Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Supergirl Episode 203: Welcome To Earth

The third episode of Supergirl Season Two was titled 'Welcome to Earth' and heavily played on topics that are on the minds of many people in this election year - prejudice and immigration. But here, rather than comment on the issue by looking at illegal aliens from other countries, we are discussing illegal aliens from other planets. The president is going to grant amnesty to all the aliens living undocumented in America and not everybody agrees. This has been a major hot button issue in this presidential election year here so this certainly was a timely discussion.

Unfortunately, and maybe appropriately, the topic is covered a bit heavy-handed and ham-fisted in this episode. Understanding that this isn't a college or Master's level course on this topic and knowing that some of the audience are viewers who are kids, this has to be a sort of primer on the subject, presented in broad strokes. In some ways, this reminded me more of the early episodes of Season One where feminist ideas were presented in stilted dialogue that hit the viewer over the head.

That isn't to say I didn't enjoy this episode. There is some personal growth in almost all of the main characters in the show, mostly around this amnesty point. We meet a couple of new characters: Mon-El, Maggie Sawyer, and Miss Martian. And it is clear that an Alex/Maggie relationship is starting to simmer on the back burner. And Lynda Carter is great as the President Marsdin (so close to Marston!) and the show runners add a couple of Wonder Woman Easter Eggs.

And no big surprise, Melissa Benoist is just dazzling in the episode. Whether it is the nervous giddy Supergirl preparing to meet the President or the prejudiced Kara thinking about Daxam or the frustrated Kara Danvers learning one of the most basic tenets of journalism or the determined Supergirl squaring off against a villain, Benoist captures it all perfectly. She is simply a superstar.

On to the particulars. Settle in!

This episode picks up right where the last one ended with Mon-El's hand around Kara's throat. I wonder if this is a new bit on the show, closing with a cliffhanger that immediately hooks into the next episode. Mon-El seems completely shocked about having powers and just takes off. At least we know that he didn't intentionally head to Earth to get powers.

His escape is concerning given that the President is coming to National City to sign the Alien Amnesty Act, a way (as Kara says) for aliens to 'come out of the shadows' and live as a citizen. It also sounds so peachy keen to Supergirl who thinks everyone is good and deserves a chance to live freely. But J'onn and Alex know that they have been fighting evil aliens all their lives. (As Alex says she has met 3 good aliens.)

It is here we see just how nervous and starstruck Kara is about the President. She is asked to be at the airport when the President arrives and she giddily agrees.

We visited this a little last year in the Master Jailer episode. Supergirl's optimism here shines nicely. But she seems almost too sunny given the war she went through last season.

 Meanwhile, James is struggling a bit as well. CatCo is going to cover the President's visit. He wants headline pitches. He wants Kara to interview the President. Almost immediately, Snapper Carr wrests control from James. He reassigns Kara to Lena Luthor. He says the headline is the last thing to happen. The meeting ends with everyone walking to Carr's orders.

I did like this shot of James, small in Cat's office, not ready to fill her shoes yet. Nice directing here.

 The President arrives and Supergirl is there to greet her. Almost immediately, the President is attacked by an unseen alien wielding fire powers. Supergirl has to save the President by spreading her cape as a shield against a fireball.

I love this imagery of the cape as shield.

 The site becomes a crime scene. Immediately Supergirl and Alex wonder if this was the escaped Kryptonian wielding heat vision. But none of the powers looked like Kryptonian's heat vision here. These weren't blue lasers. This was red/orange fireballs.

Also on the scene is Maggie Sawyer from National City Police Department's Science Division. There is almost immediate tension between Alex and Maggie. Maggie flashes her badge and says 'I showed you mine, now show me yours'. Maggie definitely has a presence right from the beginning - strong, confident, qualified.

At the DEO, the President again says that her Alien Amnesty Act is crucial to extend a hand in peace to the hiding aliens. Hank and Alex are still cautious. Not all aliens want peace and a simple living. But the President reminds them that someone once extended that hand of peace to J'onn one day. People need hope. It again is presented in a very broad stroke. To extend this outlook to real life, the President would be granting aliens from countries amnesty.

Meanwhile at LCorp, Lena has created a handheld alien detector that she plans to sell. She isn't against amnesty. But she does believe that people deserve to know who their neighbors are. Again, to shunt this into the real world, it would be like creating a device that would flag whatever group you can name - by religion, orientation, race. I can understand wanting to know who lives near you if they are a threat (for example pedophiles or sexual offenders). But I don't want people to be wearing symbols or flags labeling them.

 Alex runs into Maggie again as she tracks down the escaped 'Kryptonian' essentially blowing her DEO cover. And Kara chastises Alex for going out against this alien alone. In fact, Kara calls Alex a dummy for being so bold. I am wondering if the writers are putting a wedge between Kara and Alex. From last week's disagreement to this barb, I think we are going to see the sisters drift apart.

Meanwhile, Snapper has to tell Kara that she is writing an article not an op-ed piece. (I think they teach that on the first day of Journalism 101.) So Kara writing about the LCorp device as a way to identify 'aliens like lepers', as a tool of the 'xenophobic right', is a bit too personal.

 The Alex/Maggie relationship heats up a bit when Maggie brings Alex to a bar where aliens can relax and have a drink. Maggie reveals she can empathize with aliens. As a non-white, gay growing up in Blue Hills Nebraska she felt ostracized. Of course, she says most aliens are 'hard-working immigrants and refugees hiding to survive'. While true, Alex could counteract with Fort Rozz trying to overrun the planet just a week ago. But as the point of this story is to cast the Amnesty Act in a good light, we don't get that.

Again, I'm not saying I am against this Act. But we are hearing a one sided argument here.

Someone at the bar says the escaped alien was looking to send a signal home ... to Daxam.

We learn that Krypton and Daxam were sister planets who warred. Kara recalls that Krypton was a perfect planet of philosophers, scientists, and democracy. Meanwhile Daxam was a backwards world with a monarchy who attacked Krypton for no reason. This shows how Kara can be prejudiced. So this will be the way to have Kara confront here own issues. But given all she learned last season, you'd think she wouldn't have such a pollyanna view of Krypton.

This leads Supergirl to an observatory where she takes out the escapee. It is a great action sequence. Imprisoned at the DEO, the escapee talks about how Krypton attacked Daxam. After all, the Kryptonians were elitists who felt the Daxamites were backwater idiots.

 The President comes out publicly to sign the Amnesty Act playing up how this is a historic moment for granting full rights as citizens to the aliens.

But she is once again attacked by the fire wielding alien, now shown to be a young woman who was at the alien bar. While unsuccessful in killing the President, she does escape with Maggie as a prisoner.

There is a nice moment where Kara, on fire, needs to spin to extinguish herself. It is definitely an homage to Lynda Carter and Wonder Woman.

 Alex heads back to the bar and beats up a patron until some information is provided on where the fire woman is hiding.

I love when Alex flashes some fisticuffs. This was well done with a nice perspective from the alien's viewpoint, pinned under a bar stool.

The alien claims that Amnesty is a Trojan horse for registration. She has suffered from prejudice on many planets. She doesn't want to be exposed.

Alex and Supergirl arrive and Supergirl says it is attacking aliens like this woman who make people afraid. After a skirmish, Kara quenches the woman's fire with a tornado (poorly shown in this pic) and Maggie finishes her off with a pipe to the jaw.

I love how Maggie says that the Danvers have fun.

 Nothing left to do but wrap things up.

James has a meeting where he stares down Snapper and gains control of the office. All shots show James dominating the screen, a subtle way of showing his growth.

Alex and Maggie basically flirt with each other a bit. Alex admits that she has fought aliens for so long she hasn't seen them in any other way and thanks Maggie for opening her eyes.

Supergirl opens up the cell and releases the prisoner who says his name is Mon-El. Kara admits that she was biased and apologizes. She explains that Daxam is gone. The hand of friendship is extended.

And then we get two great hooks.

 The President tells Kara she has a better jet than Air Force One (a nice homage to the Invisible Jet).

But then a truly unexpected wrinkle.

The President is herself an alien.

Knowing the Invasion storyline crossing over, I might guess she's a Durlan. But she looks more Khundish.


And then an expected wrinkle.

J'onn decides to take the President's advice and live a little in his alien form. So he heads to the bar in his Martian Manhunter form. And there he meets the bartender from earlier who reveals herself to me M'Gann Morzz, the last daughter of Mars.

Miss Martian!!!!

So overall a heavily written look at prejudice and amnesty. I do wonder if this narrative will be turned on its head a little when the President is revealed. Is this alien making the borders open to aliens so her troops can be an enemy within? Or is that too politically toxic a plotline to have?

The bottom line is the character segments and growth overshadowed any downsides I have. Seeing Alex and J'onn confront their preconceived notions of aliens was great. Seeing Kara realize she has her own prejudices and seeing her overcome them was wonderful. I liked Maggie's spirit. And Mon-El might be a little too comfortable (how did he know English and where did he get his hoodie?) but he is a great addition.

So what did you all think?


Anonymous said...

I suspect one of the big emotional tropes in this season is Kara's idealism being tested by President Marsdin....when she finds out her heroine is an imposter things could get ugly....but never fear Melissa Benoist is equal to the task. Who knows she and Lynda Carter might click in the same fashion as MB/Calista Flockhart....?
Yeah agreed some of the immigrant plotline is pretty heavy handed but thats sort of super hero/sci fi hallmark when the big issues of the day penetrate the plotline.
So I guess Alex is the "designated gay character" but thats no surprise it had to be either her or Win....Chyler won the coin toss.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I mind a one-sided argument when there is, after all, only one right side. Personally, I admire the show for flying so unambiguously in the face of the country's current xenophobic headwinds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Anj. I was so excited for this season and, luckily, I was at my father-in-law's place where they have "Cable! TM" and I could watch this episode live! It was both amazing and, during the commercial breaks, gave me a chance to vent about pet peeves...perhaps unfortunately. First, Benoist, Chyler, Brooks, and Floriana Lima (Maggie Sawyer) were fantastic. Some amazing chemistry and the show just sparkled. Unfortunately, like you said the writing and themes were a bit ham-handed. I'm also all for defying xenophobia and racism, so that didn't bother me too much. (I just wish the writers had researched "citizenship" versus "refugee/permanent resident." I sincerely hope that the Alien Amnesty Act has some sort of vetting and a path to citizenship, otherwise it's just...unrealistic? Poorly researched!) One thing that I found quite upsetting, that you didn't mention (not a bad thing, of course) is that Mon-El was horrible! Who wakes up out of a coma and chokes someone? I was sure he was a villain, and then he was portrayed as a "CW Love Interest," IMHO. Kara shouldn't discriminate against him on the basis of his homeworld, but, ironically, he was an ACTUAL "hoodlum": assault on a federal officer, attacking and throwing around that poor scientist, forcing the researcher to do his bidding (wrongful confinement), resisting arrest... Being afraid only takes you so far. It was bizarre, given that I think he was supposed to be sympathetic, but came off as a self-righteous and violent person. I don't know if that was intentional, so I guess I'll wait and see. I hope this season focuses on the good and avoids some of the more underdeveloped areas.

Anonymous said...

What a horrible episode

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the review and viewpoints, Anj. And yes, the immigration / xenophobism topic was definitely right in your face
this ep, but I think shone through in that it was good storytelling, which is all you can really ask for.

I was kind of let down personally with the Mon-El intro, especially the backstory of the polar opposites / antagonism between
Daxam and Krypton. I also had some difficulty in suspension of disbelief about Mon-El's backstory, like your aforementioned
"how did he learn english," to which I'll add "how did he get his powers so quick," and "how did he know where to go to find
an offworld transmitter," to "how did he even know where Daxam was relative to his stellar position," never mind on our little
"backwater planet" we haven't figured out a way to move an object faster than light, never mind a transmitted message. Not fatal,
and the final heart to heart scene between Melissa B and Chris W, I'm hoping this is a basis for them to work together in the

The action scenes, and the Wonder Woman easter eggs tossed in were GREAT! Specifically Melissa B aping the cape block pose
done by Tyler H previous episodes, topped with the Wonder Woman-esque spin to put out the flames. Having the final pan of
Lynda Carter reveal she was actually Wonder Woman would have been the ultimate easter egg, but I guess we'll see how that
will play out for future episodes... I do agree with JF's comment though if it does turn ugly, Melissa B is definately more
than up to the (dramatic) task!

All in all, alot of interesting hooks for the future!


Scrimmage said...

If it wasn't already obvious that the show's writers are in the bag for the Dems last week, when they copped Hillary's "Stronger Together" campaign slogan, they left no doubt with this week's episode with a woman President, and a ridiculous attempt to equate space invaders with illegal immigrants, and to paint them both in a sympathetic light.

Since when has Earth become a destination for dozens of alien species, to the point where they have their own bar to hang out in? Is there some kind of interplanetary bus service that we haven't heard about? It kinda waters down the whole concept of Supergirl and Superman as "strange visitors from another planet," when compared to some of these "people" they don't look strange at all!

The idea of Amnesty and even worse FULL CITIZENSHIP for anyone here illegally is an absolutely HORRIBLE idea, no matter WHERE the "aliens" come from, and the idea that any President would make a political issue over such a relatively insingnificant number of "people" is more unrealistic than any of these super-powered creatures themselves!

As for Mon-El, his behavior was as inexplicable as his familiarity with American slang. And since they share a surname, why didn't Kara ask him if he was somehow related to the House of El on Krypton. They are obviously part of the same genetic tree.

Between her obvious inexperience as an unbiased reported, and her fangurl gushing over President Wonder Woman, Kara came across as something LESS than Super in this episode. I don't care HOW hot the fireball chick was, Supergirl should've NEVER winced in pain at her touch. She can fly into the SUN, for cryin' out loud. Heck, she should be able to just stand there and take everything that Fireball threw at her, without batting an eyelash. Meanwhile, Alex, who DOESN'T have any powers, took a super strength sock to the jaw and lived to tell about it. I think the writers are confused about who the title of the show refers to.

This show was a definite setback. I miss Superman already.

Anonymous said...

The show did feel like a Hilary Clinton campaign advertisement. One thing about it rang true: Every single word out of Snapper Carr's mouth was 100-percent accurate. Today's media creates a headline, sets an agenda, and works tirelessly to match up the agenda-driven story with the headline. Yes, we get it: Snapper Carr is supposed to be the "mean guy" who deserves his comeuppance. Here's the deal: Kara has zero experience as a reporter, just as James Olsen has zero experience managing a multi-billion dollar corporation. There needs to be an experienced hand guiding the newsroom. I have had editors exactly like Snapper, and you know what? I am a better writer because of it. Also, James had no right re-writing Snapper's piece without informing him, or at least discussing it behind closed doors. A good boss in a newsroom doesn't re-write someone's story like that without telling them why. The whole thing came off as demeaning. As for the rest of the episode: America is a nation of immigrants. But are viewers really supposed to take lessons in liberal tolerance from the "Arrowverse"? This is same universe where Green Arrow murders people on a regular basis, commits all manner of crimes, and is never held accountable or even has remorse. Then there's The Flash, which has its secret prison for metahumans where they are held in tiny cells with no due process. Give me a break. I enjoy Supergirl, but this whole episode was so over-the-top in its allegory, that it risked "alienating" its audience.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments. I figured the episode would touch a nerve about amnesty and illegal immigrants.

For me, I think the show had the opportunity to tackle the issue by presenting both sides of an issue, even if they favor one side, National City (and all of Earth) is probably less than a month out from aliens conquering the planet. Maybe someone could have voiced a concern?

Anyways, it will be interesting to see if the show comes back to this topic once the Invasion happens.

Lastly, I agree that Snapper Carr might be gruff but he was in target this whole episode,

KET said...

It appears that some viewers still haven't figured out what DC's "multi-verse" concept means in regards to The CW superhero shows. In other words, NO, Supergirl still doesn't occupy the same universe as the other shows, even though it has now migrated to a new network. The producers of the various shows have made this distinction pretty clear in pre-season interviews, and it's not changing anytime soon.

But getting to the episode in particular, I think if one came into this episode with already pre-conceived, outside notions of how the characters would act in this topical episode, then they clearly didn't get the gist of the plot developments that were already hinted at last season. However, part of what makes a good drama is when protagonists suddenly act out of character for undisclosed reasons. Then becomes the uncovering of the mystery of 'why'.

Setting up Krypton and Daxam as formerly warring planets before their destruction is admittedly a surprise twist that I didn't see coming. But this development does make for some new background to uncover for Kara, who may have lived a far more gilded and idyllic lifestyle with her Kryptonian parents than she had previously understood as a child. It also makes sense from the show's world-building from last season, since one never really saw Krypton beyond the elitist confines of the El family home. Kara reinforces this concept this week when she admits to Lena Luthor that her mom was 'sort of a lawyer'.

As far as the Alien Amnesty Act goes, the proposal itself is merely little more than a twist on Mutant registration from the X-Men. But it did serve a purpose of setting up differing points of view by several characters for and against the presumed idealism behind the act. J'onn certainly didn't see things the same way as the President or Kara did. And Snapper Carr, while being rude about it, did correctly dress down Kara for her attempt at yellow journalism, which also seems to harbor some resentment at the naive idealism symbolized by Supergirl and her friends. With Maggie Sawyer now on hand to shake things up even more, things should get pretty expansive for Supergirl's separate universe in the episodes to come.

Yes, that seems that Lynda Carter's POTUS might be setting the stage for something much bigger, although it may not have anything to do with t

he upcoming "Invasion!" crossover between the four CW superhero shows. Probably a red herring....maybe....perhaps... :)


Anonymous said...

Wow, immigration does touch a nerve, doesn't it. To clarify my position, I would enjoy a little more research and thoughtfulness, but I am 100% on board with amnesty for illegal aliens (of any type) and bringing them into the open - just the difference between carte blanche citizenship and permanent residency should be kept in mind. I mean, can a nonhuman be a citizen? These are huge, fun, science fiction issues...that this show is not quite handling well. But I have hope, like the President would say. #ImWithHer
I hadn't even thought of "how/why" all these aliens are coming to Earth (like some of these commentators pointed out. In season one it looked like they were ALL Fort Rozz prisoners, making this amnesty even weirder, but that can't be right. Bus service it is, apparently... More like later decades at DC when Earth was just jam-packed with visitors from other planets and had made public first contact - something the show skipped? I'm still on board, and there's room to grow this story line.

Victor Nunez said...

That was a great episode, reminded me of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". I hope it continues the Star Trek vibe, like setting Daxam and Krypton as enemies, that sort of thing.

This show is getting richer and meatier. I love that Martian Manhunter is there, makes me wish that Blue Beetle and Buster Gold were there too.