Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 18 – “Worlds Finest”

The Flash runs so fast that he not only jumps between worlds but also networks, arriving in National City (and CBS), just in time to help Supergirl shine.

The Flash (Grant Gustin) dropped in on Supergirl in a crossover event that turned out to be one of the highlights of the series’ freshman season. The hero of the CW series, The Flash, ran so fast that he not only jumped between worlds but also between networks, arriving in National City, and at CBS, just in time to rescue Kara (Melissa Benoist) from a fall that would have forced her to reveal her identity as Supergirl.

After that, the heroes team up to battle a couple of super villains: Livewire (Brit Morgan), who was introduced a few episodes back, and Siobahn Smythe’s (Italia Ricci) new alter-ego, Silver Banshee. Silver Banshee, whose powers are magical in origin, is an especially welcome change of pace for the series, which usually relies on evil extraterrestrials for its villains of the week.

Gustin’s Barry Allen/Flash brings a welcome lightness to the series; he and Kara/Supergirl hit it off immediately, and soon join forces to take down the bad guys and find a way to send Barry back to his own universe. Flash and Supergirl have a lot of chemistry and smile their way through every scene they share. Even in the darkest times, the Flash always seems to be thoroughly enjoying the fact that he has super powers, and his joie de vivre seems to be catching. Supergirl’s never looked so happy to be the Woman of Steel than when sharing ice cream with the Scarlet Speedster.

The episode ends with a Flash/Supergirl “race” that harkens back to the Flash/Superman races that were a staple of my childhood, because, obviously, if two super-fast heroes meet, then of course they have to race.

The title of the episode, “Worlds Finest,” is a tribute DC Comics’ World’s Finest series that ran from 1941 to 1986 and which, for much of its run, featured team-ups between Superman and other DC heroes (usually Batman). Such team-ups occurred in other comic series as well, often as a way to boost readership or to introduce readers to new characters.

I suspect that similar motivations are at play here, of course, as this is a way to introduce Supergirl viewers to The Flash and vice versa. The comics were always about more than that, however, and this episode certainly captures the charm of those comic book adventures. There’s no big story to tell here, just a fun examination of what it might be like for two great characters to hang out together for a while.

Both Supergirl and The Flash follow the play-book established by Joss Whedon in his great Buffy: The Vampire Slayer series. Like Buffy, both superhero shows feature a young attractive cast engaged in thrilling adventures combined with light romance, drama, and quick wit. Like Buffy, both series feature an ironic façade covering a more earnest core.

The Flash has, so far, been more successful at following this play-book, and that character’s visit to National City shows just how much Grant Gustin’s responsible for that success. His brief visit made Supergirl sparkle in a way that it hasn’t quite managed before. Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl is learning fast, however, and in this episode she stands toe-to-toe with her new friend in both superheroics and crackling dialogue.

The Buffy spirit, which these shows reproduce so well, is, of course, at the heart of Whedon’s success as one of the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is an approach that suits superhero storytelling, and one that Stan Lee and others have used to great effect through the years. Indeed, Supergirl on CBS and Flash and its companion shows on the CW all bear a striking resemblance to Whedon’s Avengers films. They too are ironic on the surface and earnest at heart, filled with likable characters who sometimes get in each other’s way but who end the day as friends. Things may get bad in Marvel movies, but they seldom stop being fun.

Of course, while DC’s stable of television programs manages to get this balance right, DC’s movies have so far fallen far short. I don’t think that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is as bad as most other critics seem to think, but I do think that it wouldn’t hurt for Zack Snyder to pay closer attention to what Supergirl and the Flash are doing week after week on the small screen. It also wouldn’t hurt for him to peruse a few issues of World’s Finest to see how much fun Superman and Batman can have together when they don’t wear their earnest hearts on their sleeves.

RATING 8 / 10