Supergirl won’t be the only caped crusader in National City next season on Supergirl. Tyler Hoechlin, of Teen Wolf fame, has officially been cast as Superman (aka Clark Kent) for the show’s second season, and while fans debate whether or not he has the broad shoulders and rugged jaw to play America’s favorite superhero (he does, by the way), I’m more concerned about what Superman’s arrival will mean for the show.
According to TV Line, Hoechlin is currently signed on to guest star in the first two episodes of the season, but given the buzz surrounding his casting announcement and the bump in ratings Superman’s arrival in National City is bound to inspire, the idea that Superman might become a resident supporting character isn’t too far-fetched. This, and I cannot say this enough, must not happen. The problem of Superman’s inclusion in Supergirl isn’t about Hoechlin. The actor proved on MTV’s Teen Wolf that he can be a strong lead and that he can play a strong, action-heavy character. (He also comes with a legion of Teen Wolf fans, and that certainly won’t hurt Supergirl in the ratings.) The problem with adding Superman to Supergirl is that he could potentially overshadow Supergirl herself.
Superman has actually already appeared on Supergirl, though fans never saw his face. While most of his appearances have been via online chat (which seems incredibly risky, really, but that’s a whole other problem), he was also seen as a blurry figure when he swooped in to rescue Kara mid-battle toward the beginning of the season. His mysterious presence loomed large over Season 1 of Supergirl and his faceless presence would have continued to hurt the show had it continued for another season. By not humanizing Superman and giving him a face, Supergirl inadvertently made him even more mythical, and thus important, in the show. By letting audiences put a very human (and mortal) face on this new version of Superman, the Supergirl showrunners make him accessible, which in turn lessens the anticipation to see him all the time. Hopefully, giving Superman this two-episode arc will allow for him to be a part of the show without becoming the center of it. This, however, will require some very skillful and calculated writing.
If Superman becomes a big part of Supergirl, it could ruin the show. (Again, I say this as someone who wanted Superman to be cast for the show as a guest star.) Right now, Superman is only a guest star, but the writers need to be careful not to let it turn into more. Fans will no doubt clamor for more Clark Kent in future episodes, particularly when it comes time for The CW’s huge DC crossover events with Arrow and The Flash, but I’m hoping writers will ignore their calls. Supergirl features the only leading female superhero on screen right now, save Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and it would completely defeat the feminist tone of the show if Superman showed up every other episode to help Supergirl defeat the bad guys. Season 1 of Supergirl was all about Kara finding her strength and her power as an individual, both as Supergirl and as Kara Danvers. The show is grounded in female empowerment through female relationships — Kara’s relationships with her sister, Alex, and her boss, Cat, are especially central to the show — and the show has set itself up as an unapologetic piece of feminist entertainment. If Superman becomes a series regular, or even a regular guest star, it would upset Kara’s feminist journey. It’s not that Superman can’t be a feminist, or that a feminist show needs to have a female-only cast, it’s that Superman is, arguably, the most well-known and beloved superhero in pop culture. His continued presence would inevitably overshadow Supergirl. Moreover, Superman is nothing if not a symbol of masculinity, and I’m worried that having him be a bigger part of the show would lead to more male-dominated story lines, which seems to be the complete opposite of what Supergirl intended to do when it started.
Superman coming to Supergirl as a (limited time) guest star can only help the show, which came dangerously close to being canceled before moving from CBS to The CW. But let’s hope showrunners keep it at that, because if Superman became a regular character, it might spell trouble for the Supergirl we all know and love.