Spoilers are coming at you faster than a speeding bullet!
Regular Cast: Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl), Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen), Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers), Jeremy Jordan (Winn Schott), Chris Wood (Mon-El), Floriana Lima (Maggie Sawyer), David Harewood (J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter); Guest Starring: Sharon Leal (M’gann M’orzz), Ian Gomez (Snapper Carr), Katie McGrath (Lena Luthor), Dichten Lachman (Roulette), John DeSantis (Draaga); Written by Paul Yoo & Eric Carrasco; Directed by James Marshall and James Bamford
What It’s About
Alien on alien violence leads Kara and the DEO to the discovery of an alien fight club where extraterrestrials, finding it difficult to survive amongst xenophobic humans, battle to the death as a means of (ironically) survival. Meanwhile, Mon-El is feeling trapped at the DEO while they continue to run experiments on him, and tries to get Winn to help him out; J’onn reaches out to M’egann a number of times, and ultimately finds himself going up against her at the fight club; and socialite Roulette is revealed to be in charge of the illegal operation.
Thematically, as the title “Survivors” suggests, the episode deals with isolation and ultimately reaching out so as not to be so alone. That element works marginally between J’onn and M’egann (see the next section), but it really pays off between Kara and Mon-El. Her purpose for being sent to Earth in the first place was to help guide her cousin, Kal-El, but due to her pod being “delayed,” by the time she arrived he had already grown up to become Superman. Now she recognizes the opportunity to make up for that with Mon-El, and, despite the ideological differences between Kryptonians and Daxamites, offers to help guide and mentor him, which he gratefully accepts. This could prove to be a relationship that will be interesting to follow.
Also on the Mon-El front, one of the genuine highlights of the episode comes when Winn is convinced to sneak him out of the DEO so that they can cut loose and have some fun, which they find in a bar. Although it ends with Mon-El inadvertently injuring patrons with his powers, it’s still enjoyable to watch a rare opportunity for Jeremy Jordan’s Winn to get out from behind the keyboard.
Definitely some strong chemistry between Chyler Leigh’s Alex Danvers and Floriana Lima’s Maggie Sawyer as they work together to uncover the truth about the alien fight club. Flirtation is growing between them, which could very well lead to romance down the road.
Effects wise, the episode opens well with a flashback to the destruction of Daxam, the neighboring planet to Krypton ultimately being devastated by its destruction. Also, there’s the effects in the fight club sequences. Whatever our feelings about that concept, the effects are great.
What Doesn’t Work
The first rule of alien fight club should be that there shouldn’t be an alien fight club!
It’s such a ridiculous concept that it underlines the problem that is rapidly becoming apparent in season two of Supergirl. While season one was admittedly a bit too obvious in serving as a treatise on female empowerment, it was nonetheless a show that had considerable rooting in character reality. Yes, Kara Danvers/Supergirl battled larger than life threats, but they were never at the expense of her discovering who she is as a woman or a superhero. This year, after starting off strongly with the two episodes that featured Superman, things seem to have settled into an inane pattern where not only are there aliens among us, they’re absolutely everywhere.
Which, of course, wouldn’t be a problem if it had been a part of Supergirl’s original design, like the subculture of vampires in the world of Blade, or the assimilated Tenctonese in Alien Nation. And there’s certainly no reason that any show’s concept shouldn't evolve as it goes on, but evolution is supposed to be a gradual thing. Here we’ve got J’onn J’onzz offering lines like, “We’ve worked so hard to get humans to trust us, it would just take one….”, or, in the last episode (“Welcome To Earth”), the President Of The United States signing a constitutional amendment granting amnesty to aliens. In J’onzz’ case, when? In the president’s, why? What exactly served as the basis for both of these things?
The shift in networks in America, from the far more mainstreamed CBS to the younger CW (also home of Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow), allowed the producers to more fully embrace Supergirl’s comic book roots, but somehow along the way they seem to have lost the balance they achieved between character and comic action, which is something they normally do quite well on The Flash.
Other problems: Kara working as a reporter at CatCo was supposed to give her human life a Clark Kent-like quality, but the sequences between her and Snapper Carr have already reached a point of repetition, with her being the good-natured newbie and him the grizzled veteran journalist who, without coming right out and saying it, obviously hates the digital age and isn’t too fond of millennials either; and Kara ever so gradually wearing him down in terms of acceptance.
Also, when Kara kind of barges her way into Lena Luthor’s office for some help in figuring out the new location of the alien fight club, for some inexplicable reason Lena tells her secretary that Kara Danvers has full access to the building. Again we ask, why? What CEO does that? Obviously it will come into play in a later episode, but it seems like such a silly set up, as does Lena giving her the location while pointing out that Kara will owe her a favor (which will inevitably morally compromise her) in the future.
At the DEO when Supergirl discusses the fight club and one of the opponents there, Mon-El not only knows who this creature is, but is aware of an old wound that it suffered, information that conveniently comes into play later on when Supergirl battles it.
And then there’s J’onn and M’egann. While it’s understandable he would desperately want to connect with another member of his people, especially after having been alone for so many years, there’s something kind of creepy in the way that he keeps wanting to merge minds with her. No, means no, J’onn (though the private revelation that she’s actually a White Martian — a member of the race that wiped out his people — partially explains her reluctance).
And, finally, Dichten Lachman as Roulette. In the past the actress has effectively embodied antagonists, among them Jiaying in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but here she’s all cardboard with zero depth. Considering Roulette is free of all charges of operating the fight club at episode’s end, it seems obvious that it will eventually be revealed she’s aligned with Lena Luthor.