[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×11: “Strange Visitor From Another Planet”

written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

On tonight’s episode of Heavy-Handed Metaphors, we got to experience allegories for both the Holocaust and modern Republican fear-mongering! …okay, I know that sounded harsh, but for all the obviousness of its parallels, Supergirl actually did a pretty good job of conveying the horrors of both rampant xenophobia and its ultimate conclusion.

The MVP of Episode 11 is David Harewood, whose acting took a level in badass since last week because wow, did his face and line delivery sell the fuck out of the flashbacks to Mars and the genocide of the Green Martians. Between the camps and the furnaces, this was basically Auschwitz on Mars, and that can be a difficult thing to allegorize without being tacky. But this worked because of Harewood’s facial expressions and tone. You see a man awash with fear and horror and guilt and shame, and that’s just his eyes. Incredible work.

The B-plot of Kara facilitating a reunion between Cat and Adam was nowhere near as good, but I’m mostly judging it because it really, really interrupted the pacing of the hunt for the White Martian. I’m still not happy with Kara for keeping her identity from Cat – they could have worked something out where Kara still worked for Cat and performed her duties as Supergirl. Cat isn’t completely unreasonable, as demonstrated by her courage in finally telling her son everything she wanted to say.

Speaking of, she and Alex are right. Kara does meddle in people’s business a lot. Obviously we got a happy reconciliation between Cat and Adam at the end, but Kara’s inserting her own feelings for “what could have been” with Alura into a delicate situation that could have ended very badly. I do this myself on occasion – believing my way of dealing with life’s trials is the best way because it’s how I would want it dealt with. But people are not a hive mind, and Kara has got to learn to stop trying to run over other people’s personal life experiences with her own. Until then, we have Bizarrogirl next week and I’m really excited to see it!

-Dayna

* * *

This week’s Supergirl episode was weighted with some heavy issues. First and foremost, the Martian Manhunter’s story about his people being hunted to extinction in a story that strongly echoed both the Nazis and the Holocaust, and the entire concept of racism, bigotry, and genocide on Earth.

Dovetailing with Martian Manhunter’s story was a Senator on Earth spouting the same kind of values that ended his people on Mars, aimed toward all aliens on Earth. All of that weight wrapped around the lesson that, after Hank froze twice, even the strong and powerful can feel weak in the face of crippling fear. Hank Henshaw isn’t afraid of anything…except that. It was a well-written and well-designed parallel with a very important lesson about fear that tied well into the end of the episode.

Following in the vein of fear was a powerful person of a different kind, Cat Grant. Runs one of the most successful companies in the city, maybe the world; makes demands of the rich and powerful in town; but absolutely terrified to face her own estranged son. As it turned out, Kara was right – Cat’s fear wasn’t worth it, and she would have missed so much more if she’d continued giving in to it. Of course now there’s a little danger for Kara, because Cat will be watching her every move with her son.

Tying things together was Supergirl, whose most super power this episode was her voice. It was all that she used to help Cat Grant get over her fear and meet her son. And even after Martian Manhunter put her in Kryptonite handcuffs to keep her out of action, she continued to use her only unstoppable power – her voice – which she used to convince him to think logically, and not to act rashly out of fear. And that closed the circle started at the beginning of the episode; the cycle of fear had finally ended. And it didn’t take any force; only a voice.

-Jason

* * *

Supergirl seems to be aiming for the squishy bits lately, and hitting all the marks. This week’s theme appears to be “regrets and fears”, letting us get a look under the crunchy exterior of the two most steadfast cast members – Cat and Hank.

Kara sends a reconcilatory letter to Cat’s estranged son, Adam, which causes him to seek out Cat for their first face-to-face meeting. Understandably, as Kara wrote the letter with Cat’s name to it, saying that it went poorly is an understatement. I feel this is the first time we’ve seen Cat come unhinged, and rightfully so – with a mix of guilt and betrayal compounded by 25 years and an assistant who is still too split between a double life to have given the support Cat needed to follow through. But there is an amazing moment where Cat confesses this, in her own way, and Kara is able to mediate between the two for a second chance over coffee – and later, a softer side of Cat when she facilitates a date between Adam and Kara (who had been pretty oblivious to Adam’s overtures).

Meanwhile, a White Martian (the faction which exterminated all but one of the Green Martians – J’onn) appears on Earth looking to finish the job during a rally for an anti-alien senator. We get to see the full range of the effects of PTSD and survivor’s guilt first-hand, in someone who we know to be an incredibly competent and very strong, capable person without demeaning him for it, or blaming him for feeling any of these things – another truly remarkable moment for television in a series rife with remarkable moments. And to see Hank/J’onn overcome it, to save himself with the love and support of the daughters he promised to protect, where he couldn’t protect his own.

Happily in the end, what may have been the “big” threat (the anti-alien senator) changed her stance after being saved from the White Martian by Supergirl, but this truly feels forgettable after the emotional roller coaster in the rest of the episode. I don’t know what’s coming next, but this was definitely not the (delightful) train wreck I was anticipating after Winn’s meltdown last week – and his absence, while noted, isn’t missed. Instead, I believe a girl can fly, and the last son of Mars can carry that weight.

-Cara

* * *

BONUS REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #1 by Sterling Gates and Bengal

More Kara is always good, and finally getting Sterling Gates back together with her is a dream come true. We get some fun action in this one with a good old-fashioned superpowered fistfight between Supergirl and a new, alien Rampage, with some fun banter between Kara and Alex before a disastrous cliffhanger. The fight is stalled by the requisite backstory pages, but they’re a first-issue necessity and now they’re out of the way to get to the good stuff. Bengal’s art is crisp and bright, a bit anime-influenced but still well-rendered, and I’m just thrilled to pieces to see Kara Danvers in a comic. It’s $0.99 per issue, so pick it up – it’s a great companion to the show.
[Amazon] [ComiXology] [DC Entertainment]

-Dayna

Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on CBS. Dayna can be reached on Twitter @queenanthai, Jason at @Mangacool, and Cara at @virtualcara.

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One thought on “[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×11: “Strange Visitor From Another Planet”

  1. My thought throughout this episode was “I don’t envy anyone who has to review it.” For me, I spent most of the time reacting and digesting what I was watching. I know the story of J’onn and the green Martian genocide from shows and comics, but this episode was probably the most real and intense it’s ever gotten. David Harewood gave one hell of a performance. It’s so nice to see the character I initially wrote off as a grumpy military type who would turn out to be a bad guy instead turn out to be one of the best versions of a beloved DC character.

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