Friday, January 12, 2018

The Martian "Manhunter" Is Given A Proper Introduction To Supergirl!

The Good: Good performances, Decent moments of characterization
The Bad: Very simple plot, Heavy on exposition (plot and character), Generic villain
The Basics: Supergirl deals with the presence of the Martian Manhunter by revealing his backstory in "Manhunter!"

Once Hank Henshaw - who fans of the whole Superman franchise had a reason to be excited about appearing in Supergirl - was revealed to be J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, viewers were set up with something of a narrative time bomb. The Martian Manhunter is considered a pretty a-list DC Comics character to begin with, so when characters beyond Kara and Alex Danvers on Supergirl learned of his true identity, the show would have to try to figure out how best to balance the nearly invincible with a character who is virtually omniscient, at least in relation to dealing with other characters. The process of reshuffling the characters on Supergirl to more accurately explore their abilities and experiences begins properly in "Manhunter."

"Manhunter" picks up after "Falling" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss without some references to the prior episode. After all, in "Falling," Supergirl was contaminated with Red Kryptonite, essentially went evil and in the process of bringing her down to cure her, Hank Henshaw was exposed as a shapechanging alien and brought back to the DEO as a prisoner.

National City is afraid of Supergirl following the incident with the red Kryptonite, with crime rising and Kara feeling depressed. While James Olsen mans Cat Grant's phones, Schott acts as a shoulder for Siobhan Smythe to cry on. Smythe wants revenge upon Kara for getting her fired. At the DEO, Alex visits J'onn in his prison, where he implores his employee to distance herself from him. The military arrives to prosecute those who knew about J'onzz before he was revealed. Lucy Lane and Colonel Harper debrief J'onn to learn his story. While Alex is interrogated, Smythe breaks into Kara's e-mail at CatCo and sends a message to Cat, impersonating Kara. When Alex is arrested for lying to Harper and Lane, J'onzz and Danvers are shipped to Project Cadmus.

Hank Henshaw and Dr. Jeremiah Danvers, ten years prior, were working at the DEO. Henshaw had his team headed to South America where the DEO is tracking the oldest, most dangerous alien they had yet encountered. Dr. Danvers is hesitant to hurt the alien and, in the jungle, he encounters J'onn J'onzz. When Hank Henshaw attempts to kill J'onn, Dr. Danvers steps in to save the Martian's life. Dr. Danvers is stabbed in the process and J'onzz replaces Hank Henshaw at the DEO.

The relationship between Alex Danvers and Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz is strengthened in "Manhunter." Earlier in the season, Alex worked through her feelings of betrayal in relation to J'onzz, so it is refreshing to see Alex completely committed to the DEO and reconciled with J'onzz. While J'onzz is being interrogated, Alex works to find a way to get him released. Alex's loyalty is well-portrayed in "Manhunter." Alex's history with Hank Henshaw is fleshed out and the idea that Alex was essentially a drunk party girl on a course for self-destruction when Henshaw recruited her is an intriguing twist.

A surprisingly little amount of time in "Manhunter" is spent with Dr. Danvers and J'onn J'onzz building a bond and establishing a friendship. The two bond over their daughters and Danvers's unwillingness to kill J'onzz after J'onzz rescues him and realizes he is not dangerous. The foundation for a friendship between the two men is laid out satisfactorily, though it is very fast that the replacing of Hank Henshaw occurs within the narrative.

The introduction of Project Cadmus in "Manhunter" is a decent bit of foreshadowing for the second season of Supergirl. In fact, there is an added richness to some of the second season episodes because events in "Manhunter" that appear to be straightforward and simple from the perspective they are given in this episode are fleshed out later. Unfortunately, while Cadmus becomes a powerful and dangerous on-screen adversary in the second season, Colonel Harper in "Manhunter" is utterly generic. Harper is a Marine, who was personally betrayed by J'onzz and that makes him angry and dogmatic in an entirely predictable way.

Similarly, Lucy Lane is presented in "Manhunter" as a jaded ex-girlfriend. Both Lane and Harper, in real-world circumstances, would have to recuse themselves from the assignment involving J'onzz and Danvers. That leap makes the science fiction elements seem more ridiculous than they are compelling.

In the end, "Manhunter" fills in important gaps in the Supergirl narrative, but it does so in a painfully blunt and unimaginative way. That makes for an episode that is more average than it ever is exceptional.

For other works with Zayne Emory, please visit my reviews of:
"Alex" - Supergirl
Crazy. Stupid. Love.


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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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