Reviews TV

Geek Watch – Supergirl 4×01 “American Alien” Review

Supergirl is back and looking to follow up a stellar third season by bringing in real world issues & some old Superman foes

Supergirl 4x01

With its stellar use of its villain (including her human backstory and other elements) as well as the right use of one-off style episodes, Supergirl closed out last spring arguably its best season yet and easily was one of the better of The CW superhero shows last season. That means it has big shoes to fill now that they are into season four with the threat of Reign behind them. Not ones for subtly ever, the writers & producers made it clear through marketing that they were tackling some of the more prevalent and scary issues of our real world this season. Rather than easing in through some simple episode, the writers/producers wisely chose to just leap right back into things with the latest threat.

While they are very different, Supergirl and Black Lightning are also very similar beyond both being on The CW and being about superheroes. Both shows tackle real-life issues and also for their first episodes of the season they didn’t do like some other shows and try to slowly ease into things with some formulaic episode. Superman is off-world, on Argo it turns out, and Supergirl is pulling double and triple duty around the world yet is finally feeling at home as Kara Danvers too. This is a great change from last season where Kara was very lost for a long time. Others are not gelling in their new roles as easily as Alex and Brainiac 5 are butting heads because the Legion member can’t seem to get on the same page with the new DEO director because he’s always too much in his head doing his own thing. At the heart of things is the Alien Amnesty law passed by President Marsden (Lynda Carter) and a new wave of alien hate that is beginning to grow.

I appreciate the fact that they tackled this topic in a very open way, including J’onn calling out Kara’s dismissing of his words that there is more alien hate because she claims that she is loved. Her being a human presenting alien not feeling the backlash is very similar to many people in the world who are part of a discriminated minority that either doesn’t encounter the discrimination because of geometry, life choices or being able to fit in among the masses without presenting as a minority. Kara’s views are very similar to many that felt the world was in a great spot only to feel dismayed when new waves of hatred appeared to come out of nowhere in the last few years, only because they missed all the signs that were there. What makes this work is that while Kara is an uber powered superhero who fights for the good of all things, she’s not perfect and has flaws and her views might not always be where they should be. It makes it all the sadder when her bubble is burst as she encounters the levels of hate that J’onn tried to warn her about.

Supergirl 4x01 Mercy & Otis

One thing that The CW superhero shows have been good at in many cases (there naturally were a few misfires over time) is adapting various DC related characters into their shows even ones that normally aren’t fully affiliated with the character(s) headlining the show. That is the case with Mercy Graves (Rhona Mitra) and Otis Graves (Robert Baker) who have been Superman related antagonists in the past, Mercy appearing in animated and comic book and recently film and Otis in comics and famously back in the old Superman films. The sibling duo is the main antagonists in the episode and their high tech abilities tied to the alien hatred movement and the shadowy alien-hating Agent Liberty (Sam Witwer) are very interesting angles. There are times where bad guys seemingly easily take down heroes in these shows where you are left rolling your eyes cause it was clearly plot related sudden depowering, but in the case of this duo, I didn’t question how they defeated Supergirl the first time at all. She was caught off guard and they clearly were prepared with the right tech and moves and as they displayed in the attack on Camp David are prepared to do anything to achieve their goals.

A big bit of news over the summer was the casting of Nicole Maines in the role of new CatCo cub reporter Nia Nal who will also be the very first transgender superhero in live action because she is the ancestor of the Legion of Superheroes’ Nura Nal also known as Dream Girl. Maines is in her very first major acting role, and she fit in very well in the cast already sort of filling that early Kara role of the not as confident member at CatCo, learning how to speak up for herself and move forward. Kara being her mentor in the newsroom, and likely the superhero world later, is a nice touch and a smart move as it proves how much the character has grown over the years. She’s in a very different place from the beginning of the series, and her world is and should reflect that.

Lena Luthor is apparently living up way more to that Luthor surname, conning her mother into giving dirt on the villain Bruno Manheim (another Superman antagonist) who is a former collaborator and foe of Lex so that she can get the DA case against James about being Guardian thrown out. We all know that will come back to bite them all on the butt later on. Biggest of all in this episode is the revelation showcased to the world where President Marsdin’s (Lynda Carter) alien status is revealed to the world. Supergirl’s true foe this season is hatred, and it’s not going anywhere. Oh and that duplicate of Kara that dropped in Russia is still out there and being used by those that found her.

Supergirl 4x01 Supergirl

Final Thoughts

Last season the producers/writers pitted Supergirl against a foe that she could not easily best with her fists because they were evenly matched in all their abilities. This season they have done the same except this time the foe is one that she can’t just punch or reason with because it’s not a being but a feeling/force that is intangible. Supergirl and Superman have always stood for hope in the comics and other media, making human emotions of fear and hatred as a villain something that is intriguing for them to fight against always. In our world, we’re dealing with this hatred and we can’t always do much about it, but through this show, we can watch a force of hope fight back. It allows Supergirl to be as inspiring as a hero as she should be, and that’s something we definitely need right now.

Score: 9 out of 10

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