This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 11
I’m rooting for Supergirl to be a good show. I like what it represents (that you can do an effects-laden superhero show and not have it be typical CBS schlock), and I think on balance, it’s done a really good job. But I thought last week’s episode was almost offensively bad, like a fart in church if the fart sounded like a bunch of Richard Dawkins tweets. It was poorly directed, poorly written, trite nonsense that failed to add anything to the characters. So you can imagine how happy I was to find myself a little misty eyed towards the end of this week’s episode for good reasons, and not because Toyman’s plot made no sense.
Let’s start with the big picture: Melissa Benoist is wonderful. She has great range, and can go from textbook adorkable without being overbearing or annoying, to tough and serious. One of the show’s strengths is the depth that Winn, Kara and Cat have. Calista Flockhart’s Cat and Benoist in particular are the anchors that the best episodes of this show are built around, and “Strange Visitor” is no different.
It feels like the point of this episode and the last one was to expand the emotional core of the show from just Kara and Cat: last week, they…tried…to add depth to Winn, but they had limited success because their vehicle for building him up was defining him with a character with the logic of a quantum probability wave. Here, they define Hank with the tragedy we are familiar with — he tells Alex his story, and we get an extended flashback to the genocide of his people at the hands of this week’s villain, a White Martian. It’s no Martian Christmas Carol, but it’s still a solid center to build an episode around.
The A plot has a hate-spewing xenophobic politician coming to town to be a thinly veiled Donald Trump analogue. Predictably, she is attacked by an alien! It’s a big lizard-looking thing that I honestly mistook for Parasite for a second before I remembered that I’d seen previews and already knew what it was. Giddiness aside, the monster grabs Senator “We’ll make Thanagar pay for the dome!” and flies into a parking garage, and then gets “chased off” by Supergirl, but not before triggering a flashback in Hank to when his family was massacred by White Martians. Having the same shapeshifting powers as J’onn, it was rather predictable when it was revealed that the Senator (in protective custody at the DEO by the time everyone on the show figured it out) had been replaced by the monster.
That would have been a problem had the ensuing fight been crap, but that brings us back to another strength of the show: despite not having a Hollywood budget, it does a good job with super powered fights. Kara and the White Martian bounce around the DEO, and we find out that when Hank used his powers, it was like sending up a beacon that let him be found by the ones who massacred his people.
Meanwhile, the B plot starts at the beginning of the episode in the coffee shop, where Kara flirts with a guy who is obviously Cat’s estranged son based on the “Previously on Supergirl” montage. (He’s also a 6, and Kara’s surrounded by 8s, but I can suspend disbelief for a minute). He’s in town because Kara finished a letter for Cat and sent it to him, because she allowed her own past spent without a mom to justify her meddling, and Adam and Cat’s first dinner together goes…poorly. Cat spends the meal name dropping and generally trying to puff herself up in front of the child she’s never known, something that backfires because he believes it was her narcissism that kept her away for so long.
Cat could be a horrible character. She is a narcissist and a tyrant, and ignoring the fact that she’s fabulously successful, her facade is that of a generally terrible person. It’s a credit to the writers of the show that this was intentional, something they lampshaded early on and built around to make sure that they rounded her out with stuff like a secret son she regretted not having a relationship with, or by having her take on Live Wire and send Kara out of harm’s way. With all that built into her character, it was easy to see her initial failure with Adam coming, but it was also a little heartbreaking to see her fail and to understand why it was happening. And like she always does when her life gets difficult, she calls on Kara to help her out.
Kara mediates a coffee between Adam and Cat, translating for each by taking the hurt and resentment and insecurity out of each one’s statements until they figure out that they want to spend time getting to know each other, and she flies off to save the rest of the city. She has a long conversation with J’onn about being “the last” of something, and the right way to honor their people. J’onn is talking about either giving himself up and dying to stop the attacks on Earth, or murdering the White Martian. They flush the Martian out, and J’onn makes it look like he’s giving himself up, but Kara knocks it over, and the three of them fight in what is again a really good-looking fight scene. Eventually, J’onn has it at his mercy, and he declines to kill it.
KRYPTONIAN MEMORY CRYSTALS
-Stuff’s still weird with Winn, and Kara is having a tough time giving him room to get back to normal.
-She talks about “space and time” a lot when she’s referring to him. There is no way there’s not a time travel episode coming up soon.
-When Hank squints, his nose looks Bajoran.
-The White Martians were created by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter in JLA #1. If you haven’t read that Justice League run, you should do so ASAP.
-As bad as last week’s episode was, nothing in it was as terrible as the three seconds of the synth-pop cover of Hall and Oates’ “Maneater” I had to endure when Cat and Adam were at dinner.
-James and Lucy don’t seem to be doing so great, but it’s glossed over this episode.
-They figure out who the White Martian is after the first rally by looking through photos, where they realize she’s got glowy eyes, even when she’s shapeshifted. This will almost certainly come back to bite Hank, and is not in the comics.
-Similarly, I don’t remember the comic White Martians spitting acid on things.
-Adam asks Kara on a date at the end of the episode. He says “What are your thoughts on Korean BBQ?” and if he had asked me that, the episode would have been 20 minutes longer, structured like a televangelist sermon entirely about bulgogi.
-Next week on Supergirl: BIZARRO I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BIZARRO.