CBS' charming Supergirl TV series answers that question with atypically upbeat action-adventure. Telling the story of Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), a superheroine who lives in the shadow of cousin Kal-El, aka Clark “Superman” Kent, show-runners Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg borrow some elements from earlier Superman adaptations, particularly Bruce Timm's animated series and Richard Donner's live-action films. They even surpass their predecessors in one key way: presenting an authentically optimistic superhero.
Supergirl stands apart by convincingly arguing that many conflicts can be solved by understanding and even
Unlike Kal-El — or, you know, “Clark” — Kara was sent to Earth with a mission in mind: protect her cousin from hostile humans. She finds herself unable to complete that task because she arrives on Earth well after he does (her ship was knocked off course). So she finds her own mission. But when Kara decides to become a superhero like Clark, she faces a dilemma similar to what Supergirl's show-runners deal with: She realizes that people expect her to be Superman Lite.
Miraculously, Supergirl acknowledges but never sinks beneath the weighty expectations placed on Kara, a rare heroine in a field dominated by super-dicks. Kara may be related to Superman, but even members of her makeshift family must overcome their initial reservations about her. Astra (Laura Benanti), Kara's aunt and a super-powered Kryptonian terrorist who wants to stop humanity from destroying Earth, at
Media mogul Cat Grant (Calista "Ally McBeal" Flockhart), Kara's Devil Wears Prada-style boss from hell, also comes to respect Kara within the show's first few episodes. Kara is Cat's favorite pincushion during the workday, but Cat promotes Kara's public identity with the same zeal that Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson hates on Spider-Man.
The trusting type, Kara forgives her loved ones' transgressions. Benoist is a sensitive, capable leading lady who makes that kind of noble aspiration believable. She delivers a moving speech in the otherwise lopsided episode “Human for a Day” when Kara, after mysteriously losing her super-powers, talks an armed robber into surrendering. The blocky dialogue — “I believe that we are better than this. We choose who we want to be” — could have easily gotten stuck in a lesser actor's throat. But Benoist is convincing even when Kara reaches out for the robber's gun and tells him “I know you're going to choose to be a better man.”
In another episode, Kara lets villains