This is a multi-part retrospective. Part 1 includes an introduction and focuses on the TV show. Part 2 is a long list of femslash ships and corresponding AO3 links and from part 3 on we will focus on femslash ships of a particular character and a selection of fics. e.g. part 3 Astra will include fics for Astra/Alex, Astra/Alex/Maggie etc.
Supergirl Femslash Ships & Fics Retrospective
- Part 1: Introduction, the TV show (links tumblr & WP) [tumblr] [WordP] this part
- Part 2a: List of F/F Ships [tumbl] [WordP]
- Part 2b: List of Polyamorous Ships [tumbl] [WordP]
- Part 3: Astra/x [tumbl] [WordP]
- Part 4: Andrea/x [tumbl] [WordPress]
- (links to be added once the parts are done)
b) The TV show: Plot & Development
Twenty-four-year-old Kara Zor-El, who was taken in by the Danvers family when she was 13 after being sent away from Krypton, must learn to embrace her powers after previously hiding them. The Danvers teach her to be careful with her powers, until she has to reveal them during an unexpected disaster, setting her on her journey of heroism.
(Apparently this was the official summary of the pilot episode – see Fanlore and Wikipedia.)
For 6 seasons Supergirl/Kara Danvers (together with a secret government organization and/or an ever-growing number of friends/vigilantes) fought the villain of the week or the current CW crossover event or Lex Luthor, while keeping her identity a secret,
at least from Lena (for 3 seasons).
There is a bit more about the show’s plot in the recommended episodes section below.
But honestly details of the canon plot is probably not why you are interested in Supergirl anyway. Because for most femslash fanfiction it is just a backstory that can (partially) be ignored anyway, just as the character’s canon M/F dating live.
Changes & Development
The show changed a lot (including producers and actors) and was quite inconsistent across the seasons. There are only three main characters that appear during the whole run of the show: Kara, Alex and John.
The show was more or less rebooted after season 1 (when it changed networks) and the show’s continuity was again rebooted to a larger degree in Mid-Season 5 with the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event of the Arrowverse.
c) Why should I care about Supergirl? And other Q&A
Why should I care about Supergirl?
The weakness of the plot and the strength of the characters might actually be one of the reasons why Supergirl turned out to be so popular with fanfiction writers. Because there are these wonderful characters and there is so much to fix.
And while there Is a lot of justified criticism of the show, there are some fun episodes and at least none of female main characters was killed.
The inconsistency of the plot and the lack of a strong canon story arc might in fact have been beneficial to create a perfect sandbox for femslash fanfic writers to play in.
It can be hard to fit in a diverging story into a strong story arc (without creating a full AU), but with all the reboots and changes, for Supergirl you can basically think about what story you want to tell, and then pick and choose story and background elements from the show that you want to use, which ones to ignore and pick a point in the timeline in which the story idea fits in nicely.
Is it worthwhile to watch (a bit) of Supergirl (TV 2015) in order to dive into femslash fanfiction?
Yes, absolutely. And to be clear, it really is not necessary to watch the whole show. A few episodes might actually be enough. There will be some recommended episodes below (if you are interested).
I’m not that interested in femslash fanfiction. Should I watch the show?
Is it a problem if I never read a Supergirl comic nor watched the 1984 movie?
No. The only thing to note about the movie is that the actress who portrayed Supergirl in the movie plays Kara’s adoptive mother in the TV show.
How much femslash fanfiction is there?
There is a lot of fic. And if you are up for it, this retrospective will help you to dive in.
At the time of writing (in late February 2022) there are about 31400 fics in the F/F category. About 17700 are tagged as Kara/Lena (Supercorp). Which means that there are still thousands of fics, even if you are not into Supercorp.
d) What to expect from the TV show
- Many fantastic female characters, with a lot of chemistry between them
- World building
- Character creation: Alex Danvers, Astra In-Ze, Nia Nal and Kelly Olsen were originally created for the show.
- Character adaption: Kara, Lena and John/J’onn character and backstory were substantially revised/adapted for the show
- Mostly decent acting
- Good chemistry between female characters (not just Kara and Lena)
- Alex’s coming out arc was done well
- No lesbians die
Issues and frequent criticism
- Wasted potential. Lots of wasted potential
- Bad writing / bad execution
- Inconsistency and disregard for continuity
- Not enough screentime for the canon lesbian ships
- Too much focus on Mon-el and Lex Luthor
- Character development (or what the Show mistook for character development)
- Ignoring character integrity or ruining character development for the sake of poorly executed plots
What not to expect from the show
- Satisfying long term story arcs or story arc pay-off’s.
- Canon Supercorp nor any other F/F ships with Kara or Lena
What to expect from the show
- Two canon and on-screen lesbian relationships: Alex/Maggie (Sanvers) in Season 2 and early season 3 and Alex/Kelly (late season 4 to season 6)
- A substantial amount of on-screen M/F relationships for Kara (first half of the show) and Lena (season 3 &4).
- A mix of villain of the week episodes and seasonal themes (some are executed poorly)
- Superman comic plots used as source material
- The typical Arrowverse progression that at some point nearly every character becomes a vigilante.
- Kara has awful bosses
- Some fun story lines and episode
- Kara Danvers (Kara Zor-El) (Season 1-6) [Supergirl]: Assistant and reporter at CatCo
- Alex Danvers (Season 1-6): A secret government agent (DEO) or director of the DEO for most of the series, Kara’s adoptive sister
- Cat Grant (Season 1, 2 partially): Founder of CatCo and Kara’s initial boss
- Lucy Lane (Season 1): Lawyer, Major and DEO co-director (depending of the episode), sister of Lois Lane.
- Astra In-Ze (Season 1): Kara’s aunt who was put in prison for eco terrorism before Krypton’s destruction.
- Maggie Sawyer (Season 2, 3 partially): NCPD detective, Alex’s love interest
- Lena Luthor (Season 2-6): CEO of L-Corp for a large part of the series, siter of Lex Luthor
- Samantha “Sam” Arias (Season 3) [Reign]: CFO of L-Corp, old friend of Lena
- Imra Ardeen (Season 3) [Saturn Girl]: Time traveler, member of the Legion of Super-Heroes
- Red Daughter (AKA Linda Lee, Russian Kara, Kaznian Kara) (Season 4): A clone of Kara who was raised and brainwashed by Lex Luthor and the Kaznian military
- Kelly Olsen (Season 4-6) [Guardian]: psychologist, former soldier of the U.S. Army, takes over as Guardian form her brother James; Alex’s love interest
- Nia Nal (Season 4-6) [Dreamer]: Reporter at CatCo
- Andrea Rojas (Season 5-6) [Acrata]: CEO of Obsidian North and CatCo; old friend of Lena
- Jess (Season 2, one episode): Lena’s assistant, popular character in fanon / fanfiction; see Fanlore
Table credit: Fanlore
f) Suggested & noteworthy episodes
Here are a few episode you might want to watch. I picked them because they help to better get into fic, to understand the characters and motives better (and also because they are mostly enjoyable). Some episodes I have picked due to their overall impact on the show.
And for characters, ships and story arcs you don’t care about, you can (and should) fast forward.
1E01 Pilot & 1E02 Stronger Together
The first episodes are fun, Kara gets into being a superhero and in 1E02 Alex meets Astra for the first time.
1E06 Red Faced & 1E07 Human For A Day
We see angry Kara for the first time in “Red Faced” and after she blew out her powers we see Kara as “Human For A Day”.
1E13 For The Girl Who Has Everything
This is an adaption of a classic Superman Comic (that was adapted before for the cartoon Justice League series). An excellent episode that provides a lot of background on Kara’s character and Krypton. Also the Black Mercy is picked up in several great fanfics
Kara gets exposed to Red Kryptonite – RedK Kara is a pretty popular trope in Fanfic and this is the only time we see her on-screen.
At the end of season 2 Lucy leaves the show.
2E01 The Adventures of Supergirl
We get to see Superman and (more importantly) Lena for the first time.
2E03 Welcome to Earth
The iconic first meeting of Alex and Maggie and a classic Supercorp scene.
Alex and Maggie work together to stop an illegal alien fighting ring run by Veronica Sinclair (Roulette). Lena knows Veronica because they “went to boarding school together”.
This episode is also noteworthy because it features the only on-screen appearance of Jess (Lena’s assistant).
Fanon/fic relevance: Until Sam or Andrea were introduced in later seasons, Veronica and Jess were often portrayed in fanfics as some of Lena’s few friends and in case of Veronica also frequently as Lena’s ex-girlfriend.
2E03-08 Alex/Maggie (Sanvers) arc
These episodes include Alex’s coming out arc and Ales/Maggie getting together. If you are only interested in Savers and can find a supercut on Youtube, this might actually be the better option compared to watching all the episodes.
2E08 Medusa & 2E12 Luthors
In 2E08 we meet Lena’s adoptive mother Lillian Luthor for the first time and in 2E12 we learn a lot about Lena’s childhood and her backstory.
Both are iconic Supercorp episodes and the jumping off points for a lot of Supercorp fics.
3E01 Girl of Steel
Lena buys CatCo
for Kara to save it from Morgan Edge. We meet Sam for the first time. Sam (Lena’s ex-girlfriend old friend) is the new CFO of L-Corp and takes care of L-Corp while Lena takes care of CatCo.
Maggie and Alex break up (and Maggie leaves the show). Sam and Kara work together to clear Lena’s name. It’s fun to see them work together. This is one of the best episodes to see the chemistry of SuperReignCorp (Kara/Lena/Sam) and Kara/Sam on screen.
At the end of season 3 Sam leaves the show.
4E01 American Alien
We meet Nia for the first time
4E16 The House of L
We saw her briefly in prior episodes, but in this episode we are properly introduced to Red Daughter (AKA Linda Lee, Russian Kara, Kaznian Kara), who is an important character until the end of season 4.
4E15 O Brother, Where Art Thou
4E22 The Quest for Peace
The final episode of season 4 sees the end of Red Daughter and Lena shoots
kills Lex “for Kara, for her friends”. Before dying Lex reveals to Lena that Kara is Supergirl in an attempt to embitter her. Regrettably however, Lex will undie in season 5 (for plot reasons).
5E01 Event Horizon
Meet Andrea Rojas. A heartbroken Lena sells CatCo to her
ex-girlfriend old friend Andrea. Kara gets a Pulitzer Prize, a new suit and regrettably also bangs (until the end of season 5).
A large part of season 5 is focused on the rift between Kara and Lena and the question if a bitter and heartbroken Lena will ultimately become a villain.
5E06 Confidence Women
We learn background and history of Andrea’s and Lena’s relationship and how it became strained.
5E09 Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One
With the Crisis crossover event of the Arrowverse the shows continuity is rebooted again: Lex (and Luthorcorp) are back, nobody remembers that he is a villain and he owns the DEO.
At least Kara/Supergirl does not die, unlike in the original 1985 comic book version of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Note: This is less of a recommendation to watch the episodes, but it is necessary to mention Crisis due to the major impact on the rest of the show. For Crisis to make sense, you probably need to watch all the Crisis episodes of the Arrowverse shows.
5E13 It’s a Super Life
The 100th episode of the show features what-if stories. What if Kara had told Lena her secret at another point of time.
While the lessons the writers/the show draws from this episode make little sense (especially considering how the show ended), it is fun to see the different alternate realities. And we see Sam for one last time. (and meet Metallo!Lena)
Note: Not that the rest was spoiler free, but if you want to avoid spoilers how the show ended, skip the Season 6 summary
Kara is mostly stuck in the Phantom Zone for the first half of the season. While she no longer has bangs, there is still something off with her look and her hair.
In season 6 Kara and Lena make up, everybody becomes a vigilante, for plot reasons Lena becomes a witch, and Alex and Kelly prepare to get married.
In the final episode Alex and Kelly marry, Kara’s and Lena’s hairstyles are unfortunate (actually Lena’s whole look), Andrea sells CatCo back to Cat. Kara becomes the editor-in-chief of CatCo and comes out to the world … as Supergirl.
The CW moved on to the Superman show they probably always wanted to make.
Next in the Supergirl Femslash Ships & Fics Retrospective: Part 2 – Ships (TBD)