Supergirl Meets Alien Immigration Issues with Human Decency

Supergirl does not pretend that having a female president solves all of the world’s problems. Regardless of their morality, female superheroes and villains are still branded with the moniker of “nasty woman” by their detractors; and in this week’s episode, “Exodus,” a member of the 1% decides to round up and forcibly deport National City’s alien immigrant population in order to make a “better world” for her children and other people who look like them.

Despite giving us solidly genre thrills through trips to distant alien moons and rogue cyborgs, the most chilling visual from Supergirl yet came in this week’s episode: a family’s carefree singalong to Bruno Mars, the kind of thing you’d see go viral, interrupted by a squad of black cars snatching these people out of their lives.

Now that Project Cadmus has stolen the National City alien registry from the DEO, it’s almost too easy for them to raid the neighborhoods where they know they’ll find aliens: by shooting up the local dive bar, where they snatch Winn’s new girlfriend Lyra; or, most chillingly, using a black policeman to get aliens to step out of their cars with the old “broken tail light” trick.

We’ve known that Lillian Luthor had beef with aliens since she was first revealed as the mastermind behind Cadmus: Her resentment toward Superman for “turning the world against” her precious son Lex has festered into an all-consuming vendetta to remove every nonhuman from the Earth’s surface. She’s a fan of Nietzsche and his exhortation to “remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes.” She believes in humans fulfilling the notion of the Ubermensch rather than looking to gods or aliens to fill that role for them.

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review

And worse yet, Jeremiah Danvers tells his disbelieving daughter Alex at Cadmus HQ, Lillian wanted to murder all of National City’s immigrant population. Instead, he convinced her to simply send them back to their home planets, those routes already programmed into the massive alien ship on which Cadmus has herded its dozens of prisoners. It seems like the perfect solution—to a human on his home planet. What Jeremiah hadn’t considered was that all of these aliens had already escaped some horror in their home—famine, war, perhaps certain death—in order to find shelter in National City and live as refugees. It brings to mind British-Somali poet Warsan Shire’s powerful poem “Home”:

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

Like Lillian, Jeremiah’s frame of reference extends only as far as his immediate family: Cadmus threatened to kill Alex and Kara if he didn’t work with them, and here he thinks he’s found a win-win scenario. Alex’s horrified reaction should tell him how wrong he is: “How could you think that we would want you to hurt others to protect us?”

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review

But she can’t really blame him for putting family first, as she was willing to do the same. Her first conversation with Jeremiah, earlier in the episode, turns out to be a trick, as J’onn shapeshifts into her criminal father to test Alex’s loyalty to the DEO. This false Jeremiah presses her to commit to his side, saying that she doesn’t have time to check in with J’onn because “he’s not family.” Under pressure, Alex agrees to go rogue—only to realize that her adoptive father has betrayed her trust just like her biological father did.

“Exodus” excellently shows how both Danvers sisters are willing to put not only their lives but their jobs in jeopardy, joining the fight against express orders to stay out of it. Suspended from duty, Alex—and Maggie, who of course is ride-or-die—tracks down the abandoned LCorp warehouse that Cadmus is using to fill its ship with immigrants before jettisoning them off-planet. It’s here that she confronts Jeremiah and actually convinces him that the truly heroic thing to do is to risk their lives to save the immigrants from interstellar deportation.

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review

But there’s a wrinkle in that plan, and her name is Kara Danvers. Convinced that she can write an impassioned CatCo cover story about Cadmus’ alien raids with just Supergirl as her source, she is stymied by her boss Snapper Carr, who is holding her to a higher standard of journalistic ethics—starting with at least two verified sources per story. With “way too much fake news out there,” he says, “I can’t risk it.” An attempt to set Snapper up for an exclusive with Supergirl backfires, as she is unwilling to say either on or off the record who had the alien registry list in the first place. Frankly, I was surprised that she didn’t share this information when the tape recorder turned off, as it would have extended the conflict to future episodes and really snarled Kara’s double lives. Imagine CatCo running an exposé on the DEO!

Thanks to Supergirl withholding information, Snapper kills Kara’s story. Enter Mon-El, who really should not be trusted to understand the intricacies of journalism and other print standards, who suggests that Kara go all citizen journalist and “blog the story” so that it gets out regardless. Wanting to help save more immigrants from being picked up, she does.

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review

And that one blog post is enough to panic Cadmus and force Lillian to launch the ship despite it not being full. So despite convincing Jeremiah to join her side, Alex must let him out of her sight again, as she climbs aboard the ship to try and cancel the launch. With mere minutes before the ship will achieve lightspeed, Supergirl swoops in to forcibly detain the craft, using her own strength to keep the engines from engaging. This scene between Kara and Alex will no doubt be one of the most enduring visuals of the season: Alex’s encouragement, Kara’s silent screams of pain as she taps into every reserve of strength to hold this ship in place. For all that the episode demonstrated why doing things for one’s own family is selfish and blocks out the needs of others, it was the Danvers sisters’ bond that saved the day.

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review

Nevertheless, there are consequences to each woman’s actions: Alex almost wound up halfway across the galaxy, and Kara loses her job. She’s not even surprised but is still devastated; and to his credit, so is Snapper. But the facts remain: She disobeyed his orders by publishing on a competing platform a story that—most damningly—was unsourced:

Snapper: You weren’t right, you were lucky. Next time you might not be. One wrong statistic about the stock market, and suddenly we’re in a depression. One misattributed quote from a candidate, and you put a fascist in the White House. The rules are there for a reason—to make sure you get the story right. That’s not luck; that’s being a good reporter. And you know what the worst part is? I was rooting for you.

He’s completely right: Kara can’t use her alter ego as the only source, or else CatCo will send the public into a panic. A half-truth is a whole lie.

Other Thoughts

  • I am here for Lyra and Winn geeking out over Dune.
  • But really I’m here for Kara and Lena’s kombucha dates. And moments like this:

Supergirl 2x15 "Exodus" television review Kara/Lena Superluthor

  • “You’re the only superman we need” was a nice wink for Dean Cain’s sake.
  • And next episode (in two weeks) we get Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo as… Mon-El’s evil parents? You mean he’s the prince of Daxam? I never would’ve guessed…

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