Mar 31, 2020
Supergirl: Jemm and the Hologram (S1 E7 RECAP)
Previously on Supergirl: Alex came to believe that Hank Henshaw was responsible for the death of her father. General Astra, twin sister of Supergirl’s mom, was determined to go forward with her plans for world domination despite her niece’s interference. Supergirl used up all of her powers to destroy the Red Tornado and was stunned when she cut her finger on a piece of glass.
We find Supergirl being run through a battery of medical tests at the DEO, while we hear her mom Alura in voiceover explaining that she’s been depowered and is now capable of experiencing pain and sickness like an ordinary human. But she reassures Kara that as soon as she absorbs enough energy from Earth’s yellow sun, her powers will return. Which means, of course, that this is the “hero loses his/her powers and learns he/she is still a hero without powers” episode that every superhero show is obligated to have.
And as you probably figured out by now, Kara is getting this advice from the DEO’s artificially intelligent hologram of Alura. Yeah, remember that? I thought Holographic Alura would become a constant presence on the show, but this is the first we’ve seen of her since she was introduced in episode two. I’m guessing that since they (mild spoiler for the end of this episode) have Laura Benanti on hand to play Astra, they figured why not get her to also play Alura? It’s not like they have to pay her extra for the dual role.
Alex is walking Supergirl out of DEO, reminding her that Superman loses his powers from time to time, but Supergirl is worried because it’s been two days. Alex tells her to go outside and “see what it’s like to be human for a day!” Henshaw pops up, adding she might “learn a thing or two about what it’s like for the rest of us,” though it’s pretty obvious to all by now that he’s not particularly human, either.
The two women are on edge around Henshaw, and after he walks away, Alex reminds us that she thinks he’s responsible for her dad’s death. Kara doesn’t think this is possible, but Alex points out that Henshaw has been lying to her for years about her dad being a DEO agent.
Over at CatCo, Kara shows up to work with a cold. She tells Winn there was a “10 year old on the bus with a runny nose.” That is one fast-acting virus. Winn finds out she blew out her powers fighting the Red Tornado, and he plans to dig into DEO research on Superman to find answers.
She then sneezes just as Cat comes up in her elevator, and Cat demands to know who just “sprayed my office with a million microscopic killers?” Then Kara sneezes again, and Cat is stunned that it’s her because she never gets sick and “that’s the best part about you!” Kara’s gets a funny line with, “That’s the best part…?” Cat berates her for coming to work sick, and Kara sees herself out.
At the DEO, they’re dealing with an alien prisoner with red skin and a big jewel in his forehead that he’s using to impotently shoot laser blasts at the walls of his cell. He tells Henshaw that he’s “Jemm, Master of the Faceless Hunters,” as well as conqueror of 12 worlds, but Henshaw is not impressed. And yes, Jemm is a minor character from the comics, but the amazing twist this week is that he’s an obscure hero, not an obscure villain… who they’ve turned into a villain for the purposes of this episode.
Henshaw informs Jemm that his psychic powers are useless because his cell is coated in “neural shielding.” Jemm promises to “grind your loved ones to dust,” but Henshaw mutters, “There are none left to grind.”
Cut to Kara out on the sidewalk as James runs up to share the news that he and Lucy are planning to move in together, and Kara again does a terrible job of acting happy for them. She sneezes, and he immediately knows she lost her powers. He says, “Solar flare?” in a bit of dialogue that only makes sense when you know that in the current run of Superman comics, Superman just discovered he has a “solar flare” power that allows him to discharge all the energy in his cells at once, but leaves him powerless afterwards, and that would appear to be the same power Supergirl used against Red Tornado last week.
Kara remarks that today she’s “less Girl of Steel and more Girl of Stucco!” Which doesn’t make sense, because stucco is actually pretty durable, but I won’t say any more because I don’t want to be that guy. James tells her to just relax and enjoy her time off, and she decides to follow his advice, adding, “The world can survive without Supergirl for one day!”
Well, that jinxed it, because as soon as she says that, a massive earthquake hits. They both fall to the ground, a nearby overpass crumbles, and a big crack opens in the sidewalk. A car hits a fire hydrant and nearly plows into Kara, but James pushes her out of the way, unfortunately breaking her arm in the process.
Over at the DEO, well, wouldn’t you know it? They’re just about to move Jemm into a new cell at the precise moment the earthquake hits, and when they’re finally able to reestablish the camera feed in his cell, Jemm is nowhere to be found. Henshaw orders Alex to seal off the base.
Meanwhile, Kara is whimpering about her broken arm, so James rips off his shirt (don’t get too excited, because he’s got a tank top on underneath; this is the family hour, after all) to use as a makeshift sling. Together they take in all the damage around them and see multiple skyscrapers on fire.
James and Kara return to CatCo, where things seem pretty chill, considering National City was just hit by an earthquake strong enough to cause a freeway to collapse. Cat comes out of her office and feigns concern about everyone, and then says she needs to get her “station” back on the air to reassure the people of National City.
Over at the DEO, Alex and Henshaw are using the Alura hologram to learn about Jemm. Alura says he’s one of the “most ruthless criminals” to be sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Well, of course he is; every villain on this show is the most threatening villain ever. Also, Jemm has the ability to “read and control” minds. She says that her daughter Kara is the only one who can defeat him, and Henshaw orders the hologram shut off.
Alex shows off glowing headbands called “neural disrupters” that can protect them from Jemm’s powers. So Henshaw and two random redshirt DEO guys strap them on and go out searching for Jemm.
Meanwhile, Winn gets Cat’s TV station back online, because again, being an IT guy makes him capable of pretty much every technical feat imaginable. Cat thanks Winn, but the joke is that she has no idea who he is, even though she walks past his desk every morning.
And now that all the TVs are up and running, they see Maxwell Lord using this disaster as another excuse to bash Supergirl. “Just when this city needed her the most, she’s nowhere to be found!” So Cat refers to Winn as “Whit” and tells him to set up a live feed in her office so that she can address the city and “counter” Max’s message. Because when there’s this much death and destruction going on, what’s really important is not besmirching a superhero’s good name.
Meanwhile, Henshaw and the two agents are going all Call of Duty through the corridors of the DEO. Henshaw mysteriously disappears at some point, and then the other two guys get attacked by Jemm. Alex loses the visual feed from them and sees their heart monitors flatline.
Back in the smoking ruins of National City, Maxwell Lord is out on the street helping with relief efforts, but mostly using it as a photo and branding opportunity by handing out water bottles and other paraphernalia with the Maxwell Lord name on them. So I guess they’re setting him up as a Donald Trump-like craven opportunist who slaps his name on everything.
Jimmy uses his photographer credentials to get close to Max, with Kara right behind him. And then Kara starts complaining to Max about all the mean things he said on TV about Supergirl, because people need a “more positive message” right now. Yes, I’m sure the people trapped under rubble at this very moment are terribly concerned about all the negativity in the media.
But Max says that Supergirl should be thankful he didn’t reveal the truth, which is that she lost her powers. He knows she blew out her powers fighting that “military android” and there’s a good chance she’ll never get them back. Kara looks distraught, and then some random woman runs up to the three of them, screaming that her dad needs help.
Over at the DEO, Henshaw finally gets back to the command center, telling Alex that the other two agents are dead and their neural disrupters were destroyed, so now they have only one. He also says Jemm read the minds of the two guys, and it just so happens that one of them was a security chief with full knowledge of how to free every alien in their prison. And… that’s the guy they sent to go up against a psychic alien?
Back in National City, that random woman’s dad was in a car accident or something and is lying on the ground. Max starts examining him, mentioning that he did “med school in a year,” but there’s nothing he can do for the guy. Luckily, his daughter is there to drive it home that Supergirl could easily just fly him to the hospital, but of course, she’s not around.
At the DEO, Alex convinces an agent named Donovan that Henshaw can’t be trusted, due to the “sketchy” circumstances of his survival. She says they should go after Jemm themselves, and Donovan is up for it.
Meanwhile, Kara is taking the death of that random guy pretty hard. She feels helpless and fears her powers will never come back. And then right across the street, a guy with a gun breaks into a convenience store. Kara decides to go stop him, while James warns her against it, reminding her that she’s vulnerable now and the bullets won’t bounce off this time. She replies, “They don’t know that!”
At the DEO, Alex and Donovan find the two dead agents, and contrary to what Henshaw told them, their neural inhibiters are still working, which only adds to the sketchiness. But before Donovan can put one of them on, Jemm starts controlling his mind and commanding him to point his gun at Alex. Donovan tells Alex to get away, because he doesn’t know how long he can fight it.
Back at the convenience store, Kara shows up in her Supergirl costume and tries to talk the robber out of shooting the store owner. And a close up of her hand shows it shaking due to her broken arm. And wow, it must have been a bitch to get her costume on with a broken arm.
While this is going on, Cat Grant is addressing the people of National City on TV. Her speech to the city is intercut with Supergirl’s speech to the would-be robber, and both are full of similarly hollow platitudes like, “Act like a superhero, even if you aren’t one!” And, “We choose who we want to be!”
And then Supergirl tells the robber that, you know, she could totally be using her amazing powers to stop him, for realsies, but she knows she doesn’t need to, because he’s “better” than this. “This is not you!” And then James walks in and starts snapping photos just as Supergirl convinces the robber to hand over his gun.
Back at the DEO, Alex is looking for Jemm when Henshaw pulls her into a room and yells at her for coming after him. They get a call from Donovan, but Henshaw figures out he’s now completely under Jemm’s mind control. Jemm kills Donovan, then takes his radio and threatens to free all the prisoners.
Henshaw starts to head out, but Alex points her gun at him and tells him to drop his weapon. She’s decided that now is the perfect time to reveal she knows all about Henshaw’s history with her father. She makes him handcuff himself to some bars, and then contacts Jemm and tells him to come and get her in the DEO control room.
Back at CatCo, James is showing Kara the photo of her persuading the guy to give up his gun. And Kara is acting like this is some incredible photograph, when it’s actually hilariously awkward and staged. James says this “great” photo only came about because of his familiarity with the subject.
Then she asks about the first picture he ever took, and it turns out it was a photo of his dad, right before he went to go fight in the Gulf War. And yes, James gets the expected tragic backstory when we learn his father “never came home.” They go back to talking about the Supergirl photo, and James says, “You don’t even need powers to be a hero.” Thanks, show. I didn’t get that already.
They hug, and then Winn walks in and gets all freaked out. Because they’re hugging. He’s flustered and stammering as he says he hacked into those DEO files about Superman and he knows she might get her powers back if they’re “reignited by a Kryptonian version of extreme adrenaline.” And then he angrily storms out.
Kara goes after him, and he’s all jealous and angry and yelling that James has a girlfriend, and when Kara gets her powers back, she’s not going to be capable of a “normal boy-meets-girl” situation anyway. And this is all very weird. He’s acting like he walked in on them making out, but all they were doing was hugging.
Thankfully, this strange conversation ends when another tremor shakes the building. Kara knows it wasn’t an aftershock, but rather an explosion, and a gas main blew up or something. Winn gets a call and learns there are people trapped in a fire a few stories up. Kara immediately thinks of using the elevator shaft to rescue them.
Back at the DEO, Jemm has taken the bait and come to the control room. Alex starts shooting at him from the shadows and setting off flash grenades. She succeeds in knocking the gem off his forehead and even unloads two handguns on him, but none of this slows him down in the slightest. Just when it looks like Alex is dead meat, someone crashes down from overhead and beats the crap out of Jemm and snaps his neck. And during the fight, it appears to be a man in a mask and a cape, but when he switches on the light, it turns out to be Henshaw.
At the CatCo building, James gets into the elevator shaft and climbs up a ladder to rescue the people up above. He lowers them down one by one, but when it’s James’s turn to head back down, an aftershock hits, sending him flying. He ends up hanging onto an elevator cable for dear life. And of course, the cable, which presumably is a cable that usually supports the weight of an elevator car, as well as all the people inside, starts to snap.
James falls, which gives Kara the adrenaline surge that Winn just mentioned, and her powers suddenly come back and now she’s flying down to save him. And she’s suddenly in her Supergirl costume, which is a bit weird. But now that her powers are back, she immediately flies off and saves a school bus full of kids teetering on a collapsed overpass. Wait, hasn’t it been hours since the earthquake hit? In all that time, none of these kids figured out how to climb out the rear exit?
At the DEO, Alex goes to confront Henshaw about what just happened. He finally confesses that he’s not really Hank Henshaw. The real Henshaw died the same day as her father. He says the DEO was tracking an alien that they thought was hostile, but Jeremiah Danvers realized it wasn’t a threat. Instead, it was a “refugee” like Kara and the sole survivor of a doomed race. And so Daddy Danvers sacrificed himself in some unspecified way to save the alien, and he “died a hero.”
Alex figures out that “Henshaw” is really that alien. He says he’s a “shapeshifter” and assumed Hank’s identity when he died. He then recruited Alex specifically to “protect” her, just like he promised her father.
She asks who he really is, and his eyes glow red as he declares he’s the “last son of Mars.” He then transforms into a giant green CGI alien and declares, “My name… is J’onn J’onnz!” Yep, it appears that ridiculous fan theory turned out to be true: Henshaw is really the Martian Manhunter.
Which means J’onn J’onnz responded to being hunted by the government by disguising himself as… a guy who hunts aliens for the government. Also, in what universe does recruiting Alex into a high-risk secret agent job count as “protecting” her? Still, despite the twist not completely adding up, it’s a great reveal and well worth all the buildup.
We get a scene at CatCo of Winn acting bitter and saying he’s “disappointed” in Kara. What? They were hugging. Kara then changes into Supergirl and appears to Cat, who chews her out for disappearing, saying people look to their “heroes” for “solace and consistency.” Kara replies, “That’s why I’m glad they had you! You gave them hope today!” They have a moment, and then Supergirl flies away.
She’s happily flying along when someone slams into her and sends her crashing to the ground. It’s the two Kryptonian servants of Astra, and this week’s cliffhanger features Astra descending in front of her and saying, “My dear niece. Did you really think this was over?”
This episode had a lot of heart… and that was really the main problem here. There was just too much heart, and the story didn’t do enough heavy lifting in the drama, conflict, action, and suspense departments to really justify all the big emotional moments. Going into this, we all knew Kara was obviously going to prove that she’s still a hero without her powers. And the only way they could show that was by having Kara give a speech to one guy? All the speechifying combined with this show’s usual tendency to have characters say completely obvious things made this one a real chore to sit through. But hey, next week is the big winter finale, so hopefully they’ll pull out all the stops for that one.