Welcome to Earth! - Supergirl S02E03 Review

It's rare for genre tv, these days, to successfully delve into the realm of modern political issues. And by successfully I mean actually making meaningful and deep statements on the issue it is addressing. Now, Supergirl has never shied away from things like women's issues, of course, but in its overpoweringly cute and blunt way of handling big issues, sometimes I think some of the finer points get lost in the noise, because aliens and metahumans and superpowers.

It remains to be seen how Supergirl will continue to handle human prejudice against aliens, which is of course a pretty blatant metaphor for how America is currently handling the issue of immigrants, especially with the presidential campaign that is, thank the gods, two weeks from ending finally. But more than that, Supergirl surprised me with this episode when it touched on the issue of intersectionality and oppression. 

(spoilers beyond the jump)

I'm not sure if the show wants to protray Kara's new boss at CatCo as anti-woman (judging from his treatment of her last week, when he didn't want her on his team at all), or anti-black (judging from how he took over the room when James tried to run a meeting), or just a raging wingnut (judging from his assignment to one reporter to talk to people about fearing aliens taking their jobs).

Or quite possibly, Snapper is just a curmudgeon who thinks he knows best about the industry, and that neither James nor Kara are qualified to be there (I still don't know what's up with that right wing narrative about aliens taking jobs, though). Either way, at Kara's advice, James does put his foot down at the end of the episode and tells Snapper to step off. Snapper is also, in his own way, helping to shape Kara's skill as a journalist, because when she ends up writing a scathing op-ed instead of just objectively reporting the facts on Lena Luthor's new alien-detection toy, Snapper sets her straight on what her job as a journalist is. Overall though, I'm not really sure where the show is going with Snapper's character.

Not sure if racist sexist right wing jerk or....
Okay but really, what we care about is Lynda freaking Carter, right? The actress well known for playing Wonder Woman gets to play the president of Supergirl's United States, and let me tell you, she looks fabulous. I was also super-psyched to see her portrayal because she has said in interviews that she modeled this character after Hillary Clinton herself, who is, of course, two weeks away from a potential win as the first woman president of the US. 

There were several references to Wonder Woman, including a squee-able line from Carter about "her other jet" and Kara twirling to put out her costume's fire. And Kara herself was so adorable as she fangurled hard every time she was around the president. 

Madame President... damn, that feels good. I cannot wait to be able to actually say that in January...

The President was in town to officially sign the Alien Amnesty Act, which would grant aliens from other planets American citizenship, and presumably, protection under the law. It was interesting to see the various political viewpoints of the different characters: Kara was 100% for the act, Hank was not so enthusiastic, and Alex seemed pretty steadfastly against it. In all of those cases, their reasoning had much to do with their own often unrealized internal prejudices.

In Hank's case, we get that intersectionality I mentioned earlier. He talks about the experience of being both an alien that has to hide from humans, and also seeing the world through the eyes of a black man. He knows what kind of hatred humans are capable of for their own kind that are "different," let alone what humans might end up doing to an alien species. 

Alex, of course, doesn't trust any alien she doesn't personally know, like Hank and Kara, so of course she's against granting unknown and unvetted aliens protection under the law. 

Our sweet girl Kara, it turns out, isn't free of her own prejudices. When it's discovered that the dude recovered from the pod at the beginning of the season isn't Kryptonian, but from Krypton's sister planet, Daxam, Kara becomes something we don't recognize. Daxam was full of thugs and run by a monarchy, compared to Krypton, which was a utopia of scientists and free thinkers, apparently. When the president gets attacked, Kara is convinced that the Daxamite is responsible, and so she hauls Mon-El into jail, and proceeds to dish out some pretty crazy racist ranting. The episode, of course, is asking all of us to recognize that we all have inherent biases that we are sometimes completely blind to.

Such a cute little thug...
Alex, of course, is the giant skeptic in all of this. In attempting to track down Mon-El, Alex ends up hooking up with Maggie Sawyer, a tough street cop who specializes in aliens and metas. Seeking information on Mon-El's whereabouts, Maggie takes Alex to an alien dive bar in a scene that could possibly have been yanked out of any number of existing Star Wars cantinas. Alex is freaked out, because how could you not be:

But as Maggie explains, she's sympathetic to the plight of aliens having to hide what they are. She herself was a gay woman of color growing up lily-white Nebraska (there's that intersectionality again, this time in real-world terms!). She knows exactly what it's like to feel ostracized and alone. So not surprisingly, she fully supports the Alien Amnesty Act.

Alex and Maggie have great chemistry together and there was certainly an element of flirtatiousness. Despite the fact that it's kind of the obvious way to go, I ship it. That said, whether there's romance in the air for the future or not, Alex and Maggie really compliment each other, in terms of toughness, resources, and ultimate good. Despite their differences of opinion on aliens, it's clear that by the end, Alex respects Maggie. Which is good because Maggie will be back, so we have a lot more Malex ass-kicking to look forward to.

Watch out ladies. Hot stuff here!
The freak-of-the-week element turns out to be the real culprit behind the attempted killing of the president, in the form of a fiery alien who sees the Alien Amnesty Act as just a way to register aliens and force them out into the open so humans can lock them up or kill them. Other than giving the anti-amnesty point of view from an alien's perspective, this chick served no purpose beyond proving Mon-El's innocence and making Kara realize what a putz she was being.

Kara being faced with her internal bias means she goes back to Mon-El and finally just talks to him, as a person, and admits she was wrong about him. She also drops the bomb on him that his planet is a wasteland thanks to the blowing up of her planet.

And J'onn, apparently after learning about the place from Alex, decides he needs to get his dive bar on, and seems fairly relieved to shed his human skin for a brief time. A very brief time, because the site of a green Martian apparently weirds out one of the bartenders, and when he followers her outside, she ends up revealing her own alien identity.

Not gonna lie, I squeed at finally getting a look at live-action M'gann M'orzz, aka Miss Martian. Young Justice is seriously one of my favorite superhero cartoons ever, despite its criminally short run. Hopefully Supergirl's M'gann won't be anywhere near as obnoxious as the animated version in the first season, though. If I hear one gosh-darned Helllllooooo, Megan! in this show, I will scream. 

Anyway, there were a lot of problems with this episode, not the least of which is that I'm not sure I ever really bought into Kara's "hatred" of Mon-El. When you have a character that's been presented as lovable and endlessly sweet, it does strike one as odd that she would certainly have hatred for this person she doesn't even remotely know, just because he's from "that" planet. I mean, yes, I get the point that all of us, even the kindest and most-loving of us, have some kind of internal bias that we may not even be aware of. I think my point is, I'm not sure the eternally cheerful Melissa Benoit actually sold me on her genuine hatred of Daxamites. All that kept playing in my head while she was laying into him was the gif of her obvious delight when Barry Allen brings her an ice cream cone last season.

So not the face of a hater...
And while I really appreciate Supergirl delving into genuinely deeper topics like intersectional prejudice, xenophobia, and racism, this show, like most genre shows, just doesn't seem to have the time to really get into the real meat of the matter. It seems like aliens-on-Earth is going to be an ongoing topic this season (and in fact alien invaders are the reason for the massive Berlantiverse crossover), so I'm certain we will revisit these contentious topics again.

I will say that while I adored Lynda Carter's president, I personally wasn't pleased with the "twist" at the end of the episode, wherein we find out the President Marsdin is an alien herself. Viewed in the light of this new information, that Alien Amnesty Act is pretty problematic. I mean, either she's always been in alien who, like Kara, passes for human and has lived her life amongst humans, so there's nothing really shady about all this. OR she's actually malevolent and the Alien Amnesty Act is part of some greater nefarious purpose.

And quite possibly because I was viewing Lynda Carter's performance through the lense of this being like a Hillary Clinton presidency, I was really uncomfortable with the idea that Marsdin might be hiding something and lying about her identity. We here in the States have been bombarded with the idea that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a criminal, a sexist narrative touted by the right wing. Women have been called lying shrews and cunning witches for a long time now, and often when a woman, for example, claims she's been raped, her story is cast in doubt from the get-go, because woman (she could be lying just to destroy that poor boy's life!). The idea that women lie to get their way is not a new one. It's also pretty gross.

So while Supergirl has always been a show with some serious feminist street cred, there is a part of me that is worried about this revelation about President Marsdin. What the hell are you doing, Supergirl? Please don't fail me now. 

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.