Darkness is nothing new to superhero television, but if everything your audience loves about the show is in danger, you’ve got a problem
The Show: Supergirl
The Network: The CW
The Genre: Superhero
The Challenge: Give a show four episodes with which to draw you in, impress you, challenge you, make you feel something deeply. Four episodes for the chance to find out if you care what happens to the characters you’re watching enough to become invested in the story. If after all that, it does none of those things for you? Then no biggie. You gave it a good shot and you can move on. But if you love it, you’ll be glad you stuck around.
The Premise: Based on the DC Comics character of the same name, Supergirl follows Kara Danvers – reporter at Catco by day, kryptonian badass by night. Kara (Melissa Benoist) works alongside her sister, Alex Danvers, to defeat any threat against earthly life. Season three follows Kara as she mourns the loss of her boyfriend, Mon-el (Chris Wood), while working with her best friend, Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). The season also chronicles the origin of coming villain Reign, as well as the nearing dissolution of the iconic relationship between Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima).
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The first four episodes of Supergirl’s third season have marked a significant change in tone. It’s hard not to notice the darkening of the show, especially when the creators have gone so far as to literally turn off the lights. It remains to be seen whether this tone will prevail throughout the entire season, but things aren’t looking great. With the impending and inevitable end of ‘Sanvers,’ as well as the coming transition of the already beloved Samantha into Reign, we have to wonder – is there any happiness in Supergirl’s third season for fans to look forward to?
The Danvers sisters’ incredible friendship and unwavering support for each other continues to be the brightest light in a dark season
Kara and Alex may not be related by blood, but they have a relationship built on so much more than DNA. These two women support each other in every possible situation they encounter, and they truly place one another above everything else. The Danvers sisters are a shining example of well written TV family. They inhabit the area between harmony and conflict that is so rarely seen on television – they are a truly healthy depiction of a realistic sisterhood. That is not to say that they don’t argue, because they certainly do, but they never fall victim to contrived drama or manipulative behavior. Instead, every argument between the Danvers sisters comes wholly from a place of love for each other.
“Kara Danvers is my favorite person. She’s saved me more times than Supergirl ever could.” – Alex
Take this season’s premiere, for example. Alex and Kara spent the majority of the hour at odds with one another. After Kara decided to forgo her human identity and focus solely on the kryptonian superhero, as a result of Mon-el’s departure, Alex was the one to set her straight. This was, of course, Kara’s method of coping with her grief, and Alex saw that. In one of the most memorable moments of the show, Alex reminded Kara that it is not Supergirl who is her hero, but Kara Danvers. Where most Superhero stories focus on a romantic interest as a hero’s tie to humanity (we’re looking at you, Lois Lane) Supergirl’s humanity is grounded in her sister. In moments like this, Supergirl reminds us that familial love and female friendship are often the strongest bonds of all.
Odette Annable shines as newcomer Sam, who has completely taken hold of our hearts just in time to crush them
Season two ended with a tease that many comics fans immediately recognized. Because of this, there has been no secrecy surrounding Supergirl’s newest villain. Everyone who is even slightly interested in Supergirl casting news has known that Samantha would become Reign for a while. What we didn’t know was how remarkably written the character would be. To put it simply, we’ve fallen in love with Sam. Her struggles as a single mother running a large corporation resonate with the largely female audience, and we feel for her. As her friendships with Lena and Kara grow, we simultaneously celebrate and dread the day they end – being friends with the enemy is going to make this season much harder on Kara than it already is. Plus, it’s going to be difficult to watch Sam succumb to darkness when we are already so invested in her character.
“Why is it so important to you that I have superpowers? Hmm?” -Samantha
It would be remiss not to point out what a hugely missed opportunity this storyline is for Supergirl. This season’s weakness comes from audience knowledge, and Sam’s story is no different. Can you imagine the reaction if we didn’t know that Sam was going to be evil? If Kara’s new friend turned out to be her enemy in a surprise twist? Supergirl often thrives on audience knowledge, especially when it alludes to comic book stories and characters, but in instances like this, audience knowledge weighs it down. Sam’s story would be much more shocking (and easier to watch) if we had no clue about her fate. As it stands, it’s heartbreaking to watch her build a life we know she will soon destroy.
Supergirl’s power comes from sunlight, and the show is weaker in the dark
To put it simply, Supergirl must turn on the lights for the show to survive. We mean this metaphorically, of course, although the show would benefit from literally turning on the lights as well. Supergirl’s power has always been derived from Earth’s yellow sun. From her inception, Supergirl has thrived in sunlight. The same is true of the show – Supergirl is simply better when it is lighter, and the darker tones are not working. We can only hope that these first few episodes are the darkest the season will get, but we aren’t sure how that’s possible. After all, Sam is going to become Reign sooner or later. Plus, ‘Sanvers,’ the show’s beloved LGBT relationship, is doomed to sink soon, with Floriana Lima is exiting the series. If Alex’s heartbreak over the idea of losing Maggie was bad (which it was) it’s sure to be unbearable when her fears actually do come true.
Winn: “I thought it was bad when she skipped pizza night, but skipping free apps? I mean, come on. These are like the beginning of the dark days.”
J’onn: “Hey, come on, grief doesn’t have a deadline.”
Winn: “Look, I know, but I mean, she goes from being little miss sunshine to, well, Alex basically.”
For now, all we can do is trust Supergirl. It’s been hinted that Mon-el will be returning soon, and regardless of how you feel about his relationship with Kara, she is undoubtedly happier with him around. Lena and Kara’s friendship is also a point of happiness in this murky season, and the two of them share an incredible chemistry which is fun to watch. Hopefully, ‘Sanvers’ will end amicably, making the split as painless as possible. Still, it’s hard to imagine that Supergirl will be heading in a more humorous direction anytime soon, and that’s a shame. Last year, Supergirl was the lightest part of the DCTV universe, providing a much needed break from the depressing vibes of Arrow and The Flash. Now, the show has taken its turn in the dark and it just truly does not work. Supergirl’s “S” represents hope, and it’s a fitting idea – for now, all we can do is hope that the show’s light will return.
Final Verdict: Despite compelling storytelling and captivating characters, Supergirl’s third season just doesn’t live up to the previous two
It’s not a lost battle. Supergirl still has plenty of time to pick itself back up and return to its former glory, but first it has to restore its tone. A little darkness is expected and usually unavoidable, but there must be a balance between pain and gaiety. We are all for serious tones on Supergirl, as long as the show doesn’t lose what makes it so special – and in these first few episodes, it seems to have slipped a bit. If Supergirl can restore a lighthearted core underneath its tough storylines, we are all in. For now, we will continue to check out the show for its diversity and captivating performances (particularly from scene stealer Odette Annable.) Also, we can’t help but be intrigued by what’s to come. After all, the show’s faults still do not outweigh its strengths – strong female friendships, realistic women in charge, and compelling characters are enough for us until Supergirl finds its way back to being the show we know and love.