Last week’s Supergirl presented secret identities as a metaphor for being in the closet, so it stands to reason that this week would pull up another hot-button topic: politicians calling for the removal of “illegal aliens” from our country. In this case, it’s Senator Miranda Crane pushing for anti-alien measures to be taken against every creature, from the monsters of the week to Superman and Supergirl themselves… to the White Martian who attacks her political rally.
Spoilers for Supergirl 1×11 “Stranger From Another Planet.”
Yes, this is a J’onn J’onnz backstory episode. Kara and Alex learn that not only were there two races on Mars—the White Martians and the Green Martians—but that the former eradicated the latter and then came after the Last Son of Mars. When J’onn used his powers in “Childish Things” to infiltrate Lord Industries, it pinged one of the White Martians to track him down. And let’s be honest, he makes it incredibly easy when the White Martian is able to shapeshift into Crane without anyone suspecting, even though all of the main players know what the Martians’ powers are.
At any rate, the action-packed part of the episode is taken up with chasing down this White Martian, while the emotional grounding is all about family. In an incredibly touching scene, J’onn opens up to Alex about how he is truly alone: The White Martians enslaved the men of his race and murdered the women and children, including his wife and child, in what was basically a Martian Holocaust. “There is no shame in surviving,” Alex tells him, but what can she understand of exactly that, survivor’s guilt?
Kara isn’t around for this particular revelation, because she has her hands full at CatCo with another family matter of her own doing: She wrote Cat’s son Adam a letter from Cat (oh no, Kara), wanting to make amends. But instead of responding to her plea on fancy stationery, Adam decided to show right up. Well, first he flirts with Kara at Noonan’s Catch-All Restaurant/Café/Hangout, which manages to go completely over her head.
Cat is, understandably, upset at Kara for writing the letter and organizing this awkward family reunion, not least of all because it’s the first time she’s been truly thrown off. She yells, “You’re fired!”, which is the first time she seems to have actually meant it (unlike when she was trying to bluff Kara into revealing she was Supergirl). But Kara wears her down with her brand-new superpower: the guilt trip. “My mom died, remember?” is what propels an anxious Cat to have dinner with her son, during which she manages to talk only about herself.
When this goes predictably badly, Kara doubles down on the guilt, on both Cat and Adam: “I wish I could talk to my mom every day.” Jeez, Kara, you can’t just use your dead parents as fodder every time you need to boost someone else’s character arc. I have to agree with Vulture’s recap that it was a huge invasion of Cat’s privacy for Kara to go behind her back and contact Adam, despite her good intentions about uniting other mothers with their lost children.
It’s all very underhanded, but it gets the job done: Kara mediates a conversation between Cat and Adam that includes a mini-speech:
Cat: “I never got to put a picture that you’d drawn on the fridge. I never got to tell you stories. And I never got to teach you not to be afraid of the world. And I never got to tell you how amazing I think you are. I never got to be your mom. But I am your biggest fan, Adam, and I am so, so sad that I didn’t get to see you grow up.”
It also inspires him to stay in town. Of course, part of that reason is for Cat’s assistant with the pretty hair… And I know Kara isn’t indebted to Winn to be single, but it’s still rough for them to pass each other in the elevator knowing they’re trading nothing more than pleasantries.
And the guilt trips don’t stop there! It would be one thing if Kara kept her interventions to the office, but she also tries to stop J’onn from killing the White Martian once they take it down, tag-team aerial fight-style. When J’onn is ready to deliver the killing blow, Kara (who has been restrained in kryptonite handcuffs, because he means business) starts in on “I lost everything” and “Don’t throw away everything you are!” While we’ve certainly seen J’onn reel from using his powers to erase a human’s memory last week and how badly the guilt from that affected him, he has a history with the White Martian that Kara doesn’t really know about. It just didn’t ring true for me.
Supergirl’s interventions did have at least one positive outcome: Senator Crane (the real one, found shivering in the sewers) has suddenly reversed her stance on aliens, thanks to getting her damn life saved: “While it’s important we remain cautious, we still have a lot to learn before we take action.” It’ll be interesting to see if she retains that stance when Maxwell Lord comes charging in, now that he knows about Supergirl’s identity.
Speaking of, the episode ended on a great (some might say bizarre) cliffhanger: Alex and Kara see Supergirl on the news, but that’s impossible.