Tag Archives: Supergirl

Supergirl: “Truth, Justice and the American Way” breaks into some bigger thematic ground

“Truth, Justice, and the American Way” isn’t a perfect episode, but it is on the excellent side for this series, mostly because it finally deals with some of the larger issues that are almost implicit in the premise of Supergirl. The ethical issues surrounding Supergirl’s work with the DEO and her own vigilante fighting for justice have been building all season, and things finally come to something of a head this week. Though the episode isn’t without some hiccups, it’s great to see it being more thematically ambitious.

First, though, the episode almost gets bogged down in HR issues. This week we find Kara back at the office, where she has to deal with some competition in the form of a second assistant that Cat has hired to take up some of the slack for Kara, who has been very flaky recently. I hate everything about this storyline so, so much. Yes, Kara has been flaky, and yes, she drove Cat’s son away, but it’s incredibly unprofessional for Cat to punish Kara like this, especially as publicly as she does here. I also despise that all of Kara’s relationships with women are so fraught, and it sucks that the show has introduced yet another woman for Kara to contend with.

Sure, Siobhan is aggressively unlikeable, but I even hate that framing of things. Siobhan is ambitious, and she is competitive with Kara, but this is a dynamic being fostered by Cat Grant, who is at her most petty and manipulative in her dealings with Kara this week—and all of these women are written that way. By the time you add in Lucy Lane, who is getting suspicious and jealous of her boyfriend’s relationship with Supergirl, CatCo has become a toxic mess for Kara to navigate in. Even outside of her day job, she’s dealing with her aunt Astra’s death, and she doesn’t even know yet that Alex is keeping a pretty big secret from her.

Admittedly, it’s not just Kara’s relationships with women that are on the rocks. She and Winn are still not talking much; she’s so angry with Hank over Astra that she is having trouble working with him; and James just gave her an ultimatum. However, in an ostensibly feminist show, it would be nice to see Kara able to have even one good, healthy relationship with another woman. Instead, the show’s writers seem determined to trot out every tired, catty, bitchy stereotype about women’s interpersonal relationships that they can fit into a single episode. This has been an ongoing problem for the show, but this week all of Kara’s relationships seem to be at nadirs, which makes the problem that much more pronounced and unpleasant to watch.

The real meat of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” is, or ought to be if he didn’t have to share so much time with Kara’s office tribulations, the villain of the week. In an interesting change of pace, this week’s villain isn’t an inmate of Fort Rozz—he’s one of the guards, and he’s systematically hunting down and executing former inmates without regard to their present circumstances or even their original crimes and sentences. This is set up as a counterpoint to what Supergirl and the DEO are doing, and specifically to their indefinite detention of Maxwell Lord, who isn’t even an alien and probably ought to have some rights or something as an American citizen. Master Jailer is probably the best idea the show has had yet for a villain, but the execution of his story could definitely have been better.

As I already mentioned, this story—which deals with some of the show’s heavier ethical issues, namely the legality and, well, justice of extrajudicial justice—shares far too much time with material that doesn’t really fit together with it. The conclusions reached by the end of the hour feel almost glib, and Kara is portrayed as almost foolishly naïve rather than principled. The questions asked in the episode are worthwhile and certainly deeper than most of the other themes so far this season, but the answers just aren’t quite satisfactory. Still, it’s a step in a good direction for the show, and I would actually love to see this become a recurring theme to be examined in more depth in the future.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Hated Kara’s astonishment that Cat could pronounce Siobhan. There’s not really any comparison between “Kara”—a name that can be mispronounced in many irritating and disrespectful ways—and “Siobhan”—which can only be mispronounced in ways that make the mispronouncer look ignorant.
  • This episode wasn’t terribly dark, really, but it was remarkably light on humor, which gave it a weird tone.
  • I was surprised that they went with a couple of straight up Gitmo references when talking about what Supergirl and the DEO do. It’s interesting to see what real-world things get worked into the show.
  • “It’s under the floor” was beyond words stupid. I mean, they didn’t even look for a cellar or anything first, and bad stuff is always underground. Get it together, Alex.

 

Supergirl: In “For the Girl Who Has Everything” nothing much actually happens

“For the Girl Who Has Everything” could have, and should have, been a much better episode than it is. Sadly, the episode starts off with somewhat of a disappointment. The thing that attacked Kara at the end of last week’s episode turns out to be a weird plant thing that just puts Kara into a sort of coma, and while unconscious she gets a taste of her ideal life. The rest of the episode mostly deals with Kara’s friends trying to figure out what has happened to her and how to rescue her. The thing is, most of this stuff is very, very boring, and even a major character death at the end of the episode doesn’t really do much to liven things up. This week, the show chooses to focus on basically every character except Kara, but mostly to the extent that it’s a way of returning to a comfortable status quo.

The last few weeks have looked at Winn and James’s relationships with Kara and seemed to be moving both of those relationships towards some kind of change, but this episode reconfirms that they are all just friends. Alex was keeping a secret from her sister at the beginning of the season, but since they’ve both been working at the DEO they’ve had very little conflict. This week, however, Alex gets a new secret, which also happens to be a new reason for Kara to distrust Hank Henshaw. Cat Grant doesn’t appear much in this episode, but Kara’s relationship with her boss is also back to a downright unpleasant square one as well. After weeks and weeks of Kara’s relationships progressing and developing, this episode undoes basically all of it in less than an hour.

The saga of Kara’s plant-induced coma shows us nothing new about the character, which is a huge missed opportunity. Kara’s speech at the end of the episode spells out to us why her ideal world is back on Krypton with her parents, but it doesn’t really ring true. Sure, things haven’t been great lately for Kara on Earth, but they haven’t really been so bad that she should want to regress to her childhood. Even if things have been that bad, the sort of regression portrayed here would be an unhealthy way of dealing with problems. Unfortunately, the episode never really delves into this, and instead sort of glosses everything over with pot stickers and ice cream. It works to establish a new normal, but it doesn’t actual deal in any meaningful way with any of the trauma or sadness Kara has suffered this week.

The thing that seemed most promising this week was Kara’s rage at Non, but it seemed to dissipate as quickly as it arose. Their fight seemed superfluous to Kara’s outburst of emotion, and it doesn’t seem to have actually had any reason for existing other than to add a little more excitement to a dull episode. Similarly pointless was Astra’s sort-of redemption, which would have been much more effective if we’d actually seen Astra more than a handful of times since the show started. It also doesn’t help that she’s really not redeemed here at all and her death has almost no impact on anyone.

It’s a disappointing episode that rolls back a lot of progress the show had made in earlier episodes, leaving us with essentially a blank slate for the rest of the season. With Maxwell Lord imprisoned at the DEO (which apparently has no consequences at all), that leaves Non (now likely motivated by a desire to avenge his wife’s death) as the major villain for the remaining episodes. Without the personal connection that existed between Astra and Kara, however, this leaves Non a fairly one-dimensional character, and with the show paying scarce attention to its overarching storyline I can’t see this improving without a real commitment to changing the format of the series.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Kara can’t get drunk, apparently.
  • Hank-as-Kara dealing with Cat Grant should have been comedy gold, but it was a tragically squandered opportunity.
  • The thing that seemed most promising this week was Kara’s rage at Non, but it seemed to dissipate as quickly as it arose. Their fight seemed superfluous to Kara’s outburst of emotion, and it doesn’t seem to have actually had any reason for existing other than to add a little more excitement to a dull episode.
  • Similarly pointless was Astra’s sort-of redemption, which would have been much more effective if we’d actually seen Astra more than a handful of times since the show started. It also doesn’t help that she’s really not redeemed here at all and her death has almost no impact on anyone.

Supergirl: “Bizarro” has Kara at war with herself

I’m not sure if “Bizarro” is objectively the best episode yet of Supergirl, but it definitely ranks among my personal favorites so far. This show has a strong tendency to rush through material and miss opportunities for emotional shading and depth, but it hit all the right notes this week as Supergirl faced off against her doppelganger while also trying to have a life as Kara Danvers. Supergirl had already delivered one incoherent mess of an episode while trying to communicate a very garbled something about Kara’s struggles to balance the different aspects of her identity, and that made it particularly pleasing to see the show get it right (or nearly so) this time around.

The main plot of the episode deals with the conflict between Kara and Bizarro, but it can really be better understood as a more internal conflict as Kara struggles to maintain her own identity in the face of her responsibilities and the weight of dealing with her specialness. She accepts Bizarro more and more fully over the course of the episode, until by the end she actually identifies with the other woman. It doesn’t show the viewer anything particularly new about Kara, but it does allow Kara to reaffirm her identity to herself. She’s been trying all season so far to separate Kara and Supergirl and compartmentalize her life in a way that allows her to “have it all,” but here she’s forced to integrate her dual identities and come to terms with the fact that she is different and she really might not be able to have a normal life.

The secondary plots this week are both intertwined with and perfectly complementary to the Kara/Bizarro stuff.

The first and more significant one is Kara’s attempt to date Cat Grant’s son, Adam. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work out, though not for the reason I expected. Rather, the relationship ends before it even really begins because Kara just can’t see a way to fit him into her already very hectic—and dangerous—schedule. As sad as this is, especially considering how adorable this pair was together, the real gut punch comes when we learn how this affects Kara’s relationship with Cat. Cat’s remarks to Kara might not seem entirely fair to the viewer who knows the whole story, but from Cat’s point of view Kara has kind of betrayed her. Kara brought Adam to town and was an integral part of Cat’s reunion with her son, but now Kara has failed to deliver on the promise that implied—namely, that she would be Cat’s ally in reforging that mother-son relationship. Instead, Kara has somewhat quixotically started something that she isn’t capable of seeing all the way through, and she’s put her own sanity ahead of her desire to be all things to all people. It might not be fair of Cat to punish Kara by cutting her off emotionally, but it’s definitely understandable and sad for everyone involved.

Finally, there are the other men in Kara’s life, Winn and James, who managed to also be moderately interesting and less tiresome than usual this week. Winn seems to have mostly gotten over Kara’s rejection of him. I cringed when he used the term “friendzone,” but I can mostly forgive it as it’s said without rancor. What I can’t forgive is the gross way Winn suggests to James that James could “have” Kara any time he wants. Yuck. I’m also having an increasingly difficult time forgiving James for continuing his relationship with Lucy when he’s obviously got feelings for Kara. I don’t care if he never manages to ask Supergirl out—especially since that feels like a kind of weird transference of affections situation anyway—but I hate that he’s stringing Lucy along in the meantime. We haven’t gotten to see much of Lucy yet, but she seems like a nice woman who is genuinely in love with James and willing to relocate to pursue him. It’s kind of a dick move to let her do that when he’s obsessed with Supergirl.

The best parts of “Bizarro,” however, are the parts involving its titular character. There are several decently produced fight scenes, and Bizarro is infused with enough real pathos to make her the most compelling single-episode antagonist the show has given us so far. Overall, it’s a solid episode that manages to hit all its plot beats on time and effectively develop its themes without dipping into the after school special territory the show is sometimes prone to. Most gratifyingly, it manages to say something about a moderately complex feminist issue without putting it in Cat Grant’s mouth in the form of a clunky speech.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Loved the Dr. Frankenstein vibe at the beginning. It’s a little heavy-handed, but it’s an appropriate allusion that works to make Maxwell Lord a more well-rounded villain. It’s very unsettling how deeply he seems to believe in what he’s doing.
  • It strains credibility a little that Kara is so quick to blame everything on Maxwell Lord. Sure, he’s a pain in the ass, but she just seems awful certain, awfully fast and in a way that feels more for narrative convenience than for any logical reason.
  • That brown sweater Kara wore to the office was wonderful.
  • I need Alex to get more and better character development.
  • Lucy was visiting her dad this week, apparently. I have a feeling that this is a hint that we’ll be seeing him again soon.

Supergirl: “Strange Visitor from Another Planet” is a smartly written hour of character development

“Strange Visitor from Another Planet” is one of Supergirl’s most thematically consistent and successfully resonant episodes to date, although it’s a somewhat sharp change of pace from last week’s fairly silly episode. It’s nice, though, to see the show’s disparate parts work more or less in harmony for once. Often, the themes explored in the DEO scenes are just at odds with the tone of Kara’s scenes at CatCo, but this week that two-faced quality works to the show’s advantage as the episode focuses less on Kara and more on developing Hank Henshaw and Cat Grant. While the two major storylines are wildly different from each other, they manage to complement each other nicely instead of fighting with each other for audience investment and attention.

The episode opens with the arrival of Cat Grant’s estranged son, Adam. We learn that Cat often drafts letters to him that she never sends, and Kara—incorrigibly Pollyannaish meddler that she is—finished and mailed one. This story is actually surprisingly well done, and Kara’s lack of boundaries doesn’t go uncommented upon, even if she is forgiven in the end. She’s even rewarded with a date with Adam, which is actually the thing that I found least believable about the whole situation. Kara is consistently oblivious to male attention, is still (in this episode, even) hung up on James Olsen, and is still dealing with the fallout of the stuff that happened with Winn last week. The last thing Kara needs is another guy vying for her attention and affection, especially when it’s obviously a terrible idea—even by Supergirl standards—to go out with your domineering boss’s estranged son. Honestly, I’d much prefer to see Kara have a better sense of herself before being pushed into any romantic entanglements, much less this one.

On the bright side, we get quite a lot of Cat Grant time this week, both with Kara and with Adam, and even a scene with all three together that is surprisingly well-done. While I was appalled to start with that Kara would even write to Adam in the first place, it ultimately leads to a new closeness between Kara and Cat, and it provides new opportunities for Kara to show off some of her less super-powered skills. You’d think that the adorkable shtick might wear thin, but Melissa Benoist plays Kara as so sweet and good and kind that I never get tired of watching her.

The other major plot of the episode deals with the kidnap of a cartoonishly (think Trump-like) anti-alien Senator, Miranda Crane, by one of the White Martians who, we learn, are responsible for the extermination of Hank’s entire race on Mars. It’s good to see Hank getting some greater depth and more interesting material. The conflict with the White Martian is very personal, and there are some nicely integrated flashbacks in this episode that show us more of Hank’s history back on Mars so that we really understand how big of a deal this is. I’m not sure about the heavy-handed Holocaust allusions in the Mars stuff, which I thought were strange, but having never read the comics I don’t know if that’s a source material issue or not. I guess I just think that they could have conveyed Hank’s trauma without so clearly linking it to real tragedies like that, especially when the event is treated as shallowly as it is this episode.

Fortunately, Hank’s feelings are not treated shallowly, and he’s given a lot of screen time this week. It’s interesting to see how quickly this show burns through story, though. I’m enjoying to new timbre of Hank’s relationship with the Danvers sisters—particularly with Alex who gets some good material this week—but the dynamic has evolved almost ridiculously quickly. It works well in this episode, though, and the final bonding moment between these three was well-earned.

Both of this weeks’ stories deal with family issues and how to move on after mistakes and loss, but the real strength of the episode is that it continues to highlight Kara’s deep and radical commitment to love, forgiveness, mercy, and hope for the future. I love a kickass heroine, and Supergirl can certainly fight when she needs to, but I have even more love for a heroine who wants to heal the world around her rather than just beating it into submission. Supergirl may seem overly optimistic at times, and our post-post-modern world tends to mock that sort of thing, but in spite of its many flaws this show continues to be refreshingly fun, hopeful, and above all a necessary light in a largely cynical entertainment landscape.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I’m so confused, still, about who this show’s intended audience is. When I watched it this morning on CBS’s website, I was subjected to multiple Viagra commercials.
  • “It’s worth it. Family always is.” Awww. Kara thinks of Cat as family.
  • I hate the frequency with which fictional bigots are cast as black people. Like, right, I get that it’s a metaphor for real-world oppression or whatever, but it seems like that shit is always put into the mouths of black people these days. Just an observation.
  • Senator Crane wants to build a dome around the Earth to keep the aliens out.
  • We never do find out much about Adam. Why did he drop out of college? Also, on a related note, what happened to Cat’s other kid?
  • Melissa Benoist and real-life husband Blake Jenner have a nice chemistry on screen. I don’t love the idea of Kara being pushed into a relationship, but this pair is awfully cute.

Supergirl: “Childish Things” is all about Winn Schott’s daddy issues

I think we all knew, as soon as it was revealed that Winn’s dad was in prison, that his daddy issues were going to rear their ugly head at some point. “Childish Things” is that point. Surprisingly, though, especially considering how painfully boring Winn has been in the series so far, this episode mostly works really well.

My biggest complaint about Winn Schott, from day one, has been that he was a pretty straightforward Nice Guy™ who spent all his time creepily hanging around Kara and resenting her for not wanting to bang him, and “Childish Things” addresses all that stuff head-on. It’s a surprising and refreshing change of pace for a show that has so far been content to leave Winn be, utilizing a constellation of unpleasant tropes pretty much totally uncritically regarding his relationship with Kara. When Winn’s deranged father escapes from prison, though, things come to a head and Winn and Kara are forced to deal with whatever lies between them. Kind of.

The best decision the writers made this week was having Kara react negatively to Winn trying to kiss her while they were sharing a moment of bonding over their respective murderous relatives. I fully expected, and frankly was almost rooting for, them to share an actual confused-feelings-full kiss, but that wasn’t what happened. Instead, Kara pulled away, as one does when someone misreads signals and goes for a kiss when it’s very unwanted. Watching, I was genuinely surprised. Unfortunately, this isn’t fully dealt with by the end of the episode. Though Winn finally lays all his cards on the table and confesses his love to Kara, she’s not equally candid in response, and the future of their friendship is still unresolved when the credits roll.

Winslow Schott, the Toyman, is equal parts ridiculous and deeply disturbing, and letting the audience meet him definitely helps to give his son, Winn, a lot more depth. The problem is that he’s never really a particularly worthy opponent for Supergirl. Although we can see how much interacting with his father affects the younger Schott, and those interactions (and the subsequent talks with Kara about them) are pretty compelling, there’s never much sense of danger from the Toyman himself. Instead, it’s Winn’s behavior that’s most concerning, and his concern that “bottling up his emotions” will turn him evil is something very close to a veiled threat. I suppose, if Winn does turn out to be the same sort of psycho as his father, he can at least rest easy knowing that he’ll be handily defeated by Supergirl in the space of a day or so.

The secondary plots are also only partially successful.

Lucy Lane appears to be officially moving to town now, and she’s getting a job at CatCo. I love James Olsen as much as the next girl, but he was profoundly dull this week. His failure to communicate about his feelings is frustrating, and I suppose works as a contrast to Winn’s newfound openness, but I still don’t understand why he was being so weird with Lucy. I loved Lucy and Cat together, but the conflict between Lucy and James ended up being not a conflict at all and simply cemented them together as one very boring couple.

Meanwhile, Alex and Hank were investigating Maxwell Lord, who is still the absolute worst. Kara’s attempts to encourage Hank to “come out” as a super-powered alien were positively cringe-inducing. I hate the whole idea of using super powers as a metaphor for other oppressions, and this instance of it is especially frustrating. While I liked Hank’s stuff this week, and I can see that he has some very real misgivings about using his powers, which was interesting, the reality is that there are basically zero drawbacks to his being a Martian. I mean, sure, people could be mean to him, but he still has godlike superpowers.

In the end, though, “Childish Things” is more good than not. The character work for Winn and Hank was largely excellent, and it was definitely necessary. And the episode ends with Kara and Alex spending time together—more of this, please (and more of Lucy and Cat).

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • “She’s so nice!” is the best thing Lucy could possibly have said when emerging from a meeting with Cat Grant.
  • “I want to work for a cool, powerful, kickass woman instead of a bunch of old white men.” You and me both, Lucy.
  • I always loved Emma Caulfield on Buffy, so it was cool to see her show up as an FBI agent.
  • Speaking of childish things, if the snail eggs were delicious, why did Alex spit them out as soon as she found out what they were.
  • “Max Lord is nothing more than a reformed nerd with a God complex.” ACCURATE.

Supergirl: “Blood Bonds” turns back every advance made in the last episode

I’m a little concerned that Supergirl is starting to become tiresome. After a winter finale that ended literally in the middle of what seemed to be a pivotal fight, I expected something much better than what we’re given in “Blood Bonds,” which is a huge mess of spinning wheels and downright silly diversions that do nothing to move any of the show’s several major plots forward.

The fight that we were in the midst of in the last episode was wrapped up within moments this week when Non kidnaps Hank Henshaw. The rest of the episode is concerned largely with figuring out how to get Henshaw released without “negotiating with terrorists.” A secondary plot in the episode is Kara trying to convince Cat Grant that Kara is definitely not Supergirl, even though Cat is not stupid, and there’s even a sort of tertiary plot with James and Winn stalking and harassing Maxwell Lord. In short, “Blood Bonds” is a huge mess, and while it was another amazing episode for Kara’s character, I’m finally starting to doubt that Melissa Benoist is really capable of carrying the whole show on her own indefinitely.

Non’s kidnapping of Hank is actually pretty anti-climactic in the end. It does give us a glimpse of Alex Danvers in charge, which is nice, but I’m still a little confused by what feels like a very abrupt about face on Alex’s part regarding her distrust of Hank. I’m not sure how learning that he’s an extremely powerful alien just completely put an end to all of Alex’s questions and concerns. I’m also not sure what the show is going for, more broadly, with Non and Astra. There were several flashback sequences this week that shed a little more light on this pair and our understanding of Astra is certainly improved, but there’s also that scene where Non just murders some guy for no real reason. In any case, everything is back to the status quo by the end of the episode: Astra is on the loose and still an ecoterrorist, and Kara has conflicted feelings about it. The only thing that’s changed at all is that Kara now knows that Hank is actually Martian Manhunter—but that’s literally the only forward progress on any front in this episode.

When Kara isn’t negotiating with actual terrorists this week, she’s working absurdly hard to try and prove to her boss that she’s not Supergirl. Cat has threatened to fire her because she thinks that if Kara is Supergirl, then saving people is way more important than answering phones and bringing Cat coffee, and Kara’s fight to keep her position at CatCo, while somewhat absurd, produces the most authentically emotional moments of the episode. Melissa Benoist and Calista Flockhart have a great onscreen dynamic, and I would absolutely watch a show that was just about their relationship. The only problem with this all is that, again, I’m not really sure what the show is going for. Kara is obviously the worst at keeping a secret, but I think Cat would not be a bad person to let in on things, and if it’s the job that Kara is really worried about, I feel pretty certain that Cat could be persuaded to let her keep it. It just doesn’t make that much sense, for all the it’s fun to watch.

The tertiary plotline in “Blood Bonds” is almost too silly to bother mentioning. While Kara is busy this week, James and Winn decided, for some reason, that they were going to launch their own investigation into Maxwell Lord. Clearly, Max is a turd of a human being, and he’s acted shady about all kinds of things so far, but I don’t think he’s done much that James and Winn would know about to trigger their snooping. Alternatively, if they really think Max is so dangerous, I feel like their half-baked plan to spy on him somehow is just ridiculous. In any case, it gets James into trouble when he’s caught by a couple of Max’s goons and Max decides to beat up on him a little—which also gets him in trouble with Kara, who doesn’t like her human friends taking even the smallest, most calculated risks. The best part of this whole debacle, though? James doesn’t manage to find out anything new about Max at all; it’s only revealed to the audience at the end of the episode that Max is doing some kind of science experiment on a young woman who bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Supergirl.

This show is almost increasingly inconsistent, and its reliance on Melissa Benoist’s talent to redeem so many huge, glaring flaws seems certain to be its undoing. As much as I love her, and as much as I have so far maintained that Melissa Benoist is a delightful angel who definitely does carry the show, there’s ultimately only so much that one woman can do. Supergirl needs to decide what kind of show it wants to be or else it’s going to force viewers to decide whether or not they want to stick with it.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I hate Maxwell Lord with a passion. As far as I’m concerned, his is definitely the most punchable face on television right now. It’s not that he’s such a great villain or anything. He’s just a huge douchebag.
  • They should have done the Hank Henshaw kidnap before revealing his identity to the audience. There was basically no sense of real peril or danger for him this week, which made everything Alex and Kara were going through to rescue him feel like melodramatic theatre.
  • I love seeing Kara work through her feelings about things. That’s definitely the thing this show does best, and while it may struggle in many other areas, Kara’s character growth is always excellent.

Best of 2015: Favorite Television

2015 has been a sort of strange year for television. On the one hand, there were quite a few shows that I was excited about at the beginning of the fall season, but when it came down to it I found that I just didn’t have time to watch all of them (The Last Kingdom and The Bastard Executioner were two that didn’t make the cut). Of the ones that I did watch, a couple turned out to be totally unwatchable disappointments (Scream Queens and Heroes Reborn fell into this group). And a couple of the shows I was most looking forward to (X-Files, The Shannara Chronicles, Lucifer, The Magicians, Shadowhunters) don’t actually premier until January. Most of what I’ve watched this year, then, has been things that I was already watching and enjoying. Only a few of the year’s new shows really stuck, and at least one of those is almost certainly not getting a second season.

Jessica Jones

This Netflix gem is kind of objectively the best new show of the year. It can be tough to watch, with its themes about rape and abuse, in spite of the fact that none of the sexual violence is ever actually shown on screen. Jessica Jones is a deeply compelling character who fits a lot of common noir tropes, but a lot of that is subverted by her journey being one of personal healing rather than a revenge tale. In the end, Jessica wants mostly to protect others rather than just avenge herself, making her a complicated and fascinating feminist hero. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Supergirl

This year CBS gave us a very different kind of feminist hero in Supergirl, and I love that we now live in a world where both Kara Danvers and Jessica Jones are getting their own vastly different shows. Supergirl is much more overtly and earnestly feminist than the Netflix series, which can be frustrating at times, especially when the show garbles its 101 level messaging, but Melissa Benoist carries the whole show on her super-strong shoulders by creating a Kara who is tough and brave, but most of all deeply kind. When Strong Female Characters are often imagined as ass-kicking fighters, it feels pretty revolutionary to have a super-powered woman on television who is as deeply empathetic and caring as Benoist’s Supergirl.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show that I almost didn’t watch at all because I found the title so off-putting. It’s also the show that’s been, by far, the most pleasant surprise of the year. Hot shot lawyer Rebecca is so miserable with her life that she makes a totally bonkers decision to move to a small town in California where her ex-boyfriend, Josh, lives. It’s an absurdly silly premise, but I haven’t related to a character this much in a very long time. I, too, struggle with mental illness, and I, too, have often thought that making some enormous and ill-advised change in my life would somehow magically fix everything. Essentially, this show is a humorous take on how this kind of insane decision could work out for someone. Spoiler alert: everything is terrible-ly hilarious. Also, there are songs, because everyone involved in the show is a musical theatre nerd.

The Expanse

It’s great to see SyFy actually getting back to its roots and producing more, well, sci-fi. I didn’t love their adaptation of Childhood’s End (although I appreciate the attempt), but The Expanse is truly excellent. It’s space opera, but also a sort of mash-up with a noir detective story and a futuristic political drama. There are several notable women characters, including Chrisjen Avasarala (played by the incomparable Shohreh Aghdashloo), who I am certain is going to end up being the iconic character of the show. It’s worth watching just for her parts, but the rest of it is pretty great, too.

Into the Badlands

For some reason, almost no one seemed to talk much about Into the Badlands during its six-episode first season on AMC, but it’s a fucking excellent show that has surprisingly feminist sensibilities as well as some of the most incredibly choreographed martial arts fight scenes I’ve ever seen on television. Just in general, Into the Badlands is a gorgeously imagined and shot show, with highly saturated colors, striking cinematography, and great costumes. It’s also got a relatively diverse cast headed up by two Asian men (Daniel Wu and Aramis Knight) in the lead roles. A black woman (Madeleine Mantock) is the main character’s love interest, but she’s also a doctor and a revolutionary of sorts in her own right. The numerous other women on the show also eschew stereotyping, and while they exist in a fairly sexist fictional world, their roles and struggles aren’t entirely dictated by that. The only negative of this show is that it’s only six episodes for now and a second season hasn’t been confirmed, which makes the cliffhanger ending at the end of episode six potentially very frustrating/upsetting.

Minority Report

This show had tepid ratings and mediocre reviews and is the abovementioned likely-cancelled show, but I enjoyed it. The actors had a decent chemistry, though the writing could have been stronger all around, and I’d have liked to see the show explore more of its bigger ideas instead of adhering mostly to a case of the week format. Sadly, Fox has a tendency to invest in development for interesting sci-fi shows but then cut them off quickly if they don’t perform well, and that’s what happened with Minority Report. The news that their episode order had been cut from thirteen to ten after something like episode three of the first season didn’t help ratings. Still, the show was entertaining and had a lot of promise. It even managed to wrap up episode ten in a way that will act as a reasonably satisfying end to the story if there are no more episodes. It’s still available for binge watching on Hulu if you run out of other things to watch.