Supergirl (CBS, Mondays, 8/7C) makes its timeslot premiere this week and, in an unusual turn, its second episode – Stronger Together – is actually better than the pilot.
Kara learns that superheroics are not easy – regardless of how much power you have – and gets raked over the coals in the press before figuring out how to go about doing her job.
Stronger Together opens with an alien killing a security guard while stealing something from a chemical factory before letting us see Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) in action – but being a beginner and all, she makes a few mistakes early on – saving an oil tanker from a fire, but accidentally causing an oil slick.
As a result, her sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), insists she needs to work to improve – and actually teaches her a lesson about power versus intelligence.
At work, even Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart) has joined the press in giving Supergirl the gears. When Kara expresses some dismay, Cat tells her almost exactly what Alex did – giving her pause. She decides to start small and work her way up – drafting James (Mechad Brooks) and Wynn (Jeremy Jordan) to help her (both are initially dismayed that the other knows about her).
The resulting montage is smart and even a bit humorous (‘Who names their snake Fluffy?’) and shows Kara getting into a bit of a groove, while the Department of Extraterrestrial Oversight looks into the chemical thief. Cue Krypton flashback and young Kara (Malina Weissman) learning about Hellgrammites – giving her the knowledge to give the DEO something to work with.
Back at the Tribune, Cat gives James 24 hours to get her an interview with Supergirl – which leads to a heart to heart with Kara and the official meaning of the symbol adopted as the coat of arms for the House of El.
Meanwhile, the Hellgrammite (Chris Vance) – whose name we never learn – is braced by a trio of super-powered thugs and held for General Astra (Laura Benanti).
Director Glen Winter brings the slight tonal inconsistencies of the pilot down a notch – Kara at work, and Supergirl starting on smaller jobs, still remind of the Richard Donner Superman but never quite as overtly; Supergirl versus the bad guys feels less Zack Snyder Man of Steel and a bit more Donner-like, The result is a slightly better flow – a more cohesive feel throughout.
The script, by Andrew Kreisberg and Ali Adler (from a story by Greg Berlanti and Kreisberg), is smart and witty. We get a few more references to the Daily Planet crew and that other El, but they are used to make salient points and provide a touchstone for helping Supergirl become her own kind of hero.
True, the Hellgrammite doesn’t get much to do (a pity, because Vance is capable of so much more), but the episode is more about family – blood-related, adoptive, and the kind you choose for yourself – and really works on that level. Even the revelation about General Astra and the teaser tidbit at the ep’s conclusion tie into that theme in unexpected ways.
Benoist continues to make Kara/Supergirl as much fun as anyone could have hoped for, and the rest of the cast has jelled beautifully. The effects look extremely good – which is to say that they don’t look like effects. Impressive on a TV budget.
Right now, Supergirl is the best thing to happen to the 2015-16 network TV season.
Final Grade: A