On Monday night, Supergirl will air the final episode of its first season, a season that has deeply divided fans and critics alike. Many who tuned into the pilot episode, which premiered on October 26th 2015, thought the show was weak, with unconvincing action and stock characters. And they weren’t wrong. If anything, Supergirl’s first season has shown just how quickly, and dramatically, a series can improve from its initial episodes.
Supergirl’s saving grace, even in that clunky pilot episode, was its lead, Melissa Benoist. Benoist lends Kara Zor-El a charm and charisma that buoys the show through occasionally bad dialogue cheesy, plot devices, and lame supervillains.
So, appropriately, this list of the Top 5 best moments from Supergirl Season One showcases the wide range of what Benoist brings to the series. She’s alternatingly charming, funny, and emotionally resonant in ways that are surprising for a superhero series. That emotion has set Supergirl above the other Greg Berlanti superhero series, Arrow and The Flash. Those series have been more consistent than Supergirl, but they’ve never been as moving as Supergirl at its peak.
But, in answer to those who have not yet been won over by Benoist’s charm, it’s interesting to note what I have not listed here. There will be no mention in the list of the love triangle between Kara, Jimmy Olsen, and Winn—the least intriguing storyline of the series. Also, there are precious few appearances from the Rogue’s Gallery here, and that’s because Supergirl has been unable to produce many truly memorable villains for Kara to battle against. Of the recurring villains, only Astra brought real emotional heft to the series, because of her family connection to Kara. But Non, Indigo, Livewire, and Silver Banshee are all underwhelming, and action sequences continue to be the weakest element of the series.
Additionally, I should mention that the much-hyped (and well-rated) cross-over episode that brought the CW’s The Flash to National City didn’t work for me, so that doesn’t make an official appearance on the Top 5 either, but it would be foolish not to mention it at all, since it’s the one thing that comic fans would remember about Supergirl should it fail to be picked up for a second season.
I’ll say this about the episode—both Benoist and Grant Gustin, who plays The Flash, were having an infectious amount of fun. If only the episode hadn’t become bogged down in unconvincing stunt work and bad speed-related puns, it might very well have topped the list.
But, for the strengths that the episode did have, I’ll include an honorable mention—call it moment 5.1—the moment where Jimmy and Winn meet Barry for the first time, and he zips out of the room and and returns in an instant, depositing fresh ice cream cones in Kara and Jimmy’s hands, as Kara nerdishly exclaims, “Yesss!” It’s a prime example of Supergirl at its best, having fun with its outlandish concept, and showcasing Kara at her most adorkable.
Episode 16, “Falling”: Supergirl throws Cat Grant Off a Damn Building
“True power, Cat, is deciding who will live and who will die.”
One of the strongest elements of Supergirl has been Kara’s relationship with Cat Grant, played with steely, sarcastic glee by Calista Flockhart. Their dynamic allows the series to naturally explore different ideas of power in general, and feminine power in specific. Cat’s strength comes from her will and determination, and Kara’s from her compassion. They are both powerful women in different, but valid ways.
But their finest moment together is when Supergirl, her mind warped by Red Kryptonite, tires of Cat’s lectures and just tosses her off the balcony at Catco, only to catch her before she splats on the cement a hundred stories below (unlike Kelly. Poor, poor Kelly). It’s not entirely unexpected—we need a moment like this to see just how unlike Kara this version of Kara is—but the timing of the moment, and the angle at which Cat’s fall is shot, make the moment feel dangerous.
It’s become a cliche to shoot scenes of characters falling off a building from below, but instead, the camera moves up and so we’re watching Cat from Kara’s point of view. And from that POV, we see how tiny Cat is, and watch as she flails helplessly, with nothing to stop her fall, until Kara catches her. In a scene that’s all about power dynamics, this approach underlines just how powerful Kara is, and just how frail Cat is physically, for all of her inner strength, when compared to the Kyptonian.