Episode 11 of the Supergirl show, came out this week and I have to say, this show continues to impress me. Last week, we had the character-driven 'Childish Things', an episode which gave back story and dimension to Winn. This week's 'Strange Visitor From Another Planet' similarly gives Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz some much needed history. I feel like these last two episodes have really made me feel like this show has finally found it's legs. Things have been improving, characaterization has been better, stories have been more complex. Much like the evolution of the first season of the Flash, the initial episodes are very good. Now this show feels special.
The title of this episode is a classic reference to Superman, taken from the title sequence of the old Superman television show. Here, it references J'onn. But it also clues the viewer in that there are similarities between J'onn and Kara. They are both strange visitors, they both have had to deal with tragedy, they both have been in hiding. And in this episode we see how they react to that history. Once again, Supergirl is the inspirational figure here, helping people to rise up.
Their stories clearly deal with family and the loss of family. That theme is nicely explored in a more standard fashion with the other plot line in this episode, Cat being reunited with her estranged son Adam. Unfortunately, I was so interested in the J'onn plot that I wanted these scenes to simply end so we could head back to the main plot. That isn't a knock on these scenes as much as praise for the Martian plot.
For me, knowing this was the 'Martian' episode, I thought this scene with Kara flying over what appears to be a red planet, having to save a family from fire, seemed to be a sort of prologue or a sort of riff on Mars and the battles there. I wonder if this was intentional.
But the biggest thing for me in this scene is that we see that Supergirl now wears blue bike shorts under her skirt. Way back in 2008, the inclusion of bike shorts set of an internet wildfire of its own. The battles were covered at length right here on this blog. As for me, I loved them. They make perfect sense.
Raise a glass Jamal Igle!
When Kara hits the office, she sees the man in Cat's office. It is Cat's son Adam who has arrived to National City because Kara ghost-wrote a letter as Cat to him, saying that she regretted giving him up and asking for a reconciliation. It takes Cat seconds to realize that it was 'Kira' who wrote this.
Initially, Cat is enraged and threatens to fire Kara. But Kara explains that she had seen Cat write versions of that letter and throw them out. It is clear Cat wanted a second chance, something Kara can't do with Alura. And so she decided to help her boss face the past. It's what family does for each other. There is that family theme.
Realizing that Adam did come and this is a chance, she allows Kara to keep her job.
National City is preparing for the arrival of Senator Miranda Crane, a very Trump-like figure. In fact, the writers hit you over the head with their similarities. Cat describes how Crane is a bigot and needs to be taken down by her own words.
Crane gives a speech in front of a frenzied crowd. She talks about aliens threatening our freedoms, acting dangerously, being parasites on the country, and eating children. She talks about building a dome. It all sounds like Trump talking about illegal immigrants and needing a wall.
The rally is interrupted, ironically, by an alien. A white Martian. The effects here are pretty good. The Martian in terrifying. James Olsen is there covering the rally, trying to worm his way back into the field. He hits the modified signal watch telling Kara she needs to come.
More importantly, Hank and Alex are there as DEO protection. When the White Martian shows up, Hank freezes. It is clear he is rattled by this thing.
It is there that Hank reveals this was a White Martian, the group which slaughtered the Green Martians, burning them. J'onn is the last Green and clearly this White wants to finish the genocide. It was when J'onn used his telepathic powers in last episode that the White Martian detected his existence.
I loved the end of this scene. Hank pulls Kara aside and tells her that if he reveals himself as an alien, his life as Henshaw will be over. He needs Kara to take down this threat.
Steely, Kara replies that she's got this one. J'onn is not alone.
While this again touches that family theme, it also touches on a subtheme of survivor's guilt and the loneliness of being the last of a race.
It turns out that the Senator Crane brought into the DEO is actually the White Martian in a shape-shifted form. She is forced to reveal herself, battering her way through the DEO troops, until finally driven away by an arriving Supergirl. Once again, Hank panicked and froze.
While Alex and Kara try to support J'onn, including a wonderful, tear-soaked scene between Alex and Hank. Again, the two talk about how he isn't alone in this. They can help.
Hank then reveals his life on Mars. The Whites overwhelmed the Greens with technology. They rounded the Greens up into concentration camps. The men were forced into slave labor. The women and children were killed in furnaces. J'onn saw his daughters taken away.
He escapes. He lives. And he is ashamed that he is alive.
These are heavy concepts and emotional scenes.
(As an aside, I do hope we get more J'onn origin bits, like how he eventually came to Earth.)
After a failed initial lunch, Kara steps in as a mediator. Cat sort of curses the 'sunny Danvers sentimentality'. But Kara is able to bring the two back together. Finally Cat says she is sorry that she gave up Adam. She misses him every day. She is glad he is here.
And he finally talks about how he was angry and Cat. But also missed her.
These are fine scenes, if maybe a little overly emotional. But when you go from survivor's guilt and genocide, a 'normal' troubled relationship just pales in comparison.
Splitting off, J'onn stumbles into a slimy Martian nest and finds the real Senator Crane, still alive.
Alex finds another Senator Crane, which once again turns out to be the disguised white martian. The reveal is terrifying! Good luck sleeping tonight!
Alex is kidnapped to use as bait to lure J'onn out. Surprisingly, the White doesn't know that Hank is J'onn. Do Whites lack telepathy?
Incredibly, J'onn agrees. He talks of how weary he is of being the last Green. He is ashamed that he lived while his family died, how he failed them. He will save Alex by allowing himself to be murdered.
Supergirl stops him briefly and talks about how their lives are similar and they need to rise up. Their lives have happened. But "we don't choose, we fight!"
"Dying is a lot easier than getting up when the world is ending. You have to get up!"
Supergirl even talks about how she now knows that Alura didn't join her in that rocket because Alura felt guilty that Krypton was dying. Alura's shame led to a meaningless death. And any meaningless death is wrong. These are pretty tough words about Alura for Kara to say. She has hero worshiped her mother. So this shows some maturity.
And Melissa Benoist really shines here. She seems to teeter on tears throughout this speech, bringing some emotional heft to it.
Still, J'onn flies off to the desert. Just as it seems that he has given himself up, Kara arrives. The two brawl with the White, eventually overpowering her. She is defeated and can be brought into the DEO.
Except J'onn is still dealing with all the emotions of his past. He slaps Kara into Kryptonite cuffs so she is weak and walks to the White to slash its throat.
Again, Supergirl gives a great impassioned speech. She talks about how she has lost everything and everyone. That loss can make a 'hole in your heart', but you can't fall into that hole. You need to fill it. Benoist shines when she gets these speeches.
But more importantly, it shows that the writers get Supergirl. She is the optimistic force of good. She is an inspiration. She sees the best and rises above.
But she also has that fierce side to her when she sees injustice. Hank doesn't kill the White. Instead it is now a prisoner in the DEO.
This White talks about she is one of millions who will come to Earth to finish the job. Defiantly, angrily, Kara says 'then let them come.'
I got chills, especially as she stormed out of the room, half smiling.
There is nothing left but the wrap-up.
Kara and Winn are giving each other space.
Adam will stay in National City to be with Cat. He also asks Kara out on a date.
Senator Crane turns down the ardor of her anti-alien agenda. She says Supergirl has changed her, shown her that fear cannot dictate the future.
And, in what seems to be a standing scene, we see Alex and Kara catch up on Kara's couch. They talk about Adam, Kara's desire to save everyone, and how Kara needs to have fun on this date.
But that breezy conversation is interrupted by a news program showing Supergirl tossing cars around. Hello, BizarroGirl.
There are other small things throughout the episode which made me smile. A version of Hall and Oates 'Maneater' plays during the first Adam/Cat lunch. Hank talks about Crane's fear of aliens being a 'comic book delusion'. J'onn says he is 317 years old and knows languages human mouths can't speak. And there is even a seen where J'onn and the White speak Martian!! These flourishes are appreciated.
So this was another strong episode. The emotional scenes between Hank and the Danvers sisters were powerful. The action sequences were done well (even if dimly lit sometimes). But most importantly, Supergirlwas such a strong inspirational figure here.