[This is a review of Supergirl season 2, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Supergirl has seen plenty of changes come about during the first episodes of season 2. In addition to welcoming Kara Danvers' cousin Clark Kent (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) for a two-episode arc, Supergirl also said goodbye to Cat Grant (guest star Calista Flockhart), while the other characters of the series jostled around to new jobs and relationships. Completing the soft reboot of season 2, last week's episode introduced new characters NCPD detective Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), Daxamite Mon-El (Chris Wood), and martian M'gann M'orzz (Sharon Leal).
'Welcome to Earth' further developed the overarching storyline of season 2, positioning aliens as refugees on Earth. The episode featured the president of the United States (guest star Lynda Carter) signing an Alien Amnesty Act in order to provide safety and rights to those refugees, while each of Supergirl's main characters -- including the Girl of Steel herself -- wrestled with their own beliefs about alien refugees. Now, this week's episode of Supergirl dives deeper into the secret lives that those aliens are leading in National City.
In 'Survivors' -- written by Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco and directed by James Marshall -- Kara must deal with an underground alien fighting ring. Run by Roulette (guest star Dichen Lachman), aliens are pitted against each other for the entertainment of rich humans, but Supergirl must fight in the ring herself against a surprising foe. Meanwhile, J'onn J'onzz tries to get to know M'gann after learning he isn't the last remaining Green Martian in the galaxy.
The First Rule of Alien Fight Club...
Supergirl's case of the week revolves around Roulette's underground fight club in which she enlists aliens to fight against each other for the entertainment of the wealthiest residents of National City -- either for money or because Roulette has forced them into the ring. The ring gets onto Supergirl's radar when local police discover the body of an alien from a race known (by Kara at least) to be peaceful, and Maggie Sawyer calls in Alex.
Alex and Maggie team up again, working efficiently together (leaving Kara, hilariously, somewhat out of the loop) on their second mission. The relationship developing through Alex and Maggie's partnership is one of the more fun aspects of Supergirl's second season, especially as it provides a new side to Alex; while Alex was Kara's sister/friend/confidante/sometimes rival in season 1, and an excellent DEO agent serving under Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz, the series didn't show Alex much outside those roles. Now, working with Maggie, Alex is able to shine in a new -- potentially, eventually, romantic -- dynamic.
As for the fighting ring, Supergirl is unable to reason with Roulette, who doesn't see anything wrong with what she's doing -- arguing that it isn't even against the law because aliens are not humans, therefore they aren't people and don't have any rights. Kara eventually defeats Roulette with help from the DEO and the NCPD by leading a raid on the underground ring -- which she finds through Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). Supergirl additionally gives a rousing speech that convinces Roulette's alien lackeys to back down from protecting her, utilizing the same method of conflict resolution we saw toward the end of season 1 -- for better or for worse.
Still, the weaker point of 'Survivors' is the weaker point of season 2 as a whole: Kara's new job as a reporter. The scenes of Kara and Snapper Carr are little more than an afterthought, tying into the episode's plot by Kara framing the story up to that point through a new article pitch. However, Snapper rejects her pitch twice because she doesn't have verifiable sources or an angle of any kind, eventually relenting by the end of the episode -- after Kara uses Supergirl as a source. Unlike last week, which at least utilized Kara's reporting to illustrate her own biases against Daxamites, the storyline feels even more disjointed to the plot of 'Survivors'.
Miss Martian Has A Secret - Or Two
One of the newest additions to Supergirl, M'gann is front and center in 'Survivors' as she is confronted by both J'onn and the past she hopes to forget. J'onn attempts to connect with M'gann in the Martian way -- psychically linking and, as a result, sharing everything from dreams and memories to emotions. However, M'gann refuses and when J'onn learns of her participation in Roulette's fighting ring, he believes she wanted to keep that a secret.
M'gann provides a new counter-balance to J'onn as a surviving Martian who didn't follow the same path to help protect the world. Rather than channel her survivor's guilt into working toward good, she has let it consume her until she feels the need to be punished by becoming the fighter known as Miss Martian. But, at the urging of Alex and Kara, J'onn doesn't give up on M'gann, hoping that they can help each other.
However, 'Survivors' delivers another last minute twist in M'gann's character -- one that fans of the character may have seen coming -- revealing M'gann not to be a Green Martian, but a White Martian. We may be able to assume that M'gann's story about a White Martian breaking rank and refusing a kill order is her own story, just not in the way J'onn believes. It remains to be seen how M'gann's story plays out in season 2, but it seems to be another instance of a character hiding their true selves for fear of being rejected.
Mon-El & Winn Hit the Town
Another survivor referenced by the episode's title is Mon-El, who is shown during an opening flashback scene being tricked by the prince of Daxam into the Kryptonian pod that landed him on Earth. Getting back to the present, Mon-El asks if his signal to Daxam was returned at all, forcing Team Supergirl to tell him they hadn't heard anything and it's unlikely they ever will. Though Mon-El seemingly bounces back quickly, he's eager to leave the DEO, though J'onn gives strict orders that he cannot.
Throughout the episode, Mon-El gets increasingly restless, even as he tests the limits of his powers (no freeze breath and no flying, though he can leap over buildings in a single bound) until he convinces Winn to take him out for a drink. However, Mon-El accidentally hurts two humans with his powers, bringing their outing to the attention of J'onn. The scenes between Winn and Mon-El are fun, even though their friendship isn't quite as developed as other relationships on the show -- yet.
By the time Supergirl finally confronts Mon-El -- after spending much of the episode avoiding him -- he's figured out that the order for him to stay in the DEO wasn't to protect him, but the humans he may accidentally harm. However, Supergirl has convinced the DEO to release him into her custody and is prepared to fulfill the purpose with which she was originally sent to Earth: Help an alien acclimate to a new world.
Certainly, it's compelling to see the overarching Supergirl season 2 theme of refugee rights play out on a much more personal level between Kara and Mon-El -- and it may help the series showcase more of Kara's day-to-day life rather than focus entirely on her superheroics. But, with James Olsen moving on from Kara, Supergirl may be positioning Mon-El as a new love interest -- one of the less developed aspect of season 1 -- though it remains to be seen.
Supergirl continues Monday November 7 with ‘Crossfire’ at 8pm on The CW.