Let’s start with the obvious: Tonight’s Supergirl was pretty fantastic. The best superhero stories are the ones with modern relevancy that reveal what our world could be if we were all guided by our better angels; they’re a reminder to keep seeking out the good, whatever that may be. And that’s what Supergirl delivered in tonight’s very topical episode, by taking on immigration and otherwise and made our current real world feel even more like the darkest timeline.
“Welcome to Earth” picks up right where we left off last week: Mon-El wakes up in the DEO and grabs Kara by the neck. Confused and afraid, Mon-El forces his way past Kara and the rest of the DEO’s forces and escapes from the facility, jumping out of the window and speeding off down the street. Having a renegade alien in National City would be a big problem on a normal day, but it’s an even more pressing issue today: President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter) is set to arrive in National City to sign an executive order that would provide America’s extraterrestrial visitors with amnesty.
As you can expect, the Alien Amnesty Act is a pretty divisive issue. Kara is very excited about it, but J’onn is a lot more pessimistic about the prospect of aliens stepping out the shadows. “People in this world don’t have much tolerance for others who look different,” says J’onn. “I say that as an alien and as someone who wore the face of a black man for 15 years.” He doesn’t think humans and aliens mixing would turn out too well. But Kara won’t let J’onn kill her vibe, because she’s way too hyped about meeting the president.
After a meeting at work, Kara flies off to meet President Marsdin at the airfield. An alien with fire powers attacks her as she disembarks Air Force One. Luckily, Supergirl is there to protect her. Alex immediately assumes it’s Mon-El — the burn pattern matches those made by heat vision — but Kara isn’t so sure. While surveying the scene, Alex meets Det. Maggie Sawyer, there to investigate the incident. Alex throws her government weight around and tries to get her to leave, but Detective Sawyer doesn’t back down. (Also, the chemistry between these two is palpable from their first meeting).
After giving President Marsdin, who butted heads with J’onn over the executive order, a tour of the facilities, Kara heads off to do her first assignment as a reporter. She’s interviewing Lena Luthor, the sister of notorious alien hater Lex Luthor, about the Alien Amnesty Act. Even though she’s trying to lead the family company in a legal direction, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t share her brother’s views. In fact, Lena has started building alien-detection devices, which she hopes to have everywhere. Kara is obviously insulted by this and ends up writing a very, very biased piece about Lena, which Snapper quickly rejects — she’s a reporter, not an op-ed writer.
Meanwhile, Alex reluctantly works with Maggie to track down Mon-El. Maggie takes her to an alien speakeasy to dig up some intel. As they chat in the bar, Maggie reveals she has dated an alien before and says she can sympathize with aliens choosing to hide to survive: She had to do the same thing as a nonwhite, LGBT female growing up in Nebraska. I love that this episode was so overt with the parallel it was drawing between the treatment of aliens and minorities. It gives this show some teeth and makes it stand out from The Flash and Arrow, which aren’t nearly as social-justice minded.
Their trip to the alien dive bar gives them one lead, allowing Winn to track Mon-El to an observatory. He’s trying to contact the planet of Daxam, Krypton’s sister planet. Kara, whose bias against Daxam starts to show as soon as she finds out, flies off to confront him, knocks him out, and throws him in a DEO cell.
NEXT: J’onn discovers he’s not alone on Earth
As Kara explains to Team Supergirl, Krypton and Daxam used to clash because of their differing ways of life. While Krypton was a democracy, Daxam was a monarchy that “ruled a population of hoodlums.” Finding out Mon-El is from Daxam changes Kara’s mind immediately, and she assumes he was responsible for attacking the president, despite Mon-El explaining he was just trying to send out a distress signal to his planet.
Revealing Kara’s implicit biases is a smart move on the writers’ part. It humanizes her and reveals she’s just as flawed as the rest of us. No matter how “woke” we are, we all probably still have some kind of bias we need to constantly fight against, and the same is true of Supergirl. The thing about superheroes is we don’t need them to be perfect. In fact, perfect superheroes are boring and uninspiring. The best heroes are the ones who struggle with their demons and triumph over them, but it’ll take Supergirl a minute to overcome hers.
The next day, President Marsdin takes the stage and gives a powerful speech about her commitment to making aliens feel welcomed in the same way America opened its arms to immigrants coming through Ellis Island. “The Statue of Liberty will stand for aliens, too,” she says. It’s hard not to immediately contrast her speech with the hateful and bigoted rhetoric we’ve heard from a particular political party over the past year. There’s actually a viable presidential candidate saying the complete opposite of what President Marsdin articulates here.
Unfortunately, the moment is interrupted by Scorcher, who attacks the event with her fire powers. Supergirl manages to protect the president again, but amidst the chaos, Scorcher kidnaps Maggie Sawyer.
Scorcher turns out to be a more nuanced villain than what we’re used to on Supergirl. As she explains to Maggie, she opposes the Alien Amnesty Act because she thinks it’s a thinly veiled attempt at registration. Honestly, it’s easy to understand her point of view: She’s seen how other minorities are treated on Earth, and a week ago, Cadmus revealed its anti-alien mission to the world. There’s reason to be scared. Eventually, Supergirl and Alex show up and with some help from Maggie, take out Scorcher.
Back at the DEO, the Danver sisters own up to their own biases. Alex, who has been hunting aliens for so long, thanks Maggie for reminding her all aliens don’t deserve to be locked up. Meanwhile, Kara frees Mon-El from his cell and apologizes for the way she treated him. However, she also informs him that Daxam, like Krypton, is no more.
Before heading back to Washington, President Marsdin gives J’onn a piece of advice: “It’s not enough to defend the world, J’onn. You have to live in it, too.” Taking her advice, J’onn heads to the underground alien bar in his natural form and meets a bartender, who he’s pleasantly surprised to discover is a fellow Martian: M’gann M’orzz, a.k.a. Miss Martian, the last daughter of Mars.
With this episode, Supergirl took a step toward joining the ranks of other superhero series, like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, that are interested in dealing with real issues as opposed to just showcasing CGI-filled fights every episode. While this show doesn’t go as deep as those Netflix series, it deserves to be commended for trying — this kind of topical storytelling has been part of comics for ages.
Wall of Weird:
- Tonight James faces off with Snapper Carr, who doesn’t respect his authority. At the beginning of the episode, Snapper hijacks an editorial meeting. However, a Cat Grant-esque speech from Kara helps James find his confidence and stand up to Snapper.
- On that note, the show deserves credit for making CatCo story lines just as interesting as the superhero stuff.
- Snapper was right not to let Kara interview the president. I mean, she’s been a reporter for less than a week!
- “If you think that’s cool, you ought to see my other jet,” President Marsdin, who is revealed to be an alien, says to Kara.
- Who else is already ‘shipping Maggie and Alex?