Supergirl: Fallout

Supergirl: “The character of a person, or alien, is not defined by where we are from, but by what we do.”

At the end of the last episode, the people on Earth learned that President Marsdin was an alien. In this episode we begin dealing with the consequences of that discovery.

The episode begins with the alien president resigning, pointing out that she’s in violation of Article 2 of the US Constitution; that is to say, she was not born in the United States. Supergirl views Marsdin’s resignation as taking the right step – including refusing a pardon from the new president – but I have to wonder, as Marsdin knew all along that she was not born in the United States, why did she run for that office? Deception in order to survive or to protect your family and friends is understandable. Deception in order to become president is not.

The episode does not focus on Marsdin, but rather on how the revelation is affecting the country (and the planet). Some people think that aliens should be welcome, and that everyone should have the same rights; others think the aliens should be sent away. Perhaps in symbolism that is too blatant, the American flag falls over and Supergirl rescues it, preventing it from crushing protesters on both sides, but hey, these are based on comic books and the genre is not usually subtle. Supergirl strikes me as a modern version of the morality play. I might get annoyed except these days it seems so relevant.

This episode’s most interesting character, in my opinion, was Lena. She wants her image inducers (devices that help aliens pass as humans) to keep working, as they are a big source of revenue. (What a potential source of blackmail – hacking L-corp to determine who owns them!) But Lena also wants humans to have the same capabilities as aliens. Most amusing was Kara’s being protected by Lena, and trying to get away so she could take on the role of Supergirl; I loved it when Kara started to put the ear protectors in her ears, and then decided that that was stupid and stuffed them in her pocket instead. Lena also maintains that choosing a side could prevent someone from being her best – I am not exactly sure what that means, but I found it provocative, so I include it. However, after this episode, Lena really should be able to figure out that Kara = Supergirl, and if the writers don’t deal with it, it’s a weakness. It’s OK for the occasional character to be stupid, or even for an intelligent character sometimes to make a mistake, but not for a really smart character to be stupid all the time. And Lena is very bright.

The big bad for this season of Supergirl may be anger and fear. Kara’s goal is to move hearts and minds, but that is not easy. Although some reviewers (who I suspect are out to divide us) dismiss this as an episode full of liberal pablum, it did not feel like that to me at all. I think it would be terrifying to discover that the president was an alien, and I understand the anger and fear of those who are protesting or who are complaining on the dark web or even selling pizzas as they have discovered that they have been lied to. Choose a group or entity that might unnerve you, and then see how you feel if you learn that group has control over something very important. You could imagine, for example, that the president was born in Kenya – or that the president is a Russian puppet. You might have good reason to fear, because who can tell if the impostor's motives are benign? I can understand why Jensen, that guy at the DEO, released the Graves twins.

I enjoyed the other scenes, especially with Brainy at the pizza place and Nia Nal’s defense of him, and Alex taking on Otis Graves. James had some good bits as well. However, I do miss having more J’onn J’onzz. I don’t like him in that visitor’s badge, either, and although we saw him hunting down a missing alien, these are scenes where he’s dealing with characters we do not know and I confess who I don’t care much about. Maybe I will later.

There were themes that did not get explored – such as we cannot all be completely open with each other – but maybe this season of Supergirl will explore it eventually.

Title musings: The title of the episode was “Fallout,” in my opinion, an excellent choice. Fallout is the word used to describe the consequences of an event, in this case the discovery that President Marsdin was born on another planet. The word fallout is often used with radioactive, and one has the sense that something toxic is spreading through society. Finally, we end with another link to the title, as Supergirl, zapped by Mercy’s kryptonite, is falling out of the sky.

Bits and pieces

The dialogue about burgers and pizza made me think the writers were hungry while working on the script. Or maybe I'm hungry.

Brainy ordered a dozen large pizzas, but he left the pizza place with only five boxes.

Mercy said that Lex used to mock Lena’s inventions by saying she should make them in pink. Kara, standing behind Lena, is wearing pink. And, by coincidence, at the moment, so am I.

We learn in this episode that Nia Nal is transgender - so is Nicole Maines, the actress who plays her.

Not much romance in this episode, except that Brainy might give Nia Nal a call, and we’re reminded that Lena and James know each other. And you know what? I didn’t miss it.

I understand that Supergirl’s Supergirl outfit is under her clothes, but where does she put her top layer of clothing after she changes? Does she have a secret pocket in her cape? Or should I not be asking such questions?

No scenes with Chyler Leigh’s hair falling down her face. Thanks!

Quotes

President Marsdin: Fear can create monsters where none existed before.

Lena: But – burgers first.
Kara: Yes – burgers always first.

J’onn j’onzz: Leadership looks good on you.
Alex: I can’t say the same for that visitor badge.

Brainy: I would like you to know that, based on my calculations, this moment of crisis does not deeply affect the planet. (I loved how he gives this perspective)

Brainy: My calculations lead me to conclude that pizza might be the right thing at this moment for everyone.

Nia Nal: When innocent people are being attacked, it’s not about balance. It’s about justice.

Lena: Supergirl – I don’t know how you passed a lockdown, but --
Supergirl: But you’re in a crisis and you’re happy to see me?

James: Ignorance is our enemy. Not each other.

Brainy: Barney is my pizza and coffee name.

Overall Rating

Although occasionally this episode is not especially subtle, it is showing several sides to a serious issue, and going where others do not dare to tread. I think it is both provoking and potentially rich. I’m curious about what happens next. Three out of four apple and olive pizzas.

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

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Nia Nal is a transgender" You've either added or dropped a word there.

Billie Doux said...

It sort of feels like Supergirl is going overboard on the current political situation, although "overboard" is probably the wrong word since I'm okay with that.

I'm very curious about the new president Bruce Boxleitner, whom I am hoping desperately is not going to be a secret alien-hating Trump-alike. (That thing about the red tie was a clue.) I like Bruce Boxleitner a lot. He used to run my favorite space station. He can play a good villain as well as a good hero, though.

Victoria Grossack said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I thought that "transgender," like "male" and "female," could serve as adjective or noun, but the dictionary lists it only as an adjective. Correction made.

Patrick said...

The CW superhero shows used to be some of my favorite tv programming, but this year I just don't have any enthusiasm for them. Arrow & Flash aren't as compelling as they used to be, Legends Of Tomorrow is just getting ridiculous, Supergirl is hitting the topical metaphors too hard, and I never really got into Black Lightning. It doesn't help that Marvel/Netflix just put out an Emmy-caliber season of Daredevil(no spoilers, but OMFG it was amazing), so all the other superhero TV looks mediocre by comparison right now :)

CoramDeo said...

I would argue that the entire CW has been pointlessly plugging their political opinions into their shows for years now. Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends have all had their villains spout campaign slogans, and there have been countless negative references to whatever Trump happens to be doing, especially on Supergirl. I don't mind a thoughtful exploration of a social issue now and then - I am a fan of Star Trek - as long as it avoids specific parallels to specific people, but when three separate villains on three separate shows on your network are promising to 'Make (insert scenario-specific place) great again,' it crosses a line. Hollywood needs to learn when it's thoughtful social commentary, and when it's useless drivel that detracts from the viewing experience.

Gracie F. said...

I would argue that one of the things science fiction/fantasy is supposed to do is show current and former political situations through a different lens. The producers and writers of Supergirl have clearly chosen to address the fact that the United States government is drifting (no, stomping) toward fascism, using the persecution of immigrants as their scapegoat. They are choosing to address fact that Supergirl herself is an alien, and what that means in the current American political environment. This is not a safe or easy choice for them to make. In fact, it's a brave one.

Patrick said...

I wouldn't call it brave when the majority of the entertainment industry is doing much the same thing. I'd call it jumping on the bandwagon. As for the rest of what you said Gracie, I'm not going to respond except to say that I disagree significantly with your characterization of current events, and leave it at that. Because I don't feel like fighting the same fight going on throughout 99% of the Internet today. I'm just dismayed that the number of apolitical spaces in our society keeps shrinking. Ah well, maybe I'll have more time for video games.

Victoria Grossack said...

I think the choice the creators of Supergirl have made is a brave one, because although the show has a liberal slant, what Marsdin did was clearly wrong, so I think it gives a lot of heft to the anti-alien faction. Lena Luthor's point of view is also interesting (I hope it gets explored more). I admit I don't watch the other shows in the group - lack of time, and anyway, I hate Arrow - so I'm not suffering from overexposure.
Although I agree that sometimes we turn to these shows for pure escapism, no matter which side you're on, and in that case they will be disappointing.

CoramDeo said...

I'm merely saying that the manner that they have chosen to use to address political issues is not a good one. As I said, a thoughtful exploration of social issues is a great thing for a show. But having your villains literally speak - almost verbatim - the words of your political opponent while they murder people is not a thoughtful exploration of social issues. If the action superhero show I'm watching is going to present both sides of the argument in a thoughtful manner, and ultimately come out in favor of one viewpoint, that's one thing. It's entirely another thing to push one side relentlessly using the heroes and make a caricature of the other side using the villains. It stops being storytelling at that point, and becomes just another political platform. Victoria makes an excellent point, that it's not as much of a caricature anymore, but one need only look back as far as Season 2 to see the subtlety disappear entirely. They're taking steps to make their commentary better and more helpful, but I don't know if they are there yet.

Billie Doux said...

Doux Reviews isn't political, but it's impossible to completely avoid political topics, especially these days and especially when the shows we're reviewing include those topics. I don't deny that the Berlanti-verse shows most certainly tend to be progressive. I tend to be okay with that because I'm progressive, but CoramDeo, I get what you're saying about the lack of subtlety.

CoramDeo said...

And don't get me wrong, that's all I'm saying. I have no problem with any political view being presented in any television show, no matter what view it is, as long as it is done well and with the proper nuance.

CoramDeo said...

I should clarify that I still enjoy and watch Supergirl, even though the political stuff gets on my nerves.