Supergirl episode 204 was aptly named 'Survivors' as it explored a number of themes around surviving a disaster. There are so many characters on this show that are sole survivors or 'almost sole' survivors and with that comes any number of issues. Whether it is guilt, or self-loathing, or looking back through rose-colored glasses, there is a lot of psychological trauma to deal with.
These themes are interwoven through a plot of an underground alien fight club. And yes, the action sequences are great. But for me the meat of this episode is looking at the lengths people will go through to deal with surviving.
For Supergirl, she has already had to deal with the trauma of being sent away from her planet. She has come to realize her parents weren't perfect. And now she is trying to live up to expectation of her being a leader for aliens, helping them cope with being on Earth. Now she has to come to terms with her own prejudices about Mon-El.
For Mon-El, he is at the beginning of understanding what it means to be completely alone, without a home planet to return to. He is young and brash. And I think he is in a bit of denial, looking at Earth as a playground until he sees that he needs some mentoring.
J'onn is still suffering from all the issues he has had to deal with from the purging of his race to witnessing his family's death. Now he is trying to latch onto Miss Martian as a way to keep his race and their traditions survive.
But Miss Martian has a secret. And that weighs on her to the point that she doesn't think she is worthy of surviving. She is part of the fight club because she thinks she needs to be punished. She wants to forget her past as much as Kara and J'onn want to remember theirs. This is excellent grist for the mill.
And all the other nameless aliens are out there struggling to survive on Earth and willing to debase themselves to do just that. The problem is that surviving by being in an arena only cements the prejudices Earth people have, viewing them as threats.
This is a long intro, proof that these themes were powerful, making this my favorite episode of the season, strong praise given the giddy feeling of the premiere and super-cousin team-ups.
On to some details.
We open up with some spectacular shot of Daxam in its death throes because of Krypton's destruction. No expense was spared here and that made me happy.
In this scene we learn Mon-El was a palace guard, bound to protect the Prince. The prince tricks Mon-El to enter the Kryptonian pod (from emissaries on the planet) and sends Mon-El off. The prince says he needs to suffer the fate of his people. This is a selfless act, something which stands in contrast to Kara's thoughts that the Daxamites are selfish hedonists and savages.
I liked this scene because the chemistry between Maggie Sawyer and Alex is palpable. The discuss the case around Kara who is standing between them. Kara is moving her head back and forth like she is watching a tennis match as she listens to them talk without including her. It is cute.
Throughout the episode we see Alex and Maggie work well together. From fighting Quill, who they think killed the alien from the earlier scene, to dressing to the nines and infiltrating the fight club, to busting the club at the end, they work well together.
I do worry that if the Alex/Maggie storyline ratchets up that the Alex/Kara scenes will diminish. There were no sister scenes here. And I still think that the Alex/Kara relationship is a foundation piece.
J'onn visits M'Gann who refuses to 'bond' with him, a Martian ritual where minds are shared. He doesn't understand why she would refuse but it seems like a very personal thing to ask when you first meet someone. Kara pries that info out of him by threatening to pout, a nice little side line.
And we get an Alura scene! Kara talks to the AI as if it is her mother to just still feel connected. But when Mon-El enters, the AI begins spouting out the Daxam prejudice calling them 'bullies', 'hedonists' and 'selfish'.
Alex and Maggie infiltrate the fight club based on a tip Maggie has received. (I do hope that Maggie's tips don't become an easy fix to move the plot forward.) Inside they see the super-rich of Metropolis cheering on a fight between Quill and Miss Martian. When Supergirl arrives to break things up, the club's champion Draaga defeats her in combat. It is only when Alex and Maggie flash their badges that makes everyone scatter.
J'onn, on hearing M'Gann fought in the club enters her apartment and confronts her. He thinks her role in the club is why she wouldn't mind meld. But M'Gann's lines throughout this episode show she is hiding something. Earlier she said she was rescued by a white Martian who broke rank to save her. She says she is whatever she needs to be to get by. Here she says she has never killed anyone in the ring (implying she may have killed outside the ring). And she says she simply wants to forget her past.
Instead of just bringing Roulette in for questioning, Supergirl gets into a philosophical debate. And Roulette really is horrible. She says the aliens have no rights. She says Earth is so inhospitable that her club is a place where aliens can feel special and find glory. Earth has nothing to offer but imprisonment. And then she says that the aliens are less than dogs. People won't care about this club and what happens in it.
But then Roulette doubles down. She calls Supergirl naive and says Supergirl will never be able to change the hearts of both humans and aliens. It is a challenge.
But I still don't get why Kara let's her go. Nor do I understand why she burns up a highway to stop the limo instead of just grabbing it (other than it looks cool).
But Kara is hurt by Roulette's speech. Is it true that aliens feel so awful that they think this club is their only recourse (although we know some of the combatants are kidnapped and forced to fight).
It makes Supergirl confront her own thoughts. She apologizes to Mon-El. She admits she wants to remember her parents as perfect - proud, strong Kryptonians and great parents. We have seen last season Kara suffer with the realization that Alura wasn't 100% pure. (That was amped up in Sterling Gates' Adventures of Supergirl.)
Mon-El admits his parents were hardly perfect. But then he name drops Warworld! He knows Draaga has a bum knee which can be exploited.
I also like Kara talking about how she needed to learn to use her powers so she didn't hurt people, like when she broke the toes of her prom date Scott Klein. Oh writers! Why not call him Dick Malverne!!!!
Somehow, J'onn is tasered and knocked out and forced to fight Miss Martian in the fight club ... a fight to the death. M'Gann has already said she isn't worthy of kindness. Here she pulls no punches. It is a good fight sequence where all the powers are on display - strength, flight, phasing, and shape changing.
J'onn talks M'Gann down, telling her that she doesn't need to punish herself for surviving. She thinks she deserves the beatings she gets in this ring but she doesn't. He actually forgives her. It is a powerful speech voicing feelings he probably dealt with at one point himself.
Supergirl shows up (she was given the site of the club by Lena Luthor) and defeats Draaga pretty easily.
I'm still not sure what to think of Lena. I am pretty sure the writers want us to be on edge. But when she says lines like 'I know you will be there when the time comes' to Kara, it is heavy.
Like last week, this ties into some current political issues in our country as well.
Initially Roulette is arrested for 'not having a liquor license', a sort of Capone like ending, but is ultimately released. She does have friends in high places.
Nothing left but to wrap up all the subplots.
Alex basically asks Maggie out on a date but is surprised to find out that Maggie already has a girlfriend.
Supergirl has Mon-El released into her custody. She was sent to Earth to protect and teach Kal. Maybe she can do that with Mon-El instead. (There is a romance budding here, I can feel it!)
And we see ... no surprise ... that M'Gann is a white martian. We have seen this play out in comics and on Young Justice. Why not here??
Whew, that was a packed episode that didn't feel overstuffed. I love the themes playing through everyone. And the J'onn/M'Gann one is the most compelling for me.
Solid stuff! Thanks for reading this super-long review!