White Martians are the worst! You’d think after perpetrating a planet-wide holocaust they’d just take the win. Let a few things go. Spoilers: They won’t.
There is quite a bit of mood whiplash in tonight’s episode. Somehow Cat’s inability to connect with her son pales in comparison to Hank’s tragic back-story reveal. Generally speaking Supergirl doesn’t suffer from unnecessary plot arcs. Usually, the plots are pretty balanced, or B plots are left out completely when the A plot proves too sweeping. Maybe that would have been a better choice tonight.
It’s not that I don’t care about Cat’s reunion with long lost son Adam. I actually do, but in a lot of ways it doesn’t compliment the A plot. Yes, there are aspects to facing your past in both, but between Adam’s flirting and griping, Cat’s whining, and the Mary Sue tendencies it brings out in Kara, it’s more burden than genuine character development. Mostly it seems like a crow bared attempt at giving Kara a personal plot in an episode that probably should have been devoted solely to Hank’s journey; a journey too big to be shared with a small family drama. Frankly, Adam and Cat’s reunion probably could have been built up enough to be the main plot of its own episode. But sometimes opportunities do get wasted, and hindsight is 20/20—insert further clichés here—so let’s just leave it, because there is a lot of good in tonight’s episode too.
The idea of a politician crying out for the building of superstructures too keep “aliens” out of the United States, doesn’t even live in the land of allegory anymore. With an election coming up, it seems every television show has a political opinion in one form or another. It just so happens that Supergirl is uniquely qualified to address the issue of “alien” immigrants.
Senator Miranda Crane isn’t an exaggeration. She’s horrifyingly real, so it’s a little uncomfortable to see how blasé everyone is about her bigotry. Even more uncomfortable when you consider how normal it all seems. Even Hank and Kara aren’t overly concerned until the aforementioned White Martian shows up.
It’s a stark parallel to how it must feel for many immigrants today. Fighting to be seen as worthy to the society you’re attempting to become a part of is a lot more difficult when people who look like you, come from your home, or share your culture attempt to strike fear into that same society. It’s an unenviable position to be sure. It’s also a pretty big political statement for a little action show about Superman’s cousin, but honestly, I expect no less from this writing team. Call it naive if you want to, but Supergirl carries with it a refreshing amount of hope. Hope that good will ultimately triumph, of course, but also hope that good can triumph without adopting evil’s methods.
It’s a pretty big ask, so in all fairness, Hank’s struggle tonight is more than understandable. Upon the revelation that he lost not only his culture and people, but more personally, his wife and daughters to the violence that the White Martians perpetrated, it’s easy to see how he could fall to despair, cynicism, and hopelessness. Kara’s speech about grief leaving a hole in your heart isn’t just well written, it’s amazingly true. And to see someone with as much honor as Hank risk falling in makes for an amazing plot. Because, while there is no shame in surviving, there must be more to existence than just living on. To be alive means standing for something, and if that something is just protecting those you love, that’s more than enough. If you can protect them without destroying parts of yourself, all the better.
It’s funny, then, that the necessity for Kara to have a personal plot line actually resolves itself pretty well tonight without any help from Cat, or Winn, or James Olsen. While it would never be in Hank’s nature to dwell, just a few minutes of watching him acknowledge his surrogate daughters, Kara and Alex, is worth more than 1,000 romance plots. We’re watching three characters heal, forming their own family out of the rubble of their broken ones. It’s sweet and heartfelt and completely lacking in cynicism or mistrust. So maybe we should focus more on that—that hope, that feeling—than the new cute love interest or the hateful words of a few very vocal bigots.
Though we probably shouldn’t ignore the Supergirl clone that’s flying around, because seriously: What the — ?
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.