Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Supergirl 2x11 Review: "The Martian Chronicles" (Life on Mars?) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"The Martian Chronicles"
Original Airdate: February 6, 2017

This week on Supergirl: White Martians have come to Earth, and they’re very unfriendly! Like, downright rude, I would say. Also, it’s Kara’s Earth birthday (Earth-day?) and she’s feeling a bit forgotten by Alex. J’onn J’onzz confesses... romantic feelings (?) to M’Gann M’orzz, but it’s very poorly timed, and James is Sir Not Appearing in This Episode. Also, I got to slip some David Bowie references into two Supergirl reviews in row, so I’m rather pleased.


It’s the anniversary of when Kara fell to Earth, and she wants to celebrate it in style: with line dancing! Yeah, I’m not so sure that Kara’s version of celebration has quite gelled with our Earth version of celebration, but hey. I bet she’d be aces at line dancing. You line dance to your heart’s content, my superpowered sunbeam.

Unfortunately, Kara’s elaborate birthday plans have been interrupted by Alex’s blossoming romance, as Maggie is taking her to see the Barenaked Ladies in concert (well, I mean, they are the most celebrated Canadian alt-rock band of the mid-90s) and can’t participate in any line dancing. While Kara accepts this from her sister and encourages her to have fun at the concert, it’s very clear that she’s not entirely okay with it.

Her Earth Birthday is a real bummer, actually. Not only does she get rejected by her sister, but she also has to do some rejecting of Mon-El, since he admitted to having feelings for her last episode. By all accounts, hearing Kara say that her problem with Mon-El is "not your job, it's the way you are," makes me so giddy that it might as well be Supergirl’s late birthday gift to me, but it’s pretty awkward for Kara. Basically, things aren’t going well. And they get worse.


As we learned last week, White Martians figured out the M’gann M’orzz was alive on Earth and, since she left Mars under very dismal circumstances (i.e., she killed a lot of her fellow guards and set fire to everything) they are definitely not swinging by for a nice chat and a cup of coffee. We aren’t dealing with an “Invasion!”-level invasion or anything, but the White Martians who do show up cause some The Thing-inspired trouble for Team Supergirl when they start stealing everyone’s faces and calling all the good guys stupid. Which — hey, White Martians, calling the good guys stupid is my job!

First, though, is the build-up: M’gann confronts J’onn about his protectiveness, since J’onn has been following her around and shape-shifting into various disguises while waiting for the White Martians to appear. When that actually happens, I’m more than a little surprised by the White Martian’s strength. Not only does Armek the White Martian (and… M’gann’s ex? What?) hold his own against both J’onn and M’gann, but even Supergirl can’t completely defeat him when an alleyway confrontation happens. Not sure if this is plot-convenience strength or if Armek is just a particularly tough brand of White Martian.

It’s not all brute strength, though. One of the key aspects of Martians — both Green and White — is that they’re shape-shifters, even able to swipe a target’s thoughts along with their physical appearance. Does that mean that J’onn was full of James-focused angst back when he turned into early-season one Kara? How troubling that must have been for him. But anyway, after J’onn successfully convinces M’gann that she needs the DEO’s help and protection, he takes her back to headquarters... only for a second M’gann to show up after them, seeking the DEO’s help and protection. Oops! Shapeshifting hijinks!

The episode turns into one of those “spy among us” stories, right down to the panicky, paranoid person who messes stuff up and makes everyone shout at each other. Armek reveals himself to be the first M’gann and, once again, manages to fight off the present DEO agents, J’onn, M’gann, and Supergirl. How, though? Like, just... how? Logically, M’gann should be about as strong as him. Any lack of experience she might have should be countered by J’onn helping out, and any of their combined weaknesses shouldn’t matter because freaking Supergirl is there. How does Armek keep winning?

In the chaos of the fight, the team loses track of who the White Martian is pretending to be. J’onn orders the DEO on lockdown (we’re doing a bottle episode!) and has to use fire — a weakness for all Martians — to reveal him. Surprise! It’s Winn! Secondary surprise: I actually kind of like Evil Winn? Can Winn become evil, please? And Mon-El, too. They can be evil together. It’d certainly make the both of them more interesting.

Armek-Winn escapes (of course) and an alarm goes off, alerting everyone in the DEO that the whole place is scheduled to explode, taking ten blocks’ worth of the city with it. As previously mentioned, White Martians swipe thoughts and memories along with faces, so Armek used Winn’s genius to make the countdown impossible to stop without the real Winn. So, the search for the real, less fun Winn takes up the bulk of the plot and everyone splits up to hunt him down, knowing that Armek is still lurking around.

But not just Armek! A second, previously unknown Martian has taken the shape of Alex, just in time for her to have a little heart-to-heart with Kara about Kara’s fear of abandonment. That touches on something interesting that I noticed about this episode, actually, which is the running bit where two characters have a heart-to-heart and one of them turns out to be a disguised White Martian. First it’s with J’onn, who thinks he’s imploring M’gann M’orzz to trust him and the DEO and let them help her, and then it’s with Kara, when she admits she’s been feeling like Alex has drifted away from her ever since the relationship with Maggie started. I’m not sure if it was trying for something deeper or I’m reading too much into it, but the idea that these very — for lack of a better term — “human” moments between characters held an undercurrent of threat was interestingly unsettling. They were also very well done, since I’ve grown so used to those pauses in comic book action where two characters have a discussion about their feelings that I kept getting blindsided by the twist.

Another fight against a White Martian breaks out and our heroes seem to have the upper hand this time around, mostly thanks to Alex getting to use that alien gun she swiped from that planet Kara and Mon-El got stuck on a couple episodes ago. Go, Alex!


It’s not a happy ending for everyone on the side of good, however. Poor J’onn J’onzz put his heart on the line earlier on in the episode when he told M’gann that she’d become incredibly important to him — in another very good scene with J’onn, which just adds evidence to my argument that this show needs more J’onn J’onzz — and he couldn’t imagine life on Earth without her, only to have M’gann leave the planet at the end of the whole thing. Despite the fact that I felt like the romantic element (if that’s what it was?) came out of nowhere, I still couldn’t help being very disappointed by the departure of M’gann.

At least M’gann is going back to Mars for a very good reason: she wants to inspire her kind to be good and a lot less... uh... genocide-y? Which is an excellent plan. And anyway, it might not be forever. Characters come and go on this show, after all.

And as a prime example of that: Lena Luthor is back next week, everybody! Hurray!

Other Things:
  • Here’s a fun game: spot the Community references in this review.
  • Uuuuuuugh, why did Alex convince Kara that she’s interested in Mon-El? I was so impressed by the writers for having Kara reject him outright, and then they went and ruined it.
  • J’onn: “How long until you disable the reactor?” Computer: “Core breach in four minutes.” Winn: “About four minutes?” J'onn: “Good answer.” Probably the best bit of dialogue in the episode. The absolute best bit in the episode, however, was Kara’s cupcake grabby-hands.

1 comment:

  1. First, solid recap of the show. I have been in and out watching the show, and some of your points about what is wrong about the episode are the reasons I stop watching.

    Other Things"

    Two Community references (BNL reference and bottle episode) made me start looking for my pen...I have been losing a lot of pens lately.

    Yes. Uuuuuuugh. Let it go show. Hearts to hearts do not have to be about unfulfilled romance every time.

    That was the best line and more J'onn J'onn. Agreed.