‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 2 Episode 3: ‘Welcome To Earth’
Welcome to Supergirl Talk, our regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of The CW’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the super smiling title role. Your traveling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and newcomer, Katie Schenkel.
This week, the president is in town, and someone with heat vision wants her dead! But who? And, more importantly, why? “Welcome to Earth” was directed by Rachel Talalay from a script by Jessica Queller and Derek Simon.
Chris: Well, Katie, it’s our first Superman-free episode of the second season, but there’s still a lot to unpack, and we have a number of new additions to make up for it as Kara meets the president, who happens to be played by former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter! What’d you think of this week’s installment?
Katie: As you said, it was the first CW episode without Superman in it, and even with the iconic Ms. Carter making an appearance, “Welcome to Earth” felt like the first real “normal” episode of the show on its new channel. You could kind of feel it getting comfortable in its element, which meant some not-so-subtle moral lessons learned by our main characters, and also some really lovely moments.
The biggest focus in the episode was anti-alien sentiment and Kara’s wavering position on the matter. Last season the show kept trying to make weird connections between Kara being visible as a superpowered alien and LGBT+ phrasing (“coming out” being a weird choice of words that kept popping up), so pivoting from that to aliens as refugees and immigrants is a way better choice. More than that, it both makes sense for J’onn’s story (and Kara’s, and soon to be that other character who got introduced right at the end of the episode that I’m sure we’ll get to), and is extremely relevant to current political discourse.
That being said, when the show drops its subtlety it's really unsubtle, and you could see that here, for better or worse. What did you think?
Chris: Honestly, even though some of their sentiments were really blatant, at times I also felt like they weren’t sure what point they were trying to make. Even though I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and think their hearts were in the right place, as I was watching I was already thinking, “I don’t think this is going to go over like they think it will.” And sure enough, after the episode, an LGBT friend messaged me to say that the episode was definitely “uncomfortable.”
Katie: It’s tough because, in terms of aliens as refugees (which isn’t even a metaphor here --- the show specifically calls aliens refugees by name), this is a show where more of the aliens are played by white actors, and most of the real life refugees coming to the US in real life who are dealing with prejudice are not white. Yes, I am so grateful that M’gann was cast with a woman of color, but this is still a show with a lot of white characters. Maybe that needs to change? That’s not really a question; they need to be better about this, especially when they’re setting up this storyline as a main element of the season.
There’s also the part in the middle where Kara is like, “Maybe it is okay to judge people by where they come from,” and I get that she changed her mind by the end, but man that was an awkward 20 minutes or so.
Chris: Has there ever been a less obviously telegraphed “lesson” than, “I bet Kara is going to learn not to judge people based on where they’re from”?
Katie: This is probably the show at its most obvious. And look, I am lenient on the show about its lack of subtlety most weeks because it’s a superhero comic book show and one that tilts heavily towards the lesson of the week element of classic superhero comics. Even I was going, “Okay Supergirl, we get it.” We were getting into X-Men levels of not-a-subtle-metaphor-for-marginalized-people dialogue here, including a villain bringing up the threat of unethical registration.
Chris: On the one hand you want to commend the show for trying to say something. But at the same time, this is all pretty serious stuff, so it makes you wonder if a superhero show is the best place to try to navigate some of these issues. Especially when your message can get so muddled or taken in a lot of different ways by different people.
Katie: I’m of the viewpoint that superhero stories can be a great setting for addressing serious social issues. When it comes to people seen both in narrative and by the audience as heroic, addressing their perception of bigotry and ethics is not only fair game, but necessary in creating noble characters who do more than punch E-for-Evil foes.
But as you said, the message can get muddled if not written well --- we see this happen in the other CW superhero shows, and in superhero comics in general --- and the writers need to be careful about that.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I’m not saying you can’t say something really powerful and meaningful with superhero stories, you just better know what you’re doing if you’re going to try to bring something that serious into a world with capes and laser eyes.
Katie: For my money, the episode wasn’t the worst I’ve seen as far as muddling the point, but could it have been better? Absolutely. But there is something to the show being so blatant with what it's trying to say (not shying away from the episode being decidedly about helping refugees), even if the lesson at the end felt very Social Issues 101. If we’re lucky, maybe setting this up early in the season means we’ll see them exploring them with more nuance later.
Chris: One can hope. We’ve talked all about why the president was there this week, but what did you think of Lynda Carter’s performance?
Katie: She had a smaller role than I expected, but it was certainly one of those characters where Kara’s reaction to her was just as important to my enjoyment of the scenes as her performance itself was. Because seeing Supergirl fangirl out to meeting the President was so freaking adorable.
Chris: Yeah, I kind of expected her to have a little more to do, but after that creepy tease at the end, I have a strong feeling we’ll be seeing more of her.
Katie: That wink of a joke at the end felt like just enough of a reference without being too much. But that very last moment of her appearance in the episode totally changed how I saw her whole performance … it’s so ambiguous how much of the actual President we got to see in this episode! With so many questions, she’s sure to come back this season, but I hope that wasn’t her playing a game throughout the episode. Supergirl's President seems like such a cool lady, and I don’t want to think of her pretending this whole time.
Besides Madam President, this episode introduced Maggie Sawyer. What did you think of her first appearance?
Chris: I’m a big fan of the character from the comics and Superman: The Animated Series, so I enjoyed seeing her show up here, even if everything from her introduction to her last scene in the episode was all just as obvious a setup for what they’re planning to do with her as Kara being wildly racist against Daxamites for a few minutes. Subtlety and nuance just weren’t on the menu this week.
Katie: So not to beat around the bush, they’re clearly setting up Maggie and Alex. Even without hints from the showrunners, I think we would have seen the chemistry between Maggie and Alex in this episode, but the showrunners did say that a main cast member was going to come out as LGBT+, and all signs are pointing to Alex. Because as you said, ‘twas not subtle.
And in this case, I’m honestly okay with not subtle. If there’s one element of the show I don’t mind being "bright lights flashing" overt, it’s any and all queer representation. But yeah, I would be shocked if the queer character the interviews alluded to coming out wasn’t Alex Danvers.
I did like how they’re framing Maggie as a pro-alien human, particularly someone outside of the DEO. It’s an interesting role for her to take in the season, if the anti-alien sentiments is a theme they’re going to stick with for a while.
Chris: Yeah, I’ll be interested to see where they go with all of those threads.
Speaking of aliens, we’ve hinted at him numerous times, but this week we also got introduced to Mon-El! Also known as Lar Gand, Valor, and M’Onel to comic fans. I have an affinity for this character as well, but was it odd to you how this version was so unfazed by being on a new planet and having superpowers and looking like a mall fashion model?
Katie: So I have no experience with the character before this, which means I’ll be relying on you for context in terms of his characterization. As far as a no-prize answer to your question, I’m guessing he was taught in school how his people's bodies are affected by different kinds of suns? And I’m guessing he already looked like a mall fashion model before this, but that’s just a shot in the dark from me. I’m honestly more surprised there wasn’t a bigger reaction to learning his planet is more or less a wasteland, although I guess we could chalk that up to shock.
What did you think of his back-and-forth with Kara? I feel like I’m usually way too forgiving of TV shows setting up love interests (not that it’s been 100% confirmed that’s where they’re going, but he’s a good looking guy around Kara’s age who isn’t her cousin, so the chances are high) but I could see some interesting chemistry between their back and forth, even when they were openly snide with each other.
Chris: Honestly, I hope that’s not where they’re going with it, if only because it seems so obvious. But, you know, if that’s where they go with it that’s fine too. I guess my main issue with him was how he was busy trying to banter and be quippy about Romulan* ale when he’s been wrongfully imprisoned on an alien planet for something he not only didn’t do, but doesn’t even understand.
As to how this version stacks up against the comic version(s), at this point I’ll give them a “Wait & See” pass.
Katie: Yeah, his scenes felt a bit like an afterthought compared to everything else in the episode. Maybe the writers don’t even know where they want to go with him, which also makes me think "wait and see" is probably the best strategy as viewers.
Since you said it, I too would like to see Mon-El and Kara be friends instead of the more obvious love interests. Frankly, we haven’t seen Kara be friends with no romantic feelings on either side with any guys her age yet, so at the very least it would be something new for the show.
Speaking of guy friends, they did something with Jimmy this episode. And while I’m willing to see where they go with his role running CatCo, it sure would have been nice for Kara’s “Cat chose you because she believes in you” advice to actually come from Cat in person before she left.
Chris: Yeah, I agree, but also, you look at those last two episodes, and it’s like, “Where on Earth would that have fit?” This smacks to me of “give Jimmy something to do until we do that other big thing we’re planning to do with him.” (I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about, but just in case you don’t want any spoilers, I’ll leave it vague for now.)
Katie: I’m also still on the fence about Snapper. On one hand, him telling her to rewrite the piece to not be an op-ed but just telling the facts was I believe correct (I was an English major, not a Journalism major). However, if you listened to the pieces he was handing out to the different writers, he was getting to J. Jonah Jameson levels of bias in terms of how the topics were framed to be anti the thing our protagonist is for. But I guess this ties back to Jimmy pushing back on Snapper, and it all worked out in the end, etc etc.
I also noticed that Snapper didn’t say anything negative about Kara’s actual writing, and you know if he had something to say he would have, so that’s a step forward for our heroine’s new day job, I suppose.
Chris: Instead of chalking that up to lazy writing on the show’s part, I’m going to be nice and explain that as him being the “do as I say, not as I do” or “I can do that kind of thing, but you can’t yet” kind of boss. Everything involving him is kind of eyeroll-inducing so far, but that was how Cat started out as well, so I think the show has earned a little bit of faith from me when it comes to mean bosses.
We also had a new villain this week with the fun super-power of “fire that doesn’t actually burn anything.” I have next to nothing to say about her, because all I want to do is talk about how excited I was to see Miss Martian show up at the end. I was watching the show with a few people and literally had a hands-in-the-air, OMG moment.
Katie: Yes, let’s just say that the bad guy (lady) of the week sure did go Brotherhood of Evil Mutants all over the place and that’s that. Now to Miss Martian!
I actually saw the clip CW put out a few days ago of J’onn walking into the bar, but it ended with him demanding to know who she was. So when she turned around and did the thing, I still flipped the heck out. But I also had a moment of “... oohh crap,” because of the specific form she decided to take. Because anyone who knows her backstory (at least in Young Justice, which is my reference point for the character, and I’m guessing is the same in the comics), M’gann M’orzz, last daughter of Mars, is not necessarily telling the whole story. This has the potential to be tense as hell storytelling when that gets revealed. Man, David Harewood is going to act the hell out of that scene.
Chris: Dang, we’re just full of cryptic clues this week. If that’s the version they’re planning on playing with in this show, it would certainly tie back nicely with some of the other themes they hinted at this episode.
As a final interesting little bit of comic book trivia, did you know that this episode was directed by Rachel Talalay who also directed Tank Girl?
Katie: I did not! I've only seen bits and pieces of that movie, so looking back I'm not sure I can recognize Talalay’s mark on the episode, but I'm happy they're getting yet another female director on the show, and hopefully that trend continues.
Chris: And while we’re dealing with random trivia, it’s worth noting that, according to IMDB, she’s also the only woman to ever direct a movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and the first American to direct an episode of Doctor Who. So, I hope we’ve filled your Trivial Pursuit quota for the week.
Let us know what you thought of this week’s episode in the comments, and be here next week when Katie gets ridiculously excited about the debut of Roulette!
* --- I know he didn’t say Romulan. Please don’t @ me about this.