UK TV review: Supergirl Season 2, Episode 3 (Welcome to Earth)
James R | On 09, Nov 2016
This is a spoiler-free review: Read on at the bottom for additional spoilery bits.
Supergirl is a series that unashamedly wears its heart on its sleeve. At times, that can make for a mildly cheesy watch. At other times – for example, when Donald Trump has just been elected President of the United States – it can make it feel like one of the most important shows on the telly.
Originally broadcast way back in October in the US, Welcome to Earth (Episode 3 of Season 2) was likely written by Jessica Queller and Derek Simon with the US election in mind: it features a newly elected female president and it talks about immigration. Airing in the UK on Monday 7th November, the night before Trump beat Hillary Clinton to the White House, it takes on a more pressing relevance – even more so, due to its compassionate message.
The episode is based around a new Alien Amnesty Act, which will offer protection to all alien visitors. And so we see President Olivia Marsdin (played, in a neat bit of casting, by former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter) journey to Nation City to sign it into law.
“How did anyone even vote for that other guy?” asks Supergirl, as she lines up on the tarmac to welcome Olivia’s plane with the same excited smile as the President’s other fans. The fact that Melissa Benoist is saying it to a little girl only makes the Trump dig funnier and sweeter.
Kara, of course, is the kind of left-wing person who has an open-arms policy to aliens. But if, like Superman, that noble streak could make her seem two-dimensional, Season 2 of Supergirl avoids that pitfall by continuing to find new ways to develop its lead – and, impressively, does so by tackling some pertinent themes and issues. Just as Winn’s new job proves a neater fit for the show’s narrative, Kara’s switch to journalism from being Cat’s assistant proves a natural position in which she can act as a pivot for the plot: while as Supergirl, she’s heroic because of her gentle side; as Kara the reporter, that sentimental attitude makes her copy biased, subjective and displeasing to her new boss (the still-brilliantly-named editor, Snapper Carr).
Assigned to interview Lena Luthor about the bill, given her brother’s record for anti-alien sentiment, she ends up just penning a piece slagging off the alien detection device that Luthor Corp has invented (and intends to make some serious money with). The resulting lesson for her – be a better journalist – is hardly a game-changer, but it’s one of several small pieces in a deceptively nuanced puzzle.
As soon as Olivia sets foot on National City soil, she’s attacked by an alien with fire-throwing capabilities – and Kara decides it’s the man in the crash-landed pod (Mon-El) from Episode 1. Why? Because he’s just broken out of the DEO. But also because it turns out that he’s from Daxam, a planet with whom Krypton has a long-standing feud. And so, once caught, she begins to act cruelly to him, a display of racial prejudice that feels worryingly out of character for her – and that, at the same time, subtly reinforces the fact that Supergirl is an alien. How well can we really know her?
Alex, meanwhile, is getting to know a new face at the crime scene of Olivia’s attack: Detective Maggie Sawyer (the enjoyably feisty Floriana Lima), who spends her time in a secret dive bar for aliens. That’s right, folks, Supergirl just introduced its own Mos Eisley Cantina – and, as well a chance for the show to have fun with its creature effects, it gives Alex and Maggie a chance to show off their sparky chemistry (forget James and Kara; these are our new favourite couple) and us an opportunity to understand J’onn’s perspective on the bill.
Both plot strands are rich with detail and metaphor, in a way that Supergirl Season 1 never quite managed. For Maggie, a gay human who likes to hang out with extra-terrestrials because she identifies with being an outcast, aliens become an allegory for homosexual discrimination. J’onn, meanwhile, has not only had a life of discrimination for being an alien, but has also faced prejudice as Hank, due to his skin colour. Add to that the bitter undermining of James’ authority in editorial meetings by angry old white man Snapper and you have an hour of family TV that doesn’t just entertain, but has the courage and confidence to be political at a time when it matters most. Directed with energy and intimacy by Rachel Talalay (who has four episodes of Doctor Who under her belt and is about to helm Sherlock’s The Six Thatchers), Supergirl’s Welcome to Earth emerges as a heartwarming, urgent call for compassion in an era of fear and division. Subtlety may not always be the series’ strong suit, but how great to see a TV show spell out its heartfelt message loud and clear.
Supergirl Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
Where can I buy or rent Supergirl Season 2 online in the UK?
Flying observations (spoilers)
– With Kara blinded by her prejudice, Olivia’s attacker turns out to be Scorch, an alien who is fighting the new law, because she thinks it amounts to enforced alien registration – a nice way for Supergirl to address all sides of the argument. Good work, show. (To top it all off, we also learn that Olivia is an alien too. Which, frankly, just makes the casting of Wonder Woman even more inspired.)
– James, naturally, has no trouble putting Snapper back in his place in a firm, but respectful, way. We’re still not convinced by his promotion, but he’s a decent boss.
– A female, alien president, a Black man in a top job, and a lesbian romance, all without cliches or stereotypes? Why can’t more TV shows be like this?
– After they make their peace, Mon-El is ultimately told by Kara that his planet was destroyed during Krypton’s own destruction, a tragic fact that ties the two lonely survivors even closer together. It’s yet another small touch that a lesser show could easily have not bothered with.
– We finish on an even more promising note of hope, as Hank heads to Mos Eisley for a drink – and there meets a barmaid who swiftly runs away. Why? Because she’s (wait for it) M’gann M’orzz, the last female Green Martian. That sound you hear is the episode’s writing duo dropping one heck of a mic.