Previously on Supergirl, ‘Red Faced’
Two of my lingering questions from last week were answered rather quickly! Supergirl’s power loss is indeed attributed to the new “solar flare” ability Superman only recently developed in the comics, and Hank Henshaw is indeed The Martian Manhunter in disguise.
I was genuinely surprised by the second one. Not because the clues weren’t there, but because I didn’t think this show had it in them. To have the Martian Manhunter—an influential figure in DC Comics lore—play such a large role in a show seemingly aimed at the non-hardcore DC fan, seemed unusually risky for a show that seemed unlikely to succeed in the first place. It would be a lot like if Batman suddenly revealed that he had been pulling the strings all along from behind the scenes on Arrow and he was going to be a main character from then on, too.
As it turns out, I was too pessimistic. By now it is safe to say I got a few things wrong about this show. In my review of the first episode, I even said that I didn’t think this show was “for me.” I was purposefully vague about who I thought it was “for” because I felt I didn’t have the credibility to speak on it, but given how many times I rewound Henshaw’s big reveal just so I could see it again, there is no denying that this show absolutely is for me. Which is great, but leaves me wondering whether or not a more casual viewer who isn’t as steeped in DC lore will start to feel alienated and turn away from the craziness. I hope that doesn’t happen.
But as I said in that same review… that isn’t exactly my issue to worry about, is it?
Choosing to not worry about something because it isn’t under your purview versus trying to not worry about something because you physically can’t do anything to change it are obviously two very different things, but after an earthquake rattles National City, a newly de-charged Supergirl takes a while to realize this.
Henshaw (whom I will continue to refer to as such until his primary identity on the show changes) suggests that Supergirl’s missing powers might actually benefit her because it will force her to see the world from a human perspective, but it also means she is forced to stand helplessly by as a man dies in front of her.
After a pep talk from James about being a hero despite superpowers, Kara goes in to save a store from armed robbers even though she is no longer bulletproof. She reasons that the robbers won’t know about her temporary vulnerability.
She ends up being correct, and luckily the robbers don’t test her. As she tries talking the robbers down, Cat is broadcasting live with the help of Witt Wick Winn and delivers a speech to the city that very much echoes the lesson Supergirl is trying to impart: the desire to be selfish is strong, but in this time of crisis it is up to everybody to act like superheroes, which is a desire much stronger.
The speech works, and the robber hands over his gun as James snaps the best photo of Supergirl he’s gotten so far.
Back at the office, the two start talking about the power of photographs to capture the essential “truth” of a single moment, and the truth is that Kara is a hero even without her superpowers. Then James discloses that the reason he’s so into photography is because his father got him his first camera before he went off and died in the Gulf War.
It’s a tender moment, and the two share a firm embrace over it. Winn sees it, and gets unreasonably upset and acts like a jerk to her for the rest of the episode, but not before divulging that, according to a DEO dossier on Superman, he is pretty sure her powers will come back during a surge of adrenaline.
That surge comes only moments later after a gas explosion seals off the 25th floor from the rest of the building. There are people up there, and it’s up to James, Kara, and Winn to save them. James takes the lead and climbs up the elevator shaft to save them, but after a successful rescue falls down the shaft to his certain death.
Kara jumps in after him and returns with him in her arms. With her powers restored, she goes out into the city to help wherever she can, even as a spiteful Maxwell Lord looks less than thrilled about her return.
The Son of Mars
Meanwhile, as the city toils in the aftermath and Kara and James talk about what it means to be a heroic but powerless human, National City’s earthquake has knocked out the containment unit keeping a menacing looking alien named Jemm confined in the DEO’s basement.
Jemm, with a gem on his head that shoots lasers, is pretty much not the kind of monster you’d want to let loose, what with his mind-reading and psychokinetic powers, so Henshaw orders the DEO sealed until they can track him down.
Ignoring the warning from the A.I. Construct Alura that her daughter is the only one capable of stopping Jemm, Henshaw, Alex, and a few lackeys use neural dampeners and conventional weapons to try to do the job instead. The team gets separated, and it soon becomes clear that Henshaw is not exactly human.
At this point, I was pretty much waiting for Hank to come out of the fight with Jemm looking like The Terminator, but when he reappears with nary a scratch, Alex’s doubts get the better of her and she chains him up to take command.
But just as Jemm looks to gain the upper hand over Alex, Henshaw breaks free from Alex’s restraints and knocks the crap out of Jemm. With the threat contained once more, Henshaw understands that he has to tell Alex the truth, otherwise he risks losing her altogether.
The man Alex and Kara know as Hank Henshaw reveals himself to be a shape-shifting alien that her father and the real Hank Henshaw were tracking in Peru just before they both went missing. The alien tells Alex that after her father realized he meant them no harm, he turned on Hank so that the alien could live. That is how Jeremiah Danvers died, and why the alien has dedicated his life to protecting Alex and Kara.
His real name is J’onn J’onzz, and he is the sole survivor and last son of Mars. DC fans know him as The Martian Manhunter.
He also tells Alex that only one other “living person” knows his true identity. Who do you think that could be? Is Jeremiah alive? Or could he be referring to Superman? And why, exactly, can’t Kara know who he really is?
Back at CatCo, Supergirl shows up and thanks Cat for inspiring the people of National City in her absence even as Cat chastises her for abandoning them during the worst disaster in decades. Cat lectures Supergirl about the people needing solace and consistency, which Supergirl says is exactly why she is so glad Cat is around.
With that, she flies off to enjoy her powers once more… but quickly gets knocked out of the air by Astra.
I was glad we got the truth behind Hank’s eyes in this episode, because stringing that particular mystery along was quickly getting annoying. Of course, this was only because I thought I already knew the truth, so the biggest surprise for me wasn’t the Martian Manhunter, but the realization that the showrunners aren’t afraid to make big moves like that. That surprised me, and it has me excited to see what other big things might happen in the many, many seasons to come (I’m optimistic now, see?).
Otherwise, I think this was a good episode despite a few convenient coincidences and a subplot that dragged on a little too long just for a big reveal. I liked how Kara reacted to feeling pain for the first time since she was a kid, even if James’ remedy to it wasn’t exactly inspired, and I enjoyed seeing a bit of humanity from Max, who kicked a car door in frustration over not being able to save a man’s life. That has to mean he’s not all bad, right? I also liked how Cat kept failing to remember Winn’s name, mostly because I think it echoes a lot of what viewers are feeling, i.e., who is that guy again? Ordinarily I’d blame weak characterization, but with this week’s evidence that the showrunners actually know what they’re up to, I can’t help but feel like we haven’t gotten his entire story quite yet.
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