Supergirl had a very uneven season three, but the intrigue for the season four premiere was there, what with the reveal that there’s a whole other Kara who exists on Earth. However, “American Alien” completely leaves Kara’s double by the wayside in order to focus on everything happening in National City. She appears in the end, but it’s simply a tease and doesn’t provide anything substantial with regards to this particular storyline. Meanwhile, the show doubles down on Kara and journalism but all the subplots don’t quite gel together as well as they should.
It’s always appreciated when superhero shows get to showcase their characters at work. Seeing them battle things in everyday life, if done well, can be far more interesting than seeing them suit up to take on the villain of the week. For two seasons now, we’ve seen Kara work at CatCo, but it’s never felt like earned nor have we ever seen the drive behind why she feels it’s important. “American Alien” pushes ahead on insisting that Kara is very much into her job. Everything from her clothing to her demeanor speaks volumes about the sudden maturity and experience she has as a reporter. This is most likely because the writers want Kara to mentor the new cub reporter, Nia Nal (newcomer Nicole Maines), who is essentially a season one replica of Kara, but far more passionate about journalism.
Their interactions are sweet and it’s clear Nia wants to make a good impression on her new mentor. Kara, who finally feels a bit more centered as a character in the premiere, offers some sage advice, even if sometimes falls flat. Perhaps she will prove a better mentor than journalist, though, so we’ll see how that goes. Maines is a solid addition to the cast this season and will perhaps provide the right amount of new change that this show needs.
When Kara is faced with J’onn’s feeling that the Graves siblings, who are intent on attacking aliens for their hateful cause, are doing so in response to the new legislation that provides aliens with rights, she doesn’t react well. Instead of believing J’onn, she’s quick to get defensive, arguing that hate crimes can’t possibly be happening and that the country is now in the best shape it’s ever been. Her hopefulness and reluctance to see things as they are is distinctly because she’s never encountered such hate.
It’s in these arguments that Kara shows off her white feminism and, although she’s an alien herself, she passes as a white woman, someone who’s never questioned or made to feel like an outsider. It’s frustrating that she seems to be willing to turn a blind eye rather than listen to J’onn’s valid points. She has to see it with her own two eyes before she believes it and it’s only then that she’s willing to learn and ask for help, only to become angry when J’onn doesn’t want to fight back the same way she does. It’s nice that she finally sees the light, but it would’ve been nice if she would’ve listened to J’onn as well. After all, he has to hide his appearance and he’s opted to experience his life as both an alien and a black man on Earth, so for Kara to be so dismissive of his point of view is irritating.
James and Lena start off on the same page, but that changes rather quickly. James is facing indictment for his actions as Guardian and Lena wants to help in any way she can. However, Lena then uses her mother for a tip on a Luthor secret so she has leverage with the DA, with whom she relays the information and ensures James’ charges are dropped. It’s like a couple can’t go one day without secrets between them and it’s concerning that this wedge is immediately placed between James and Lena, especially after they were so open and honest with each other last season. It also paints Lena in a bad light because all anyone seems to be concerned with is whether or not she’ll become evil and things like lying and using her mother only serve as stepping stones towards that seemingly destined path.
In another subplot, Alex is adjusting to her new role as director of the DEO and is also struggling with the absence of Winn. Brainy, aka Agent Dox, can’t do anything right in her eyes and it’s because she’s unfairly comparing him to her friend, who’s off somewhere in the future with the Legion. Brainy is a gift to this show and Jesse Rath has excellent comedic timing and already he and Chyler Leigh have good screen chemistry. It’s nice that Winn’s absence is acknowledged by someone on the show and it’s also interesting that the person to do so is Alex instead of Kara, who grew more distant from everyone while Alex grew closer. It’s also great that the show acknowledges that Brainy isn’t just a replacement Winn and that he’s a whole other character. Alex and Brainy’s storyline felt the most grounded throughout the episode and the show needs a bit more of that.
“American Alien” spends most of its time setting up everything to come instead of focusing too heavily on character dynamics. There’s a lot going on and, with the outing of President Marsdin as an alien, Sam Witwer’s Agent Liberty has already set his plan in motion and things will get worse before they get better–though this show doesn’t exactly have a proven track record for handling sensitive topics well. The premiere captures a lot what’s to come, but it doesn’t quite have a central focus. Everyone has something going on, but none of it feels particularly connected and the fact that they leave out Kara’s double (evil twin?), which is one of the more interesting setups this show has done, is unfortunate. Ultimately, Supergirl seems to have a sense of where it’s going this season, but the question is whether we’ll be excited to go with it.