Supergirl Season 2 Episode 4: Survivors Review
Miss Martian, cool aliens, Maggie Sawyer, and more! "Survivors" was a great episode of Supergirl.
This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 2 Episode 4
OK, I know it’s still early in the season, but it sure seems like all of the CW superhero shows are cruising right now, doesn’t it? Every single one of them has had a strong, consistent string of episodes. Supergirl is no exception. In fact, the first four episodes of Supergirl season 2 mark not only the first “four great episodes in a row” stretch in the show’s history, but they’ve been four of the best episodes the series has ever produced.
Can you tell that I really enjoyed “Survivors?”
At the risk of running chronologically through things, let’s start at the beginning. That opening on Daxam was really solid stuff. In general, I think the visual effects on Supergirl are a cut above some of the other shows (Flash is consistently good, and Legends of Tomorrow is perhaps slightly less consistent), but this season’s apparent focus on broadening the alien connections means that stuff has to look really good. Like they did with the Krypton flashbacks/hallucinations last year, I dig that they give stuff set around that red sun a kind of orange haze (perhaps made worse by, y’know, an exploding planet), but I was into seeing that Daxamite palace get debris dumped on it. Also, let’s take a moment and appreciate the fact that, for the first time ever, we didn’t just get a live action Mon-El, we got the freakin’ planet Daxam on our TV screens.
Between the Mon-El issue and the introduction of M’Gann, Supergirl is going harder with the alien angle than I ever thought possible, and it’s the best thing for this show to form its own identity. While every bit the traditional superhero show that The Flash is, Supergirl needs more of its own identity, and it’s something that the Fort Rozz “villain engine” from season one never really accomplished in a satisfactory way. Sure, we had the DEO and an often alien menace-of-the-week, but for some reason it never felt like such an integral part of the show’s voice the way it has early on. Both Mon-El and M’Gann will allow the alien angles to be explored in different ways other than “someone with powers shows up and needs to be shut down.” We’ll still get that stuff, too, but I like the idea of using other characters to explore the “what it means to be alien in a world of humans” thing a little bit more than just limiting it to Kara.
On the other hand, I think that perhaps we could do with a little bit more of a divide between Kara as Kara and Kara as Supergirl. She’s no different when she’s at work at the DEO than when she is at work at CatCo. And I don’t mean that in some pedantic, “keep her secret identity” kind of way, I just mean for the sake of the character herself. Kara’s been at the superhero thing for over a year now, and I think she can start being more surefooted in this aspect of her life. That scene of her telling the Alura hologram what her workday was like was awkward (although it was nice to see Laura Benanti again). Then again, it’s tough for me to fault that scene too much when it ends with Alura spouting xenophobic stuff at an inopportune time and Kara “hanging up” on her with a “bye mom!” C’mon, I laughed. You probably did, too.
I’m also still on the fence with the whole “Kara as a reporter” thing. Despite that expository/inspirational speech Cat gave her at the end of episode two, this doesn’t quite feel right for Kara, and I think it invites the Superman comparisons more readily than regular guest appearances from Clark would. This isn’t a major issue (at least, not yet), but I’m just not invested in Kara’s journey to becoming a reporter. Luckily, everything else the show is doing is compelling and exciting.
In fact, let’s talk excitement for a little bit. A “fight club” episode should, almost by definition, be not very good. But “Survivors” isn’t any kind of bottle episode, and it doesn’t make the actual fighting the centerpiece of the story. Sure, Roulette is disposable, but she was in the comics, too. This time they’re just using her to advance the overall alien rights metaphor that this season seems to be pushing, and that’s fine. Even better, it gives Alex an excuse to bond with Maggie Sawyer, and it will be interesting to watch Alex perhaps come to terms with her own sexuality, which I don’t think has ever been brought up on the show (she had that kind of transitory romance with Max Lord, but can anyone correct me as to whether there were any earlier hints that she’s bi?).
“Survivors” is a remarkably balanced hour of TV. There’s no shortage of Supergirl in costume or aliens in makeup (I’m so happy we’re seeing more of J’onn in his Martian Manhunter form this season), nearly every non-action interpersonal story was moved along at an acceptable speed, and there was time for comic relief in that hard-drinking montage with Winn and Mon-El. I’m not sure whether it’s the move to the CW making this show feel more at home with its tone or simply a case of Supergirl shaking the first season jitters, but whatever it is, I want more like this.
We’re four-for-four so far this year! I’m looking forward to the next 18!
Kryptonian Memory Crystals
– This is a drastically different Mon-El origin than anything we’ve ever seen in the comics. So drastic that I will probably have to make revisions to my “Who is Mon-El” supplementary feature. You read it, right?
But seriously, it doesn’t matter, because Mon-El’s origin has always been pretty fluid, although I’m somewhat disappointed that his name is actually Mon-El and not Lar Gand and kinda shocked that Kara didn’t register any kind of surprise when he introduced himself. I mean, for real…not an “any relation?” It’s just a weird choice for the show to make, and I wonder if they’re holding something in reserve.
Speaking of holding something in reserve, I will be completely shocked if there are no Daxamites left in the universe. This isn’t a Krypton situation. I expect revelations later this season.
Incidentally, they so far haven’t touched on Mon-El’s “allergy” to lead (which is probably a good thing), and I wonder if they’re going to keep his power levels as relatively low as they are. Because where they are at the moment, strong/kinda invulnerable, no vision powers, can’t fly, is roughly equivalent to what Superman’s power levels were like in his earliest comic book adventures.
– Roulette is basically what we got in her early comic book appearances, and she first appeared when Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer were writing a really great Justice Society comic. The fight club thing was always her schtick, although it was more of a “general superhuman fight club” rather than a “strictly alien fight club” situation.
– And speaking of characters co-created by Geoff Johns, we now have Young Justice favorite M’Gann on our TV screens, hopefully every week for the rest of the year. I can hardly process this it’s so cool.
– Can I tell you how happy I am to see Draaga on my TV? Also, I didn’t realize it was pronounced “DRAY-ga” as I’ve always said “DRAH-gah” in my head. Anyway…
Draaga first appeared in The Adventures of Superman #454 in 1989, and he was created by Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, and George Perez. This comes from what is possibly my favorite era in Superman comics history, so this made me really, really happy.
What’s extra cool about having Draaga show up is that he eventually became kind of attached to Supergirl in the comics, and wasn’t strictly a bad guy. It’s a long story. But we also got a mention of…
– Warworld! Holy moley, Warworld now exists in the DC TV Universe! This means that we could conceivably have an entire season (or perhaps a four show crossover) about Mongul and Warworld coming to menace Earth!
– Maggie’s “Wanna see a dead body?” feels like she’s deliberately quoting Stand By Me.
– “leap tall buildings in a single bound stuff” is a reference to how Superman’s powers were described in the intros to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s and The Adventures of Superman radio show.
– Roulette calls Supergirl “the maid of might.” That was one of her dopier comic book nicknames, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first time we’ve heard it on the show.
– Roulette also makes a reference to Michael Vick, the former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Jets who ran a dogfighting ring and tortured/murdered countless innocent animals. Screw that guy. Donate to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
– Winn’s indignant “I am 5’9!” is the battle cry of all guys who are perhaps not six feet tall. Trust me, I should know.
What did I miss? Let me know in the comments or shout ’em at me on Twitter!