Last night's superhero TV crossover between "Supergirl" and "The Flash" was everything "Batman v Superman" wasn't. It was clever, kind, joy-filled and possibly most importantly, self-aware. This was a perfect palate cleanser from the grim feature film that showcases two superhero adults trying to murder each other.
The DC comics character meet-up happened when the CW's Flash (Grant Gustin) ran so fast he popped himself into an alternate Earth where CBS' Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) lives. The introduction was short and sweet and to the point: Kara Danvers (a.k.a. Supergirl) fell out of a skyscraper and Barry Allen (a.k.a. the Flash) caught her. But much to Barry's surprise, Kara is the type of lady who doesn't need to be saved. And just like that they became superhero friends.
The "Supergirl" episode, titled "World's Finest," hits two episodes after Kara was infected with Red Kryptonite, which turned her evil. Wracked with guilt for her under-the-influence actions, Kara is desperately trying to win back the trust of the good people of National City. "Last night I helped a family assemble an Ikea table," Kara moans. It's a stark comparison to her movie counterpart Superman, who decimates half a city and continues to strong-arm complicated political situations across the globe with his type of good-willed vigilantism.
There's no room for bloodthirsty grudge matches in a world populated by characters who all look like they're on the brink of exclaiming the words "Gee whiz" at all times. But the crazy thing about the shining optimism that paints the world of "The Flash" and "Supergirl" is that it works.
The Flash proves his speedy mettle in his new world by whizzing out on a 1-second ice cream run, to the squealing delight of the "Supergirl" cast. It's nice, deadly cute, and delightfully whimsical.
This sort of wide-eyed wonder at their own superpowers makes it impossible not to root for the super-pups as they take on the newly dubbed Silver Banshee and Live Wire.
Then there's the meta-humor. At one point in the episode, Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) looks over the young cast members (now plus one Flash) and says, "All four of you standing there doing nothing, you look like the attractive, yet non-threatening, racially diverse cast of a CW show." An on-the-nose description of "The Flash" series itself.
And no one is thrown out a window for this witty banter, nor are they shot in the head, hit with the Batmobile, or branded with a batarang. Instead the group kind of shrugs, because yes they DO look like the makings of a 2016 Mickey Mouse Club, and there's nothing wrong with that. The DC's TV series embrace their inner adorable. Because they're in on the joke already.
This inclusive wit only opens the door for more gags. Kara's boss Grant admits that she knew Barry was the Flash the whole time, "He was so unfailingly charming and nice that he had to either be a superhero or a Mormon. Kara, I can spot the extraordinary pretending to be a nobody in my midst just like that."
Adding actor Gustin's delivery with the charming wit of the "Supergirl" series was like throwing glitter-infused gasoline on a sparkle fire. It was puppies on puppies on kitties.
And the whole thing only got more fun when both the Flash and Supergirl are saved by the citizens of the very city she was trying to win back. Seriously, the local fire department shows up while a group of concerned park-goers fling themselves in front of danger to save their Supergirl. It couldn't get any more classic comic if it tried -- the real heroes are the real heroes of today. You and me and a clan of ruggedly handsome firemen who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. How this episode managed to end without a small child looking directly into the camera and yelling, "You're the real superhero, Dad," I'll never know.
The whole thing felt like a return to the primary-color Action Comic book days. No reeling bat with an ax to grind, or god-complex alien just trying to do right for humanity. This was about teamwork and being excited about doing good.
That being said, "Supergirl" always channeled that can-do spirit of the classic comics with a surprise twist. When Supergirl went to rescue a little kid's pet from a tree she returned not with a kitten, but with a snake. And it's the shakeups like that that keep the joyful fun actually fun.
And there was sweetness all the way up until Barry's departure when he wishes Kara so long by using her full Kryptonian name, Kara Zor-El, "Which is your alien name, because you're an alien, which I think is cool," Barry says -- because despite being the fastest human on the planet, it's still exciting to meet someone from another world.