[Review] Supergirl Episode 2×04: “Survivors”

written by Dayna Abel, Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

There’s a lot to unpack here in this episode of Supergirl, so let’s get to it. We have a clear theme of survivor’s guilt running throughout, as demonstrated by J’onn, M’gann, Kara and Mon-El. All four deal with the trauma of losing their homes differently, and I give a lot of props to David Harewood this episode, whose incredible facial acting evokes J’onn’s unfathomable loneliness and pain perfectly. As M’gann pointed out, J’onn is so desperate to live in the past, to live as a Martian, that he’s blinded himself to the reality of Mars being dead and gone. He cannot have his life back, and having M’gann reject the main facet of Martian life to his face cemented that for him in a way he wasn’t prepared for. On a personal note, I was forced out of New Orleans for a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina, and let me tell you, Harewood is a master at expressing the pain of having your life ripped away from you.

Meanwhile, Kara and Mon-El struggle to reconcile their prejudices against one another’s race with who they’re finding the other to be as a person. Kara struggles with admitting her parents weren’t perfect, while Mon-El is forced to place himself in the hands of someone he’s predisposed to hate. It’s a very unique dynamic, allowing Kara to fulfill the purpose she was sent to Earth to accomplish, although I’m not certain yet what Mon-El is going to get out of it. (Also: they’re totally gonna have smoochies.)

There’s also the overt alien metaphor here, which points to the current American political climate in a speech that’s about as subtle as Godzilla, and I’m just going to quote it in its entirety here because while it may not be thinly veiled, it’s damn good:

KARA: Things are bad. I know. But fighting amongst each other? That’s what they want us to do. Other aliens are not the enemy. She is. And the more we fight each other, the more we distract ourselves from the real problems. Cadmus…people like Roulette…they say we’re dangerous. That’s what they want everyone to believe. Don’t let them be right about us.

(Also, Alex and Maggie are totally gonna have smoochies. Just after Mags dumps her clearly-a-prop girlfriend and realizes who she obviously has the hots for. Friggin’ shiptease of a show.)

-Dayna

* * *

The big reveal at the end wasn’t all that shocking if you paid attention to what M’gann said when she explained to Hank how she got out of Mars. It tested our powers of observation. But it also challenged us again, because now we don’t know whether it’s the appearance that’s deceiving us, or if it’s the story she told Hank that was the deception. We’re left only with what we choose to believe until more evidence is presented.

As with the ending, the rest of the episode also challenged our powers of observation. While Alex was bonding with Maggie Sawyer over the last couple of episodes, there were clues to this ones final outcome, if you were paying close attention to what Maggie said. And as Kara struggled to meet Snapper’s criteria for producing a viable story, he literally shouted the solution at her before she picked up on it, earning her first official published story.

And finally, speaking of clues testing our powers of observation, it made me laugh when Supergirl referred to Mon-El as an “intergalactic frat boy”. But then it turned out to be true, as he conned Winn into going out drinking, breaking someone’s arm, and nearly getting into a fight. It was a comedic moment, but it’s also a bad sign that Supergirl may be getting into more than she bargained for as she takes him into her custody.

-Jason

* * *

First off – DICHEN LACHMAN DICHEN LACHMAN DICHEN LACHMAN. And now with that out of the way…like most episodes, there’s a lot going on, in particular with the chemistry between Alex and Maggie Sawyer, as well as Mon-El and the easily swayed Winn, and Hank’s clumsy interactions with Megan/M’gann. But while that may be simmering on the surface as the gang takes on an underground alien fighting pit (run by Roulette, as played by the glorious Dichen Lachman), I found the interactions between Kara and Mon-El the most striking.

Past episodes have dealt in depth with how to deal with xenophobia and racism, as well as how to manage one’s emotions. Here, we find Kara acting distantly – sometimes even slightly hostile – towards Mon-El, a Daxamite, despite Mon-El’s friendly demeanor (if littered with missteps thanks to Winn’s influence in integrating him into American customs). Further into the episode, Kara admits that she’s having trouble because she wants to remember her parents as good people – people without flaws. It’s not stated specifically that she is having trouble reconciling their clear xenophobia towards Daxam with their goodness as people, but it is the message. It’s one we deal with in the outside world daily: “they’re racist but they’re good people,” and “they’re good people, so what they’re saying must have merit.”

While the elder Els are dead and no longer able to change their behavior, Kara faces this and the implicit biases she has inherited, allowing herself to admit her parents were not perfect, using their inability to save Krypton as a playing-it-safe example. She also requests the DEO to release Mon-El into her custody, partly to complete her original mission to protect and teach a newly-landed kinsman, and part to save us from seeing Winn make Mon-El into a copy of his awkward ill-socialized self (making Kara a true heroine). While this plot isn’t as on-the-nose as previous episodes with teachable moments, I hope it won’t be left in the background, and we’ll get to see more of party-boy Daxamite Mon-El and snobby Kryptonian Kara Zor-El come to appreciate their differences and come to common ground in their adoptive world.

-Cara

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

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