Attempting to establish itself very quickly, the pilot episode CBS's Supergirl rushes through a lot of story. In the span of 48 minutes, the series gives Kara, played by Melissa Benoist, her purpose, costume, team and love interest. In one respect, it shows how little of the shoe leather is required for superheroes on television at this point. If made a few years earlier, Kara would not have been seen in the suit until the end of the episode; her team not until halfway through the season. At the same time, it may have been a little too quick.
Granted, charging ahead is the point of the first episode, which sees a dissatisfied Kara working as an assistant for Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant. Taking a job in media with the hopes of helping people, all she sees are the cutthroat tactics of Grant and her high power world. Struggling to find her place there, Kara is nervous and anxious. She looks down through a pair of smart glasses and cannot seem to express her disappointments in a way that makes sense to her "sister," Alex Danvers. Ultimately, Kara wants to use her powers in some meaningful way, but Alex warns her of the dangers.
When Alex's plane suffers mechanical failure after takeoff, Kara bolts to save it and inadvertently reveals herself to the world.
Loving the rush, Kara decides to move forward with the heroing and adopts her look through trial and error with the help of friend Winn Schott. While establishing her identity, we learn the plane's malfunctions were no accident, but the work of Vartox, an alien quite familiar with Kara's Kryptonian family.
And that's just the first half of the episode. The second features two fights between Kara and Vartox, Alex revealing she works for the Department of Extranormal Operations and Kara establishing herself against the opposition of Alex and the DEO's director Hank Henshaw. The speed works when the focus is squarely on Kara. Benoist is the show's chief asset and it would be difficult to find someone better suited to the role. Whether playing the downtrodden Kara or loving her ability to fly, she keeps the episode alive.
The pace did not aid in establishing the other characters, unfortunately. Introductions are rushed and emotional beats involving other characters — particularly Alex — do not feel earned. At times, it seemed as though the episode was cut down from a longer pilot. This is particularly true any time Kara visits the DEO and gruff Hankshaw espouses obvious and cliched doubts about her abilities. Without a moment to let him breathe as a character, his doubts never seem real.
Similarly, Alex's concerns for Kara's safety — and her ultimate sibling rivalry — fall flat as she also only receives a few seconds to establish herself. More than the fights with Vartox, Kara's realization that Alex led her away from using her powers is the core of the episode. It's resolved in seconds when it really deserved more time.
Of course, the breakneck speed of pilot episode is not necessarily indicative of the series that will follow. And the main objective, establishing Benoist and Kara as someone you want to see succeed, was certainly achieved. It is hoped subsequent episodes will flesh out the characters surrounding Kara and establish a more satisfying pace.