A wave of anti-alien crime forces Supergirl into action

Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW
S4 E1

Grab your cape of real-world tensions and your glasses of out-of-this-world allegories. Supergirl is back! No time for “previouslies;” let’s launch straight into what’s happening with the major players in season 4.

Alex and Brainy: While Alex seems comfortable with her new position as director of the DEO, Brainy’s essential Brainy-ness has her at her breaking point. Who would’ve guessed that a 12th-level intellect would have a hard time operating on Earth in 2018 … other than, you know, everybody.

Brainy makes an effort by putting on a Winn sweater, Alex admits that she struggles with change, and in the end, they agree that they both miss their friends and need to start working together. This should be a fun odd-couple pairing moving forward, particularly if Brainy keeps his personal image inducer in place to spare us all the blue skin/white hair combo.

Also, Alex, who’s adopted a fabulous new day-to-night hairstyle, is dating again. I still miss Maggie, but if Alex has found a happy place, I’m happy for her.

J’onn: His father’s dying wish that J’onn would promote peace has led him to a support group for aliens alarmed by the growing hostility around them. They’re struggling to find work and cope with the increased verbal abuse, and many have purchased L-Corp’s new imager inducers that allow them to project a human appearance.

The premiere’s calmer, stiller J’onn is a slightly different take on the character, almost as if David Harewood is shading his performance based on the gentle tones that Carl Lumbly brought to the role of Myr’nn last season. It’s a fascinating change, and hopefully, one that will stick.

Lena and James: L-Corp may be making a mint selling image inducers to aliens who want to assimilate, but James and Lena’s happiness is marred by the threat of prosecution for James’ actions as Vigilante. Although he doesn’t want Lena pulling strings for him, she woos her mother with chess games in her prison cell until Lillian gives up incriminating information about past associates.

Lena then leverages that information with the DA, who drops James’ case, provided he never returns to his Vigilante ways. (Weirdly, James learns this from a news report and not the DA herself.) Lena doesn’t tell James about her role in all of this, and if superhero shows have taught us one thing, it’s that secrets never ever ever get revealed and go on to ruin relationships. Sooo … no future problems on the horizon for these two, no sir!

Oh, and Lena’s chumminess with her mother may have been fake, but her coldness toward Supergirl looked very real, which means that rift will continue (to break our hearts) in season 4.

Kara and Nia: The start of season 4 finds Kara thriving, and it’s exhilarating to see her sunny optimism in full force— particularly when you remember the depression swamp she was mired in at the start of season 3. She’s blasting meteors, stopping art heists, saving plummeting trains in Kaznia, and rescuing little girls’ balloons. She’s also killing it in her reporting job at CatCo, which we saw too little of last year.

Even more delightful? She’s serving as a mentor to newbie reporter Nia Nal (Nicole Maines, an effervescent trailblazer herself). Nia’s bright and earnest and endearingly nervous when she word-vomits during her first meeting with Kara, who once upon a time was exactly this kind of bright and earnest and nervous. And get this: Nia brought Kara a latte just the way she likes it, in accordance with Cat Grant’s advice.

I’m not going to lie, friends. I had to take a moment with this because … my heart! Not only does Cat Grant remember Kara’s coffee preference, but she values Kara/Supergirl enough to share this knowledge with the new hire who’ll be working with her. Calista Flockhart may have been absent for seasons, but she still casts a long shadow.

Kara dives right into the mentorship when Nia blows her chance to own a story about Central City’s fashion industry. Here’s hoping Nia absorbed Kara’s advice to bat down her fear and make some waves of her own. (Next page: Kara checks her privilege)

The shape of season 4: Although Kara wants to believe the world is more accepting and tolerant than it’s ever been, a frightening new threat is emerging: hate, in waves, directed at aliens living on Earth.

Kara is at first stubbornly resistant to J’onn and Alex’s warnings of growing anti-alien sentiment; if it isn’t a problem for me, it isn’t a problem for anybody, right? Then J’onn reminds Kara that she has the privilege of ignoring this threat because she can pass as a human and therefore doesn’t face the overt discrimination that visible aliens do. (And make no mistake, the Supergirl writers chose to have Kara discuss these issues with a Martian who presents as a black man and a lesbian with close ties to the alien community.)

Kara finally embraces the new danger thanks to siblings Mercy and Otis Graves, who have hate in their hearts, advanced weaponry in their holsters, and a connection to a disgusting dark web forum, where xenophobic violence and loathing curdle as people report suspected aliens in their neighborhoods and swap homemade bomb recipes.

This knowledge allows Alex, Brainy, and Supergirl to work together to stop the Graves’ EMP attack on President Marsdin’s Camp David summit for alien leaders. Mercy, who gives Lena a run for her money in the exquisitely tailored women’s fashion department, has the audacity to call Supergirl a filthy roach and, terrifyingly, insists that they are the good guys, fighting for their country.

Alas, the real reason for the attack is to capture footage of Marsdin morphing into her alien form, which she did when she absorbed a bullet meant for a Secret Service agent. Before you can say “constitutional crisis,” the shot is playing on every television, and Kara’s wrapping her head around the daunting task of serving as a voice for unity and compassion against something as vast, creeping, and contagious as weaponized nationalism.

In the final minutes of the premiere, we meet the masked Agent Liberty, who executes one of the aliens from J’onn’s support group, putting the blame on her for having the audacity to come to Earth.

And finally, we catch up with the Supergirl doppelgänger, last seen landing in Siberia at the end of season 3. Super-gänger’s dressed in the finest Eastern European athleisure wear and punching away in a tunnel underneath Kaznia, which prompted Supergirl’s train rescue at the top of the hour. Her goal? Who knows! But let’s assume it’s nefarious.

Snaps of the cape

  • Viewers can often be divided into two schools of thought when it comes to entertainment: Give me pure escapism, or give me stories that reflect our society. Supergirl season 4 appears to be poking hard at the bruise representing our national schisms on racism and immigration, so … buckle up, escapism fans.
  • For those who live for passing references to unseen characters, Superman is off-world, Sam’s heading up L-Corp Northeast, Ruby’s playing soccer, and Bruno Mannhneim got caught up in Lena’s sting.
  • Line of the week goes to Brainy, reporting on the Graves’ secret lair: “Would you believe it’s an abandoned warehouse?” Actually, yes. Yes, we would.
  • What super-heroics are you anticipating in season 4? Let me know in the comments!

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