I have a habit of committing (should we say overcommitting?) to ridiculous viewing marathons. I don’t really know why. But I tend to do it more so with movies than shows. However, when I heard the Arrowverse was going to be gaining a new show this fall in the form of Batwoman – a character whom I adore – I knew I’d be tuning in. When I realized Batwoman would be airing Sunday nights before Supergirl – a show I’ve always been interested in but never committed to watching (because the Arrowverse is huge and intimidating) – I figured I should check it out. Why not, right? The first four seasons were on Netflix. Maybe, maybe I should try and binge-watch (even though I don’t particularly care for binge-watching) all four seasons before the new one premiered. Then I could watch Batwoman live without fear of spoilers for Supergirl AND enjoy Supergirl at the same time! Was this the best idea I’ve ever had??
What follows is the stream-of-consciousness list of lessons I learned while trying to watch all ninety-six episodes of Supergirl (with crossovers) over the course of sixteen wild days.
1) This was a terrible idea! Why would I commit to doing this once the school year had started and I had to teach and lesson plan and grade too?!!? Why, oh why didn’t I do this when summer vacation was still happening?!?
2) I fell totally in love with these characters by episode three making it worse because then I knew I had to finish them all before the first episode of Batwoman. I couldn’t wait for On Demand here, no way. Because that would leave me open to spoilers when Supergirl commercials aired during Batwoman!
3) This show is boldly, brilliantly, inspiringly and unapologetically feminist in its message and intention. I love it! How have I not been watching this from the beginning? I was so impressed. I was particularly impressed with how they handled Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart)’s character. It feels rare in TV/movies to see a female executive character handled so well – fleshed out completely, not sacrificing any of her power for her humanity.
4) Oh my gosh the PINING in Season One. I FORGOT HOW MUCH YOU NEED SOME GOOD OL’ FASHIONED ROMANTIC PINING IN YOUR LIFE!!! I also forgot how good the WB/CW (or, as was the case here, the CW-adjacent) shows were with this stuff. Binge-watching put me into ‘shipping overdrive and you can see how bad it was because I’m actually using the word ‘shipping unironically here. Who am I anymore??
4a) Once Mon-El (Chris Wood) showed up in Season Two I had a hard time rooting for him and Kara (Melissa Benoist) to be a thing after the boomerang Friend Zoning-post first kisses with Winn (Jeremy Jordan) and James (Mehcad Brooks). BUT I came around and started pulling for them when he returned with the beard and super-hipster moustache that was needlessly heavier than the beard.
5) Knowing so little about the DC Universe, it’s an interesting experience watching this show. Every villain, heck every prominent character that comes into the show – good or bad – makes me wonder if I should know them. Is this someone with a history in the comics? Is it someone new to the show? Should I be able to predict where the story is going to go now that they’re here?!!? Also, little things work like this too. Like when James first takes Kara to the Fortress of Solitude, I know the stuff on display there has to be important…but I didn’t recognize any of it. I resisted the temptation to Google it too because a) spoilers and b) it’s kind of fun – when I’m so used to catching all this stuff in the Marvel movies – to experience a superhero story this way.
5a) I’m not even going to touch on J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood), the Martian Manhunter, in this piece. Seeing him brought such a hardcore blast of nostalgia from my past I think it’s better served in it’s own post. Stay tuned!
6) I cry all the time with this show! This isn’t a surprise as I’m a big novel/movie/TV crier. So once I got to know the characters, Supergirl really started hitting me in the feels hard. All the hope and optimism stuff does, obviously, but so do the quiet moments between the characters. As an empath, I’m a sucker for it all. And I LOVE it :).
7) One of Supergirl’s least talked about yet most regularly used/visible powers has to be the ability to fly faster than a speeding bullet and land with her hair still falling in perfect, undisturbed waves around her shoulders. It must also work in regard to fisticuffs with all manner of baddies as well as getting thrown through walls.
8) I had to Google when Supergirl was created because three or four episodes in it hit me. Kara Danvers, a blonde powerhouse sporting the powers of Superman, bears a striking resemblance to Carol Danvers, a blonde powerhouse sporting the powers of Superman. Carol Danvers was first introduced in March 1968 while Kara Zor-El first showed up in May of 1959. So DC was the in lead here by almost a decade. BUT Kara Zor-El didn’t go by Kara Danvers until the DC Rebirth relaunch in 2016, to align her more closely with the popular show. So it looks like DC was copying Marvel on this one.
9) Damn, the hope and optimism of this show just gets you. Aaahh! I love it! I know I mentioned this before but it bears repeating!
10) I am really impressed with how this show handles LGBTQ inclusion. The entire first season they refer to Kara “coming out as Supergirl.” Using that language to speak of her owning her true identity, and the identity of a superhero who saves the world again and again at that, is a powerful analogy. Kara’s adopted sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh)’s coming out in the second season was handled with respect and tenderness too. It was beautiful and, as you’d expect from what I said above, I cried a lot. Her journey was one of the most interesting facets of that season. Season Four saw the introduction of Nia Nal, a trans character played by the trans actress and advocate Nicole Maines too.
(If you’d like to read more about this, I’d suggest Estelle Tang’s “How Supergirl Became One Of The Most LGBTQ-Friendly Shows On Television – And saved a young girl’s life“ or Lauren Piester’s “Dreamer Debuts on Supergirl: TV’s First Transgender Superhero Is Here” or how it regularly makes GLADD’s list of “Must See TV” to start.)
11) On that note, I appreciate how intentional this show is in being a product of its time. The superhero stories certainly ring with a classic feel but the writers pepper it with fluid pop culture asides that make it reminiscent of Gilmore girls at times (which is one of the highest compliments I can pay a show). We also see the regular justice-oriented inclusion of allegorical and direct discussions of just immigration, LGBTQ rights, the reality of climate change, human trafficking, gun control/assault rifle sales to civilians, police brutality with regard to minority communities, the illusion of “balance” in journalism at the expense of truth and justice, domestic terrorism, and the conflict between fascist alt right extremists and militant left Antifa. As I mentioned above, there is a strong feminist message underscoring the entire series. We see this in obvious ways with characters like Kara, Alex, Cat Grant, Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), etc. but also subtly with how they always refer to the president as “she” (before actually introducing the president in Olivia Marsen (Lynda Carther)) and how the few direct references to God we have are always “she/her” as well.
12) By and large the showrunners do an impressive job in creating threats that feel credible to a character with Supergirl’s power level. Sure, there are times I’m watching when I think, “Um, she has [fill in the blank with appropriate power]. Why wouldn’t she just do [fill in the blank with appropriate action] and fix this in two seconds?” But for the most part the threats are created in such a way they are legitimate. One of the few problems I had with Avengers: Endgame was how Captain Marvel was relegated to a third act deus ex machina and not given any centrality to the plot. Marvel Studios should look into getting the Supergirl writers to write future Captain Marvel movies because they know how to handle a character with such power credibly and entertainingly.
13) When I got to “Invasion!” – the first big crossover with The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow – it reminded me of reading big comic crossovers as a kid. Now, in the age of interconnected universes, I’m normally there from the beginning, experiencing it all as it unfolds. But here, only watching Supergirl, it left me unfamiliar with allllllll the other characters. At first it was jarring, not knowing anyone’s name or power set or even which show they were on when. But then it started to be kind of fun! It made me feel like when I first read The Infinity Gauntlet or started collecting my li’l Marvel trading cards as a kid or something and I saw all these characters from the Marvel Universe who I didn’t know. Watching them in the story always added an element of surprise because I knew nothing about them. And that was kind of fun to do with these crossovers too!
14) Seeing Mr. Mxyzptlk on an episode of Supergirl and hearing his name pronounced out loud in NO WAY makes it any easier to say than just seeing it in a comic book when I read it. Um mix-zul-pit-lick…or…what???
15) It’s been a loooooooong time since I’ve loved a TV couple as much as I love Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer. Aaaaaaahhh!!! Everything about them is adorable and perfect and they fit so well together and I love them. I consider them solidly placed in my forever favorites category – Lorelai and Luke, Pam and Jim, and Alex and Maggie – that’s how much I love them.
15a) –__– ……let’s just move on, okay?
16) Cat Grant is one of the greatest characters in the history of television (I say “television” because I’ve very little experience with her character in the comics). Period. Full stop. Calista Flockhart plays her brilliantly. Every episode she’s not on makes me a little sad. Why was she only a regular on Season One?!!?!
17) The writers do a remarkably good job incorporating Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) while never making it feel like his presence diminishes or distracts from Supergirl in any way, shape, or form. He’s there to help when he can but she’s calling the shots. And it feels organic when they do it. Go them.
18) The use of religion on this show is fascinating – the Kryptonian worship of Rao, the group of humans who deify Supergirl after being saved by her, and the cult of dark Kryptonian witches who worship the World Killers; Reign, Purity, and Pestilence. I always love when a story explores an “advanced” society like Krypton having this seamless and fluid connection between super science and a healthy, holistic, developed faith. I’m sure there’s another post on this sometime in the future :).
19) I am continually impressed with how well this show balances smaller, single-episode stories with first laying the seeds and then cultivating each season-long arc. The overall awareness of and skill in organic and engaging storytelling is other fictional shows/universes would do well to emulate.
20) On that note, Season Four was a little rough. The overarching arc for the season dealt with the rise of the “Earth First!” championing Children of Liberty. The show did such a good job capturing the current nationalist, xenophobic, occasionally violent intolerance of the alt right we so often see proclaimed so boldly in the U.S. it felt hard to watch at times. The hope that so often surrounds Supergirl’s exploration of social justice/current events felt mired in this season. To be fair, in this way it accurately captures the emotions glancing at the news on any given day yields.
20a) Within this framework, I found it very hard not to root for Manchester Black (David Ajala). Here was this violent, antihero vigilante (at best) or villain (at worst) who I knew was doing the wrong thing…but I still had to remind myself I didn’t want him to win. The grip of intolerance and absurd chaos can feel so tight on our world at times it can be hard to keep the fire of belief in our better angels burning, even though that’s exactly what we have to do. The show did a brilliant job in making me feel the latter by so accurately capturing the former.
21) Lastly, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t! It was Saturday, 5 October when I had to admit the cold, hard truth to myself. I had twenty-three episodes left and I needed to be done by 3:30 on 6 October because I was seeing a 35th anniversary screening of Ghostbusters (YAY!!!!) at my local movie theatre at 4:30 and by the time it was over it would’ve been time to get ready for the season premiere of Batwoman and Supergirl. So there was no way I could pull this off unless I got something like three hours sleep all weekend AND abandoned any pretense of grading and lesson planning – two things that, with the insight and encouragement of my friend Sarah (and midterm right around the corner) I had to admit were a bad idea. So I tried. And I did have seventy-nine episodes finished before I went to see Ghostbusters on Sunday. That’s not bad! But I didn’t finish those entire ninety-six episodes of Supergirl (and assorted crossovers with The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow) until Saturday 12 October.
BUT ninety-six episodes of Supergirl (plus crossovers) in twenty-two days still isn’t too bad. I’m counting it as a win. And I’ve found a new favorite show! So that’s two wins. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I might consider buying the DVDs so I can easily watch it whenever the show inevitably leaves Netflix for HBO Max or DC Universe or wherever it goes because we all let video stores die when we uncritically thought streaming was the best until we learned – too late – that now we just have to pay individual providers for individual content in a constantly shifting landscape of streaming deals unlike video stores where I could walk in and rent just about any movie or, in their later years, TV series from just about any company for a dollar or two.
Sorry, I’ve digressed :). Supergirl is BRILLIANT and I love everything about it. Unlike the Marvel Netflix shows (which may’ve started strong but all became boring in their second seasons (save Daredevil (but even then I didn’t care enough to watch Season Three)), Supergirl just gets better and better. I can’t speak for the rest of the Arrowverse but any single episode of Supergirl is better than any entire season of any Marvel show. If Batwoman is half as good as Supergirl (and from the first two episodes I just watched On Demand it’s incredible!) all this television toil will be more than worth it.
I can’t wait to start spending my Sunday nights with Kara and Kate! Yay! And bring on that Crisis on Infinite Earths!!!