May 28, 2020
Supergirl: I'm with President Wonder Woman
Previously on Supergirl: Lena Luthor took control of Luthor Corp, while Cat Grant took a sabbatical from CatCo, leaving James Olsen to run the place in her absence. Kara started a new reporter job working for a boss named Snapper Carr who mostly viewed her with contempt. And that J. Crew model who crashed to Earth in a Kryptonian pod finally woke up and attacked Kara.
The episode begins right where we left off, with the mystery man from the pod flinging Kara through a glass wall, then using his newfound strength and speed to break out of the DEO and disappear into the night.
Hank is alarmed that a rogue Kryptonian is on the loose today, of all days, when the President of the United States (Lynda Carter!) is visiting National City. She’ll be touring the DEO right before she signs a historic amnesty bill allowing all aliens to come out of hiding and live among us in peace. And by “aliens”, they mean aliens from other planets, but it’s hard to miss the obvious parallels to the other kind of aliens dominating the shitshow that is our current national political discourse.
Despite being Martian, Hank thinks alien amnesty is a bad idea, because humans aren’t that great when it comes to showing tolerance, which he’s learned as both an alien and “someone who’s worn the face of a black man for 15 years.” And this being one of the whitest shows on TV, it always makes me cringe when they try to delve into racial issues, so let’s move on.
Anyway, Supergirl is beside herself at getting to meet the president. It turns out she’s a huge fangirl, and she wonders, “How did anyone even vote for that other guy?” Burn!
Speaking of burns, as soon as the president disembarks Air Force One, she comes under attack by an unseen alien shooting fireballs and heat vision-like beams at her. Supergirl is there to stop the president from getting incinerated, and of course the escaped “Kryptonian” becomes the number one suspect.
Alex notices a police detective snooping around the scene who introduces herself as Maggie Sawyer. In the comics, Sawyer started out as a member of a Metropolis police unit that dealt with super-powered threats, though recently she’s become more known for briefly being engaged to Batwoman/Kathy Kane, becoming comics’ most high-profile same-sex relationship until DC’s editorial staff got scared and instituted a silly “no-marriages” policy.
And this show initially plays coy about whether Maggie is also gay in this incarnation, as she invites Alex down to a secret dive bar that plays nothing but Dolly Parton songs. This isn’t a lesbian bar, however: it’s a place where aliens can socialize without fear of harassment from those xenophobic humans. But then it turns out they’re not being timid about Maggie’s sexuality, either: She says she can empathize with these outcast aliens because she grew up a “non-white, non-straight girl” in Nebraska and even mentions that the female bartender is an ex-girlfriend. Well, we’re definitely not on CBS anymore, Toto.
With Maggie’s help, Alex and Supergirl apprehend the “Kryptonian” at an observatory where he’s sending a signal out into space. Oh, and the observatory is called “Mt. Pride” and marked on a map with a pink-ish triangle.
But instead of Krypton, the mystery man is trying to contact a planet called Daxam. Yes, he’s really a member of the Daxamite race, aliens with similar powers to Kryptonians who are their sworn enemies. Kara catches a touch of xenophobia herself when her disdain for Daxamites convinces her the guy needs to be locked up permanently.
Despite his capture, the president gets attacked again, and the real assailant is a totally different alien who never gets a name, nor does her species, though Maggie briefly mentions “Infernians” at the top of the show, so let’s go with that. In case you care, the Infernian is against the amnesty act because she thinks it’s a pretense for government registration of all aliens. She uses her powers to set Supergirl on fire, and we get this week’s Easter egg as Supergirl has to spin around to put out the flames, looking not unlike a certain DC superheroine on a certain ‘70s TV show.
After the Infernian is defeated, Supergirl realizes she was wrong about the Daxamite. She releases him and shakes his hand and says she’s Kara Zor-El, and he introduces himself as “Mon-El”. No relation, I guess, though in the comics, Mon-El was originally a Daxamite who gets amnesia and thinks he’s Superboy’s long-lost brother, hence the name.
And here, Supergirl finally breaks the bad news: When Krypton was destroyed, the debris hit Daxam and its moon, and thanks to “solar storms”, Daxam is now a lifeless wasteland and Mon-El is the only survivor. Which of course leaves several questions unanswered. Why is Mon-El the only Daxamite who escaped? Why did he come to Earth? What was he doing in a Kryptonian pod? And presuming he left around the time Krypton exploded, why did it take him 12 or 13 years longer to reach Earth than Kara (and I think about 20 or 30 years longer than Superman)?
In a minor subplot, Kara’s new boss Snapper Carr is an arrogant asshole who hijacks meetings between James and the CatCo reporters. James wants to assign Kara to interview the president, but Snapper shoots this down, saying they need someone “hard hitting”, leading to James’ laughable, “Believe me, she’s hard hitting.”
But James buckles and Kara is assigned to go interview Lena Luthor about the alien amnesty act, because she’s sister of “Earth’s most notorious alien hater”. Lena reveals she wants to mass produce a device that can detect whether someone is an alien, and Kara types up a self-righteous article blasting her for siding with “America’s xenophobic right” and kowtowing to “the country’s immigrant-fearing lowest common denominator”. Snapper has to tell her to rewrite her story because duh, it’s too biased, and she’s got an obvious pro-alien slant.
And eventually, James gets an opportunity to put Snapper in his place, telling him that James is the boss of him now and if Snapper doesn’t like it, he can get to stepping.
At the end of the show, the president says her farewells, and Supergirl think it’s amazing that she gets to ride in Air Force One. This is mainly to allow Lynda Carter to get in an inside joke with, “If you think that’s cool, you ought to see my other jet!” But as soon as she’s out of sight, her eyes turn green and her face turns red, indicating she may be (here we go again) an alien herself.
And then Jonn goes to that dive bar to, I guess, check out the alien singles scene. And he enters in his J’onn J’onnz form, which causes a bartender (a different bartender, not Maggie’s ex) to freak out and run away. Hank confronts her, and she morphs to reveal that she’s really M’gann M’orzz, better known to Young Justice fans as Miss Martian, and J’onn isn’t the last living Green Martian after all.
It’s great to see Lynda Carter again and she looks as beautiful as ever, but I spent the whole episode wondering if something was medically wrong with her, because those were some seriously stilted and awkward line readings. I mean, anyone who watched Wonder Woman back in the day knows she’s never been that great of an actress, but this was pretty bad.
On the positive side, Maggie Sawyer feels like the most three-dimensional character this show has given us in a while. And with all the meaningful looks between her and Alex, it seems like they’re setting things up for the two of them to eventually become a couple. I’m all for more same-sex couples on these shows, but if it’s going to involve a lengthy plotline where Alex has some kind of sexual awakening, I’d really rather they not even attempt it. I can’t even imagine how badly they’ll bungle it.
Overall, this was one of the stronger episodes in a while. I mean, it still had all the elements that makes this series consistently mediocre: bottom-tier villains, heavy-handed morals, and plot developments telegraphed way in advance, but at least this episode (directed by Rachel Talalay, who also directed Tank Girl and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) moves along quickly enough that you don’t really notice all the flaws. This is, of course, all I ever asked of this show: less emotional speeches, and more people doing stuff. Also, the super-powered fighting was kept to a minimum for once, which was appreciated.
But yet, this show still feels like it’s aimed at the really young end of superhero fandom, particularly in how it features a main character who rarely acts like an adult woman. How exactly did Kara make it to her mid-20s without knowing that a professional journalist is not supposed to show obvious bias in her reporting? And despite condemning anti-alien prejudice in her article, Kara of course is made to act just as prejudiced toward the Daxamite so she can learn a lesson at the end of the show that should already be obvious to anyone over the age of 12.
Oh, and from what I understand, Mon-El is going to be making regular appearances to fill the void left by the fact that they can only use Superman for a few episodes. That could be interesting, but his smart aleck-y, sub-Ryan Reynolds demeanor doesn’t leave me feeling eager to see more of him.
Next up: It’s an underground alien fight club as Supergirl has to battle other aliens to the death for the inhuman pleasure of supervillainess Roulette, played by special guest star Dichen Lachman.