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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Supergirl is a side story to the Superman legacy, following the evolution of his younger cousin, Kara, from his would-be protector to a hero in her own right. There are strong themes of self-reliance, embracing destiny, and following your own heart's desire, all portrayed by a very likable, fresh-faced heroine who's not perfect from the get-go. Her encounters with the show's villains are lengthy and violent, even if the players' superpowers keep them from showing signs of wear and tear, and viewers should know that they may see male characters battling -- including punching -- female characters. You'll also see some gun use, which has no effect on Kara's bulletproof body. You don't need to know Superman's story to ease into this one, but if your tweens and teens haven't seen the classic movies, they may want to do so after all the inferences here.
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What's the story?
When the planet Krypton faced certain demise and the infant Kal-El was sent to Earth to safeguard his legacy 24 years ago, his older cousin Kara Zor-El followed him, tasked with watching over him as he grew up. But while Kal-El arrived safely, Kara's pod was caught in a part of space where time didn't pass, so when she finally landed on Earth, she was 12 years younger than the 24-year-old Kal-El, now known to all the world as Superman. He helped her find a caring adoptive home with the Danvers (Lois & Clark alum Dean Cain and original Supergirl Helen Slater), where she grew up in the shadow of her older sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), hiding her powers from the rest of the world. Now an adult in her own right, Kara (Melissa Benoist) lives in National City and works for media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) with her friend Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) and accomplished photographer (and Superman's confidante) James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks). But all that changes when a group of sinister aliens takes aim at the people of National City and she must embrace her heroic destiny as SUPERGIRL, working alongside Alex at the clandestine Department of Extranormal Operations investigating conspiracies against the people of earth and the extraterrestrials who are secretly living among them.
Is it any good?
Actor Benoist really sells this sometimes corny side story to the Man of Steel's tale, soaring into the role of Superman's kid cousin with candor, determination, and flashes of grace. It's hard not to like this fresh-faced addition to the billowing ranks of reimagined superheroes, and it's always exciting to have greater gender representation on the superhero panel. Some of the story's finer details are a bit fuzzy, and it sometimes leans too heavily on parallels to Superman's evolution. That said, Kara does well by the role, taking her lumps as an anonymous novice hero and long-suffering personal assistant to a demanding boss, but using those lumps to inspire improvements on both fronts.
Even though we only get blurry glimpses of Superman himself at first (this is Supergirl's story, after all, not his), he makes his presence known through James, who bridges their stories before Superman shows up for a superheroes vs. villains battle royale in Supergirl's second season. Speaking of that second season, when the show switched to the CW it also got more violent and intense: more battles, more drinking, and more far-out storylines, so parents should be ready for that shift. Nonetheless, Kara struggles to chart her own path in the shadow of her famous relative and her successful older sister, many viewers no doubt will relate to the rocky process of finding herself. As far as female heroes go, you could do worse than charismatic, determined Supergirl, even if she does cling tightly to her secret for fighting villains without getting so much as a hair out of place.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes someone heroic. Does danger have to be involved for an action to be heroic? Who, if anyone, is an unsung hero in Supergirl? Have you ever been someone's hero?
Why do you think there's been such a resurgence of superhero stories? What efforts are being made to diversify the classic pool of characters? Is this important? Why, or why not?
Tweens: How would you rate the violence in this show? To what degree do modern filming techniques and special effects account for a production's impact? Do you think that on-screen violence can have a negative impact on viewers?
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