[This is a review of the Supergirl season 2 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
Although the first season of Supergirl debuted to record high ratings for the Fall 2015 season on CBS, the network delayed the announcement of whether the show was officially going to continue for a second season. Then, it was finally announced that Supergirl would return, albeit on The CW as part of the network's DC Comics superhero lineup. The change in networks -- and the move of production from Los Angeles, California to Vancouver, Canada -- will affect season 2 of Supergirl, but it isn't the only major revelation announced over the summer.
Over the course of season 1, Supergirl established Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) as the focus of the series, doing so by keeping her super-powered cousin on the sidelines - only showing him from a distance or through his online chats with Kara. However, the season 2 premiere introduces Clark Kent, aka Superman (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) in the first episode of a two-part arc. For the first time, viewers got to see both the Girl of Steel and the Man of Steel team up on Supergirl, taking on a threat in National City together.
'The Adventures of Supergirl' was directed by Glen Winter with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Kreisberg & Jessica Queller. At the beginning, Kara and J'onn J'onzz (David Harewood) deal with the pod that crash-landed on Earth in the season 1 finale; but, with the man in the pod comatose, all they can confirm is that he's an alien. Meanwhile, the introduction of Superman gives the series a chance to explore the kinship between the Kryptonian relatives, especially considering their propensity toward saving the world and working in media.
The Man in the Pod
The first few moments of the season 2 premiere focus entirely on rehashing the final moments from the season 1 finale. Whether it's to remind viewers of what happened or a way of not alienating new viewers thanks to Supergirl's new network, the opening sequence effectively reintegrates viewers into the narrative where season 1 left off -- this time with the reveal of the man in the pod, played by Chris Wood, (who fans following updates on the season know to be Mon-El).
However, the alien is comatose. But, because the pod is seemingly identical to the one in which Kara arrived on Earth, she believes him to be Kryptonian. After bringing him back to the new DEO headquarters, Kara, Alex, and J'onn still can't learn much about the alien other than he appears to be Kryptonian. Winn -- who learned Kryptonian during his downtime -- sets about translating the information from the pod's internal computer system. Although he traces the pod's trajectory to a location in the galaxy where Kara used to travel with her father, that's all we learn about the man in the pod in 'The Adventures of Supergirl'.
This particular storyline, though it dominates the opening minutes of the episode, is established as a longer arc and isn't the focus of the premiere. Instead, Superman -- particularly his relationship/mentorship with Kara -- is front and center in the Supergirl season 2 premiere.
Superman is Up, Up, & Away
Season 1 of Supergirl stayed away from introducing Superman right off the bat so as to make certain the Man of Steel didn't overshadow the star of the show. While the series was effective in establishing Supergirl as a show about the Girl of Steel, it also caused an emotional disconnect between the viewers and the relationship between Kara and Clark. Because their relationship took a backseat to reasserting her as the lead character, it came off feeling hollow -- with some notable exceptions, like the first instance of Kara and Clark talking via instant messenger.
However, where season 1 was lacking in the kinship between Supergirl and Superman, the season 2 premiere wholeheartedly delivers another platonic relationship with as much fun banter and emotional heart as the dynamics between Kara and Cat or Kara and Alex. In fact, the relationship between Kara and her cousin falls somewhere in between Cat and Alex -- Clark acts as a big brother of sorts to Kara, giving her advice on how to live her life as both Kara and Supergirl, while she still lords over him that she used to change his diapers as a baby (a fact that no older relative would ever realistically let a younger relative ever live down, even if they're Superman).
The biggest difference between the way Kara's relationship to Clark is portrayed in season 1 and the season 2 premiere -- aside from his physical presence -- is that it shows an ease between the cousins, rather than telling viewers these two characters (one of which wasn't cast until this summer) are close. Hoechlin, for his part, plays Clark Kent and Superman with the confidence and charm of an established superhero; he fits in with the humorous tone of the Kara Danvers established by Benoist in season 1 and carried into season 2. The resulting dynamic is upbeat and fun, even as both members of the House of El take the threat to Lena Luthor's (Katie McGrath) life seriously.
However, while Hoechlin easily steps into the role of Clark, and Superman arrives in National City to much fanfare in order to help his cousin, neither the actor nor the Man of Steel steal the focus from Benoist or Kara/Supergirl. Rather, 'The Adventures of Supergirl' uses the dynamic of both Clark and Superman as the more famous cousin to establish the arc of Kara throughout the episode. She begins by seemingly standing in Clark's shadow, but works her way to the forefront by the end. It's a subtle shift that helps to reassert Kara as the main character of the series, while playing into the fame of Clark/Superman.
Kara Danvers, Reporter
The emotional throughline of 'The Adventures of Supergirl' largely deals with Kara standing at a crossroads in her life. At the end of season 1, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) offered her the choice of any job within CatCo, leaving Kara with endless options for what to do next in her professional life. Meanwhile, Kara had also planned to explore a relationship with James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), but she continually allows her life as Supergirl or other distractions to get in the way of their first date. Kara's inner conflict stems from her fear of change, but, as Cat reminds Kara, "In order to live, we must keep daring, keep diving."
Kara also appeals to Clark for advice on figuring out how to feel as secure in her entire life as she does with her work as Supergirl. Since he seemingly has it all figured out -- he's in a steady relationship with Lois Lane, he works for the Daily Planet, and he regularly saves the world as Superman -- he gives her some cousin-to-cousin advice: "Being Kara is just as important as being Supergirl." As a result of the words of her mentors, and a comment from Lena Luthor about Kara's instincts, Kara chooses to become a reporter for CatCo magazine. She additionally chooses to remain friends with James.
Perhaps the clunkiest aspect of 'The Adventures of Supergirl' are the certain abrupt changes in character arcs, such as Kara's about-face in regard to her feelings toward James. But, Winn's sudden knowledge of Kryptonian language and hints of Cat thinking about changing the trajectory of her own life, all point toward obvious -- if necessary -- rewriting of storylines and character arcs established in season 1. Though these moments of the season 2 premiere are transparent in the writers taking the story in a new direction, they have potential to set up interesting arcs in the upcoming season, depending on how the show capitalizes on them.
Still, for the most part, 'The Adventures of Supergirl' is an example of Supergirl at its best -- full of references to the DC Comics heroes, compelling character struggles, realistic portrayals of platonic relationships, and a fun superhero story.
Supergirl continues Monday October 17 with 'The Last Children of Krypton' at 8pm on The CW.