Supergirl’s episode 11 (“Strange Visitor From Another Planet”) is all about the past rearing its ugly head. In the most immediate past, we discover that Winn is still being a jerk to Kara, who attempts to make small talk with him, and he acts like she’d tripped him and kicked his grandma. Mature.
But the focus is on Senator Miranda Crane (Tawny Cypress), a friend of General Lane (shocker). She outspokenly hates aliens in a way that unfortunately reflects how many politicians seem to feel about anyone who might be labeled different. Senator Crane is in town for an anti-alien rally, which Jimmy volunteers (read: lobbies quite hard) to attend on CatCo’s behalf.
Kara questions why Cat would give Small Minded With a Microphone the time of day, which she answers in a way that makes me side-eye real life: “Also, the more they talk, the more they sabotage themselves. It’s a magical implosion. …” Essentially, Cat’s looking to give the Senator enough rope and the opportunity to hang herself, because if there’s one thing rabidly opinionated crazy people do, it’s talk.
But there’s a surprise waiting for Cat in her office: her estranged son, Adam (Blake Jenner). It seems that Cat had been struggling to write him for a while, and Kara took it upon herself to finish one of her letters and send it off. Adam (who flirted with Kara earlier, when she was out getting Cat’s coffee) and Cat makes plans for dinner that night.
The next scene, between Cat and Kara, is my favorite. Essentially, this is where we see Cat freak out and Kara hold her ground about what she did. Her feverish earnestness is enough to win me over—and Ms. Grant. In the vernacular of the Fug Girls, Kara is the best Get-a-Grip friend. You know, the one who butts in and tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Kara, with her openness, has managed to soften Cat’s heart.
Unfortunately, the rally is an utter disaster: an alien shows up, attacks the senator, and Hank blames himself. Somehow, Jimmy’s Superman batsignal watch is suddenly engineered to alert Kara to show up, which…I still think the watch angle is weird. In any case, the monster who attacks the rally and the Senator is a White Martian. Hank freezes, because that’s the race that not only slaughtered his people, but put them in internment camps. (We’ll get to that a bit later. I have…concerns.) The psychic link between their races alerted the White Martian to Hank’s presence. They take the Senator back to the DEO for safekeeping, but she’s about as grateful as you’d expect a bigot to be. Sweet, kind Kara even quips: “I should’ve let it eat her.”
As a slight aside, there’s always a serious attitude shift when Kara’s in the super suit. Not only does she hold herself different, but she also more self-assured, more stern, more fierce. It reminds me a bit of Shakespeare where, through a disguise, a character is often most able to be themselves. Kara assures Hank that she’ll bring the White Martian in.
Later at CatCo, Kara tries to advise Cat on her dinner with her son, who insists she can totally handle it: “I’ve handled Putin, Pope Francis, and Taylor Swift. I’ll take it from here.” The dinner goes very poorly, because Cat may be an excellent journalist, but she’s has practically no people skills and her walls are made of brick and Teflon. Adam leaves in a muted huff, more full of disappointment than anything else. Not going to lie: I cracked up at the fact that Maneater was playing in the background. *slow clap*
Cat ends up blaming Kara for the dinner going badly. However, Kara, along with the audience, can read Grant well enough to realize there’s no teeth behind her bark. Sitting on the balcony, with tears in her eyes and fear plain on her face, Cat Grant is every mother who’s ever screwed up, afraid there’s no way to fix what’s so painfully broken. Kara, who is always putting things back together for others (possibly, because those who can’t save themselves, save other people), swears she’ll make it right. And Kara does: she pleads with Adam to meet Cat one more time. He realizes that she Cyrano de Bergerac’d the letter, and agrees—but only if Kara goes too. Now she’s a get a Get-a-Grip friend and a buffer.
At the mediation, Kara gives Adam and Cat great advice: “Just say something to each other. Say something real, even if it terrifies you.” So often in life, people struggle to communicate, afraid they’ll say the wrong thing, because they’re scared. It is a radical act of courage to feel that fear and be vulnerable. That is exactly what Cat does: “I never got to put a picture that you’d drawn on the fridge. I never got to tell you stories. And I never got to teach you how not to be afraid of the world.” Without a doubt, Cat wouldn’t have been that honest, that raw without Kara helping her along. Luckily, Adam meets Cat halfway. The conversation they have doesn’t erase the past, but neither of them are trying to do that. There aren’t kittens and rainbows between them. There’s a willingness to try and to be honest and ugly about it, not pretty and shallow. I love how that scene was handled, because I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Back to the Senator. It turns out she’s the White Martian in disguise. She wreaks havoc at the DEO and escapes through the ceiling. But that’s just a vehicle for a heartwrenching scene in which Hank talks about the loss of his wife and daughters. He talks about the internment camps and the gas chambers. And, honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Yes, it’s an effective way to render an immediately recognizable horror (the Holocaust), but something about it felt a little squicky to me. Regardless, Hank’s survivor’s guilt is tremendously well done: “I escaped. I survived. To my great shame.” If that didn’t break your heart, check your pacemaker. Mad love for David Harewood, who is nothing short of stunning.
Alex and Hank go off, separately, in search of the missing Senator and the White Martian, respectively. But Henshaw’s Alien GPS is off, so Alex ends up getting kidnapped and used as bait for Hank, who managed to rescue the real Senator. Hank is determined to give himself up to save Alex, and Kara gives her best, “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder” speech. They meet in the desert for a final face off. Kara and Hank team up against the White Martian, which was cool…right up until Hank slaps Kryptonite cuffs on Kara, since he’s intent on killing his foe.
Two questions: 1) how did Kara not sense those cuffs until that moment, and 2) if you have to handcuff your friends, maaaaaybe you’re not doing the right thing, Henshaw. Kara passionately uses her own grief and history of loss to get through to Hank, who spares the White Martian and locks it up at the DEO.
A few things to wrap up: Senator Crane reversed her stance on aliens, crediting Supergirl as the impetus for the change (convenient, yes, but I like the idea of a politician who is open, who learns, and who is capable of changing her mind. Don’t you?). Winn deigns to speak to Kara at CatCo, who smiles and is polite in response. However, I just wanted to smack him. For me, he’s like fetch: please stop trying to make it happen. Adam adorably (adorkably) asks Kara out on a date, and it’s amusing to see a) Cat not object and, in her own way, support this endeavor, and b) how ridiculously flustered Kara can get. We’ve only ever seen her tongue-tied and school-girl-blushing over Jimmy.
For all that Kara’s been through in her life, it’s her softness that draws me to her. Yes, she can leap tall buildings and light things on fire with her eyes. She’s lost her planet and almost all her family. That’d be enough to send anyone to Arkham. But Kara has managed to retain her core self, her kindness, her ability to show her feelings. For someone who has a secret identity, she really doesn’t hide who she is.