There's a lot to unpack in this premiere, which served as both a soft reset and a direct continuation of last season.
There were several minor changes to both the setting and look of the series, both overt and subtle. The new DEO base was probably the biggest change, a welcome one. Having it up in the air and open and bright fits Supergirl so much better than a dank underground fortress. The less obvious change was in the production values and cinematography. The mildly canned and fake look to the series is gone, and my guess is that it was a product of the network they were on before. Now things look closer and more intimate and the lighting is a touch darker, but not enough to change the tone of the series. It almost feels like the CW is taking the series more seriously. Even the special effects felt more in line with a comic book series. So for me, all these changes work.
What was interesting is how much stayed exactly the same. All of our major characters returned, except for the villains of course, including Max Lord who didn't make an appearance. The cast didn't get makeovers and had the same look as last season, and with good reason since the premiere picks up only twelve hours after last season's finale. The only really big movement is Winn, who now works for the DEO instead of as Cat's IT guy, which I think is a much better fit for him.
Superman was about as perfect as he could be. Not only is Tyler Hoechlin nearly perfect casting appearance-wise with his square jaw and black hair, his sheer likability as both the Man of Steel and Clark Kent make him almost as good as Melissa Benoist. He comes across as the kind of hero everyone can look up to: confident, humble, strong and capable. He mirrors his cousin in just the right ways, and that makes them feel like family. His Clark persona is just as good, with the klutz act almost second nature to him. But even when he is that mild mannered reporter, he comes across as extremely competent in his job, loyal to his friends and family, and surprisingly funny. In other words, he might be my favorite Superman since Christopher Reeve.
The core of the story, though, was about Kara and the choices she had to make about her life. While her Supergirl persona fulfills her need to use her abilities and help others, it isn't all she wants. With Cat Grant literally ticking down a clock on Kara's career, she had to figure out what was probably pretty obvious to the rest of us: she wants to be a reporter. This career choice came to her in a somewhat organic way, since having Clark there doing his job showed her that she was pretty good at it, too. We already know Kara can write, since she wrote that impressive letter to Cat's son last year. It kind of always felt like writing was the right fit for Kara, especially with the big hints that she was supposed to follow in both Clark and Cat's footsteps.
As fitting as it was to have Kara decide to become a reporter, her choice to end her relationship with James before it even began was odd. Sure, I never really liked them as a couple because they didn't have the chemistry needed for an epic romance. However, they did spend most of the last season doing a will they/won't they dance and it feels very anti-climatic that the potential love affair ended so suddenly.
The other plot element was about an assassin trying to take out a new big player, Lena Luthor. I'm not sure how I feel about so many traditional Superman elements being added to Supergirl, but I'm willing to see how they play out. We don't know if Lena is a villain yet, but she seems like an interesting character either way. I was convinced we would get some kind of tease at the end revealing that she was the one behind everything that happened in the episode. Instead, we got Brenda Strong as an unnamed Cadmus doctor who turned our villain of the week, an assassin named John Corben, into the classic Superman villain Metallo.
Comic Book Bits:
Oh wow, there is a lot here. There were so many Easter eggs it would probably end up being a list as long as the rest of the review. Here are a few of the bigger things I noticed:
Lex Luthor is a well established figure in this universe, and is already in jail. One of his plans included blowing up the San Andreas fault line, much like the version of him in the original Superman movie in 1978.
Lois and Clark are a couple, and she knows about his secret identity.
Gotham is a real place in this universe, but there was no mention of Batman.
Miss Teschmacher was the right hand woman of Lex Luthor in the original Superman movie, which is the second direct connection to that movie so far.
There was a new saga sell that wasn't quite as hokey as the season one version.
I loved the new DEO. If they have to have a secret base, I much prefer one that is bright and beautiful instead of dank and ugly.
The conflict between Hank and Superman felt a little odd, but it does explain why Supes isn't helping the DEO.
I loved how Cat started calling Kara Keera again until Kara finally decided on her career path.
They still don't know who the mysterious man is who crashed in the Kryptonian pod.
Cat: "Does this dressing look drizzled on?"
Miss Teschmacher: "Yes!"
Cat: "No, no, this lettuce is drowning. It's floating on a sea of ranch like little Kate Winslets in Titanic."
Cat: "Is this the best replacement for you, you could come up with?"
Kara: "Just give her a chance, please. She is so smart and sweet... she went to Yale."
Cat: "So did George Bush."
Guy on Bike: "That's Superman."
Supergirl: "I used to chance his diapers."
Cat: "She cries more than Halle Berry at awards shows."
Kara: "Did Miss Grant seem a little off to you?"
Jimmy: "She's always like that with Clark, she goes gaga for him. She actually sent him a drunk text once. It was... it was florid."
Lena: "I hate flying. I know statistically it's the safest way to travel, but still."
Another fun reference to the Superman movie.
Guy saved by Superman: "We're moving back to Gotham."
This was a great way to introduce a new audience to Supergirl. Even with Superman casting a long shadow over the episode, she managed to shine.
3 out of 4 Superfamily members
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.