Supergirl Episode 17, titled Manhunter, aired this week and was a wonderful world-building episode, bulking up the back stories of the primary cast while pushing some the current plot lines forward. We see this all the time in comics. After major plot lines, the creators will often take an issue to tell an 'untold tale of ...' to build up characterization while setting the stage for something coming up. For me, after the gut punches of "For the Girl Who Has Everything" and "Falling", I needed a chance to catch my breath. And this episode gave me that chance to pause, reflect, and understand the characters' motivations a bit better. So the plot of Supergirl being mistrusted by National City is mentioned but not really moved forward.
This episode is instead all about beginnings or new phases in people's lives. So we see a school age Kara just arrived on Earth. We see her first day at CatCo. We see a college age Alex. We see the 'real' Hank. And J'onn in hiding. We meet Jeremiah Danvers. These scenes add so much depth, helping us understand how everyone got to the point they were in episode 1.
As great as those flashbacks were, it was the ending that got me. Alex, Hank, and Lucy are all in very different places at the end of this episode than where they were at the beginning. I believe they are in better places, or at least more interesting places. Especially Lucy. I worried about her character arc a lot these last few weeks. But the writers and producers did something that made me cheer. I suddenly like Lucy even more than I did before.
Lastly, the ending of this episode seemed to be a set-up for a Season Two, something that we still don't know we will be getting.
I seem to say it each week. But I couldn't ask for a better show for the character of Supergirl.
But Hank knows that heads will roll for his hidden identity. He asks Alex to distance herself from him, to protect herself ... something which has been his mission. She is resolute in her loyalty to him.
And that loyalty is going to be tested when reinstated Major Lucy Lane arrives at the DEO with Colonel James Harper. They are there to uncover all the lies and hold those who deceived the government accountable.
Eddie McClintock plays Harper as an angry soldier out to kill the enemy. He spits out his lines about how Hank/J'onn played with his children and how the real Hank was his friend. He is unyielding and unforgiving.
We see that 10 years ago, the real Henshaw was a bloodthirsty DEO head. He has learned that 'the Manhunter' is hiding in South America. The DEO squad, including Agent Jeremiah Danvers, will head there with orders to shoot to kill. He wants to know the color of the alien's blood. He doesn't care if J'onn has knowledge to share. The DEO will eliminate him. They head off to the South American jungle giving off a feel of the Predator team.
Jeremiah never seems to be down with this kill mission. Nor is he a good soldier. He almost dies in the jungle but is saved by J'onn.
The two share experiences. J'onn is a refugee from Mars. Kara is a refugee from Krypton. Jeremiah knows that J'onn isn't a threat. Maybe they can co-exist. It is a good scene between Dean Cain and David Harewood as we see how they might look different but have so much in common.
Jeremiah's last words are 'take care of my daughters', something we heard earlier this season.
In the interrogation room, J'onn defends his body of work over the last two years defending the Earth. He disparages the real Henshaw as the violent man he was. But Harper doesn't care. J'onn is guilty. He will be punished.
It is, however, quite clear that Lucy is conflicted about the whole thing. You can see she realizes that Hank/J'onn has done good for the planet.
She recounts how she met Hank. She was in a rebellious period. We see a long-haired Alex downing shots and dancing in a club. We see her almost drive her car while drunk. She gets arrested.
In her jail cell, Hank arrives telling Alex that he knows about Alex, her budding career as a scientist, her family including Kara, even how she got a particular scar. And pushing even farther, he knows that Alex doesn't feel special. He can show her how to reach her potential. He can give her a purpose.
He saves her from a self-destructive path.
Again, we have heard snippets of this from Hank and Alex earlier this season. But it is a interesting to see Alex in this part of her life, so out of control as opposed to the soldier we know now.
While Alex denies knowing Hank was J'onn, Lucy thinks she is lying. Alex is arrested.
She and Hank will be sent to Project Cadmus. So Jim Harper involved with Cadmus. Nice!
Kara knows that she needs to save her sister and friend. The only way to do that is through Lucy. She invites Major Lane over and reveals her secret identity. Initially, Lucy is a little angry, reacting about the James/Kara relationship. But then she calls out Supergirl as a liar. It is why no one trusts her ... or J'onn.
Kara reminds her that as an alien, she would do anything to fit in ...
We now cut to Kara's beginnings. First we see her being awkward in school, hearing everything, seeing through people, mesmerized by earth birds. She embarrasses Alex by her odd behaviors. (There is something very Cosmic Adventures about the brief glimpse into school life.)
While at a beach party, Kara sees a car wreck and runs to the rescue, leaping onto the flipped car, ripping the door off, and saving the mom and baby inside. The car explodes, giving Alex a cut ... the scar we heard Hank mention earlier.
In one major misstep, we see Jeremiah tell Kara that it isn't safe for her to use her powers. The world already has a Superman. She just needs to be Kara Danvers. He hands her glasses which will blunt her vision powers.
This sounds way way way too much like Jonathan Kent from Man of Steel. If Kara asked him if she should have let that mother and child die, would Jeremiah have said 'maybe'? It diminishes Jeremiah in my mind. It is one thing to say 'be careful but do good'. It is another thing to say 'don't use your powers at all.'
Also, I recall hearing about this scene as something that was cut from the pilot. So I wonder if it was repurposed.
Back in her apartment, Kara says that an alien, someone isolated, like her would sacrifice everything, betray the most fundamental instincts, to fit in. Kara held herself back, lied to herself and others, so she could be part of the world. Just like J'onn.
Kara trusts Lucy, trusts her with the secret. Lucy must know that J'onn doesn't deserve this betrayal.
Alex and Hank are now on the run. They know Jeremiah is alive. The two ride off, fugitives trying to find Cadmus.
The scene where Alex and Kara say goodby to each other is wonderfully emotional as the two say how much they love each other, how much they will miss each other, how much they have learned from each other.
Now I have to see how this plays out. But let's face it, Alex and J'onn are big parts of the show, good parts! Are they gone for the rest of the season? I can only hope that they are back for the finale.
In all honesty, Cadmus would be a great plotline, great villain for season two. A genetic lab gone bad, weaponizing aliens and holding Kara's dad prisoner. That has 'monster of the week' written all over it. And such a place would surely be the home of a flying cat called Streaky.
It is a wonderful move on the writers to give Lucy this arc. I was afraid she was going to be the 'crazy ex-girlfriend' who became Superwoman out of spite and revenge. Lucy, this show, and women in general deserve better than that. I have always liked Lucy (even if I thought there wasn't much chemistry between her and James). Now she is completely an ally. I don't have to roll my eyes at her. It is brilliant.
So we know so much more about everyone. And just about everyone is in a different place. Even Winn is someplace else. He cuts ties with Siobhan who reveals herself as having Banshee powers.
And there is so much small excellence in the show. We see Cat make James answer her phone, smiling wickedly as she sees him pick up the phone. We initially see Winn support Siobhan, telling her that she is powerful and can overcome. We see Agent Vasquez show her true colors and help Kara when Harper is stomping around the DEO. It's all good.
Was this fast? Sure. But without a guarantee of a second season, I applaud the show for giving us all the stories they want to. This is the show I want and the show I deserve!