The CW’s Arrowverse features a wide range of characters. And, whether for better or worse, many of these characters develop and grow to become well-rounded, nuanced people that audiences fall in love with. Our Arrowverse experts weigh in on some of the best-developed characters on Supergirl.
Joseph Wilbur on Jimmy Olsen
Jimmy Olsen has always been a sidekick. Sure, he was CatCo Worldwide Media‘s art director and won a Pulitzer Prize, but he didn’t get there on his own. His fame didn’t come from his own skills, but rather it originated from his friendship with Superman. He would never have won a Pulitzer if Superman hadn’t let him take that first photo of him.
When we first meet Jimmy, he had just recently moved to National City, yet even that decision wasn’t his own. Instead, it was Superman (again) who instructed him to keep an eye on his little cousin. But even Jimmy recognizes the helping hand Superman has lent him, so he tries to make a name for himself. He shrugs off his old nickname of “Jimmy” and becomes known as James then succeeds Cat Grant as the CEO of CatCo. Quite a long way from Clark Kent’s sidekick photojournalist.
James keeps on going, adopting the guise of Guardian, the next vigilante to operate in National City. The constant sidekick isn’t Superman’s accomplice any longer; he has become a hero in his own right, protecting National City the same way Supes guards Metropolis.
Graham Host on J’onn J’onzz
In a world crammed with aliens, evil geniuses, inter-dimensional travelers, and political intrigue, there’s nobody who grappled more with the changes than the Last Son of Mars: J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Originating as a pacifist on the Red Planet, J’onn and his people — the Green Martians — were attacked and enslaved by the terrifying and villainous White Martians. Following a brutal slaughter of his people, J’onn wound up on Earth and was eventually forced to take the identity of Hank Henshaw to survive.
Obviously, J’onn had a steep learning curve for his adaptation to Earth culture. Probably due to his telepathy, the road gave him a few shortcuts, and he was able to remain undetected for many years. Taking advantage of his knowledge of the universe, he was able to present himself as a competent head of the DEO. Even after Alex and Kara uncover him, J’onn continues to assist as best he can in the fight to protect Earth against the various alien threats from Fort Rozz.
Of course, throwing Supergirl into the mix inevitably meant that someone would discover J’onn. With the D.E.O’s supposed leader actually long dead and their real chief an alien, things are fairly turbulent for a while. A presidential pardon allows him to return to his former post, but the real Hank Henshaw actually turns up alive and well and none too pleased about events. Between fighting to protect his hybrid identity and learning to live with the idea that another Martian — a White Martian, no less — is also alive on Earth, J’onn is facing challenges on all sides. Despite the troubles of his past and present, J’onn continues to adapt to whatever comes his way.
James Akinaka on Alex Danvers
Going from an only child to an older sister in the span of a night can be difficult. And being the adoptive sister of a Kryptonian is even harder. But Alex Danvers has asserted her independence instead of defining her character in terms of that of her sister, Kara. As an original creation of Supergirl, Alex has come into her own as an integral member of the series.
Alex’s path hasn’t been without its turmoil. Much of the weight on her shoulders comes from being Supergirl’s sister. That’s what led, in part, to her admission to the D.E.O. That’s also what led to a complicated relationship with her mother, Eliza, who Alex felt didn’t treat her and Kara equally. Despite all these challenges, Alex has been able to improve her relationships with her family. And this season, she’s also embarked on a journey of self-acceptance as she comes to terms with her identity.
Speaking from personal experience, coming out can be intimidating because it comes from a place of vulnerability. When Alex comes out as gay, she does it not for her crush, Maggie Sawyers, but for herself. Actress Chyler Leigh brings out Alex’s awkwardness and courage, both of which make her character relatable and real. What sets Alex apart from other LGBT characters in the Arrowverse (including Sara Lance, Curtis Holt, and Hartley Rathaway) is that her series allows her to come out for the first time on the show. It’s a powerful story that speaks to Alex’s continuing growth on Supergirl.
This is the first in a four-part series on the Arrowverse’s best-developed characters. Stay tuned this week for the rest of the series!