The Christopher Reeve Superman films |
Superman | Superman II | Superman III
Supergirl | Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
The New Adventures of Superman |
Smallville | Supergirl |
Superman's Wartime Animation
Supergirl (2015-2022) was a US American superhero television series based on characters created by DC that starred Melissa Benoist. The series tells the story of Clark Kent's cousin as she spends half her time as Supergirl, protecting the people of National City from various threats,. The other half she spends disguised as mild-mannered reporter Kara Danvers. Unlike Superman, who uses a pair of glasses to successfully disguise himself as Clark Kent, Kara as Supergirl not only takes off her glasses but also lets her hair down and puts her hands on her hips constantly. Supergirl's foes are both alien and closer to home, particularly prejudice as she spends as much time battling bigotry and narrowmindedness as fighting alien invaders. The show ran for six series and 126× 45-minute episodes between 2015-2022.
Supergirl was the third show in the Arrowverse group of connected superhero television shows. This had started with Arrow in 2012 and from the third series onwards would occasionally result in crossover episodes featuring characters or plots from other superhero shows.
Kara Zor-El is Superman's cousin. Like Superman she left Krypton as a child just before that planet exploded and came to Earth. On Earth she was adopted by the Danvers family. She has the same superpowers as her cousin – flight, super-speed, super-hearing, x-ray vision, super-strength, invulnerability, heat vision and freeze breath - but initially decided to keep this a secret. Living incognito in National City as Kara Danvers, she only reveals her powers when her adoptive sister Alex Danvers is in an aeroplane about to crash and Kara saves her life. She is soon recruited by the DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations), an organisation aimed at defending the Earth from alien threats, which her sister secretly works for. This organisation is headed by Hank Henshaw, who is really a Martian shape-shifter called J'onn J'onzz.
The first series concentrates on Kara coming to terms with her powers and juggling her new responsibilities and abilities with working for her very-demanding boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), head of CatCo Worldwide Media. Working alongside the DEO Kara tackles numerous violent and dangerous aliens on Earth. Many of whom have escaped from intergalactic gaol Fort Rozz, having been sentenced to being imprisoned there by Kara's mother Alura. This includes her mother's twin sister Astra (Laura Benanti) and husband Non (Chris Vance), who plan to take over the world.
In the second series Kara has become a reporter and befriended Lena Luthor, while Cat Grant decides to focus on other things and leaves CatCo Media, which is now run by James Olsen. Suddenly an awful lot more aliens have lived on Earth for many years, many of whom hang around in a bar the main cast frequent. Despite increasing xenophobia the President gives peaceful aliens on Earth amnesty. One of the aliens to have recently come to Earth is Mon-El from Daxam, another planet from Krypton's solar system that was destroyed when Krypton exploded, much to Kara's disgust as Daxamites had been Krypton's enemies. Yet Mon-El is not the only Daxamite to have survived the planet's destruction. Meanwhile Alex learns that her presumed-dead father Jeremiah Danvers is being held by an anti-alien terrorist organisation called Cadmus, led by Lillian Luthor, Lena's stepmother (Brenda Strong).
The third series reveals that there were other survivors from Krypton, but these are Worldkillers. The Worldkillers have split personalities and believe they are normal human, but subconsciously they are members of an evil religious cult dedicated to death and destruction. One of these is Kara's close friend Samantha Arias (Odette Annable) who keeps experiencing blackouts when she transforms to become worldkiller Reign. Also trying to save the Earth from the Worldkillers are a team who have time-travelled from the future.
The fourth series sees a rising wave of anti-alien xenophobia, as aliens are now known to be a substantial proportion of America's population. This is encouraged by Professor Ben Lockwood (Sam Witwer) who creates a vigilante group called the Children of Liberty, while the President of the United States is revealed to be an alien and replaced by Phillip Baker (Bruce Boxleitner), but secretly Lex Luthor is controlling the government.
The fifth series is greatly influenced by an Arrowverse crossover storyline involving the multiverse of parallel realities, the result of which is that the main characters find themselves on a new Earth ('Earth-prime') where Lex Luthor is believed to be a hero rather than villain. Yet ultimately he is the same as before and, manipulating his sister Lena, has secretive plans that will allow him to rule the world. The main characters also are threatened by Leviathan, a group of powerful immortals who seek to destroy humanity. CatCo Worldwide Media has been taken over by Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo), who also owns Obsidian, a tech company that has pioneered virtual reality contact lenses which allow the users an addictive escape from reality, which both Lex Luthor and Leviathan are very interested in. What will the consequences of all this be, and will it possibly result in a threat to the entire human race? How will Kara react to rival and possible love interest William Dey (Staz Nair)?
The sixth and final series begins with Kara trapped inside the Phantom Zone, a seemingly inescapable prison dimension. Will she be able to escape and will her friends be able to keep the earth safe from various threats without her? Will Lena Luthor discover that she is inexplicably a witch now? Will they then go on a Avengers-esque mission to collect a series of powerful Infinity Stones – no, I mean Totems – that have been so scattered throughout the entire universe that they are all found on Earth? Will they create their own team of Superheroes like the Avengers, the 'Super Friends'? Will they somehow be able to defeat immortal imp Nyxlygsptlnz ('Nyxly' for short, played by Peta Sergeant)? Is there anyone left in the city who doesn't know that Kara is Supergirl and doesn't dress up as a superhero?
The characters listed below are main characters in at least two series.
Kara Zor-El or Kara Danvers aka Supergirl (Melissa Benoist)
Superman's cousin who juggles working for CatCo Worldwide Media as the assistant to Cat Grant who founded the company along with saving the day and fighting aliens alongside the DEO. Although born before Superman (Kal-El) she arrived on Earth long after him having travelled through a timeless realm known as the Phantom Zone when her pod travelling to Earth was knocked off course. Like her cousin she believes in fighting for truth, justice and the American way1.
Kara Danvers aka Supergirl, created in 1959, should not be confused with Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, who was created in 1968.
Alexandra 'Alex' Danvers (Chyler Leigh)
Kara's older adoptive sister, she is a highly accomplished scientist who works as the field agent fighting aliens for the DEO as second-in-command after Hank Henshaw. Unlucky with relationships, she realises she is gay shortly after meeting policewoman Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) but their relationship ends after Maggie confesses that she never wants to have children. She later becomes romantically involved with Kelly Olsen.
James 'Jimmy' Olsen aka Guardian (Mehcad Brooks)
A close friend of Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), he moved to National City to become Art Director for CatCo Worldwide Media following breaking-up with Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan). After initially pursuing a relationship with Kara they later decide to remain friends and he later becomes involved with Lena Luthor. James Olsen later decides to help fight crime and aliens as a vigilante called 'Guardian' while wearing a high-tech suit of armour. He takes over as Chief Executive Officer of CatCo when Cat Grant leaves.
J'onn J'onzz aka Martian Manhunter and Hank Henshaw (David Harewood)
J'onn J'onzz is the last surviving Green Martian; his species was wiped out by White Martians during a civil war on Mars that took place 300 years earlier. With superpowers including shapeshifting, flight, telepathy and the ability to 'phase' through solid objects, J'onn used his abilities to impersonate the DEO agent who had been pursuing him, Hank Henshaw, following Hank's believed death at the hands of Jeremiah Danvers. J'onn later became the head of the DEO and used his position and powers to look after the Danvers sisters and later help aliens in distress away from the DEO. He has a complicated relationship with M'gann M'orzz (Sharon Leal), a White Martian who had opposed her species' genocide of the Green Martians.
Winslow 'Winn' Schott, Jr (Jeremy Jordan)
Kara's first best friend, he initially works in IT at CatCo Media but because of his abilities in creating superhero costumes and defeating evil aliens, he is recruited to join the DEO. The typical computer genius, he has unrequited love for Kara even before he knew she was really Supergirl, and in return he is the first person she tells.
Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath)
Lena is the half-sister of villain Lex Luthor. The head of L-Corp, formerly Luthor Corp before Lex's evil schemes were uncovered, she works hard to persuade the world that not all of Luthor family are evil. She buys and later sells CatCo Worldwide Media and is one of Kara's best friends, but has a strong dislike of Supergirl as she tries to research the various properties and uses of Kryptonite, a substance fatal to Supergirl. A brilliant scientist, she often conducts secret, ethically dubious research.
Brainiac 5 (Jesse Rath)
A half-organic, half AI time-travelling member of the 31st Century's Legion of Superheroes who travelled back to the 21st century to prevent a plague from wiping out all life. Stranded and unable to return to his own time, he joins the DEO.
Nia Nal aka Dreamer (Nicole Maines)
A half-alien transgender woman who also works as a reporter at CatCo World Media. She has dream-related powers and under the pseudonym Dreamer can predict the future in the form of difficult-to-interpret dreams, release energy blasts and is extremely strong. Played by a transgender actress, Nia Nal is the first transgender superhero on television.
Mon-El aka Mike Matthews (Chris Wood)
A prince of planet Daxam, a planet in Krypton's solar system that has had a long-running antagonistic relationship with Krypton, Mon-El fled Daxam when that planet was obliterated following the debris caused by Krypton's destruction. Despite his lax and self-centred upbringing, he soon values the lives of others. Falling in love with Kara, he decides to emulate her and having similar, though weaker, powers, tries to be a hero beside her.
Chris Wood and Melissa Benoist married in 2019.
Kelly Olsen (Azie Tesfai)
James Olsen's sister, Kelly is a psychiatrist who works for Obsidian Tech using their virtual reality for therapeutic purposes. She later becomes romantically involved with Alex. She becomes the second Guardian, which largely involves wearing a hat and waving a shield around.
Eve Teschmacher (Andrea Brooks)
Highly intelligent and efficient assistant for CatCo and later Obsidian Tech who, madly in love with Lex Luthor, has questionable loyalties.
Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 film Supergirl, plays Kara's adoptive mother Eliza Danvers.
Dean Cain who played Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman appears as Kara's adoptive father Jeremiah Danvers.
Erica Durance, who played Lois Lane in Smallville, replaced Laura Benanti as Alura Zor-El, Kara's mother.
Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, appears as Mon-El's mother Rhea in the second series. Her husband, King Lar Gand, is played by Kevin Sorbo.
Lex Luthor is played by Jon Cryer, who had been Lenny Luthor in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
President Olivia Marsdin is played by Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter.
Laura Vandervoort, who played Supergirl in Smallville, played recurring character Indigo in the first series.
Sam Witwer who played Lockwood was Davis Bloome in Smallville.
Some episodes were directed by Kevin Smith, with his daughter Harley Quinn Smith appearing in an episode. Melissa Benoist would later cameo as herself playing superhero Chronic in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which starred Harley Quinn Smith and was directed by Kevin.
Flying the Cape: The Making Of
Supergirl is a character originally created for comic-book publishers DC2 in 1959. Both DC and the film company then known as Warner Bros–Seven Arts were purchased by the Kinney National Company in the late 1960s, and Warner Bros have had the film and television adaptation rights of DC characters ever since.
Arrowing: The Arrowverse
In the early 21st Century superhero drama series Smallville had consistently been one of the biggest hits for a decade on US television channel The CW3, which Warner co-owned with CBS. When Smallville ended in 2011 The CW wanted similar series to recapture that success. As the recurring character of hero Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow had proved popular on Smallville, a new series based on that character was developed. Initially this was going to be a direct spin-off of Smallville with the same actor reprising the role, but in the end an entirely new show without any connection to Smallville's version of Oliver Queen was commissioned. Arrow (2012-2020) began broadcasting in 2012 and was even more popular than had been hoped.
With Arrow proving successful the CW were keen to build on this and commissioned more superhero shows, excited by the possibility that they could be related to Arrow. After introducing the character of Barry Allan aka the Flash in Arrow, CW commissioned The Flash (2014+). Both of these shows were made in Vancouver, a popular location with American television and enjoyed both high ratings and positive reviews.
The team behind Arrow and The Flash, particularly producers Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler and initially Andrew Kreisberg4 were commissioned by CBS, the co-owners of The CW, for their own flagship superhero series from Warner Brothers Television. They created Supergirl (2015-22), which for the first year was filmed in Los Angeles on the Warner Bros lot with a budget of $3 million per episode, which was among the most expensive new series ever made. The show won various television awards and received highly positive reviews and ratings, however CBS felt that the show was too expensive and chose not to renew it. Instead their co-owned channel The CW, who also showed Arrow and The Flash acquired the rights to the show, on the understanding that it would have a smaller budget. Production moved to Vancouver where television production costs are much lower and where the other Arrowverse shows were made. This led to Calista Flockhart, who played Cat Grant, leaving the show. Curiously, Benoist had previously auditioned for the role of Thea Queen in Arrow.
Following the series' success the Arrowverse initially continued to expand. This was encouraged by Warner Bros' new owners AT&T, with subsequent shows including Legends of Tomorrow (2016-2022), Black Lightning (2018-21), Batwoman (2019-2022) and more importantly for Supergirl, Superman & Lois (2021+) which featured two actors who had first played those characters in Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch.
The fifth series was cut short by the Covid pandemic, and viewing figures were half what they had been at the peak of the show's popularity in the second series. This was attributed to a drop in quality as well as the Arrowverse being considered to have expanded too far. When filming on the sixth series began Melissa Benoist was on maternity leave. She is noticeably absent or playing a minimal role for the first third of the series, which was announced as being the final series.
Landing the Role
By the final series the very nature of television was changing. With the Covid pandemic having led to the rapid expansion of online streaming, having a number of interlinked expensive superhero shows on a channel whose viewing figures were declining were considered too costly. Initially their chief superhero show competition were Netflix's interconnected Marvel shows5, against which they held their own, the Arrowverse struggled to compete against the even bigger-budgeted shows streamed on Disney+ which tied in to popular characters created for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Following the conclusion of Supergirl many other Arrowverse and other CW series were cancelled around the same time6. Also at this time Warner Bros merged with Discovery, Inc in 2022 and announced they were considering selling off their interest in channel The CW, preferring to concentrate on their own internet streaming service, HBO Max. They also cancelled the released of completed film Batgirl, which had been intended to be the 11th film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU7
). The character of Supergirl has since been recast, to be played by Sasha Calle in the upcoming DCEU film The Flash (2023) with her own spin-off film originally announced although this seems in doubt under Warner's new management.
Nevertheless for six series, Supergirl was one of Warner Bros' flagship television series, and unlike many of its contemporary Arrowverse shows, was allowed the opportunity to have a final series that tied up its loose ends. It also holds the honour for being the fifth longest-running live-action comic book or superhero show8.
Supergirl was part of the most complicated interconnecting fictional universe created for broadcast television. The rise and fall of the Arrowverse interconnecting superhero series at a time when the box office was dominated by superhero films has been seen as a battle for the future of television itself. While the shows were able to successfully compete against Netflix's superhero shows, they struggled more against those shown on Disney+ as extensions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe9. The Arrowverse at its peak expected its audience to have kept up with the plots of up to six shows in order for their interconnected episodes to make sense, which is quite a commitment for most viewers.
The white elephant in the room is this: throughout the series no-one in the show notices that both Kara and Supergirl have a small but identical scar above their left eye. Despite conflicting accounts that this had been caused by tripping over a pot plant or an accident involving a bicycle and/or taxi, Melissa Benoist later revealed that she had been a victim of domestic abuse in a previous relationship, with the scar the result of a violent incident. Her revelation was intended to spotlight the seriousness of intimate partner violence and encouraged those in similar situations to help, providing links and resources on how to do so. If the media attention that Melissa Benoist has brought to this issue has helped just one person escape from an abusive relationship, then the show overall has been a force for good.