This is a non-spoiler review. No plot information will be shared here, other than in very general terms, that is not already widely known thanks to pre-season interviews and other press.
There's no better way to start this off: the season two premiere of Supergirl is one of the best hours of live-action superhero television ever created. It's utterly joyful television that perfectly communicates the wonder, fun, and action of the best superhero comics.
As it enters its second season, The CW's Supergirl (née CBS's Supergirl) doubles down on its appeal to fans whose preferred brand of superheroics is less angsty and more inspired by '60s and '70s comics and the Richard Donner Superman movies. Through strong performances, though, it manages to appeal more broadly: even fans of post-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics and the Zack Snyder DC Extended Universe should find something to love in the premiere.
With the introduction of Tyler Hoechlin's Superman, the episode feels more than a little like "Worlds Finest," the season one episode that saw Grant Gustin guest star as The Flash, establishing for the first time that Supergirl existed in a multiverse with the rest of the CW superheroes and that the heroes could appear on one another's shows if they were so inclined.
It was also an episode where the villains got a bit of the shorter shrift as the heroes and supporting cast took the spotlight, something that's true of the premiere -- titled "The Adventures of Supergirl" -- as well.
Unlike "Worlds Finest," though, "The Adventures of Supergirl" doesn't have to introduce its villain in any meaningful way. Whereas valuable screen time was spent creating the Silver Banshee during the Flash crossover last season, the premiere splits time between Supergirl and Superman averting catastrophes and, finally, battling a less-complex villain who doesn't need a lot of establishing. That extra time is spent developing the villain's plan and making the story's conflict more fleshed out, ultimately to the benefit of the show.
While the chemistry between Hoechlin and Melissa Benoist, who plays Supergirl, is a high point of the episode, it should be clear that this is still very much her story. The premiere sees Cat Grant get about as much screen time as Superman, and she has one of the best moments, too.
There are bits of the premiere that set up the season to come, and those are interesting but perfunctory. It's clear that the biggest priority is getting all the players in place: since this picks up as the previous episode ends, there are a lot of urgent questions -- Jimmy and Kara's relationship, the crash-landed Kryptonian pod, Kara's new career choice, and more - that require attention. They all get what they deserve, but none completely take center stage in the episode, which decidedly belongs to the first live-action team-up of Superman and Supergirl.
The episode is as Richard Donner-inspired as you can get without actually playing the John Williams score when Superman comes onscreen for the first time. This means that folks tired of the stoic Superman from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman should be very happy with the premiere, but it also means longtime viewers, regardless of their feelings about the current state of the DC Extended Universe, will be rewarded for close attention.
One area where some fans may eye-roll a bit: we're back to pre-Crisis levels of clumsy, geeky Clark Kent. That's likely to be appealing to some members of the audience, although there's also some value to having a less buffonish Clark, who we get to see when he's interacting with members of Kara's inner circle instead of the world at large. Hoechlin's Superman, meanwhile, is pitch-perfect. He feels like what Superman should feel like with a decade of experience behind him and the responsibilities of being the world's most famous and visible alien already processed and dealt with. This is the first time in years (we're including Smallville here) that we've seen Superman accept his role without angst or frustration, and becuase of the relatively small number of live-action iterations where other heroes have appeared, this is the first time audiences will have seen him acting as a leader of the superhero community.
The episode is full of changes. Not all of them make perfect sense, but they all feel right. There's an emotional truth to the episode, so that even when audiences do a bit of a double-take at a certain idea or story beat, it will reconcile itself on second glance.
On that same note, there's a storytelling contrivance in the final moments of the episode which, in any other show, could easily feel silly. Supergirl has built a world where it...works. It feels a bit like a magic trick, which may defy logic, but at its best -- such as in this episode -- Supergirl is a little magical.
Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT. New episodes begin on Monday, October 10 on The CW.