‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1 Episode 11: ‘Strange Visitor From Another Planet’
Welcome back to Supergirl Guys, our regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of CBS’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and Flash recap veteran Dylan Todd.
This week we got a heavy dose of Martians, metaphors, and emotions! So many emotions this week. “Strange Visitor From Another Planet” was directed by Glen Winter and written by Michael Grassi and Caitlin Parrish.
Chris: Okay, so we got an awful lot to deal with this episode, but first and foremost, the absolute most important question I have to ask you is, was that guy holding the “SUPER FREAK” sign at the senator’s rally for or against Supergirl?
Dylan: It’s a toss up, really. But we can agree that Supergirl is a girl you can take home to mama, right?
Chris: Absolutely. Or, as this episode showed, she might bring you home to your own mama. There is no ceiling on her skills. So, opening thoughts, how’d you feel about this episode?
Dylan: Barring the episode where Kara lost her powers, I’d say this was the strongest episode of the season so far. We got a clear villain that got just enough time to develop, and also managed to be tied in with a character subplot (In this case J’onn J’onnz dealing with the loss of his family and people), as well as a secondary “emotional” plot regarding Kara reuniting Cat with her long-lost son, Haircut. (I’m sure he has a real name on the show, but this is his name now.) It did just enough without feeling overstuffed, I felt. What did you think?
Chris: His name on the show is Adam, but yeah, Haircut is fine by me going forward. Did you know Haircut is Kara’s husband in real life? That’s a real fact. They met on that Glee show.
Dylan: I had no idea. That explains their onscreen chemistry, because the minute he started hitting on Kara in the coffee shop, I was like, “Ah yeah, that’s gonna be Cat’s son and he’s totally into Kara.” Which means that both of Cat’s kids have a crush on Kara/Supergirl. Those Grant boys certainly have a type.
Chris: I assume this will lead to them both becoming supervillains to fight for her approval. I agree with you that this was a very strong episode. Nothing seemed unnecessary or like it was wasting our time while we could be focusing in on the more exciting or interesting aspects of the story, and both plots worked together really well towards the whole “family is important” theme.
Dylan: My one complaint is that, while it was cool to see J’onn face down a White Martian and confront his grief at losing his planet, I wish we’d have seen this sort of focus during the episodes when Kara faced the same thing. That two-parter the straddled the holiday break was just kind of an aimless mess, in my opinion. I keep feeling like Kara/Supergirl isn’t as interesting to the writers as the side characters are, hence a really strong episode where the focus is mostly on the Martian Manhunter. Am I wrong?
Chris: I totally get what you’re saying, but I think it’s more that the writers want to drag the Kara stuff out as long as possible and wanted to get this J’onn stuff done in one episode, so it seems more focused and less meandering, but it’s because they want all the stuff with Kara to take an entire season (or seasons) to get resolved instead of just burning through her big emotional plot points in an hour. I don’t think that always works in the show or in Kara’s favor, but I think it’s coming from a good place. I could be giving them too much credit, but I’m staying positive, because I really like this show and want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Dylan: Yeah, I’m probably projecting/metagaming here. What did you think of the Cat/Haircut plot? Did it work for you?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Without getting into a little more of my own personal history than I’m comfortable getting into in a TV show review column, that subplot resonated with me and I thought they handled it very well. Haircut was kind of a brat about it, but not too much so, and he’d probably earned that bit of brattiness.
Dylan: Yeah, he could have been a lot worse, and I felt like, you know, Cat is kind of terrible, so it’s kind of deserved?
Chris: Yeah, they didn’t sugar-coat either of them too much, keeping in mind the fact that everything worked out and we’re watching a network TV show.
Dylan: I still can’t believe how much I’ve come around on Cat Grant, either. She continues to be the best part of every episode, from both a comedy and a dramatic point of view. Her scenes with Kara were over-the-top while also ringing true.
Chris: Versatility! I don’t think I’d go as far as to say she’s the best part, but she’s certainly the show’s secret acting weapon. I’m also enjoying seeing that she and Kara’s relationship is subtly progressing as Kara becomes more bold in taking her own initiative and in standing up to Cat. Like, compare their back and forth this episode with one from the pilot and notice how much more spine (for lack of a better term) Kara has. I feel like this is the show showing instead of telling us that Cat’s “cruelty” is actually in the service of making Kara a stronger person.
Dylan: I still think walking back the “Cat knows Kara is Supergirl” thing was a mistake, because it would help explain why Cat Grant, one of the most influential people in media, lets her assistant talk back to her the way Kara does, but oh well. But yeah, their relationship finally makes sense after half a season. Oh! And they finally addressed the “Kah-ruh”/”Kee-rah” thing, too! I was starting to go crazy on that one.
Chris: I think Cat lets her get away with it because she’s smart enough to know deep down when Kara is right. Also because the script demands it, because this is not real life and the characters have to do what the writers make them, but I mean..
What about you, did you buy Cat and Haircut’s reconciliation?
Dylan: I bought it enough. I will say that them adding another character to the supporting cast is kind of hilarious at this point, as it seems like every episode somebody else says, “I’ve decided to stick around National City for a while!” But adding another angle to the Love Triangle that is the now-unavailable James and The Saddest Puppy That Is Winn, is a good call. Love Square. Like, it’s obvious James is still pretty into her, right? There was obvious tension in that “looking over the photos” scene, right?
Chris: For sure, but not too much so. Not enough to distract from the plot. This episode was good on reminding us that all these characters were still around without getting bogged down in too many subplots. We see Lucy, we see Winn, we see James, but none of that pulls focus.
Speaking of pulling focus, I want to applaud the show for having a Martian Manhunter heavy story without ever feeling like Supergirl was overshadowed. We’ve talked in the past about not wanting the show to feel too much like “Supergirl and her Amazing Friends”, and I think they did a great job of having their cake and eating it too. What’d you think? Am I being too kind?
Dylan: I think it skirted the line, but pulled it off at the end. Kara talking J’onn down from killing the White Martian was a nice touch that they needed her there for. They’re both survivors, and seeing how each of them processed their grief was cool. And her “Let them come” to the captured White Martian was perfect. I mean, it was still a very Martian Manhunter-centric episode, but I don’t feel like Supergirl got too overshadowed.
Chris: What’d you think of all the White Martian stuff and the Mars flashbacks? Pretty brutal, right?
Dylan: Yeah! I mean, it definitely got the point across, but yeesh, a little too bleak IMO. I just don’t know that a show about a cute lady who flies and smiles is the place to make me think about the Holocaust, but here we are. I also liked the goofiness of them cutting to the Fake Senator just as her eyes were glowing. Them Martians sure do like their glowing eyes!
Chris: I’ll give them credit for really going all in on it and clearly dropping some serious money on animating all that. I thought we were just going to get that flash of it we saw Hank/J’onn have in the beginning, but they really took it to the limit and laid it all out there. I don’t know if it was the right call, but they sure went with it.
Dylan: It was certainly a very effects-heavy episode, and though some of it was super-dodgy, it definitely felt big. I thought the White Martian fight in the DEO was pretty fun, if a bit dopey. I guess I just like “The Bad Guy Is Loose And A-Wrecking Everything” scenes because I thought the Despero scene like that was a lot of fun, too.
Chris: Haha, yeah, it’s pretty much the exact same scene now that you mention it. I know I said this the last time Supergirl and Martian Manhunter were flying around, but that fight scene with the two of them against the White Martian looked great. Well, I mean, what you could see of it when the camera wasn’t shaking or darting around.
I guess one of the drawbacks of the episode being so focused is it leaves us a few less talking points to bring up. Are we forgetting anything?
Dylan: I just wanted to say that, for me, the least believable part of this episode was when Senator She-Trump changed her immigration policy just because Supergirl saved her life. In this case, haters are literally gonna hate, regardless of if an outer space alien saved their life.
Chris: Yeah, the least believable thing on a show with flying cheerleaders and shape-shifting Martians was a reasonable politician. We’re living in the darkest timeline, buddy. I remember thinking, “If only a Mexican or a Muslim could save Trump’s life!” but I don’t think it’d work like that in real life.
I think the only other thing I wanted to mention was that new Adventures of Supergirl comic that’s based on the show debuted this week on Comixology and it was pretty good! So, if you’re a fan of the show and haven’t checked it out yet, it’s worth your $0.99.