By GW Thomas
First off, is it fair to compare a movie series with a TV series? In this case, yes, because the problem isn't budget, special effects, or star power. Daredevil (which I talked about a few posts ago) had none of these, and it was probably the best superhero show of the year. Money is not the issue. It's something else.
In this pilot you meet eight important characters: Kara, her sister Alex, her sister's boss Hank Henshaw, Kara's boss Cat Grant, Kara's work buddy and confidante Winn, Jimmy Olsen, and two major villains. And you don't have time to get to know any of them. Which is a huge mistake. Take Calista Flockhart as Kara's bitch-boss, the rich and eccentric Cat Grant. We don't get any hint of a redeeming quality or something of interest in her. None. You just want to punch her in the face and you hope she dies. Which is more than you can say for almost all the other characters. They don't even get that much frisson. The entire cast (with the exception of Jimmy Olsen, perhaps) could be wiped off the face of the Earth and you'd not care. You might even cheer. And the villains: cardboard, replaceable, non-entities. The main antagonist this first episode was Vartox (Owain Yeoman), an ax-swinging bad-ass from the Krypton prison. I enjoyed seeing Yeoman out of nostalgia for his Rigsby character on The Mentalist, but not much else.
Pace. That's all they needed to change. The cast is good. Benoist has the right blend of innocence and strength. Jimmy Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) was good as the guy saving Kara from being fired, but slipped as he revealed his secret mission. Again, good stuff for later in the season. The special effects were great, with Kara having to divert a jet plane through a bridge. The fight scenes were pretty standard, reminding me of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. All the material was there. All of it. Kaboom!
I suppose the one redeeming feature I have to praise: no Oliver Queen-style, drive you crazy, go get a soda flashbacks. Ah, there was that. The short glimpse of Kara's life with adopted parents, the Danvers, was a fun cameo for Dean Cain (who played Superman on Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (who played Kara in the 1984 Supergirl film that followed the Reeve movies). I suppose the producers didn't want to do more than suggest this part of Kara's life because they didn't want to go down the Smallville road. (Or as Sheldon Cooper puts it, ten seasons to see a man who can fly, fly.) Personally, I would have welcomed more from these two and perhaps that is the plan, to bring them in as recurring roles?
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.