Friday, 29 January 2016

Review - Supergirl: 1x11 - "Strange Visitor from Another Planet"

Episode 1x11 - "Strange Visitor from Another Planet"


As a result of using his superpowers, Hank Henshaw (aka Martian Manhunter) has attracted a dangerous creature from his home planet of Mars – one that killed his family and his people. When the creature kidnaps a prominent anti-alien senator, can Supergirl and Hank work together to defeat this White Martian? 


After the surprise reveal in “Human for a Day” that Hank Henshaw was actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise, the character has become one of the most intriguing parts of Supergirl series, so it was great to see the series give him an episode that showcased his tragic backstory and explaining why he escaped from Mars. While this was very much J’onn’s episode, Kara was not side-lined at all and participated in a surprisingly emotional storyline that revolved around Cat Grant and her estranged son. In fact, with the flashbacks to the massacre of the Green Martians and Cat Grant opening up about leaving her son at a young age, this episode certainly put viewers through the emotional wringer and gave the show’s veteran supporting actors, David Harewood and Calista Flockhart, a chance to flex their acting muscles.

I really enjoyed the way that the show’s writers managed to incorporate J’onn’s backstory organically into the series without hijacking the show from Kara. This is still firmly a Supergirl series, but with the added benefit of having a secondary DC Comics super-hero on the reserves bench. The brief flashbacks to the White Martian’s invasion of Mars were really effective and once again displayed this series’ fantastic CGI and cinema-quality special effects. Sure, there were some budgetary limitations at times – for example, they seemed keen to keep the White Martian in its human form even after the fa├žade have been blown, but the series still stands out compared to others in the same genre. Once again, there were some gaps in the series’ internal logic – it hasn’t been fully explained why J’onn isn't able to use his powers. It was implied that continued usage would make him unable to return to Hank Henshaw’s form, but it hasn't been fully explored. Obviously, using his mind-wipe powers has severe consequences for the victim, but I’m not sure why he can’t abuse his other skills, aside from the fact the writers want to keep him as an infrequent supporting character.

I’ve really enjoyed the way the series dealt with the Cat Grant / Adam Foster storyline, showcasing a surprising amount of depth and delicacy around the storyline of a mother abandoning her child at a young age. Thanks to Calista Flockhart’s strong acting skills, it was easy to believe the relationship between her and her lost son, and the reunion felt genuinely uncomfortable. It was also good to see someone finally acknowledge the fact she calls Kara “Keira”, although it’s no less annoying – I guess the writers are running with this joke so that it actually means something when Cat finally starts using her real name. Rather than appearing for one episode, it seems that Adam Foster will act as another suitor for Supergirl’s affections, complicating not only her awkward love triangle with James and Winn, but also shaking up her relationship with Cat Grant, which had begun to settle down into near-mutual respect. I appreciate the decision to shake up the relationship status quo, and I think introducing another love interest is the best way to do so. I look forward to seeing how both James and Winn react to a third man on the scene.

This was a very enjoyable episode of Supergirl, shifting the perspective slightly away from its titular character to build up its supporting cast, much like it had done with Winn and Alex in previous installments. While the series has sometimes felt inauthentic with its ‘emotional drama’ moments, it has certainly undergone an upturn in recent episodes with Kara’s rage and heartache over her mother’s apparent betrayal and Winn’s complicated relationship with his father. Here, we see Hank and Cat undergo a similar examination under the microscope, which left their characters much stronger than before. At the moment, the only weak links in the chain are James Olsen and Lucy Lane, who have the sexual chemistry of a toilet brush and the acting skills of a hermit crab. Hopefully, the pair will be given some meatier storylines to develop their characters, but at the moment they feel like badly-written and badly-utilised plot devices, rather than characters integral to the series’ mythology.

Score - 9.1 out of 10

Next Episode - "Bizarro"
Kara must deal with a twisted version of Supergirl, while venturing into a possible romance.

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