mercenary villain Bloodsport during this episode, in an attempt to…well, I’ve forgotten exactly what he was trying to achieve, if I ever really understood it. He stole something that allowed him to cloak a submarine in order to cause seismic shockwaves that would, I don’t know, level the waterfront maybe so that Edge could rebuild in his image? Something like that. Anyway, this elaborate plot is foiled by Supergirl, of course, and now both she and Lena Luthor are onto Edge’s not-so-secret villainy. This should prove interesting. Now, if only that villainous rich guy/inventor from the first season could return and join up with him. Or even Michael Rosenbaum.

A man can dream, can’t he?

There were some subplots in the episode. Alex Danvers seems to be having misgivings about her upcoming nuptuals to Maggie, but this turns out to be because her father won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. This plot is resolved by her asking the Martian Manhunter to do the honors, and this was a genuinely touching scene. Afterwards, Alex proclaims that they will have the biggest, gayest wedding ever. All righty then.

Another subplot-that-really-wasn’t involved a mother and daughter who were at the wharf when the statue of Supergirl is unveiled. The daughter is nearly crushed after the Edge henchman Bloodsport attacks via submarine, but of course Supergirl saves the day. It turns out that these weren’t disposable characters after all, because it is the mother who is having dreams similar to Kara’s at the end of the episode. More seeds planted.

James Olsen doesn’t do his Guardian schtick at all during this episode, but we’re certain to see more of that.

In conclusion, I haven’t changed my mind since I wrote the first paragraph of this review. I liked it. Didn’t hate it at all. But, it just seemed to be lacking something, which keeps me from declaring this a “really good” episode. I am optimistic that the plot threads hinted at during this episode could make for a really good season, however.

Optimistic. The way Kara used to be. Let’s see what happens.

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