Supergirl: 203 “Welcome to Earth” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
Well, I fully thought that after two episodes, Supergirl would have finished re-establishing itself for the second season, but I was wrong. This week’s fare, Welcome to Earth, is the third one in a row to do some of that work, including introducing characters and concepts that look to be foundational for the year. This time around one of the major introductions is Maggie Sawyer, the police officer who is smarter and savvier about aliens then anyone else in the show, and whose presence helps make sure that we haven’t missed the real- world implications of the current storyline about alien rights.
I’m not enamored with the character and in general I found this episode squandered a lot of the goodwill that Supergirl had built up over the season so far. A big problem is this story about “alien rights”, which so far seems silly. The Department of Extra-Normal Operations is apparently really bad at its job, as it turns out that they are unaware that earth, and National City in particular, is jam-packed with aliens. Not just convicts from the Kryptonian prison from season one, but just lots and lots of random aliens. In this episode alone, we are introduced to three major new alien characters (one in disguise), and we also finally spend time with the figure in the capsule from the last season finale. Plus there’s a whole bunch of minor alien characters populating a local bar, somewhat reminiscent of something you’d see in a Men in Black movie. It doesn’t whet my appetite for what is obviously the season’s big story, and quenches my enthusiasm instead.
In the midst of this, Kara herself is annoying and immature. Her big “character arc” for the episode is that she not be so quick to judge, which, let’s face it, is not particularly new ground for anyone to cover, and comes across as more adolescent than I think the character should be. She demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and a complete inability to see past her obvious prejudices. Her fan-ish swooning over the president starts off fun but eventually just heightens the feeling that Kara has devolved somehow into someone who isn’t quite ready for either of her jobs. And her inability to recognize her bias in journalism makes it hard to disagree with Snapper Carr’s assessment that she’s unsuitable for the job. Now, of course we want to our heroes to be flawed, but Supergirl has been on our screens for over a year now and the character deserves more nuanced treatment than this.
It doesn’t help that Kara is sidelined in much of the episode’s main plot in favor of developing Alex’s connection with Maggie Sawyer and proving again how awesome she is as an agent. Seriously, this is twice in a row that the show has spent a lot of time making sure that we see that Alex is tough. Kara, meanwhile, gets to spend her time floating around in the background of a terrible subplot about Jimmy Olsen trying to be a boss, being put through the paces of her dumb “But I’m a reporter!” storyline (seriously, how absurd is it that she thought she’d be allowed to interview the President of the United States?), and developing a weird and completely unmotivated friendship with Lena Luthor–it seems the two are hanging out simply because Lena has taken an inexplicable shine to her. If we’re going to make Lena a character let’s work a little harder at integrating her into things, I’d suggest.
Supergirl does get into the action, though, and there is one impressive image of her saving the President from a fiery attack. Unfortunately it is marred by the fact that she seems blithely unconcerned with all the secret service against who are being burnt to a crisp in front of her . And it also doesn’t help that even though there’s been lots of great super-power images in the last few weeks, the CGI for the fire looks pretty terrible. This is forgivable when the fire is just a brief sequence of Supergirl blowing out flames in a burning building (although even more daughter commented on their poor quality last week), but Welcome to Earth is chock full of fiery attacks from its main antagonist. Note to the show: don’t fill your episode with fire effects when they don’t look very good.
If there is something good in the episode, it’s the (proper) introduction of Chris Wood as Mon-El, even if I am disappointed that that was his name, rather than “Lar Gand” (his real name in the comics, “Mon-El” was a name he received from Superboy because he thought he was Clark’s brother, and had landed on earth on a Monday. I can understand that they didn’t go with that exact idea, but I think it’s also odd that Supergirl doesn’t have a bigger reaction to hearing that he has the same family name that she does!) He’s got good screen presence and interacts well with Kara. The scene toward the end where she has finally come to her senses and sits down to talk about their shared tragedy is one of the best ones in the episode. I’m looking forward to that story continuing next week, trusting that they’re going to make sense of why he arrived in a Kryptonian pod. I also hope that they find an interesting direction to take him as the show goes along, because right now I have no idea what that will be.
It was also sort of poignant to see J’Onn J’Onzz go to hang out in the alien-friendly bar, adopting his true guise and attempting to see if he could really feel like he fits in there. With the discovery of someone else from his home world, I’m looking forward to a lot more of David Harewood next week, as he is always one of the series’ strong points.
An interesting cast note about the episode is of course the appearance by Lynda Carter as the President. She is obviously best known for playing Wonder Woman back in the 1970’s, and of course it’s sort of thrilling to see her, kind of like when Dean Cain or Helen Slater show up, but even bigger. Her performance isn’t anything special, and the writing shows the same immaturity that we’ve seen elsewhere with such silly things like the president signing a bill during an outdoor press conference in a random city, but still I’m looking forward to her return, given the odd hints about her true nature that we had at the end of the episode.
(Hmm, maybe that’s part of the story! Maybe the President wanted to be attacked by the fiery alien, so that Supergirl could rescue her and become closely linked to her cause and administration. Maybe she would have pursued Superman but he’s known for distancing himself from the government. Could the show really be that clever? Hmmm…)
Anyway, Welcome to Earth does have some good stuff and it retains the series’ overall sense of optimistic fun, but it’s a fairly flawed episode. Some of those flaws are the sorts of things we always see in this show, but there are less of the stronger elements that normally help to balance that out.