This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 4 Episode 6
The trickiest part of this episode is that Supergirl’s tone is so buoyant that it’s all a bit too light to support the emotional heft of what transpires. Aliens homes are marked and roving bands of the Children of Liberty wander the streets to harass, attack, and intimidate them. It’s not clear how far they would have gone without interference. It certainly seems like it was meant to be a sort of Kristallnacht for aliens, a turning point where suddenly persecution moves from social to physical.
But the lizard-turned-dragon makes it all a bit too quip-filled and goofy, and the big showdown of the episode is between two good guys. I wish Supergirl had the confidence to follow through with the story it outlined, whether our heroes saved the day or not, and simply let the audience sit with that, without the jokey Harry Potter cross-promotion.
From the beginning, Colonel Haley waved the sisters Danvers off in no uncertain terms. After all, the Children of Liberty are a human hate group. It’s clear that in her and the president’s estimation, aliens are a group that the general population needs to be protected from, but not a group that themselves warrants protection. It would almost be like if we had a standing new branch of law enforcement that was concerned with a population, both foreign and domestic, that only cared about whether that population committed crimes, and never concerned itself with keeping that population safe, even from itself. I guess we could call it ICE. Unlike ICE, the DEO has Director Danvers, who does not believe in caging children or ignoring threats of domestic terrorism, even if it means pissing off her new boss.
I’m glad that Supergirl didn’t let Kara’s characteristic naïve optimism go unanswered when it comes to the sanitized version of the Thanksgiving myth. The story of this holiday is not one of cultures happily coming together – it’s one of kindness met with betrayal, genocide, and occupation. But as we all know, Ben Lockwood is being disingenuous when he aligns himself with the Wampanoags and any other marginalized people. Like myself and all other Americans of European decent, he lives on stolen land and benefits from it daily.
Ben Lockwood is smart enough to know he has to play the civility card all the way, though his annoyed phone call about the harassment in the cold open might betray that he’s losing control of this supposedly leaderless movement. His Crossfire-style appearance with Kara clearly worked, because regardless of whether he won the day, he won himself a television show. So far this season we’ve watched his platform grow and become more legitimate, which has only helped him grow the movement and give cover and legitimacy to the moderate interpretations of it, or as I like to think of it, “rebranding as Alt-right.”
The imagery of The Children of Liberty is very intentional – the name obviously harkens back to the Sons of Liberty and Daughters of Liberty from the American Revolution, and attempt to cast them as picking up the metaphorical baton of freedom from their forebears. It also creates a neat parallel with the Tea Party. They patrol like neighborhood watch, which is meant to broadcast a sense of safety, but likely reminds viewers of self-appointed vigilantes like George Zimmerman. The tiki torches they carried were a direct reference to Charlottesville. Kara and Alex mention the White Rose in Germany and the CIA in 1954, creating a coup d’etat in Guatemala, although the CIA’s greatest hits also include Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973.
For his part, James seems to be somewhere between fact-finding mission and naivete. He certainly seems flattered by the low-level operative he meets, which is perhaps why he so easily misses basic information, takes no notes, and doesn’t even ask if he can’t record audio of their conversation. To his credit, James calls him out for calling aliens roaches, and accurately identifies it as dehumanizing them to make it easier to treat them poorly, a key step in war propaganda and genocide campaigns. But though I wanted to be on James’s side here, he made it hard, and reminded me how poorly Supergirl represents the profession of journalism.
For her part, Lena is seriously muddling business and pleasure here. She went from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye on this issue and essentially gave James orders. Oof.
Strangely, one place where Supergirl has its cold, dark heart firmly in place is Lena Luthor’s capitalist intentions. Like any Silicon Valley blowhard, she truly thinks she can save the world through tech, in spite of not particularly understanding the problem, and having a completely opposing view the week prior. This isn’t a criticism of the show – it rings completely true of Lena’s intelligence and the world she spends time in, as well as her issues with Supergirl. Her view of exceptionalism, “leveling the playing field” and the inability to understand social issues and nuance generally that she demonstrated just last week when she had no idea that “moderates” in news media are vehemently anti-alien make this a perfect next step for her character. A vexing one, but it fits.
Speaking of vexing: lets just agree that HIPAA exists and everyone, especially her managers, should stop discussing Nia’s possible medical conditions and doctors without her permission.
Manchester Black represents the darkest response to what should have been a very dark step from this show. While Brainy is inexplicably using Manchester’s fighting style, in spite of not having learned it from him, Manchester has been torturing Children of Liberty of screen and starts shooting people. The action is still so off-screen that the writers will probably still bail him out, but frankly this would be a reasonable reaction from a character, even if it’s one we disagree with or wish didn’t happen. Again, this could be a place where Supergirl’s worldview fails its storytelling.
Until next time, always bring something to the party and enjoy the sweet potato pie!