SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "The Adventures of Supergirl," the season premiere of "Supergirl." If you have not yet seen the episode, consider yourself warned.
Up, up and away.
With "The Adventures of Supergirl," the people behind the newest addition to the CW's DC lineup have finally found the right balance for their sweet, sometimes silly show. They managed to retool some of what didn't work with ease (well, almost). They introduced some new characters, a season-long theme, and a brand new occupation for Kara without breaking a sweat. And best of all, they seem to have wholly embraced what the show, at its finest moments, has always been: joyful, earnest, and not particularly subtle because it doesn't need to be. What it is sits right there, on Kara Danvers' stretchy blue sleeve.
Before we get into the events of the episode -- which, in case you haven't guessed, was stellar -- let's quickly touch on some of the adjustments the series made, most within the first few minutes of the episode.
They finally figured out what to do with Winn. He's not the pining, often sulking friend who resents not getting the girl. You know who he is?
He's Cisco freakin' Ramone, that's who. The decision to embrace the best things about Winn seems like a no-brainer until you consider how dour poor Winn was for most of the first season. By making Winn a full-time DEO employee, they allow him to be the nerdy, gleeful person just so excited to be helping a superhero, all while injecting the DEO with some sorely needed warmth and levity. Of all the changes the show has made, this is, hands-down, the best. Jeremy Jordan is one of the best actors on "Supergirl." Now he gets to do stuff that suits him.
They gave the DEO a new headquarters. Sound minor? Maybe. Due to budget cuts and/or location change? Probably. Sunlight? Welcome.
Kara's got a brand new bag. Er, job. Still. Strong-armed by Cat Grant (in one of what, apparently, will be one of Calista Flockhart's few appearances this season -- that's a real loss) into picking a career, Kara thinks for a day or two and settles on "reporter." It'll be more interesting than the temperature of Cat's lattes, that's for sure.
Bye, James. He's not leaving the show, of course, but the show puts the axe to the Kara-Jimmy pairing in the only big change that lacks grace. That doesn't mean it isn't welcome -- Kara had more chemistry with the avatar of her mother than James. They're better as friends, says Kara. Yes, they are, says everyone else.
There are other changes here and there, but those are the elements that required a push of the reset button. Most of the other big changes are additions, rather than adjustments. And with that, let's welcome our new Superman.
Tyler Hoechlin is a terrific addition to the cast, and the "Supergirl" writing team (along with director Glen Winter) could not have handled his introduction more nimbly. When Kara's first date with James gets interrupted by the crash of a civilian space flight, both the cousins El spring into action. Kara's delight is evident when Clark/Kal-El arrives on the scene, and they both take obvious pleasure in saving the day as a team. Despite the arrival of one of the most iconic fictional characters in history, "The Adventures of Supergirl" is filled with exactly what's on the label. Kara's still firmly at the center, with Clark there more as a foil, friend, and source of comic relief (Winn and Cat's reactions alone are priceless). The cool battle scenes, diaper jokes, and Luthor connection are just the gravy on top.
It's a Luthor that serves as the faux-antagonist of the hour, though I'd be willing to put money down on that status being temporary. After identifying Lex's adoptive sister (Katie McGrath) as the one scheduled passenger who didn't board the almost-doomed spacecraft, Clark puts on his reporter pants (after exhibiting a little sway with Cat) and he and Kara head off to see what nefarious business she's got bubbling away. The answer: apparently nothing but rebranding her brother's company. As it turns out, Lena's not the baddie. She's the target.
Her would-be killer is John Corben, a world-class assassin with access to drones, explosives, and Lex Luthor, apparently. When the cousins Super foil his first attempt, he tries again in an action sequence that belongs with the best the CW's DC shows have produced thus far. The Els keep a building from falling down -- Clark holds the whole thing up while Kara picks up steel beams and then welds them with her eyes -- while one of the show's other heroes, Alex Danvers, gets a thrilling, lighting-speed fight scene with Corben. It ends when Lena herself puts a couple of rounds in him, but don't stick a fork in this guy yet.
Things progress pretty quickly from there -- Clark decides to stay for a bit, asking Kara if she'll tell him more about his parents (a surprisingly low-key but moving moment); Kara breaks it off with James; J'onn attempts to clear the air with Clark, who apparently distrusts the DEO leader because he has a stock of Kryptonite -- but it would be a shame to blast past the episode's two finest scenes, both of which involve Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant. Flockhart was a season-one highlight, and that's the case here as well, but no scene of hers has hit quite as hard as either of her two big scenes with Kara this week. In the first, she makes the show's sometimes too-earnest dialogue sing, absolutely nailing a monologue about Kara's fear of diving into life. The second soars even higher, as Cat pulls out Kara's resumé, on which she wrote "reporter" shortly after her former assistant's interview. In both she looks appraisingly but affectionately at a young woman who reminds her of herself, and rather than coddling her, she pushes her right out of the nest. It's moving, more nuanced than anything else the episode, or indeed the series, has to offer, and if it's one of the last great scenes we see from Flockhart this season, it'll be a crying shame.
There's still so much to cover: the pod, definitely Kryptonian, has a definitely non-human inside, and that non-human is in a coma! Cat's new assistant is Eve Teschmacher! There are all kinds of Superman in-jokes! But most importantly, the episode ends with the transformation of a dying Borden into the not-dying Metallo, a transformation brought on by a mysterious woman (Brenda Strong) who welcomes the being she names Metallo to Project Cadmus. And with that, we've got our first big arc.
It's a hell of a premiere -- perhaps the best CW premiere of the season to date -- and sets a great tone for the rest of the season. "Supergirl" has always seemed pretty optimistic. Now, I am too.
Starring Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel, "Supergirl" airs Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars David Harewood as Martian Manhunter, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott and features appearances by Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant as well as Tyler Hoechlin's Superman.