Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E03 - 'Welcome to Earth'

With Project Cadmus being set up as the primary villains for the second season, and with their goal apparently being a concerted effort to turn the human race against aliens, it feels as though there is a very real need for Supergirl to take a step back, and to provide a bit of much needed context for this impending conflict. Up until this point, after all, the series simply hasn't done a very good job of establishing the fact that there actually is any sort of significant alient presence on Earth – let alone one that would justify this sort of attention.

Sure, there are Superman and Supergirl – but, they have each been accepted as well-meaning heroes, by the general public. There's also the Martain Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz – but, his emergence into the spot-light seems to have been relatively well-received, also. There were the Kryptonian villains of the previous season, of course – but, they have been dealt with. The many 'one-off' villains who have put in an appearance have also been dealt with – and, many of them weren't even of alien origin, anyway.

So, based on everything that has been shown, previously, it seems as though Project Cadmus is going to have an up-hill battle to fight, if they ever hope to convince the human race to accept their own brand of pro-human extremism. We just haven't seen enough evidence of aliens on Earth for Project Cadmus's mission to have any relevance.

It's probably for the best, then, that the season's third episode would be the one to finally explore these issues in a little more detail. With the 'Project Cadmus' story-line temporarily set aside, this episode is able to take the time to show the audience that there actually is a significant alien presence on Earth – and, that certain members of this community actually do pose a potential threat. We are introduced to the idea of an underground bar that caters exclusively to National City's surprisingly varied population of refugees from other worlds – and, the idea of alien terrorists who have reason to hate, and distrust, the human race. We also meet Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), a cop who is already intimately familiar with this underground community – and, who acts as a convenient entry point for Alex Danvers, as the two find themselves working together.

Sure, it might be fair to argue that all of this ground-work should have been laid before Project Cadmus became a factor – but, it's better late then never, I suppose.

President Oliver Marsdin (Lynda Carter) has recently arrived in National City, in order to sign an Alien Amnesty Act that would give any visitors from other worlds the opportunity to become American citizens. It is, clearly, a momentous occasion, and a source of excitement for Supergirl, in particular – but, naturally, it is not long until things begin to go awry. With the President's arrival resulting in an attack by an unseen figure whose powers seem similar to those of a Kryptonian, Alex soon finds herself working with Maggie Sawyer – as they try to determine the who might be responsible.

Kara, meanwhile, soon finds herself forced to confront her own prejudices. The mysterious alien (played by Chris Wood) who crash-landed in the final moments of the previous season is now awake, and on the loose – and, learning that he is not Kryptonian, after all, but rather from a planet called Daxam, Supergirl soon becomes convinced that he must be the one behind the attacks. Her reasoning (that Daxam and Krypton were once at war, and that Daxamites simply can't be trusted) is straight-forward enough – even if it is a little too narrow-minded for a true 'super-hero'. But, then, with Alex also being forced to question her pre-conceived notions throughout the episode, it is very clear that this is actually the entire point.

Thematically, and as a very necessary bit of 'world-building', there is actually quite a bit to like about this episode. It was, of course extremely unlikely that the audience was ever truly expected to believe that this new arrival (who we eventually learn is named Mon-El) was actually the one behind the attacks – but, the extra level of complexity that his presence adds, by forcing Kara to confront her own deeply held prejudices, proves to be very interesting. It also doesn't hurt that Chris Woods is able to quickly establish Mon-El as a developed, and well-rounded, individual with only minimal screen-time. Similarly, Alex and Maggie are quickly able to establish themselves as a genuinely effective team – and, with Maggie, herself, quickly proving to be another strong addition to the cast.

Unfortunately, the down-side of all of this is that the actual culprit, an alien terrorist with an impressive array of fire-based powers (played by Nadine Crocker), is not given the screen-time needed to make as strong an impression as she should have. Her own motives, which seem to amount to little more than a general distrust of humans in general, and the President's offer of amnesty in particular, remains disappointingly unexplored even by the end of the episode.

Also, I do have to admit that I'm just not all that interested in anything currently taking place at CatCo. It's great that James Olsen finally has a plot-line entirely to himself, as he finds himself caught up in something of a power struggle against Snapper Carr – but, so far I have seen very little to indicate that Snapper, himself, was actually a worthwhile addition to the cast. Also, Kara proving to be a truly terrible journalist, who needed to have the concept of 'unbiased reporting' explained to her, was a little frustrating (even if it did tie into the overall theme of the episode) – since it just seems to draw attention to the absurd ease with which she was given the position.

Still, the season's third episode is an entertaining one, overall. The decision to cast Lynda Carter as the President of the United States might be a rather overt case of 'stunt casting' (given her own previous history with the DC Universe) – but, she is still more than capable of giving a genuinely strong performance. More importantly, though, the broader scope that this episode is able to give the audience, with regard to the presence of aliens on Earth, does seem to raise the stakes somewhat, for when we eventually return to the 'Project Cadmus' plot-line. Hopefully, the rest of the season will be able to continue in this vein.

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