Supergirl – Season 2 Episode 4
Supergirl continues building the alien subculture angle with an alien fight club discovered in National City.
It seems like every genre show must have a fight club episode at some point. To date The Flash and Arrow are yet to do one but Torchwood and Smallville both did this episode and now Supergirl follows suit.
In this case the whole thing seems to exist because people like to spectate on fights and it can tie into the major themes of the show at that time. Aliens as a marginalised minority is a major theme at the moment and the concept of the fight club helps this be explored in a very simple way.
It works on a few levels. One of which is the fact that aliens are feared and misunderstood by humans who aren’t in a huge rush to accept them. Passing an amnesty isn’t the same thing as acceptance and the writers of this show know that. The dive bar introduced last week is one way in which aliens can be among other aliens without fear of persecution and, perversely, this is another way.
The fight club offers them a different kind of acceptance and gives them a place in society. It’s less than ideal to be fighting for the entertainment of the super rich but it’s arguably better than being hunted and experimented on. Of course it’s a long way from unconditional acceptance but I can see how some might feel that it’s the best they’re going to get for now.
On another level it exemplifies how oppression can turn minority groups against one another. This isn’t something the episode explores in any great detail because we don’t really have a character to follow to explore these themes on a personal level but on a thematic level this is very strong. It’s interesting that the situation has gotten so far out of control that the aliens actually try to defend Roulette when the DEO try to put an end to it. This is the only acceptance these aliens have ever known and they’re reluctant to let it go. It’s a sad state of affairs and shows how bad the problem is at this point.
The situation allows Kara to give an impassioned speech about coming together rather than trying to tear each other down. It’s fairly obvious symbolism that relates to the marginalisation of any minority group as well as tying into the heavy feminist themes of this show but it really works and Melissa Benoist has the ability to sell this. I was also reminded of the fact that Superman tends to be the bridge between humanity and aliens in the comics so it makes sense that it would extend to Supergirl for the purposes of this show. It seems likely that Kara will become something of an ambassador for this cause.
Veronica Sinclair aka Roulette (Dichen Lachman) was introduced in this episode but she could really have been anyone as far as the story was concerned. I’m of the opinion that if a DC Comics character can be used to fill a role in a particular plot then that is the way to go but I also feel that something meaningful should be done with them. In this case Roulette was simply a catalyst for the events of this episode without actually feeling like a defined part of it.
Dichen Lachman was really good in the role as she is in most roles but this character was a far cry from her Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD character. It is early days and it does seem that she will come back but other than her memorable physical presence there wasn’t much to her.
I did like the hints of how well connected she was. Her fight club was only for the rich and corrupt so it would make sense that she would be on good terms with them. The fact that she was let go with no effort at all shows the kind of power she has and to see more of that will be interesting. There is still the lingering question of who her benefactor is and I’m hoping it won’t be Lena Luthor.
J’Onn spends a lot of the episode trying to deal with the fact that he isn’t the last of his kind. He definitely seems pleased at the prospect but goes about it in the wrong way. He almost immediately asks her to bond with him in the way Martians do. Kara likens it to a sexual act but J’Onn points out that it’s deeper than that. For Martians it’s a way to share memories, feelings and experiences so it’s a way for them to catch up on everything that has happened to them.
This is a good episode for David Harewood who delivers a subtle, almost broken version of J’Onn. He finally gets to be around someone of his own kind but is distraught when it doesn’t go the way he expects it to. He definitely tries to rush it but it’s easy to understand why since he has been alone for centuries.
He goes through a lot in the episode from feeling isolated when she rejects him to angry when he feels betrayed by her being involved in the fight club to acceptance that he should be willing to take it slow. It’s a defined character arc that perhaps happens a little too quickly but Harewood mostly tries to sell it. His performance certainly makes up for some clumsy plotting and shortfall in the dialogue.
M’Gann is a character we don’t learn an awful lot about but it’s clear that there’s more to her than we initially see. Her reluctance to bond with J’Onn is understandable from the point of view of him trying to rush things but it quickly becomes clear that she’s hiding a few secrets and the episode does a good job of playing with those.
The first reveal is showing her as a willing combatant in the fight club. It works as a shocking reveal because I felt that she had found acceptance in the bar but obviously not. The biggest problem is that we get limited insight into her feelings for participating beyond the fact she’s a lonely alien.
With a bit of a refocus this episode could have been about J’Onn, M’Gann and her reasons for joining the fiight club. It would have been an opportunity to explore this concept through a new character but the episode only superficially develops M’Gann as it is more focused on J’Onn’s reaction to her rather than answering who she is as a person.
The end of episode reveal of M’Gann actually being a White Martian was an interesting one. I wondered if this show was going to go down that route and so far I’m glad that they are. Last season the White Martians were shown and described as monstrous beings bent on destruction but this is a good opportunity to show that not all of them are like that. It was foreshadowed through M’Gann saying that a White Martian saved her and that this one was different. This ties into the theme of tolerance and how people shouldn’t be judged simply on the actions of others of their race.
Mon’El has a big role in this episode through his interactions with Kara and Winn. I found his growing friendship with Winn to be the most interesting as there seems to be a natural bond between them that is coming across really well. Chris Wood is really charming as Mon’El and the dialogue he shares with Winn seems natural enough. I was impressed with the limited grasp Mon’El has on colloquial speech and there’s something casually manipulative about him.
It was slightly disappointing that Winn fell for it since much of the episode suggested that he wasn’t going to. Having said that, it was amusing that Mon’El managed to appeal to his vanity by latching onto his desire to create superheroes through designing costumes.
The scenes of them having a night out that gets out of hand were fairly standard fare for a show like this but they were entertaining enough and showed why aliens can be dangerous in society. Mon’El seems to mean well but he’s a lot stronger than humans and his lack of restraint gets people hurt. He’s lucky this time but hopefully he has learned a lesson about dealing with humans.
Winn works so much better as part of the DEO than he ever did at CatCo and has lots of opportunity to be the smartest person in the room while feeling like a more integral part of the show. It’s a refreshing change from him pining after Kara for much of last season and his friendship with Mon’El has lots of potential.
Mon’El and Kara have a very different relationship so far. The prejudice that Kara was holding onto from last week hasn’t completely gone away. She tells him that she keeps her distance because he reminds her of her parent’s inability to save Krypton. Kara chooses to remember her parents in a way that probably isn’t fully accurate but holding onto that fantasy is important to her. Mon’El represents a crack in that perfect image she has of her birth parents so it makes sense that she would distance herself. I still think there’s more to it than that and she’s struggling with her preconceptions of Daxamites but it’s a complex issue she has with him.
Kara is someone who constantly desires to be better so she does eventually put her issues behind her. She decides that she is going to train Mon’El as a way of making up for the fact that she couldn’t be around for her cousin. Chris Wood and Melissa Benoist have a good dynamic that is a little bit tense because of the rivalry between their cultures. It’s interesting to watch both characters try to embrace their similarities rather than their differences.
Mon’El seems to be trying to make the best of his situation and I get the impression he’s putting a brave face on the whole thing. He does say that he can’t quite believe that he would be the only survivor from his entire race so maybe he’s holding onto that belief. He’s still very much a mystery but I’m unsure if that’s deliberate orr if he is simply underdeveloped. The flashback showing him leaving Daxam was confusing as it didn’t really add anything to his character or the episode. All we saw is that he was close to Daxam’s royalty but what that connection means is anyone’s guess at this point. He is settling into the show well and feels like a good fit. I also like that his powers are similar to Kara’s but not exactly the same. He seems closer to Superman when he was first introduced as in he is strong but not as strong as Kara, he can leap but not fly and doesn’t seem to have heat or X-Ray vision.
Alex and Maggie continue to have a good dynamic. I’ve often said that Alex is lacking in personality but Maggie seems to bring out a lighter side to her. There is definite romantic chemistry between them that Kara picks up on but it looks like it will be drawn out for a while since Maggie currently has a girlfriend. Some people have suggested to me that Kara might be intolerant of her sister being in a relationship with another woman based on her reaction but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s far more likely that it will simply come as a surprise to her rather than her being against it.
Kara takes a bit of a sidestep this week in favour of the other plots going on. Unfortunately we get another repeat of her attempting to prove herself to Snapper Carr who still thinks she’s useless despite her ideas. Their dynamic is already starting to wear thin and I’m tired of the hard nosed boss routine from him. Hopefully this will change at some point but for now I’m really not onboard with this plot.
A good episode that excels in developing themes more than the execution of how they apply to the story. The idea of aliens finding some form of acceptance in a fight club is a good idea and allows Kara to become an ambassador between humans and aliens but we don’t get any insight into the issue through any particular character. M’Gann would have been the perfect way to explore that but she only really exists to service J’Onn’s plot.
J’Onn’s scenes were good as he went through a lot in such a short time. His journey towards accepting the situation as it is rather than trying to change it to the way he wants is handled well and David Harewood delivers an impressive performance despite some clumsy plotting and dialogue. Mon’El’s friendship with Winn is handled well as is his very different relationship with Kara who is still fighting against her prejudices. We also get some insight into her difficulty seeing her parents as people who failed to save Krypton. It’s a shame that a lot of Kara’s individual plotting is a repeat of her trying to gain acceptance from her boss as that is already becoming tiresome.
- the development of the themes of acceptance and tolerance as they relate to aliens
- J’Onn’s arc as he learns to deal with M’Gann
- the handling of the reveals surrounding M’Gann
- Mon’El’s interactions with…anyone
- some clumsy plotting and dialogue
- the development of the themes being better than the execution within the episode
- Roulette failing to make a defined impression