Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Supergirl vs Agents of SHIELD

Why am I watching “Supergirl”? It’s a bit of a puzzler, maybe you can help me out.

Back in 2014, I wrote a post about watching “Agents of SHIELD, Season One. In fact it was one of the only shows that I kept up with that year. I did it in part because it reminded me of my writing style - a pretty slow build to larger events. Granted, the show did it better than me, because they have more mini-arcs (particularly now). Also, they’re professionals.

Supergirl” is similar, what with the build up to their season ender, and other arcs en route, usually surrounding the DEO - but while it’s apparently pulled me in, I don’t feel like it’s done so in the same way. It’s less like how I write. (Or how I want to write?) There’s a difference somewhere in here that I can’t quite articulate.

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way: I’m not that big on Superheroes. I haven’t seen all the Marvel movies, I don’t watch “Arrow” or “Flash” (or even have Netflix), and I don’t generally know enough about actors and actresses for that to be a draw. So WHY have I not only been watching “Supergirl”, but streaming it - since it’s on TV at an inconvenient time for me?

Well, I can’t analyze much without spoilers. So consider this your final warning, mostly for “Supergirl” but also “Agents”. The rest is below the graphic.

Is the answer in some data crystals? Or ice crystals?


The first key difference jumping out at me is the narrative discontinuity between Kara as Supergirl and Kara as, well, herself. “Agents” didn’t have that, there was generally an issue that everyone was dealing with. “Supergirl” almost feels like two shows at times, the villain of the week show, and the struggle to live a normal life show.

I get why that has to be a thing. And the writers are pretty good at having a thematic bridge between the two narratives. But some of the scene switching still felt jarring for me. (Mood whiplash?) Heck, sometimes I was actively irritated. I always felt more interested in the fantastical stuff, or the stuff with Kara’s sister, though the CatCo angle was getting better towards the end.

I guess it says something that the former kept me coming back, until the latter found firmer footing. But that wasn’t enough.

The second difference is the romance angle in “Supergirl”. Sure, “Agents” had the Fitz and Simmons thing, but I couldn’t even tell them apart for the first several episodes. And the Ward and Skye thing wasn’t a big factor until the end of Season 1. Meanwhile, “Supergirl” had the love triangle of Kara-James-Winn... which then angled out to Kara-James-Lucy, and then Siobhan became a factor, and I love that kind of stuff. (“Marmalade Boy”, there’s an anime for you.)

So the interplay between the characters was great (both romantic and otherwise, to be fair), in particular the way the dynamics kept changing. If they’d kept that triangle static, I bet I would have lost interest.

Both shows have a good
sense of humour too...
Related to that, my final point is the pacing. “Supergirl” was obviously rather faster paced than “Agents” in their first season, though I think both shows are about on par now. And they’re really good at having small hooks, leading towards a long term payoff. Like Lash on “Agents” and the Martian Manhunter on “Supergirl”.

One thing they both do is have the end of the episode end on a cliffhanger of sorts, or at least a scene that would lead naturally into the next episode. Which is very much the format for a serial too. And perhaps it’s that constantly evolving narrative that hooked me.


In the end, that serial connection is the real reason I’ve been wondering about this. I mean, if I’m still watching “Supergirl” without any comics backstory or particular interest in the genre - what’s stopping me from reading serials for the same reason? Or from someone else reading my serials?

Aside: Okay, time is obviously a problem. There are some serials I haven’t been back to in a month that I will DEFINITELY return to in July. Meanwhile, I would often watch “Supergirl” at work, while grading or writing up quiz solutions. Hell, there’s other blog posts I haven’t gotten around to completing here either.

So I suppose the question is, if we remove time as a factor, what keeps a person reading or watching something? Particularly something a bit of a tangent to their usual fare? Is it really the narrative pacing, or is there more about the characters that I’m overlooking?

What is it about “Supergirl” that managed to bring me back, week after week?

As I said, it seems to be something that I can’t quite articulate. Let me know if you’ve spotted it, because I should probably seek out more of that same kind of thing. After June. Oh, June. You’ll be worse than April.