Supergirl has a Superman problem. It’s not last year’s problem where the show’s producers deliberately pushed Superman into the background, never heard, occasionally seen from a distance or in silhouette, communicating with Supergirl, Kara Danvers (aka Kara Zor-El) through texts. Berlanti and Co. had to get around the problem of Superman and Supergirl coexisting in the same world, but rarely, if ever, interacting face-to-face (if they did, it was offscreen). This year, we have an entirely different Superman problem. Now that we’ve met Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), now that we’ve seen him up and close and personal, now that we’ve seen him interacting with Supergirl, saving the world and whatnot, we want him to stick around for the near and long-term. The credits list Hoechlin only as a guest star, not to mention (a) the show’s called Supergirl and (b) Metropolis has been left superhero-free (and Lois Lane, Superman’s girlfriend, can’t be too pleased with his absence) while Superman chills with his Super-Cousin in National City. All things considered, it’s better to have too many superheroes than too few, especially when one of Superman’s most deadly super-villains, John Corben / Metallo (Frederick Schmidt), emerges from a near-death experience with both kryptonite and malice in his heart for the Kryptonian Super-Cousins.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Season 2’s surprisingly strong second episode, “The Last Children of Krypton,” smartly zeroes in on the Super-Cousins in superhero action mode, stopping a three-alarm fire before it becomes a five-alarm fire (Supergirl puts out the fire, Superman makes it rain), and stopping a robbery in progress by putting themselves in harm’s way (not really, since they’re Kryptonians), all the while having near indecent levels of fun. Supergirl blurts out, “She’s having a really good day,” refers to “Team Krypton” and even pulls out a hashtag reference, #HavingTooMuchFun.” Hank Henshaw / Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), the DEO’s (Department of Extra-Normal Operations) team lead and Supergirl’s nominal boss in all things superheroic (when she puts on the cape and tights, she’s basically a government employee, albeit an employee of a super-secret government organization), takes a sour, anti-fun approach to the proceedings. His enmity toward Superman – based on the DEO’s longstanding policy of maintaining a cache of kryptonite on hand to handle future Kryptonian threats and Superman’s objection thereto – leads to several tense moments between the old friends and allies.
It doesn’t last, of course, not when Project Cadmus and an unnamed doctor of the evil kind (Brenda Strong), has sequestered herself in a semi-remote location to create Metallo and send him out into the world to do battle against the Super-Cousins. Project Cadmus also announces itself to the world as the second season’s Big Bad: They vow to take down extraterrestrial threats, regardless of said extraterrestrial’s stated intentions. If it sounds familiar, it should: It essentially Batman’s rationale in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for taking down Superman. The DC Cinematic Universe’s Superman, though, remains at best a distant relative to his small-screen counterpart. Supergirl’s Superman may share his name, origin, and superpowers, but otherwise bears almost no resemblance, opting for cornball humor and cheery optimism even in the face of mortal threats, implicitly believing in the rightness of his mission on Earth and the inherent goodness of non-superpowered humans.
Supergirl / Kara Zor-El /Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) gets a serious kick out of having her most famous cousin around and not just because they can play superhero team-up at a moment’s notice. As one of the last survivors of Krypton, she shares a unique connection to Superman, a connection so strong that she openly contemplates leaving National City behind to join Superman in Metropolis. Supergirl’s adopted sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), understandably hates the idea, seeing the idea as a partial rejection of the sacrifices she’s made over the years for her adopted sister. Plus, she’ll miss her superheroic sister. While Supergirl mulls over her decision, her first fight with Metallo – even with Superman at her side – almost ends in disaster. Supergirl underestimates her opponent and the people behind him (not for the first time or probably the last). If knowing is half the battle (it is, actually), knowing your opponent and outsmarting him proves to be just as important as defeating him in hand-to-hand combat.
Even with Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) explicit support, Kara’s chosen career as a reporter for CatCo Worldwide Media almost ends before it begins. Kara’s new boss, Snapper Carr (Ian Gomez), only sees entitlement and favoritism when he sees Kara. He makes it clear from the get-go that she’ll have to earn her way into his good graces through hard work, dedication, and even more hard work. With the Kara-James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) relationship on the backburner for the foreseeable future, it looks like James will become a superfluous appendage to Team Supergirl, right up until he saunters into Cat Grant’s office as the new, temporary head of CatCo Worldwide Media while Cat goes on a “find yourself” sabbatical (Flockhart’s other commitments conflicted with the show’s move from Los Angeles to Vancouver). And Superman? He was always on temporary loan from Metropolis. By episode 2’s end, he’s back in Metropolis, taking a call from his perpetually irate boss, Perry White, and settling back into his old life. We’ll no doubt see Superman again down the metaphorical road, but for now we’re back to Supergirl vs. the World. Based on only two episodes, it might be sound premature to declare Supergirl the 2nd best superhero show on TV right now (The Flash remains in the number 1 slot).