‘Supergirl’ TV Recap and Review: The 2015 Pilot

Melissa Benoist Mehcad Brooks Supergirl
Melissa Benoist and Mehcad Brooks in ‘Supergirl’ (Photo © 2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc)

CBS’ new entry in the comic book inspired superhero genre, Supergirl, arrived on October 26, 2015 with the debut of the one hour action/drama/comedy starring Melissa Benoist in the title role. The first episode did a fantastic job of setting the tone for the show along with introducing viewers to the key characters who’ll be either working with or against the latest costumed fighter to headline a TV series. The series went all out with the effects and action, but the writers also didn’t skimp on character development. By the time the one hour Supergirl pilot ended, audiences had a firm grasp on who Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, Alex Danvers, James-Not-Jimmy Olsen, Cat Grant, Winn Schott, and Hank Henshaw are as well as the overall layout of the show.

Executive produced by Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg, and Sarah Schechter, CBS’ Supergirl’s first episode did a terrific job of explaining the world the show will exist in, blending in humor to make some of the more out of this world aspects go down easier. Melissa Benoist really fits the role, pulling off both the slightly goofy side of Kara as well as the determined-to-be-a-hero aspects of Supergirl. In fact, the series is well cast all the way around, and it’ll be entertaining to get to spend more time with each of the supporting characters as the series’ first season moves along.

Here’s a recap of Supergirl’s first episode in case you missed anything in the jam-packed pilot:

Supergirl starts off with a voice-over by Kara Zor-El explaining that 24 years ago Krypton was in trouble. Her cousin Kal-El was sent to Earth and, of course, we all know his story. “The story you don’t know is that I was sent to protect him,” says Kara. Kara was also sent to Earth, charged with protecting Kal-El. Her parents warned her she would have extraordinary powers on Earth and that she must always look out for her cousin. Unfortunately, Krypton blew up which knocked her pod into the phantom zone where she slept for 24 years before finally reaching Earth. She was still physically 13 while her cousin was now grown up and had already revealed himself to be Superman to the people on Earth. Superman placed Kara with her adoptive family, Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’s Dean Cain and Helen Slater from 1984’s Supergirl movie), and their daughter Alex (Chyler Leigh). Because Superman didn’t need her protection, Kara no longer had a mission on Earth.


Kara has the same powers as her cousin but chose to hide them and fit in, believing Earth didn’t need another hero. Instead, she took a job at CATCO Worldwide Media built by Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the most powerful women in National City. Her co-worker Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) asks her out, but she already has a date she booked online.

Miss Grant is the world’s most difficult boss. She’s a very demanding, very high maintenance woman who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings, and when she has to downsize The Tribune it’s Kara she tasks with sending out the notices. Kara asks her what’s going to happen to all the people losing their jobs, reminding her The Daily Planet isn’t downsizing. Cat explains that’s because Metropolis has a guy flying around in a cape saving people. He gets 54% of The Daily Planet’s covers. If Kara wants to save The Tribune, she has to find Cat a hero.

Kara meets the new guy, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), to get the layouts Cat wants and he’s busy unpacking his office. He has a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Superman with him and tells Kara Superman actually posed for the shot because he likes him. He’s now at The Tribune after leaving The Daily Planet, and Kara asks about Superman. James gives her the scoop and tells her he’s as nice a guy as you’d want him to be. He also points out that she looks a little like Superman.

Alex goes to Kara’s to help her pick out an outfit for her blind date. Kara’s questioning her decision to work for Cat, and Alex tells her that’s normal. But, Kara wants to be so much more, just like Superman. Alex reminds her life is not so bad and makes her pick out an outfit quickly because she has a plane to catch.

The blind date isn’t going well because the guy is busy with his cell phone – and busy picking up other women. The news pops up on the TV in the restaurant, following the breaking news of plane with engine failure. Kara immediately thinks of Alex’s flight she had to catch and rushes out of the restaurant. She sees the plane, uses her X-ray vision to see Alex on board, and after a failed attempt she flies up to the plane. Two engines are on fire and Kara gets under the plane to try and keep it from crashing. Alex sees her outside under the wing, and Kara has to dodge a bridge but saves the plane by landing it in the water. She climbs atop the now floating plane and is spotlighted by a helicopter. Everyone snaps her photo before she takes off once again.

Kara is back at home, wet and watching TV. A flying female saved the plane’s passengers from certain death according to one reporter, while another reporter talks about the destruction on the bridge caused by the rescue. A photo of Kara standing in the spotlight on the plane is shown on TV, and Alex walks in the room and sees it. Kara’s super excited she did it and Alex can’t believe it. Alex needs a drink and Kara says she almost forgot what flying is like. Alex asks her what she was thinking, worried Kara exposed herself to the world and now everyone will know about her. Kara’s fine with it; she doesn’t mind being exposed. She’s always wanted to help people. But Alex is worried people will figure out who she is and what she is, and doesn’t think it’s safe for Kara to do it again. That knocks Kara down, and she gets emotional. Alex leaves, saying, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The next morning everyone is trying to figure out who saved the plane. No one recognizes the woman in the plane. Her coworkers joke that no one can take her seriously because she’s a rookie superhero who can’t even come up with a suit.

Cat has a meeting with her staff and she’s pissed no one has any idea who the flying superhero is. Cat asks James if there’s a connection between the mysterious woman and Superman and he says he doesn’t know. Superman didn’t mention it, he says. But, he also says saving people is what she’s born to do if she is like Superman. Cat’s excited because this will save The Tribune but she needs images, video, and exclusive content. Everyone heads out to look for her while Kara heads out to get Cat a lettuce wrap. James tells Kara Superman’s first act was also to save a plane.

Kara meets with Winn on the roof and says she needs someone to be excited for her and only three people know her secret. Last night she embraced who she was, and he guesses it’s that she’s a lesbian. She says, “I’m not gay. I’m her – the woman who saved the plane.” Winn, of course, doesn’t believe it and Kara goes to the edge of roof, falls backward and flies. He’s now a believer.

At a diner, a man’s fingernails scrape the countertop as he watches the news reports on the plane. Outside, he climbs into a tanker truck and it’s revealed he’s not human. Vartox (Owain Yeoman) talks to his boss The Commander (Faran Tahir) via video, with his boss demanding to know why the plane with DEO agents didn’t blow up. Both men know about Krypton and Jar-El, and they think Supergirl is Alura Zor-El’s daughter who’s working with the humans. Vartox’ boss says he must eliminate the girl and human casualties don’t matter. The General is on the way and this must be done quickly.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist Photo

At home, Winn and Kara work on coming up with a costume, the first of which she wouldn’t even wear to the beach. And, she wants a cape but Winn says they’re lame. She comes up with another costume that ‘s much better, and he sends her out to help with a freeway car chase. That’s an easy one compared to the plane, but she crashes during the chase. She gets her cape because it helps with the aerodynamics. Next up, a robbery with armed gunmen. She’s bullet proof so it’s another easy victory for Kara. But, the cape didn’t survive the gunshots and a better one made of sturdier material is created. It has the ‘S’ which isn’t an S, it’s her family’s coat of arms: The House of El. Next, a four alarm fire gets her attention. It’s a trap though as she’s hit with darts full of a green material and taken hostage.

Waking up secured to a table, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) explains the darts were made of low-grade Kryptonite which weakens her. Then, surprise, surprise, Alex is introduced as an agent working for the DEO: the Department of Extranormal Operations. It monitors extraterrestrials, so that means Kara. They have her ship from the day she crashed, and she’s the reason they launched the organization. Superman made them figure out they’d be getting more “immigrants” and when Kara crashed on Earth she brought Fort Rozz and its population of the worst criminals known to exist with her. Fort Rozz was banished to the Phantom Zone and somehow when Kara’s pod got loose, it pulled Fort Rozz with her to our planet. The alien convicts escaped and are starting to emerge. They were behind Alex’s near plane crash.

Kara wants to help but Hank says she’s too visible now. He suggests if she wants to help, she should go back to getting coffee. Angry over being deceived for so many years, Kara and Alex argue over why Alex was recruited for the agency in the first place. Kara thinks it’s because of her, and Alex says it’s her academic background in biology that got her the position.

Back at the office, Cat has dubbed the new superhero Supergirl. Kara rushes into Cat’s office upset about the nickname. “A female superhero – shouldn’t she be called Superwoman?” Cat doesn’t care, but Kara thinks calling her Supergirl – something less than what she is – makes them all guilty of being anti-feminist. Cat doesn’t think anything’s wrong with being a girl and says the real problem is Kara’s opinion of the word. James interrupts Cat as she’s about to fire Kara with the news Kara has a friend who works at the bank that got robbed. James claims Kara convinced her friend to allow them to use a good photo of Supergirl that she took during the incident. Cat’s impressed and Kara’s no longer fired.

Kara and James leave Cat’s office and she tells him she could have handled it herself. Just then Vartox sends out a high-pitched signal only she can hear. He threatens to kill humans if she doesn’t meet him. She runs outside, rips off her shirt and flies to the power plant where they’re supposed to meet. He attacks her, saying females bow before men. Alura was his judge and jailer so he’s eager to kill her daughter. He slams her around like a toy and he says she’s no Superman, even with the S on her chest. As he’s strangling her a helicopter appear and fires on Vartox. Alex and the DEO save Kara but Vartox escapes.

At the DEO headquarters, they use the alien material from Kara’s wound to help figure out more about the Fort Rozz escapees. Kara says Alex was right, the world doesn’t need her.

Kara is home alone at night when Alex knocks. Outside the door, she tells Kara that it’s not her fault. As a child she couldn’t compete with Kara and was happy when Kara decided not to use her powers, but now the world needs her. Kara finally opens the door and says she can’t do it. Alex says her family wants her to do this, and whips out something from Krypton recovered by Hank from Kara’s pod years ago. A hologram of her mom opens up and her mother tells her her destiny is not tied to Kor-El. What’s important is she find her way back to the brave girl she always was. She tells her to be brave, be strong, and always be true to yourself.

Back at HQ, Alex insists Kara is there to help them and that Hank needs to let her do what she was put on the planet to do or else Alex will stop helping the team also. A team member says she found Vartox and he’s heading toward the city. Kara demands to go take on Vartox and Hank tells her, “Make sure you win.”

Kara stops the tanker Vartox is driving and Vartox is ejected. Kara’s ready this time and gets in a few good punches. Alex analyzed the metal in the axe and they both know it can explode if it gets too hot, which is what Alex is trying to make it do. She says she gives up and as Vartox swings the axe, Kara catches it and uses her heat vision to heat it up. It works and the axe is destroyed. Vartox says she has no idea what’s coming and kills himself.

Back at CATCO Winn says he heard about a Supergirl vs Reptilian wrestling match in the desert. She says she’ll tell him later and when he asks if that means the Superfriends are back, she insists they’re not calling themselves that. She asks James out for lunch and he says, “You probably burned up a lot of calories fighting an axe-wielding alien.”

Up on the roof, James confesses Superman asked him to be near Kara in National City. Superman wants her to do this, but he wanted her to choose it for herself. James hands her a box with the blanket Kal-El was wrapped in as a baby. Apparently this cape won’t shred, says James, telling her Superman is proud of her. “Now, don’t you save a city to protect? You know, up, up and away.”

The final scene finds The Commander meeting with the General. We learn Kara is the General’s niece (the General is Alura’s twin sister, also played by Laura Benanti) and she wants her killed as soon as possible.

GRADE: B+

More on Supergirl: Melissa Benoist Interview / Chyler Leigh Interview / David Harewood Interview