REVIEW: Supergirl, S4E2 – Fallout

Supergirl was firing on all cylinders with “Fallout,” which explored the aliens-as-immigrants analogy with much more nuance than the last three seasons of the show have managed. This week, Kara (Melissa Benoist) and James (Mehcad Brooks) managed the public in the face of the President’s alien heritage while Brainy (Jesse Rath) and Nia (Nicole Maines) faced anti-alien sentiment firsthand. And at their respective corners of National City, Alex (Chyler Leigh), Lena (Katie McGrath) and J’onn (David Harewood) all did their part to try to contain the current crisis even as it grows beyond their reach.

Racism makes Supergirl sad.

“Fallout” kicked off with protests and counter-protests that quickly turned violent in the wake of the President stepping down. Supergirl was able to save lives, but she couldn’t quite cool tempers despite her best efforts. Once again, Kara was shown as seeing the glass as half-full while this time it was Alex who reminded her that things are more dangerous than they appear. It wasn’t nearly as off-putting as last week’s debacle between Kara and J’onn, though. Instead it came across as an endearing part of Kara’s personality, which was reflected in her scenes with Lena as well.

Kara’s optimism actually shed some interesting light on Lena’s cynicism, and the young reporter was shocked to learn that Lena was previously mentored by Mercy Graves herself. Even more surprising, Lena appeared to agree with Mercy’s idea that humans should arm themselves to become just as powerful as aliens. But lest the audience fear this particular Luthor’s heel-face-turn for too long, a physical attack by Mercy’s goons quickly restored Lena’s true colors. She may want humans to be more powerful, but only as a means to make the world a better place and never as a way to subjugate or attack aliens. “Fallout” then shifts its Kara focus to the hijinx she must undergo to keep her Supergirl identity away from her best friend while trying to overpower Mercy Graves. It’s a tiring trope at this point, and the switch from one to the other almost broke the suspension of disbelief, making it the weakest part of the episode.

Nobody puts Brainy in a corner.

Thankfully the rest of last night’s Supergirl was on point, especially when it came to Brainy and Kara’s intersecting storylines. Both characters found themselves at the same pizza place looking for some brain (excuse the pun) food when Mercy’s worldwide L Corp hack led to the disruption of Brainy’s humanoid hologram. Upon realizing that his regular customer was actually a customer, the racist restaurant owner and his employees geared up to attack Brainy without hesitation. That is, until Nia stepped in to protect him in an unprecedented display of heroism and bravery. The cheer-worthy moment clearly left a deep impression on both of them, and the expression on Brainy’s face when he learned Nia’s name is sure to have viewers questioning what their future connection might be.

That wasn’t Nia’s only heroic moment in “Fallout,” however. She spent the episode rightfully pressuring James to release a statement as CatCo’s Editor-In -Chief on the president’s identity, even coming out as transgender in an impassioned plea for speaking truth and holding up a mirror to the bullies. Though James is moved by her story, he maintained his stance on the need for “fair and balanced” reporting. If Supergirl had left things there, it would have deeply soured my opinion of the episode since real-life experience has taught me what that kind of reporting really does for the public. (Hint: not much!) But the day was saved when one of CatCo’s own employees was harrassed for being an alien, pushing James to chastise his paper and proceed to publish his own statement. Thus he engaged in responsible journalism and earned Nia’s respect in one fell swoop.

Just as James was making his statement, so was Supergirl. She went on the national news to address the people and advocate for mutual respect, even sharing a nice moment with the new President in order to seal her commitment to the country rather than to one particular leader. Unfortunately, her words of wisdom didn’t do much to convince the people already committed to the opposite side, as seen by how easily the newly-imprisoned Mercy Graves swayed anti-alien DEO Agent Jensen to release her and her brother or by how J’onn witnessed Agent Liberty fear-mongering an angry mob of racists with talk of job loss and the dangers of equality in a chilling final scene. Sound familiar?

Those last moments of all-too-real rhetoric are expertly juxtaposed with Mercy releasing Kryptonite into the atmosphere, stopping Supergirl in mid-flight as the screen cuts to black.

Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.