[Review] Supergirl Episode 1×17: “Manhunter”

written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

I keep trying not to go on loud, angry liberal rants but damn, Supergirl writers, you’re not making it easy for me. I brought this up in my review for Episode 11 and I need to bring it up again. I’ve been ranting on Twitter about the awful strain of xenophobia that’s turning the United States ugly and hateful lately, and we see a good representation of this with Hank Henshaw the Original as well as Jim Harper in this episode.

Original Flavor Henshaw, as it turns out, is violently anti-alien and is on a manhunt for our Martian Manhunter. Kara and Alex’s father, Jeremiah Danvers, is on the task force designated to hunt and kill J’onn. He finds J’onn, but my favorite Martian ends up saving Jeremiah’s life. Over time, Jeremiah gets to know J’onn and even empathizes with him, seeing the same pain and loneliness in J’onn that he sees in his adoptive daughter Kara. I think it’s the moment when J’onn admits “I too…had…daughters” that Jeremiah truly begins to understand that J’onn is no threat to humanity. “Humans can be ignorant, especially when they’re scared,” Jeremiah explains. “You’re not a threat. You’re a refugee.”

But Henshaw’s fear and anger ruins the moment when he shoots J’onn, leaving him in agonizing pain. Jeremiah comes to the defense of his newfound friend, resulting in Henshaw fatally (or so we think) stabbing him and Jeremiah throwing Henshaw over a cliff to his death. Jeremiah’s last words to J’onn are “take care of my girls.” It becomes J’onn’s mission to do just that.

I’m breaking protocol going four paragraphs here, but seeing Jim Harper gleefully talking about the horrible dissection J’onn will endure at Cadmus just reinforces the truth that fear and ignorance breeds hatred. It reflects what the Germans did to the Jews at Auschwitz. It reflects what the United States did to the Japanese here at home. And more poignantly, it reflects how certain presidential candidates are talking about treating Muslims and Mexicans and Syrian refugees. Bless Supergirl for instilling the moral lesson of demonstrating how wrong and dehumanizing this is. Demonizing an entire culture for potential, perceived threats due to the actions of its few extremists is morally wrong. As Jeremiah Danvers demonstrated, the only way to cure fear, ignorance and hatred is by finding common ground with those different from us. Understanding is the only cure for bigotry and it always will be. Supergirl is teaching us that.

-Dayna

* * *

This week’s episode showed off some impressive writing skills. It was filled with a motley mixture of plot teasers and flashbacks. But those flashbacks had a lot of information which we viewers have been hungering for since the series began: how Kara and Alex’s (Earth) dad died, and how he managed to become friends with the Martian Manhunter. And some surprising bits from Kara’s past, that she wasn’t always so careful with using her powers.

Even in this action-packed episode, Cat Grant still managed to steal a piece of it for herself. Commenting on Winn’s constant stalking of Kara, and then inviting Siobhan back and re-firing her. And all the while, her being unconcerned with Kara’s extended absences…yes, that again. I still think though she can’t prove it, she somehow knows Kara’s secret, but also understands that it must remain a secret. After all, she has to be smart enough to realize most of the advice she gives “Kira” is somehow having an effect on Supergirl. That may work out to Supergirl’s benefit eventually, because as she learned with Lucy Lane, trust can sometimes win the toughest critic over.

And then a glimmer of hope at the end in the midst of everything falling apart. Martian Manhunter discovers that Alex and Kara’s dad is still alive, but now J’onn and Alex are also fugitives, making their upcoming search of Project Cadmus more difficult. Once again, that puts Supergirl at a crossroads of loyalties. And yes, the very mention of the name “Cadmus” makes me suspicious of what’s coming up, too.

-Jason

* * *

After turning “dark”, Kara is still struck with repercussions of her actions under the effect of Max Lord’s synthetic Red Kryptonite. While this was a narratively dense episode that touches on more than the usual number of plots and subsequent bombshells, I’m almost ready to forgive the whiplash as it allowed last week’s scenes more time to breathe and bask in the excellent performance from Melissa Benoist. Almost.

There are a ton of flashbacks, focusing on Kara’s focus on holding back to fit in, as well as the return of Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers, whose death we finally witness, and the rebirth of J’onn J’onnz as the newly-deceased Hank Henshaw. Interestingly enough, while present-day Hank is being held as a traitor and interrogated over these events, he doesn’t let slip that Hank-Prime’s murderer is technically Jeremiah Danvers, or that his mission was to protect the young Danvers girls – although both are heart-wrenching to the audience, especially when we see Hank recruit Alex to the DEO in another flashback, and her present-day arrest for collusion.

We also get to see Siobhan Smythe return with a fury, as she fails to rebuild her career after double-crossing Cat Grant and settles for sabotaging Kara instead. Cat sees through the ruse, with Winn’s assistance to confirm the notion, and this sends Siobhan into another whiskey-fueled revenge spiral which results in the emergence of her Banshee Scream. Strangely enough, Kara and her need to rebuild public confidence in Supergirl (yet again) takes a backseat, barely a footnote to her rescuing Hank and Alex from a trip to Cadmus with new ally Lucy Lane. Hopefully this crush of plot is meant to clear the floor and set up next week’s crossover with The Flash, but if not, it’s still a reminder that the writing team needs to remember to learn to let things breathe. Too much information, even if valuable, can still lead to the audience tuning out.

-Cara

* * *

BONUS REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #5 by Sterling Gates and Pop Mhan

I was stoked to see Pop Mhan on art for this issue; he was on the DC He-Man comics and I loved him there, and he did an absolutely amazing job rendering Supergirl and her cast of characters. The Vril Dox storyline wraps up in this issue with the single most therapeutic resolution I have ever seen and yes I am biased towards Supergirl punching a cyberterrorist in the face why do you ask. I’m grateful for this arc raising awareness of doxxing and swatting for those who have yet been unaware of this sort of thing, and rightfully vilifying those who use the internet to be relentlessly hurtful towards others.

[ComiXology link]

-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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