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Monday, January 9, 2017

Static Thoughts - 4 Questions About Supergirl S2B

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Supergirl season 1 was a fun but mixed bag of episodes that did a lot to set the tone of the series.  Its biggest job was planting the show’s flag on exactly what kind of adaptation of Supergirl it wanted to be.  I’ve been over this before, but Supergirl has had a ton of different iterations that the show could’ve chosen and it really didn’t go with any of them.  Instead, they opted for primarily a gender-swapped version of the Superman animated series, making the cornerstone adventures of the Superman mythos about Kara instead of her cousin.  

Now, season 2 has taken that starting point and turned in a knock-out series about the journey of the immigrant in America that could not be more prescient to our current political climate.  All of that is where the series comes from, but I want to talk about where it’s going, which leads me to my 4 questions about Supergirl Season 2B: Spoilers to Follow. 

This is going to take a little bit of explaining and is wrapped up in some major questions about the series soft reboot.  In case you weren’t aware, Supergirl underwent something of a reboot when it came to CW.  They didn’t restart any of the continuity, but the high cost of production led to them losing three major characters, but we’ll get to that later.  

Other significant changes to the show were Kara taking on the role of reporter, the DEO, the agency she works with, taking on a new HQ, and the group CADMUS becoming the new big bads of the season.  It was eventually revealed CADMUS was being run by Lex Luthor’s mother and that’s where things get bizarre. 

In season 1 it was established that CADMUS was actually a government department.  It’s not exactly spelled out how they came to be, but we know they work for the US government and are involved in a lot of shady operations in alien imprisonment and dissection.  This was a significant plot point when Martian Manhunter was forced to reveal himself, and they were going to send him to CADMUS for study.  So the question, now, is how did Mrs. Luthor take control of a government run operation? 

The way I see it, there are two major possibilities.  Firstly it could be that we’re playing reboot rules and we’re just supposed to pretend they didn’t explain CADMUS in season 1.  That’d be the most unsatisfying option as it’d end up a pretty cheap cop-out.  The other possibility is that Mrs. Luthor somehow took over CADMUS’ leftovers from the government, operating deep off the books or possibly picking up the pieces if they were shut down.  What would make the most sense to me, though, is if the government divested themselves from CADMUS but tacitly passed things off to Luthor as a way to keep themselves clean and deniable.  That would also fit in nicely with my next question. 

In one of the cooler cameos of Supergirl season 2, they featured Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, as the President in Supergirl’s universe.  It was a decent episode overall, even if introduced one of the show’s strangest universe elements the alien amnesty act but that’s a discussion for a different blog post.  

The episode mostly centered around revealing the character of Miss Martian, a white martian concentration camp guard who had fled to Earth to try and forget the horrors she was party too.  However, in the episode’s ending, we saw a flash of the President’s eyes turning red in the same manner the Martians’ do when they use their powers. 

Given that Martian Manhunter’s claim to fame has always been that he’s the last of his kind, it seems pretty evident that the President is a White Martian in disguise.  This would fit with the White Martian we met last season who was also impersonating a politician, the only difference is that Martian was looking to foment hatred between humans and aliens.  Given the show’s new focus on the immigrant experience in America through the allegory of aliens on Earth, the idea of alien agitators within the government would fit into that particular pitch though I don’t see exactly how it benefits the White Martians themselves.  

It could be that they’re planning to try and ban Superman and Supergirl from Earth so as to get rid of their biggest enemies, but if that’s the case I don’t see how they wouldn’t just come back in the event of White Martian invasion.  Either way, I doubt we’ve seen the last of the White Martian plan, especially given that Luthor and CADMUS now seem to be all wrapped up. 

This is another one of those sticky situations left over by Supergirl’s soft reboot (as is the next question.)  So, in season 2 Supergirl introduced its only compelling bad guy so far Cyborg Superman, played by David Harewood.  Harewood is one of the show’s few secret weapon actors as he’s consistently excellent as Martian Manhunter, is legitimately menacing as Cyborg Superman, and had a career before the show on Homeland, which is more than I can say for any of the other villain actors we’ve had.  

The idea is that Cyborg Superman is Hank Henshaw, the former director of the DEO that everyone thought died during an attempt to take out Martian Manhunter.  In reality, Manhunter stole the man’s appearance and position at the DEO while CADMUS took Henshaw’s corpse to outfit with Cyborg bits and use as its own evil Superman. 

That’s…convoluted, sure, but it works well enough in context.  However, it raises an interesting question.  See, Hank Henshaw was aware of Kara’s secret identity during his time as DEO director.  He was the guy who brought Kara’s dad into the agency as an operative and helped cover Kara’s existence on Earth.  Given that, shouldn’t he know Kara’s civilian identity and thus have the advantage of being able to strike at her friends and family? 

Sure, Kara’s sister may be protected by the DEO, but her mom is vulnerable as is Jimmy Olsen and all of her other friends at Cat Co. media.  What’s more, if Henshaw does know her identity, does that mean that the Luthors know it now as well and isn’t it just a matter of speculation to go from Supergirl’s identity to Superman’s?  This could be an easy fix of “he didn’t tell anyone” or the process that saved him destroyed his memory, but it deserves some kind of explanation at least. 

So remember earlier when I mentioned the show lost 3 major characters, Maxwell Lord is the most extreme one of that trilogy.  The biggest was Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart, but her absence was at least explained as her going on sabbatical.  The least impactful departure was Lucy Lane, mainly because she was already fading from the show and only existed to form a love triangle between Olsen, Lucy, and Supergirl.  Maxwell Lord is the sore thumb of the group.

Unlike Cat who’s explained or Lucy who is less important, Max is the CEO of one of the world’s biggest corporations and National City’s wealthiest citizen, the kind of guy you’d notice if he wasn’t around.  In this world, Maxwell Lord and his company invented the iPhone rather than Apple, even if we didn’t see him his business and technology would still be everywhere.  

This is doubly baffling given the introduction of Lena Luthor and L-Corp as a big foot in the business pool.  There’s no way a multinational conglomerate like that could just blow into National City without attracting some kind of attention from their biggest competitor who lives next door. 

I know that the reason Maxwell Lord isn’t in this season is that actor Peter Facinelli had other commitments but there’s no reason his company couldn’t show up.  What’s more, there could at least be some explanation to his absence, especially given that his billionaire status would easily allow you to hand wave a solution.  

By not addressing it and actively having his company disappear off the face of the Earth it only becomes conspicuous by its absence and raising some serious questions, especially given his comic book counterpart eventually became a major super villain.  Did the White Martians get Lord?  Was he re-abducted by the DEO?  Is this part of some bigger threat or just an attack of poor writing?  The world may never know.  

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