[Review] Supergirl Episode 4×02: “Fallout”

written by Dayna Abel and Cara Russell


Supergirl has, since its inception, been heavy-handed with its allegories to present-day America. I’m of two minds on that. On one hand, it’s very easy to see how people can find it irritatingly preachy. The show wields metaphor like Harley Quinn uses her comically-oversized hammer. On the other hand, it’s the CW show that skews younger in terms of its viewing audience – I sincerely doubt there’s a large contingency of little girls following Arrow every week, for example. Supergirl is frankly annoying for committing the writing sin of telling rather than showing, but I’m willing to forgive it considering its audience. Sometimes you need the clown hammer.

Season Four is shaping up to be extremely metatextual. When President Marsdin resigns (as she should, for violating the Constitution), she tells Supergirl to be the beacon of hope that we all need. It’s a role both the character and the show itself have stepped into. Supergirl’s actions reflect what the series itself is trying to do, especially this season.

I personally struggle a bit with Kara’s insistence that we could fix things if we all just sit down and talk to one another. It’s idealism taken to the extreme, and I’m a firm believer in the Paradox of Tolerance. The show’s weakness in making itself into a metaphor is that it’s still fiction, and there is no Kara Zor-El in real life to point us in the direction of hope, help and compassion. It can’t solve reality for us.

There are, however, James Olsens and Nia Nals out there who take stands. Ordinary people can make a giant difference. Nia stands up to protect Brainiac 5 because she knows bigotry firsthand, and she’s just one woman. James has the reach of a media empire, and he has the power to stand up for more than one person. It’s tricky for James, as he wants to protect the vulnerable, but he wants to make sure CatCo retains its credibility so its editorials are not so easily dismissed – and considering another real-life parallel, I feel like he also doesn’t want to make his reporters targets for violence.

Supergirl might be excessively preachy, but it’s also not aimed at those who weren’t going to listen anyway. It’s here to be a beacon of hope for those who need one. In this case, it is succeeding admirably.


* * *

This season of Supergirl kicked off with a very close reminder of how much this series, more than many others, is a reflection of our current day problems. This week’s episode is no different as it triples down on the xenophobia, along with showing a strong helping of presidential grace under duress when President Marsdin steps down for violating Article II of the U.S. Constitution (specifically, the requirement that an American president must be born in America).

This makes it a difficult watch, to say the least, but all the more imperative that this piece of media exists for those coming up after us old and jaded millenials, to see that there is a way through. That there is hope, help and compassion for all, and those who seem very different from ourselves on the outside have the same dreams and desires, and aren’t all that different after all.

Mercy Graves is back on the warpath, managing to compromise the image inducer network in use by many of the less human-passing aliens on Earth. This causes Brainiac 5 to become compromised at a pizza joint when picking up an order, and into conflict with the shop employees who had previously been friendly. Nia Nal, a new addition to the CatCo reporting team, happens to be present and intervenes successfully, saving Brainy and later using the incident to help pressure James Olsen towards publishing an editorial making the company’s stance on the recent bigotry public. Here, she reveals that she’s a transgender woman, illustrating how close to home this situation is for her. While James disagrees on editorializing so soon, it does help bring the issue to the forefront to him. Later in the episode, he witnesses intra-company bullying towards a non-human employee and chooses to write the editorial to be sure that the company’s stance on bigotry is clear.

Lena, along with Eve Teschmacher and Kara, manage to prevent Mercy from tampering further with the image inducer network, but aren’t able to stop her from laying siege to L-Corp’s physical office. The trio are held in lockdown, with Kara stuck in her “wimpy reporter” identity while Lena keeps her on a short leash, reasoning that the safest place in the building is with her. Mercy breaks into Lena’s toy box and, after a gadgety fight against Lena, is defeated and thrown into the DEO’s prison next to her brother.

While pretty spiff to see Lena in action again, I feel like this was a ruse on Mercy’s behalf to infiltrate and compromise the DEO. Shortly after her incarceration, she convinces a guard to free her, playing on his xenophobic paranoia. This shouldn’t have been as effective as it was, as many fine Earthlings have taken up residence in the DEO locker, including Maxwell Lord, Livewire and Psi.

J’onn, continuing his quest to locate the missing local bartender Fiona (Tiya Sircar, sadly killed off in her first appearance), finds himself at an Agent Liberty rally. He watches as the masked villain stirs up hate against aliens with all of the old familiar chestnuts, including the slogan “Earth First”. This scene is interspersed with the Graves duo infusing the anti-Daxamite atmospheric lead dispersal unit with Kryptonite, knocking Supergirl out of the sky.

It’s a chilling end to an episode that wasn’t an easy watch. I know they must be building towards some sort of closure with this, but I can’t see it from here, and all I can advise is to take care of yourselves and each other while we join together in hoping Agent Liberty’s backstory next week isn’t too cringe-inducing.


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

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