Tackling Alien Immigration and Character Conflict, An Intense Supergirl Flies High

The introduction of the immigration topic through the use of aliens has been one of the more interesting threads of Supergirl‘s second season and that conversation comes to the forefront in last night’s “Exodus”, which couldn’t have been more interestingly timed if they’d tried. With actual character conflict and consequences, this makes for one of the season’s strongest episodes so far.

The meat of “Exodus” deals directly with Cadmus’ latest scheme, instigated by last week’s theft of the alien identifications by Jeremiah Danver. Now armed with a list of every alien in the country, Cadmus gets to work rounding up all the aliens they can. Even as telegraphed as it is, watching an innocent family get pulled over and thrown in the back of a van or soldiers bursting into the bar accompanied by smoke and gunfire hits the intended mark and these scenes are surprisingly unsettling.

Supergirl is hardly subtle in its stance on the issue, as seen by the obvious villainy of Cadmus and vocalized by Alex during her confrontation with reluctant turncoat father, Jeremiah. Even as he defends that a forced deportation is better than the mass cull Cadmus initially planned, it’s not as simple as that. While Cadmus has so far this season primarily focused on simply killing aliens, “Exodus” offers a different plan and offers a new conversation for the show to have. Genocide is horrifying, but it’s a huge concept and difficult to truly connect with.

The idea of deportation has the potential to hit closer to home, because it’s something simpler to imagine happening to yourself or someone you know. And as Supergirl drives home, sending these people away isn’t actually the merciful solution it appears to be, sending families and children back to horrific places they fought so hard to escape from. The production cycle on the show is far too long for this to be more than a coincidence, but with the recent controversy surrounding certain executive orders and travel bans, this episode is even more interesting.

Supergirl "Exodus"

The overall atmosphere of “Exodus” feels different to Supergirl as normal and adds an extra layer of depth and tension to the episode. This is always going to be a show where things turn out okay and relationships are repaired as easily as they were broken, but this episode didn’t pull its punches and actually pushed its characters up against each other, creating an actual dynamic of conflict. Even something as quick as Winn lashing out at Alex as a proxy for Jeremiah felt more heated and potentially damaging than usual quips and barbs.

Alex and her connection to Jeremiah is the main focus of the emotional conflict in this episode, after she is sidelined by J’onn thanks to the most emotionally brutal test of resolve ever. He’s not entirely wrong, not after Alex beating the absolute shit out of that prisoner, a scene we need to appreciate as one of the darkest things one of Supergirl‘s heroes has ever done. This isn’t the type of show where main characters actually beat up unarmed prisoners, and especially not that angrily, making for an effective way to show Alex’s unravelling. And while logical, J’onn’s tricking of Alex is painfully cruel without feeling out of character.

The big climax, of Alex raiding the Cadmus base and then attempting to land the prisoner-filled spaceship before it can launch to hyperspace, is one of the most thrilling set-pieces Supergirl has done in a while. Jeremiah’s expected conversion back to the good side works better than it should and Alex gets to be the badass we haven’t seen quite so much this season. Chyler Leigh has done tremendous work this season and this episode is a really fantastic one for her.

After failing to stand by Alex earlier, the Danvers sisters end up sharing one of the episode’s strongest moments, both visually and emotionally, when Kara is left with no choice but to physically push back against the launching ship while Alex watches her from the other side of the glass. The episode makes the effective choice to portray Kara’s side of the action in silence, having lost her comms earlier in the fight, and watching Kara’s emotions war across her face and her eventual screaming into the void only adds to the desperation of the moment.

Even though I know this a show where the good guys always win, for a moment there I genuinely thought Kara was going to fail and the next storyline was going to be about finding Alex and the rest of the refugees. Though that would have been awesome, the genuine tension made Kara’s success feel even better.

Kara’s career as a journalist also comes to an apparent end this episode, which offers an actual consequence for the character and the audience, considering how prominent CatCo has been as a part of the show. One consistent theme over the two seasons has been the desire to have a life as Kara, not just Supergirl, and by doing the right thing and self-publishing her article warning the aliens of National City against Snapper’s orders, this episode put the two sides of herself into conflict in a way that it hasn’t quite before, even if it’s not the focus of the episode. The CatCo storyline in general has faded inevitably into the background since the departure of Callista Flockheart and with the amount of time spent at the DEO instead this season, Kara’s departure (if permanent) doesn’t feel like quite a surprise, though I wonder how long this firing will stick.

Supergirl "Exodus"

The Little Thoughts:

  • Quite a few not-so subtle references to current affairs tossed around in this episode, from “fake news” to the fear of a fascist in the White House.
  • I would have liked to see more of Winn in this episode. His connection to Lyra added an extra emotional hook for the kidnappings and the all-too-brief moments of him losing his cool definitely added to the overall tension.
  • Lena is still one of my favourite characters of the show and someone that really should be in more episodes. Her chemistry with Kara/Melissa Benoist continues to be insane, to the extent that it’s almost amazing that Mon-El is Supergirl’s love interest and not Lena Luthor. They even get the Superman/Lois Lane pose.
  • In an otherwise very serious and charged episode, Mon-El uses his brief screen-time to brighten the mood and bring some much needed humour. Chris Woods is definitely at his best in the comedic role.
  • How the hell did James get changed into the Guardian so fast during the attack on the alien bar? All I can think of now is the new Deadpool teaser.
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Ross Topham

Contributor
If there was an award for procrastinating, Ross Topham would probably be late to the ceremony. Hopefully he's writing something worthwhile instead and we'll see that awesome, upcoming space opera novel sometime soon...

Ross Topham

If there was an award for procrastinating, Ross Topham would probably be late to the ceremony. Hopefully he's writing something worthwhile instead and we'll see that awesome, upcoming space opera novel sometime soon...

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