Amnesty Is Just Another Mask: Supergirl, “Welcome to Earth”

Yes, Supergirl writer Derek Simon confirmed on Twitter, last night’s episode is named for Will Smith’s iconic line from Independence Day. So, while the plot of “Welcome to Earth” is about President Olivia Marsdin’s (Lynda Carter) visit to National City, it’s really about the Alien Amnesty Act she’s signing, which will invite aliens to step out of the shadows. But, considering the line’s origins, it may not be a warm welcome.

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×03 “Welcome to Earth.”

President Marsdin is flying into Supergirl’s town to sign the Alien Amnesty Act, and everyone’s got an opinion about it. Kara, who happily accepts the label of bleeding-heart pro-alien supporter, thinks that her fellow aliens should totally identify themselves to humans. J’onn J’onnz has had a markedly different experience, not just because his true form is so otherworldly, but especially because he “wore the face of a black man for fifteen years.” He’s seen human prejudice and racism against their own kind; why should he assume his experience would be any better once he outs himself? And aside from Kara and J’onn, Alex doesn’t trust most extraterrestrials farther than she can throw them. But, as happens with any bit of legislation related to extraterrestrials on this show, there’s an attack. This forces Kara, who was adorably geeking out about OMG getting to meet the President, to snap into protector mode as she shields Marsdin from deadly fireballs sent by… who?

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

Kara’s got a pretty good idea: the mysterious crashlander, who ended last week’s episode trying to throttle her. He’s escaped the DEO, which would be guilty enough, but he’s also from Daxam, Krypton’s rival neighbor planet (or the Hatfield to their McCoys, Kara’s interesting but accurate Earth analogy). Ruled by a monarchy, Daxam was already in opposition to Krypton’s democracy; it’s not much of a mental leap to guess that he would want to dispose of an Earthling head of state. Case closed, Kara figures, with no need to investigate further.

That’s one of two mistakes this fledgling reporter makes in the episode. On the CatCo side of things, Kara tries to pull a Clark Kent or Peter Parker and call dibs on the interview with the President because “I might have a chance of running into her” (seriously, too cute with her fangirling). But of course the rookie’s not going to get a one-on-one with the leader of the free world, so Kara gets shuttled over to Metropolis to write a straightforward piece on Lena Luthor’s new alien-detecting technology for L Corp. Except that Kara, bless her heart, rips into the tech with a scathing op-ed about how it will only engender the culture of fear in which aliens already exist.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

Too bad Kara was hired for the news desk and not opinion. Snapper Carr is completely justified in telling her to start from scratch and turn in a reported piece and let her readers make up their own minds about the technology.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

You know who’s great at detecting aliens? Detective Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), a welcome addition to the cast. Investigating the attacks on President Marsdin, she quickly catches on that there’s more to “Secret Service” agent Alex Danvers. While tracking down the Daxam escapee, Maggie reveals that she knows all about the DEO—and what’s more, she knows where all of National City’s aliens that aren’t trying to be villains of the week go to drink and take a load off.

Maggie brings Alex to what I hope becomes a recurring location on the show: a dive bar that’s more of an intergalactic watering hole, where all of the alien refugees can be their true selves without fear of prying human eyes or surprise attacks. Alex is surprised to find a human so sympathetic to alien rights, but Maggie’s reasoning is clear: “Non-white, non-straight girl from Nebraska—I may as well have been from Mars.” By treating the aliens with respect, she gets contacts and tips that other law enforcement miss. But it’s deeper than that; an eternal outsider, Maggie has found connections (telepathic and otherwise) with at least one alien.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

You guys—between Alex and Maggie, Kara and Lena, and Supergirl and the President, this episode alone passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. It’s mostly talk about alien rights, but there’s no rule saying the characters can’t address the same topic from different angles. Sure, there’s the aforementioned brief relationship chatter about Maggie’s alien exes, but again, queer relationship. Speaking of…

One of the teases ahead of Supergirl‘s season 2 premiere was that one of the characters would be “exploring their sexuality and coming out,” according to executive producer Andrew Kreisberg. While some guesses pointed toward Winn, my money is on Alex. She and Maggie have amazing chemistry in their scenes together, which could remain as friends, but I see hints of something deeper. Though I would love for “coming out” in this case to mean bisexual instead of gay, as we’ve seen Alex be attracted to men.

After the DEO captures the Daxam survivor, there’s another attack on President Marsdin as she literally has the pen poised over paper to sign the Alien Amnesty Act. It’s Scorcher, a fire-wielding redhead who bumped into Alex at the alien bar. The scenes chasing her down were more reminiscent of the monster-of-the-week plots from last season (down to the cheesy villain name), but we did get this line out of Scorcher: “Amnesty is just another mask to disguise registration.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Amnesty Act does lead to the kind of registration that created the first Civil War in Marvel Comics.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

At the DEO, Kara owes the prisoner an apology: He may be from Daxam, but that doesn’t mean she should automatically assume he’s an assassin. They formally introduce themselves—he’s Mon-El—and he asks about contacting Daxam. About that, Kara’s face says, and she has to break some tough news to her fellow refugee. Honestly, I was surprised that the episode didn’t end on Mon-El striking Kara again after she explained Daxam’s fate: While Krypton was being ripped apart, huge chunks of landmass hit Daxam the planet as well as (more fatally) its moon. Knocked out of its gravitational orbit, subjected to solar flares, Daxam is a graveyard. So, in many ways, it’s the fault of Kara’s people that Mon-El has no home to return to. While Kara’s prejudice toward Mon-El seemed to be resolved very neatly, I’ll be curious to see what kind of resentment Mon-El fosters.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

President Marsdin departs, mostly unscathed and as committed as ever to human/alien peace. J’onn is still skeptical, but she leaves him with this advice: “It’s not enough to see the world; you have to live in it.” And apparently she’s putting her money where her mouth is, because as she walks away her eyes glow and her skin turns red before flashing back.

Honestly, I’m a bit tired of this trope on Supergirl as a signifier that something’s wrong!—for one, it would be so easy for someone coming from the opposite direction to catch a glimpse, and it’s just overdone. Though I am curious to see if the President has always been an alien (my pick) or if she’s being impersonated (yawn). Because if it’s the former, that lends so much more credence to all of Kara’s gushing about “She’s so cool! A woman said that! She’s gonna be quoted!” If it’s the latter, then it removes all of the goodwill around this universe’s female President, because it wasn’t actually her saying or doing these things.

Supergirl 2x03 "Welcome to Earth" television review

Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

But J’onn takes the President’s advice and checks out Maggie’s alien bar. His transformation into Martian Manhunter as he stepped through the door was so sweet, as we know how uncomfortable he’s grown in his own skin on Earth. Props to David Harewood for playing that nervousness even as a green CGI creature. Turns out he has reason to be nervous, because the seemingly human bartender—who recoils when he approaches the bar to order a drink—turns out to be… M’gann M’orzz, the Last Daughter of Mars!

Other Thoughts

  • “I sure picked the wrong time to get rid of all my kryptonite.” Oh J’onn J’onnz, you’re so sassy.
  • The password to the alien bar is “Dollywood,” love it.
  • “This place is sick. Like, James-Bond-bad-guy-hideout sick.” Considering Maggie’s approval of DEO HQ, I’m surprised she didn’t have a comment about Alex’s very spy-movie catsuit.
  • And of course we get a few Wonder Woman Easter eggs: Kara executing a fabulous twirl to get the flames off her suit, and Marsdin’s parting line about Air Force One: “If you think that’s cool, you ought to see my other jet.”
  • Gotta love @TheLegalGeeks for poking holes in the Alien Amnesty Act before the ink’s even dry:

Natalie Zutter‘s new Supergirl ‘ship is Alex/Maggie. Send her all the cute GIFs on Twitter.

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