This Skin Is Beautiful: Supergirl, “The Martian Chronicles”

After Live Wire’s surprisingly enjoyable return last week, this week’s Supergirl was less “The Martian Chronicles” than “The Martian Bottle Episode That Wraps Up Really Neatly.” The A.V. Club has it right: If this were a true bottle episode, with all of the action confined to the DEO—Kara, Alex, Winn, J’onn, and M’gann trapped with a shapeshifting White Martian—then we would have gotten the tight thriller that was advertised. As it is, the action gets bogged down, or in some cases heightened, by the various emotional subplots taking place outside of (both figuratively and literally) the main conflict.

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×11 “The Martian Chronicles.”

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

In a nice twist to the typical plot of put everyone in a room and make them hash out their issues, the confinement doesn’t lead to neat closure. Poor Kara feels at odds with almost everyone: She still doesn’t approve of Winn helping James; she had to let Mon-El down easy but mucked it up (“it’s not your job, it’s just the way you are”—ouch); and her bright spot in the week, of celebrating her 13th Earth birthday (aww) with Alex, gets eclipsed by Maggie getting Alex Barenaked Ladies tickets for the same night.

Well, M’gann probably has her beat, as it’s not just any White Martian after her, it’s her mate (by an arranged marriage) Armek, who is none so happy that she fled the nest and took up with their enemies. M’gann is ready to leave Earth when J’onn convinces her to stay. The fact that Armek is on the loose also gives her reason to defend the people she’s unwittingly dragged into her domestic dispute.

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

J’onn’s face: “Your mate?”

But then Armek infiltrates the DEO, in a simple but chilling sequence where M’gann enters the room that she’s already standing in. The ensuing fight has the DEO locked down and Armek hiding somewhere in the shadows… or perhaps right in front of the group, masquerading any one of them.

The whole the call is coming from inside the house bit lacks a bit in logic. For one, the White Martian doesn’t just impersonate them in appearance; he can also read their minds, so he knows every little detail you would use to identify the “real” person. And J’onn conveniently can’t read his mind to figure out who it is. There is a simple test involving holding your hand in front of an open flame, but it comes with the baffling aside that each character is scared to find out that they’re the White Martian… Does that mean that the impersonation goes so deep that you think you’re you, only to realize you’re not?

Like I said, some of the beats are off. But getting to share in the characters’ paranoia, of watching each person and wondering if they’re saying what they mean or if it’s just a ruse, makes for a lot of fun in the middle of the episode. The two DEO agents pulling guns on each other are red herrings, too spooked by the power of suggestion to stop and consider where the threat is coming from. But the first culprit is Winn, who was wise-cracking just moments before the flame reveals his true self.

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

Jeremy Jordan must have had so much fun getting to play the villain, if only for the space of one scene. Ditto Chyler Leigh—because here’s the twist, there’s actually two White Martians in the DEO! This one I guessed, because the scene where Kara confided in Alex that she was the only constant in her life, her portal to humanity and knowing what it’s like to exist on Earth, was just a tad too raw. I knew the writers would have to rein it in just a little; though after Alex was a mind-controlled killing machine in the season 1 finale, the impact of a Danvers-on-Danvers fight was lessened.

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

In the other wing of the DEO, after everyone has gone full Clue and split into pairs, J’onn and M’gann have the emotional reckoning we’ve been waiting for:

J’onn: You’ve become dear to me in a way no one has been since…

OMG J’ONN.

Surprisingly, no one gets murdered after this heartrending admission of love. In fact, by the time Armek appears in his true form, the real twist is that M’gann (also dropping her human disguise) stands not as a White Martian, but as a Green Martian. I’m a little unclear if M’gann’s genetic code has actually changed, as happened with J’onn after she gave him blood; could the Martian mind meld have contributed to it? Or perhaps she simply willed herself into this form. At any rate, Armek is disgusted:

Armek: In that form, you look like a monster.

M’gann: We’re the monsters, Armek. This skin is beautiful.

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

And then she kills him in a truly badass leap.

We do get closure, but it’s caused by the lack of talking out issues instead of the alternative: Kara and Winn aren’t fighting anymore, and she grudgingly approves of him helping James be the Guardian. Alex misses the BNL concert because of the DEO lockdown, brings Kara a 13th Earth birthday cupcake, and reveals that she vaguely remembers their conversation because White Martian psychic reasons. She reassures Kara that just because she has Maggie doesn’t mean that she’s not still there for her little sister… oh, and maybe Kara got so fired up about her birthday (Earthday? though it is taken…) because she’s in denial about how much she likes Mon-El.

Too bad for Kara, when she goes to CatCo the next morning, “Mike” has already asked Eve Tessmacher out to lunch. Yes, Eve with whom he had sex in the copy room six episodes ago. (Points for her?)

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

Poor Kara.

Mon-El: Just gotta swipe right ’til you find the one, right?

OMG MON-EL.

This is clearly just a monkey wrench thrown in Kara/Mon-El, but I’m still not seeing the point of this plotline. Kara tells Alex that “every time I put myself out there, it backfires. I don’t want that to happen again; it’s too risky.” But that’s not really true, is it? She turned down Winn because she didn’t feel that way about him; timing with James finally lined up, but Kara chose to focus on herself and her career instead of who she was in a relationship. That was a frustrating but compelling story decision that would get reversed if she and Mon-El got together, so I don’t know why they’re presenting it as a “romantic risk” for her.

Speaking of romantic risks, poor J’onn is awkwardly straightening up the DEO after pouring his heart out to M’gann. It’s not that she doesn’t feel the same way, but this attack made her realize that she has to go back to Mars. There must be other voices like her own, she reasons, and they just need a push to do the right thing.

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

Then in the next breath she acknowledges that she probably won’t survive this mission of goodwill, but she seems willing to sacrifice herself to change at least one White Martian mind the way hers was. “You have changed me forever,” she tells J’onn, and they share a brief embrace the way they did last week when he pulled her out of her memories, and it’s simultaneously so bittersweet and so rushed. Then she teleports herself up to Armek’s ship and leaves forever (or at least until next season).

Welp, at least Supergirl wrapped up all the White Martian nonsense… because next week it’s all about the Luthors!

Supergirl 2x11 "The Martian Chronicles" television review

Other Thoughts

  • I need a GIF of Alex’s attempts to communicate with Kara through gestures.
  • “This did not used to happen at CatCo.”
  • What do you think came first, the Barenaked Ladies plug or the “One Week” callback?

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