You can expect a bit more levity when Supergirl returns on Sunday.
The CW drama’s fourth season has been pretty dark so far. Admittedly, most of the heaviness makes sense because the season is exploring our country’s very real immigration debate and racial divide via a story about big bad Agent Liberty (Sam Witwer), who is stoking fear against aliens in National City. When we last checked in the show, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) managed to capture Agent Liberty, a.k.a. Ben Lockwood, and send him to prison; however, the fear-monger’s incarceration only bolstered the xenophobic movement he was leading. Furthermore, in the wake of Ben’s capture, Colonel Haley (April Parker Jones) and the President (Bruce Boxleitner) demanded Supergirl reveal her identity to the world or leave the DEO, which put Kara in a very uncomfortable position.
Sure, we left things in pretty dark place, but showrunners/executive producers Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner assure us that there will be a few breaks in the clouds in the back half of season 4 — especially in the 12th episode, which sees Kara and Nia (Nicole Maines) visit Nia’s liberal hometown and family.
“There’s a lot more lightness,” Queller tells EW. “I mean, it’s very serious themes that we wrap up with, but we have more humor and levity in some of the upcoming episodes.”
Below, EW chats with Queller and Rovner about Nia’s superheroic arc, Jon Cryer’s debut as Lex Luthor, and why we won’t see original cast member Jeremy Jordan — who jumped down to recurring status last year — in the back half of the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was going to start off by asking you if Supergirl’s current identity crisis would play a big role in the back half of the season, but then the new promo shows Colonel Haley declaring that Kara Danvers’ life is over. Should our takeaway be that Haley does figure out Supergirl’s secret identity?
JESSICA QUELLER: There are going to be some twists and turns to that answer that you’ll have to tune in for that are very exciting and, I think, surprising in the upcoming episode.
ROBERT ROVNER: Keeping Kara’s identity secret becomes a big story point in the second half of the season.
Alex’s job at the DEO is also at stake in this situation. What kind of position does this put Alex in?
QUELLER: What I was just alluding to really is a sacrifice that Alex makes to protect her sister that’s really unexpected and we hope the audience will find very compelling that’s in the upcoming episode.
At this point, we haven’t seen too much of Red Daughter. Will that dangling season 3 thread become even more important in the back half of this season?
ROVNER: Very much more. The Red Daughter story becomes, well not front and center because we have a lot of stories going, but it plays a much bigger role. We’ll get to see a lot more of her and see her origin story in the second half of the season.
What can we expect from that origin story?
ROVNER: It’s cool. We kind of take a different narrative approach to it, so I think that’s exciting. We get to see kind of what is Red Daughter’s core beliefs and why she believes them.
QUELLER: Also, something that you’re going to see is that it may not appear so right now but all of our big bads and storylines are going to dovetail, including Red Daughter. So, they’re all of a piece, and how those pieces fit together are hopefully going to be pretty exciting.
It seems as though the construction of this season is more complicated than previous ones. Have you found it harder to plot out the entire thing?
QUELLER: You know what the funny thing is? It feels like it’s come rather easily because we had a very strong vision from the beginning and we also had a lot to say, a lot of stories we were passionate about telling, and issues that we were passionate about exploring. We knew where we were headed from the beginning. So breaking the stories, although they are ambitious, have happened pretty smoothly.
We also know that Nia is moving closer to becoming a superhero in this back half, too. In the most recent promo, Brainy approaches Nia about her destiny. What role does Brainy play in helping her realize who she is meant to become?
ROVNER: Brainy is familiar with her future ancestors and gives Nia some insight into the extent of her powers and, as a good super friend, wants to help usher her into being a hero. But it’s a team effort and we’ll get to explore what’s been keeping Nia from embracing her powers. We’re going to get to go with Nia to see where she came from and meet the rest of her family in 411, and we’re very excited about that. Kate Burton plays her mother, and we get to meet her and her sister, and her father, and get to know much more about the family Nal.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from Nia’s family, but the new pictures from “Blood Memory” definitely surprised me. What is Nia’s relationship with her family like?
QUELLER: We can’t tell you too much about it, but one thing that we’re excited about is going to the town where she was raised, and we’re going to see that it’s a very sort of liberal oasis. It’s a small town that’s always been very welcoming of aliens and where aliens and humans live in harmony. In fact, one of her parents is human and one is alien. Going home and seeing those dynamics and seeing a place [like that] will be a little break from all of the intense hatred and politics that we’ve been experiencing in National City. Then, we’ll focus on the family dynamics and what exactly has been holding Nia back from owning herself as Dreamer.
Did you as the writers enjoy that break from the unpleasantness and bigotry in National City?
QUELLER: It was. It was a very special episode and very relationship-oriented, and it was really, really wonderful to explore Nia’s origin story, I guess, and learn more about who she is and where she comes from.
The midseason finale ended with Agent Liberty behind bars. What kind of threat does he pose now? Are we mostly dealing with his Children of Liberty now?
ROVNER: It’s that, and he’s trying to make himself a martyr to kind of continue his narrative of humans being vulnerable at the hands of aliens. He’s fomenting that fear as we begin the second half of the season, and it continues to escalate all season.
QUELLER: His following just grows and grows. As we saw when he went to jail, he was sort of hailed as a martyr and a leader. Instead of public opinion turning against him, it just grew stronger.
What can we expect from Supergirl’s take on the iconic Lex Luthor, played by Jon Cryer?
ROVNER: We’re super excited about the introduction of Lex Luthor into our world and Jon Cryer’s portrayal of the character. I think that he’s the biggest supervillain we’ve had the show, and his plans will kind of touch every character and impact the entire season moving forward once he arrives.
QUELLER: The character is not that dissimilar to what we’ve seen in canon. He just [has] a sparkle in his eye and is smarter than everybody in the room and 12 steps ahead of everyone, and just a large, delicious villain.
Has Jon shot anything as Lex yet, and if so, what can you share about his portrayal?
ROVNER: He starts shooting at the end of this week. We’ve had wardrobe and makeup tests, so we’ve seen Lex Luthor incarnated, but we haven’t seen the performance yet.
QUELLER: But we’ve had lots and lots of talks with him. We’re all on the same page, and he’s just going to be awesome.
In the fall, it was reported that you working on a plan to bring Jeremy Jordan back as Winn once his Broadway show, American Son, wrapped in January. Were you able actually bring to make it work, and will we see him in this back half?
ROVNER: We love Jeremy Jordan, we love Winn. It looks like, in terms of our storytelling, something we’d like to do at the beginning of next season as opposed to this season. We have a lot of stories that coincided with his availability at the end of the play. We don’t want to short shrift Jeremy or the character. So, we think it’s something that’s better served in season 5.
Supergirl airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on The CW.