Erin Watches: #Supergirl to the left of me, #Gotham to the right…. October 24, 2016Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
Tags: DC Comics
Netflix now has the first seasons of Supergirl and Gotham, so I’ve been watching them back-to-back.
Talk about a thematic clash, huh.
I like Supergirl, but…the thing is, I want to love it, and it keeps not letting me. Keeps falling down on little things that should be so easy.
Like — I appreciate that they’re bringing in lots of female characters from the comics, but two villains in a row whose motivation is “professional woman turns evil after rivalry with other professional woman”? When it wasn’t even their original backstory.
Or — red kryptonite temporarily turns Kara evil, okay, but the warning signs include “she gets more assertive about not wanting to be taken for granted” and “she starts dressing sexier”? Really?
And Cat Grant eventually decides to make a video warning about how Supergirl has gone evil…and orders her news network to play it on a loop. That’s not how TV works! Much less a TV network that’s supposed to be wildly successful!
Gah, Cat is the type of character I usually love, but that’s because she’s usually written with lots of competence kink and a sense of internal logic that is coldly consistent. Whereas these writers keep sending Cat in such dumb and/or random directions.
…also: when male characters figure out Kara’s identity, she brings them in on the secret pretty quickly. When Cat figures out her identity, Kara bends over backwards to deny it, finally bringing in a shapeshifter for the most convincing possible fakeout. Whyyy. She’s one of the smartest people you know even with the writers handing her the idiot ball at obnoxious times.
On another note, I wish we got more alien backstory and culture shock for Kara. She was already a teenager when she got to this planet! Everything’s sorta self-consciously a metaphor for young perky hopeful generic millennials, and that’s not what Kara is. She’s a young hopeful foreign refugee. You could get so much topical mileage out of paying attention to that, even.
I guess a lot of this falls under the heading of “wanting the show to be smarter than it is.”
Finally: what’s with the conspicuous avoidance of so many names? Do they have a copyright restriction where they only have the rights to say “Superman” twice a season? The constant references to “my cousin” are…well, super awkward. There’s also a line about heroes wearing masks in “that other city.” Was that supposed to be Gotham? Or somewhere else?
Specific references would make Kara’s world feel grounded in a larger world of superheroics. References this generic just make it feel artificial and thin.
Speaking of Gotham:
I’ve been itching for someone to take on the “police procedural set in a superhero universe” concept for a while now, and this show hits the balance really well. The era of costumed crimefighters and cartoon-style supervillainy hasn’t arrived yet, but you can see it bubbling under the surface, can see the bad guys just starting to get weird.
It can be gorier and more gruesome than it needs to be — we get it, the mobster characters are violently double-crossing each other for the umpteenth time, what else is new — but at least there are other interesting things going on. It’s not like the writers are counting on the violence to carry you through a lack of plot.
I’m a sucker for origin stories — all the continuity-porn moments of “aha, it’s you! I know who you’re going to be!” — and this show delivers in spades. Ivy! Selina! Ed Nigma! Harvey Dent!
Little Bruce in particular is delightful, the way they’re slowly nurturing the seeds of the future vigilante/action-hero/World’s Greatest Detective. Foreshadowing the ridiculous levels of competence he’s going to have, while making him still feel like a kid who has a long way to go.
A special shoutout to Renee Montoya for existing. And Barbara for having a thing with her, and Jim for being exactly as affected by that as he should be — i.e., no more or less upset than he would be if she had those same Feelings and History with a guy.
I like the ethical quandaries, the way our heroes have to wrestle their way through a tangle of corruption and crossed loyalties even among their own departments. I like Bruce’s whole arc. It would be great to have less mundane criminality, but I’m willing to hang around through that for the sake of the good parts.
And I’m crossing my fingers that we get Kate Kane at some point.