When you’re a Martian Manhunter, known for dispensing justice across the galaxy, it isn’t particularly easy trying to be a pacifist – and that’s before Manchester Black arrives with a new super team of baddies. But that’s precisely where we find J’onn J’onzz in this week’s episode of Supergirl, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
With Black sprung from prison, he assembles a team called The Elite (along with The Hat, Menagerie and a Morae), and sets out on a mission to “terminate prejudice with extreme prejudice.” This puts J’onn, played by actor David Harewood, in a tight spot as his dedication to following his father’s peaceful life is called into question against The Elite’s violence.
“He’s trying to live up to his father’s memory.” said Harewood says. “But over the next three or four episodes, J’onn really struggles with that idea of how far to take pacifism before allowing people around him to be hurt as Manchester Black, and The Elite, start to ramp up trouble in National City.”
“All I can think of is my father’s name; the idea that I am somehow soiling his memory, the gift he gave me of living a peaceful life, is an anathema to me.”
Harewood added the conflict that will unfold is especially intriguing because J’onn relates to Manchester Black, and the villain “preys on his rage.” Plus, he points out that Martian Manhunter has also acted quite violently in the past when serving up his brand of justice.
“He understands Manchester, and Manchester understands him, and J’onn understands the rage Manchester feels but is trying to deny it.”
Adding to his problems is the fact his daughter figure Alex has reverted to anti-alien sentiments after having her mind wiped of Supergirl’s identity.
“She grew up with an alien, but now that the memory was gone, a primary experience is gone, she has reverted to a more black-and-white attitude. It is disappointing, but he understands it.”
Along with the changing dynamic with Alex, Harewood said it has been “very strange” developing a new body language for his character as an investigator, and private citizen outside of the DEO.
“It is not quite so militaristic, and it has been fun to discover a softer side of J’onn.”
But Harewood teased the hardest times are ahead for J’onn in what the actor called a “difficult season” of challenges for the character.
“I want to live up to my father’s ideals, but in doing so, denying my nature. Is it possible to accommodate both things?”
Manchester Black and The Elite are not going to make it easy for J’onn to answer that question in “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way” on Supergirl.
Aaron Sagers is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.