The Girl of Steel returns, bringing along several new characters, as Supergirl’s 4th season starts off with “American Alien.” As a newspaper headline proclaims that, “Supergirl Is Everywhere!” we see her being just that, helping stop various crimes and disasters all over the planet. Then, she’s back to National City to cover a press conference with President Marsdin (played by the legendary Lynda Carter again) talking about her Alien Amnesty act. Kara and James Olsen banter about her dual lives, and she makes one of those statements that dare the fates to do something.
At the DEO, Alex is training agents in hand to hand, which seems like a strange thing for the new director to be doing. Brainiac 5 walks in to tell her that President Marsdin… is essentially right behind him. Alex isn’t pleased at being caught by surprise, and glares at Brainy. Marsdin says that J’Onn chose his successor well.
At CatCo, James and Kara talk about work, which is nice after Kara’s job, and virtually her life, being ignored so much of last season. James tells her that one of the new reporters (I guess they come in batches at CatCo?), a Nia Nal, was recommended by Cat Grant personally. I really miss Calista Flockhart’s Cat, and keep hoping she’ll come back. Lena is there to say hi to James. She’s been in Metropolis, where Sam and Ruby have relocated, neatly writing out two major characters from last season. Lena is worried about the District Attorney going after James, since he revealed his identity as Guardian for reasons that never made any sense to me. Lena offers to pull some strings to help him, and he wants her to keep away from the shady side, especially for him.
J’Onn is spending his time in some kind of alien support group, where image inducers are all the rage, letting some of the more obvious aliens pass for human. One of them, Dr. Vose, is offended by this, and says they need to have the courage to be seen. Clearly, there’s some disagreement in the alien community. Vose later has a bad day when he gets attacked at his lab, mutilated, and some equipment stolen. He has some kind of emergency pager that summons Supergirl (when did those start showing up?), but the Girl of Steel is a bit overconfident, and the man and woman team have some really impressive toys that take her out of the fight. Alex and Brainy bickering about his not warning her enough gets interrupted by the alert about Supergirl, and Brainy flies off via his Legion Flight Ring, freeing Supergirl. She gets back up to the action just in time to protect Vose, but the attackers get away.
In the aftermath, Vose is tended to by medics (who I guess study alien biology now) and then gets surprised when J’Onn shows up. He warns Supergirl about growing anti-alien sentiment, but she thinks it was “just” a high-tech robbery. They disagree on what’s going on and she leaves.
Brainy returns to the DEO to get torn into by Alex, who lays down the law of her being in charge. Gee, Alex, you’re welcome for him helping your sister and saving a life or two. Brainy seems intimidated by Alex, which is unlikely given his own career as a superhero in the 31st century. Kara goes to work and has an awkward elevator meeting with Nia the new reporter. It’s a bit of low comedy for the day, and Nia seems to be very much like early Kara.
Lena gets a call from a source at the DA’s office, warning her that things are looking bad for Olsen. The criminals from earlier get instructions from their apparent boss, who has a really odd look. Kara has a discussion with Nia about her new story, and she shows a lot of passion and insight. Kara is impressed. After reassuring her new worker, Kara gets a call from her other job. Brainy has ID’d the attackers, and they are revealed to be callbacks to a few different earlier incarnations of the Superman legend. The woman is Mercy Graves, who was Lex Luthor’s chauffer/bodyguard/security manager on Superman: The Animates Series and later other places throughout the DC Animated Universe. Her brother is Otis, a new and more competent version of the clownish character of the same name from the first Superman movie in the 70’s. They used to work for Lex, and later for Cadmus. The Cadmus connection leads Supergirl to visit Lilian Luthor in prison, only to find Lena already there. The frosty relationship between Lena and Supergirl hasn’t warmed up during the off season. Lillian agrees to give Supergirl some locations where the Graves’ might be hiding, claiming to have turned over a new leaf.
J’Onn finds out that no one has come to the support group after the attack on Vose. The director of the group laments the lack of attendees, and then asks J’Onn to join a citizen patrol group the aliens are putting together. He has just enough time to refuse before someone tosses a bomb through the window.
Supergirl comes to the scene of the attack, which is too brightly lit to be the old nameless alien bar from last season. She and J’Onn disagree about what’s happening in the overall climate as far as aliens go. She’s insisting everything is great, but he’s having a different experience. It’s odd having him say she presents as human so she might not know what’s going on while he’s shapeshifted to human himself (and stays that way throughout the episode). They part under not the best of terms. I’d bet that Supergirl harbors some resentment over J’Onn walking away from the DEO.
Alex and Kara share Chinese food at Kara’s place. They’re both worried about various things. Alex is dating again, which is good, but complains that Brainy is driving her crazy. Kara is worried that J’Onn might be right about the alien hatred growing. They give each other good advice that the other doesn’t want to hear.
Lena and Lillian continue their usual close relationship as Lena visits again. The image inducers mentioned earlier are Lena’s work, which irritates her mother. Lena claims it’s just business and helps fund her “real work.” Lillian, no fool, wonders why Lena is popping up so often all of a sudden. Lena says she’s worried about James possibly going to jail, having lost so many loved ones to the criminal justice system. Lillian goes on about how Lex was taken advantage of by Bruno Manheim (another name from Superman mythos), and Lena listens closely, asking a few questions to encourage Lillian to keep going.
Olsen runs a meeting assigning new stories, and Nia gets preempted by another new reporter, McKenzie. Kara frowns and tries to subtly encourage Nia, but she remains silent. Before she can do anything about that, Brainy calls and gives her a possible location for the Graves’. Supergirl flies there, not finding them but getting a big shock about something she heard earlier. Aside from the upsetting news, she and Brainy manage to piece together that the Graves’ are going after the President.
Supergirl swallows some pride and goes to tell J’Onn he was right. She also asks for his help, which he declines to give. He’s now walking a different path, and won’t leave it, even to help save lives. To me, this sounds both remarkably selfish and a way for the writers to keep the action focus on Supergirl. Between J’Onn essentially retiring and Mon-El going back to his own time, there’s no one to come close to rivaling the star of the show. J’Onn does offer her some encouragement before she stalks off, very understandably annoyed.
Our hero’s next stop is meeting with the President, but Marsdin refuses to cancel the summit. She makes a good speech about a leader who caves in to fear not being a leader at all, which seems to be a (well-deserved) swipe at the current real-world President. Supergirl will coordinate with the DEO and the Secret Service to do whatever she can to keep everyone safe.
The summit begins at Camp David, with tension growing, before the actual attack begins. The Graves stole an EMP device in their attack on Vose, and use it now. The power fails, although oddly flashlights and the DEO earpieces keep working. Supergirl calls for Brainy, who uses some future tech that borders on magic to undo the EMP. The Graves make their play for the President, then take off on dirt bikes. Somehow, this is a challenging chase for a woman who has managed to fly about as fast as Flash runs, but she eventually captures Otis, having to save his life in the process and letting Mercy get away, after she rants about the rightness of her cause.
A smug Otis refuses to cooperate when he’s brought to the DEO. Just a thought, but if he tried to kill the President, shouldn’t the Secret Service have him? Alex then goes on to have a scene with Brainy, trying to patch up their differences. Among other things, Alex finally realizes that things aren’t easy for Brainy, either, since he’s 1,000 years in his past and cut off from his friends and allies in the Legion. Elsewhere, Lena does a backroom deal that betrays her mother’s earlier confidences and goes against James’ wishes.
Back at work, Kara has a talk with Nia about her not going after the story she wanted. Nia has a problem with not making waves, and seems to be notably lacking in self-confidence, again like the earlier Kara. Kara encourages her, and her own words apply to both Nia’s situation and Kara’s own with the anti-alien tide rising that she doesn’t know how to combat. James, listening in, says she’s becoming more and more like Cat. The news, always ready to provide a convenient plot point, covers both the Guardian charges being dropped against James and a RICO case against Bruno Manheim.
Olsen goes to see Lena, and there’s a lot of double meaning going on that he doesn’t know about. As Lena looks a bit uncomfortable, the news makes another announcement—James is in the clear, but is barred from acting as Guardian in the future. Still think going public was a good plan, James? This also seems to echo the anti-vigilante bill that was such a large part of last season on Arrow. That would make a lot more sense if they were on the same Earth.
Kara and J’Onn meet up at some new place that isn’t the nameless alien bar but might be where the support group was meeting. If so, it was repaired really quickly. They talk, and she apologizes for leaning on him earlier, which I still think she was right about. He offers her some encouragement. Then, Action Plot News comes on again, now revealing a big secret about the President, although how there were cameras covering the attack I’m really unclear on.
The episode ends with two troubling scenes. Fiona, J’Onn’s group leader, has been captured by Mercy (who has none), and is apparently killed after we see the reveal of who Mercy’s boss is. Disappointingly, it’s a character I heard was coming to the show who in the comics was a hero (and even member of the Justice League at one point), but is now a bigoted villain. Then, the Supergirl doppelganger we saw at the end of last season reminds us all she’s still around as she’s apparently digging a tunnel and/or being tested by the people she’s working for/with. Supergirl is going to have a lot to deal with this season.
What I liked: It was good to see the gang back in action. Supergirl is confident in both her lives now, as she should be. Olsen is settling in to his role as head of CatCo well, too. Alex is still kicking ass and taking names, although she’s a bit too hands on for an Agency Director. It was nice to see Brainiac 5 doing something useful, even if they have the character wrong still (see below). Lena’s going to make a huge mess, but I get why she’s doing it and her heart’s in the right place. It was great to see Mercy make the jump from cartoon to live action, following in the crazed footsteps of fellow cartoon graduate Harley Quinn. Otis was an interesting callback to the movies.
What I didn’t: Nia seems to be Kara, The Sequel, and so far isn’t really doing much to interest or impress. J’Onn is being selfish to the point where he seems like a different person than he’s been until now. Brainiac 5 is a genius with amazing tech, not a control computers/machines with his mind type. The motorcycle chase made little sense, nor did the camera coverage of the attack. Where was the cameraman supposed to have been standing? As I said, the Secret Service should have Otis, not the DEO. I get the moral message of the show being important, but they’re clubbing us over the head with it. I miss Mon-El and Winn.
It was a decent, not great, season opening. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. Hopefully, they get some of these kinks ironed out soon.