Supergirl: American Alien

Kara/Supergirl: “Fear. I get that. No matter how much we believe in ourselves, that never goes away. Not fully.”

The first episode of the new Supergirl season gives us hope versus fear, and hatred versus tolerance.

The start of a season has to remind the audience where everyone is and what progress they have made in the interim. A shot of a newspaper headline proclaiming that Superman is off-world for an indefinite amount of time gets rid of the Clark Kent complication for a while, maybe the entire season, and Supergirl is working very hard, rescuing not only those in the good old US of A, but around the world. Kara Danvers is also back in form, as an experienced reporter mentoring cubs and discovering that she sometimes sounds like Cat Grant. Alex is now Director Danvers, training recruits at the DEO, and frustrated by Brainy’s inability to function like a human being in the 21st century. The Danvers sisters are not just responsible now; for the most part, they are comfortable with that responsibility.

The episode has several plot threads. Let’s dispense with the lesser threads first. James is concerned about being indicted for his vigilante deeds as Guardian, and asks Lena Luthor not to interfere. But she does. Would he have beaten the rap without her help? We don’t know. He’s warned not to continue – which, unless he enlists the help of Brainy (the new Winn) – would be difficult anyway. (But Supergirl is permitted, even encouraged, to continue, I guess.) The conflict is an interesting one: pragmatism versus idealism. I don’t think what Lena did was wrong, really; it seems to be standard operating procedure for prosecutors to reduce the pressure on a lesser fish if given information to catch a shark, and that’s what Lena did. Besides, Lena was helping enforce the spirit of the law, if not the letter. The only thing wrong is that she didn’t inform James. But given James’s experience in life, how could he not know how things work?

At the beginning of the episode I sensed a spark between Kara and James. If Lena and James break up, maybe Kara and James will get back together. At least Kara’s not mourning for Mon-El; in fact, I don’t think he was even mentioned.

Another plot thread was the introduction of a cub reporter, Nia Nal, who I assume will play a larger role in this season. In this episode she mostly served as a foil for Kara, who proved she was all grown up and capable of giving excellent advice. At least Nia Nal had an interesting point of view on fashion, claiming that our wardrobe choices show our stories about ourselves (I think my wardrobe simply proclaims that I hate, absolutely hate, shopping for clothes and have put it off for too long).

Now to the main story. Aliens have come out, as it were, and although the laws protect them, tolerance cannot be legislated, and hearts and minds are hard to change. I loved the alien support group, as they discussed their different approaches to life on Earth, and their different experiences with fitting in.

I admit that, as a rather small woman, I grasp my purse a little tighter when a big black man joins me in an elevator. But I do this when a big white man joins me as well. This reaction of mine has nothing to do with race, although the big black guy may not know that. So I can appreciate Kara’s initial skepticism that the attack on Vose, despite J'onn's assertion, was a hate crime, because it also involved a theft, which would have been reason enough for the deed. A series of events – especially when she sees the alien-targeted vitriol on the dark web message boards (message boards have a lot of vitriol) – gets her to recognize that J’onn J’onnz was right, that seething resentment is out there. And how can Supergirl – or Kara – fight that?

I loved the conversation with J’onn J’onnz, where he tells her not to give up on her hope and optimism, because it is that hope that inspires everyone else.

The ending, the reveal that the president is an alien and now the whole world knows it, was terrific, and moved the story up a star for me. Because this makes the whole tension, which had been well defined for me – I knew who to cheer for and who to hiss – far more complicated. Everything is a murky gray. Even if President Marsdin seems like a good president, and so far Supergirl has implied that she is, how can you not feel as that there’s been no alien takeover if she’s sitting in the Oval Office? I mean, given the Constitution, how can she even be legally in that position? Was she born in the United States or not? This is the moment when asking for a birth certificate is justified!

Title musings: The title is, of course, American Alien. At first I thought the title was just referring to the problems the United States is currently having with racism towards aliens. The alien support group supported the choice of title as well. But up until the last five minutes I was thinking that the writers should have gone with a title reflecting hope and fear – and then they showed the footage proving the president was an alien. Who is more American than the president?

Bits and pieces

Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) had her hair back at the beginning of the episode, which is a lot better than when it hangs down during the lo mein scene.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think Otis Graves (Robert Baker) looks like a mean version of Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan). As Winn has gone to another time period (that is to say, Jeremy Jordan left the show) they can afford to have someone similar in appearance.

It was fun to see Brainy trying to win as Winn.

Quotes

Guy in Spain: Gracias, Supergirl.
Supergirl: De nada.

James Olsen: You are really good at multi-tasking.

Kara: For the first time in my life, I’ve got everything under control.

Alex: Never charge without a plan.

James Olsen: A reporter’s job is to demand transparency.

Brainy: True, I process terabytes in microseconds, but you’re not so slow yourself.

Guy in mask: Let him who desires peace prepare for war.

Nia Nal: What we choose to wear tells a story about who we are.

Lillian Luthor: I realized that I didn’t want to die alone. And if I didn’t want to die alone, I had to change.

J’onn J’onnz: She wants to remain hopeful. That’s one of the things I most admire about her.

Kara: I finally feel like the world is good, and I so badly want it to stay that way, even if it’s only just for a little while.

President Marsdin: A leader who caves to fear is no leader at all.

Overall Rating

I enjoyed this episode a lot; nearly all the scenes spoke to me (the only one I thought didn’t work was when Kara and Alex were eating supper, as they were rehashing, and that scene was marred by the Chyler Leigh’s hair falling down her face). I related personally because I have had to serve as a beacon of hope even when I did not feel especially hopeful. However, I did have the impression that the storylines were meandering – until the end, with the reveal of our alien president to the world. So – three and a half out of four coffee lattes, with that other half having been spilled by Nia Nal.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

5 comments:

Mikey Heinrich said...

I really enjoyed this one. And I wondered the exact same thing about the president's birth certificate :) They can't NOT make that reference, can they?

I particularly enjoyed Lena's tidy 'Sam is happy in another city now and we're just never going to mention her again. Everyone cool with that?' speech.

Billie Doux said...

Victoria, you said, "(I think my wardrobe simply proclaims that I hate, absolutely hate, shopping for clothes and have put it off for too long)." Me, too. :)

And I was also wondering how an alien can get to be president if she wasn't born in the United States.

The thing with Lena bargaining to get James off the hook feels like a manufactured break-up about to happen. I'm also wondering if they're going to put Kara and James back together.

CrazyCris said...

Oh I hope they don't put Kara and James back together! He's really good for Lena... and I would enjoy a whole season without Kara pining for someone...

This show is definitely NOT subtle when it comes to its real world metaphors, is it? I wonder if that's alienating a certain section of viewers...

Sign me up to that wardrobe self-description! :p

Deborah Gallegos said...

CrazyCris, those real-world metaphors were very evident in season one and it looks like they’re returning to them now. I welcome them over the typical CW romantic drama plots.

CrazyCris said...

Deborah, it's true they were always there, and this was never the most subtle of shows, but now I fear it's going a bit to "in your face" and will alienate people who could perhaps otherwise have their eyes opened if it were put in there a bit more elegantly...