[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Supergirl ahead.]
As the newest DC Comics superhero to appear on television in their own series, Supergirl got off to a good start with record-breaking ratings for the Fall 2015 season. Throughout its first run of episodes, the show has followed Kara Danvers/Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) as she takes on the mantle of Supergirl and deals with saving National City alongside her job as an assistant. The most recent episodes of Supergirl have featured the strongest moments and storylines of the season, giving more strength to CBS's decision to pick up the series for a full season.
During the first season, Supergirl has adapted a number of DC Comics villains for one-off appearances, like Livewire, Jemm, and Red Tornado. But, when Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) explained his true identity to Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), it was revealed the show would also include J'onn J'onzz a.k.a. Martian Manhunter in a supporting role. Now, Harewood has offered a hint to J'onn's backstory - and confirmed a character from his history that will appear.
In an interview with CB, Harewood revealed that episode 11 of Supergirl's first season will feature a White Martian. In the comics, there were two races on Mars, the Green Martians and the White Martians. However, while Green Martians were wise and peaceful people, White Martians were a greedy and violent race. These differences led to a civil war between the races, though the Green Martians eventually won. In the DC comics, animated series, and animated films, White Martians have acted as antagonists to J'onn J'onzz and other members of the Justice League. In Supergirl, their past interactions with J'onn will have devastating consequences:
"In Episode 11, we have a visitor from another planet who’s a White Martian. There are two Martian species - it feels really weird talking about this (laughs) I’ve not been able to say anything about it - there is a Green Martian species and a White Martian species and the White Martians, in our story, are responsible for the death of the whole of the Green Martians. It was a fire and they burned them and we get to see a lot of that."
From the sound of it, episode 11 will feature flashbacks to J'onn's history and offer viewers insight into how he became the last survivor of the Green Martian race - perhaps the events that led up to him landing on Earth. In the comics, fire is J'onn's biggest weakness, since the death of his race by being burned alive caused him to develop pyrophobia.
It seems likely that since Supergirl will delve Martian Manhunter's tragic history, the show will also touch on J'onn's fear of fire as a result of what happened to his race. In fact, it seems the emotional consequences of what J'onn endured will play a big part in episode 11:
"It was a very emotional episode for me, just thinking about the whole idea of genocide and, you know, people being burned alive. I think it was around the same time as the Paris attacks. It was very emotional. The whole idea of it was weird for me to be playing, but I think it’s going to be a very emotional, powerful episode."
Harewood went on to talk about the special effects in the episode, likely in relation to bringing Martian Manhunter and a White Martian to life on screen. Given the effects used to reveal Martian Manhunter in 'Human For A Day', Harewood's comments hint that episode 11 will use more digital effects, rather than practical effects like costuming and makeup, than previous episodes to introduce DC Comics villains.
But, Harewood also teased that the inclusion of White Martians and their impact on J'onn's character will offer a compelling episode of television both for fans of the DC Comics and casual viewers alike: "There’s going to be something in it for the fans and something in it for just the general viewers because it’s some pretty emotional stuff to cover."
So, although we may not learn too much about the specific White Martian that will appear in episode 11 - further following the route of superhero television series having one-note villains for single-episode arcs - the antagonist will open the door to more character development for Henshaw/J'onn. Given the positive reaction to the reveal of Martian Manhunter earlier this season, it seems likely that the emotional storyline of episode 11 will strike a chord with Supergirl's viewers.
Supergirl will return January 4th, 2016 @8pm on CBS.