Monday, February 6, 2017

"The Martian Chronicles" Is "The Adversary" For Supergirl!

The Good: Good performances, Good moments of character
The Bad: Entirely derivative plot, Some truly unimpressive fight scenes
The Basics: Supergirl continues fairly well, albeit in a very derivative way, with "The Martian Chronicles."

The problem with having a truly great episode of television is that it is hard to follow up on it. The unfortunate truth of achieving perfection - or something very close to it - is that there is nowhere to go but down. Supergirl had a series high with "We Can Be Heroes," but that episode came around the middle of the second season. As a result, it was hard to believe the rest of the season could truly be as good. The episode that had the unfortunate "honor" of following "We Can Be Heroes" was "The Martian Chronicles." "The Martian Chronicles" is not bad, but genre fans will find it immediately familiar; this is the Supergirl rewrite of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Adversary" (reviewed here!).

"The Martian Chronicles" picks up shortly after "We Can Be Heroes" (reviewed here!) and is preoccupied with the J'onn J'onnz plotline from that episode. Having made peace with the White Martian M'gann M'orzz, J'onn J'onnz now has an emotional attachment to the defector White Martian. "The Martian Chronicles" finds M'gann in peril and J'onn J'onnz must step up with the DEO to save her!

Kara visits the alien bar, where Mon-El is working as a bartender, a few nights after Mon-El was honest with his feelings to Kara. Kara is almost immediately as disappointed as Mon-El when Alex cancels their annual birthday plan so Maggie can take her to a Barenaked Ladies concert. Outside the bar, M'gann recognizes J'onn in the form of a homeless man and confronts him . . . moments before a White Martian attacks them both. Supergirl rescues the Martians, but the White Martian escapes. Returning to the alien bar, M'gann is confronted by the White Martian who is hunting her, her former husband, Armek.

But when Armek invades the DEO, the few people at the facility turn on one another in paranoia. Armek takes the form of one of the DEO agents and in trying to determine who in their midst is a White Martian, Armek manages to (essentially) set off a self-destruct mechanism. With fifteen minutes until the DEO building explodes (and destroys ten city blocks), Supergirl and her friends try to hunt the White Martian.

"The Martian Chronicles" establishes that Mars in the Supergirl world is populated entirely by White Martians. Mars is not barren, as most of the DC Comic book universe has established; in Supergirl, the White Martians won in their genocidal quest to eraticate the Green Martians. Armek has a government that he works for and he has a grudge against M'gann that has been fueled by continued dogma.

Kara's opening attempt to relate to Mon-El and let him down easy is particularly artless. More than that, Supergirl falls into a very standard trap of having people deliver critical information in insecure places. Kara does not know the capabilities of all of the various aliens in the bar and it seems very foolish for her to talk to Mon-El about her secret identity in a room full of aliens who might be able to hear them. In fact, given that Kara knows M'gann is a telepath why would she even risk thinking about her identity as Supergirl around her?!

Apparently, online, there has been a strangely strong backlash against the Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer relationship and it is tough to see why in "The Martian Chronicles." In "The Martian Chronicles," Danvers and Sawyer have a surprisingly mature, emotionally smart relationship that is hard to find any possible objection to. Maggie clearly loves Alex and she works hard to look out for her emotional health. What is not to love about that?! Chyler Leigh and Floriana Lima have great on-screen chemistry in "The Martian Chronicles," even if they are not given a lot of passion to play, instead playing a very mature and sedate side of romance.

Sharon Leal is good as M'gann in "The Martian Chronicles." Leal has the chance to perform with a decent amount of emotion in the episode and she plays off David Harewood incredibly well and stands on her own nicely.

Unfortunately, though, outside the few moments where characters talk with one another about their relationships, it is impossible not to watch "The Martian Chronicles" and feel it is way too familiar. Seriously, this is "The Adversary" for Supergirl. Plot moments in "The Martian Chronicles" come up at incredibly similar points to the same key moments in "The Adversary." There is the paranoia during the test (it's a fire test in "The Martian Chronicles" as opposed to the scan in "The Adversary"), the exposing of the White Martian during the test and the body of the person being used by the White Martian is found right around the same time in the episode as Bashir stepped out of his cabin in "The Adversary." It's virtually impossible for genre fans to not yell "No Changeling has ever harmed another!" as the climactic scene comes in, essentially, the DEO engine room.

The character moments - especially between Kara and Alex - are all that saves "The Martian Chronicles" from being entirely a festival of eye rolling. Having characters who actually discuss their feelings, played by people who are able to credibly emote a bond between each other, is refreshing to see and well-executed in "The Martian Chronicles." Despite that, "The Martian Chronicles's" derivative nature makes it virtually impossible to recommend to those who might be predisposed toward a good doppelganger story.

For other works with Terrell Tilford, please visit my reviews of:
"Melinda" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Divergence" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Affliction" - Star Trek: Enterprise

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Supergirl - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of the Kryptonian superheroine here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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