REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E1 – Girl of Steel

After an enjoyable yet uneven second season, fans of Supergirl were anxiously wondering what the premiere would bring – especially given the trailers that indicated Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) had denounced her humanity altogether. While the result was still somewhat mixed, there’s still a lot to love about “Girl of Steel,” and the rest of the season would be wise to follow through on its promise.

Let’s start with the positive: in the wake of Kara’s mourning, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) has been given the chance to step up as both a boss and friend. After the Supergirl writers decided to unceremoniously cut ties on the James/Kara romance, it seemed like they were at a loss when it came to James’ story. He was turned into a hero called Guardian, but it came at the expense of his work as a photojournalist and the head of CatCo. The premiere rectifies this by allowing James to acknowledge that his job there is deeply important, and furthermore uses him to try to get through to Kara when she starts ditching her work as a reporter.

Mom looks different…

The re-centering of CatCo continues through Lena Luthor’s (Katie McGrath) storyline, and the introduction of a new Big Bad in the form of power-hungry developer Morgan Edge (guest star Adrian Pasdar). CatCo is in the middle of a big plot for the first time since season one, laying the groundwork for a more cohesive season-long arc and a potential friendship between Lena and James now that they have similar goals. By revealing Edge’s evil plans right off the bat and putting CatCo’s freedom of the press at risk through his attempt at buying it, the show manages to remind its audience of how significant the work of regular humans can be and why they have to step up and defend themselves as well. It can’t all be left to Supergirl, no matter how much Kara may disagree.

Ironically, Kara is what brings us to the murkier elements of the episode. Benoist’s performance was stellar, as she deftly distinguished between the sweet, good-natured Kara of seasons past and the hardened, clipped one who feels she has lost everything. It’s harder for me to connect to her grief over Mon-El (Chris Wood) because I didn’t buy into the foundation of their relationship, but it’s understandable that she would be angry over having made the choice to send away the man she loves. That being said, it was a leap to go from “cold and efficient” to quitting her human job and declaring herself better than the species she’s lived with for 15 years.

The appearance of Erica Durance as Alura helped to expand on Kara’s pain, so that it’s a more generalized loss of family that she is feeling instead of her boyfriend. Her conversation with J’onn (David Harewood) added to that feeling, especially when one considers that both of them have experienced the death of their entire planet. Her human sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) also shined in this episode, making a heartfelt plea for Kara Danvers that only a girl of steel could ignore.

Her battle with her own humanity culminated at a celebration meant to celebrate her superhero side, where Lena said a few powerful words about what Supergirl means to her as Kara looked on conflicted. I was instantly reminded of The Flash‘s second season premiere, where the hero was being celebrated but Barry had to be coaxed by Iris’ faith in him to embrace both the public and his team once more. I was hoping that the parallel between the two shows would be more evident, but instead it was a vision of Mon-El that woke Kara up and saved her life in the climactic battle with Bloodsport. Given how much Alex, James, and even Lena were trying to reach her throughout the episode, it would have been nice if a human had succeeded in the end.

You call that a villain?

Alex didn’t just become vulnerable with Kara this week. She also had a few scenes regarding her upcoming wedding with Maggie (Floriana Lima), but these were less effective than others. Not enough time was devoted to her issues with having a big wedding – in fact, I didn’t even realize they were planning a big wedding or that Alex had an issue with it until she flat out said so. Then she and Maggie had one conversation about it, where Alex opened up about her father not being present at the wedding, and after that the problem was solved. This felt like it could have been its own main plot in a different episode, but at least it gave us a beautiful and heartfelt scene in which Alex asked J’onn to walk her down the aisle. I can’t lie, a few tears leaked out of my eyes during that one.

A final thread woven into Supergirl‘s premiere was the start of Samantha AKA Reign’s (Odette Annable) origin story. Introduced as a sweet young woman desperate to save her child, the unexpected onset of her powers and final moments of her nightmare suggest an interesting mystery being set up. There’s not yet enough information about her to know if it will be a worthwhile journey, but I’m ready to see where it goes.

Supergirl airs Mondays on the CW at 8/7c.