[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Supergirl season 2]
Fans didn’t know it when the show was first being filmed and aired, but by the end of its first season, Supergirl had become as much a story about J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, as it had about Kara Danvers. With his true identity exposed to the world around him by season’s end, J’onn and Kara stood side by side in terms of protecting humans from alien threats – one doing so in the light, the other as part of the DEO. But things have gotten even stranger in the show’s second season.
The shift from CBS to The CW has led to a soft reboot, of sorts, and with Superman showing up to flesh out Supergirl’s mythology, J’onn J’onzz is set to get the same treatment. With the conclusion of “Welcome to Earth,” J’onn made the discovery that he was not the sole survivor of his Martian race. The young woman revealed herself to be M’gann M’orzz (Sharon Leal) – better known to DC Comics fans as Miss Martian, modern member of the Teen Titans.
It’s a massive change to the status quo, especially where J’onn (David Harewood) is concerned. There’s a risk to be aware of too: Miss Martian’s story could be a powerful one… but it’s also tailor made for the kind of angst/secrecy/self-doubt that fans of The CW’s other DC shows are already much – much – too familiar with.
Miss Martian Has a Secret
It should really be taken as granted that the appearance of a new, or unexplained, or simply mysterious character in a CW superhero show be treated with suspicion (if not outright paranoia). In a TV universe where almost everything is too good to be true – or, indeed, the comics universe they’re based on – secrets are mandatory. And Miss Martian has a BIG one. The TV show revealed her to be ‘the last daughter of Mars’ and a member of the Green Martians. But the truth is: she’s actually a White Martian – the enemy race that wiped out J’onn’s family and people.
Fans of Supergirl know just how nasty White Martians can get, with J’onn having already dealt with one in the show’s first season. Considering that even he had a hard time not murdering said enemy for that genocide, it would make sense that M’gann take on the appearance of a Green Martian (just as she did in the original comics storyline). But that secret can only last so long, and a burst of flame is now all it might take to revert M’gann to her true form. Deceptions will be revealed, trust will be erased, and old prejudices will rise to the surface.
But until then, what are viewers in for?
Begin The CW Angst & Deception?
For those who may only casually take in The CW’s other superhero-themed programming, it isn’t just Arrow‘s shifting storylines or character deaths that have earned some criticism (from an admittedly devoted fan base). To say that angst, apprehension, or deception have been used to add drama to a supporting character’s arc would be an understatement (if we never see a hero at war with “who they really are” we’ll be happy). Those issues have been discussed at length elsewhere, but suffice to say that by now, the premise, if not the audience has grown tired.
Characters keeping secrets that don’t really need to be kept from their close friends, knowing they’ll eventually be revealed can only be engaging for so long – and when they form the bulk of a character’s arc in a given season, talk of missed opportunities is sure to follow. Doubly so, if the story hinges on yet another woman unsure of her powers,or who “she really is.” We don’t only raise this point now that Supergirl has shifted to The CW – the shared creative team was responsible for the show’s DNA long before – but because a promising character has now arrived… and is poised to offer the exact same.
It’s obviously a skeptical concern so early on. But after seeing Hawkgirl – a fan-favorite member of DC’s Justice League – spend her time trying to choose which man she was destined to be with… let’s just say the previously-limitless confidence in The CW’s braintrust has taken a few blows. As a reminder, the glimpse into J’onn J’onzz’s past in season one of Supergirl was one of the show’s most accomplished episodes and storylines. So the idea of the next chapter being tied to Miss Martian (as the producers have confirmed), a character perfectly placed to fill the ‘obviously uneasy and deceitful bomb waiting to explode’ role could be a decision fans may wind up regretting.
On the other hand…
The Potential For Greatness
A shared network, genre, or even pool of producers or writers doesn’t inherently mean each show will tread the same tropes and subplots (although Supergirl has, admittedly, turned its beloved romantic interest into a super-hacker coordinating the team, and another love interest will soon debut as yet another costumed superhero). And while the chance of familiar, CW angst and tortured potential romance is present, the fiction Miss Martian brings with her is potent. If J’onn’s painful origin story was a step in the right direction, then M’gann Morzz could be the perfect follow-up.
We previously went into great detail about the history of Martian Manhunter that the arrival of M’gann will bring to the surface. The themes are already laid out in the season so far: J’onn’s mistrust of alien killers actually rubbed off on Kara, before both were challenged to accept that their prejudices were in need of changing. And just as Kara embraces a fellow refugee her culture taught her to hate, J’onn runs into the same – only this time, his hurt and hate is easier to understand. That being said, how would J’onn respond to a White Martian hiding who they were, seeking friendship, or even redemption for the wrongs of her people?
The biggest question will almost certainly hinge on how J’onn sees himself among the alien community. “Welcome to Earth” showed he sees himself apart, policing alien activity but not seeing himself as part of it. A Martian could be what’s needed to bring his old self – the one who loved, and was loved – to the surface. But a White Martian may be what’s needed for him to move beyond his grief, and actually start living a life of his own.
Only time will tell how devoted the writers are to making the most of Miss Martian in the larger world of Supergirl, or keeping the spotlight squarely on the leading lady and her core cast. Be sure to let us known your own thoughts, hopes, and concerns in the comments, and stay tuned for more coverage.
Supergirl continues Monday, October 31 with “Survivors” @8pm on The CW.