Last week’s Supergirl episode, “Human for a Day,” ended with a Big Reveal(tm): the Martian Manhunter, one of DC’s foundational superheroes and a key member of the Trinity-led Justice League, was hiding in plain sight all along as Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), the head of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, a special, super-secret branch of the U.S. government tasked with handling super-powered aliens of the extraterrestrial kind like Supergirl/Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) and her fellow Kryptonians, including her not-so-long-lost aunt (and general), Astra (Laura Benanti), not coincidentally the twin sister of Kara’s late Kryptonian mother, Alura. Episode 7 not only confirmed Henshaw’s real identity as the Martian Manhunter, a secret Kara’s adopted sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), swore to protect, but also brought up Astra and the remnants of the Kryptonian insurgents she once led. Astra reappeared just as Supergirl was enjoying an all-too brief moment of triumph, literally dragging Supergirl from the night sky for a face-to-face/heart-to-heart.
This week’s episode, “Hostile Takeover,” picks up seconds later (it also, not coincidentally, ends with another cliffhanger) as Astra’s attempt to bring Supergirl over to her side fails spectacularly. Protected by an anti-Kryptonite suit of some kind, Astra has a notable advantage over her niece, but some quick thinking, not to mention a literal deep dive over a rooftop, temporarily saves Kara from her aunt’s clutches, but Astra’s return portends a Kryptonian vs. Kryptonian battle the likes of which we haven’t seen before, at least not on a television series or on a TV budget. Once again cribbing from the divisive Man of Steel and the DC Cinematic Universe, Supergirl’s battle with her aunt over National City mirrors Man of Steel’s Superman vs. General Zod climactic battle over the skies of Metropolis. It’s much shorter, of course, plus it doesn’t so much end decisively as much as it just ends, the result both of Supergirl’s budget limitations and Astra’s overarching plan for world domination (or something). Like everyone else who’s stuck with Supergirl this long, Astra has spent some time at her local multiplex, borrowing a plot point here, a plot point there, from Marvel’s The Avengers and the unfairly maligned Star Trek into Darkness.
Here’s a hint: Astra wants to be captured. Here’s another hint: While everyone is distracted with Astra’s capture and interrogation, her husband and second in command, Non (Chris Vance), breaks into Maxwell “Poor Man’s Lex Luthor” Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) HQ for something or other. It’s not particularly clear what Non and his Kryptonian Goon Squad want with Lord or his company (at least not this episode), but whatever it is, it can’t be good. More likely than not, Non wants some of Lord’s super-advanced tech as part of Astra’s barely described plan to save the human race from ecological/environmental collapse, a plan that probably involves the complete and utter subjugation of the (inferior) human race to the godlike Krpytonians. Of course, National City and by extension, this particular corner of the DC multiverse, has a champion in Supergirl, not to mention the Martian Manhunter and her perpetually absent cousin, Kal-El. Actually, by now Supergirl needs to stand – or rather fly – on her own, succeeding or failing without a last-minute save from her far more famous cousin.
“Hostile Takeover” also fills in a bit of backstory about Krypton’s fall via flashbacks – a Berlanti special (see, e.g., Arrow) – that tell us almost everything we need to know about Supergirl: It might be set in a parallel, alternate universe, but Krypton and its fate are cribbed verbatim from Man of Steel. Krypton dies because Kryptonians, as foolish and shortsighted as their weaker, human counterparts, fail to heed repeated warnings about a dangerously overused, nearly exhausted power supply (the “core,” as in the Kryptonian core, an unapologetically blunt analog for our overuse of fossil fuel and subsequent environmental destruction). And Astra? She just wants to stop the earth, our earth (or a reasonable) facsimile from dying too. Given her authoritarian, autocratic nature (she sounds like General Zod on more than one occasion), the earth might be saved, but the human race might perish or worse (i.e., turned into third- or fourth-class citizens).
The less-than-engaging, not particularly involving B-plot this week involves a cyber attack on CatGo Worldwide Media, specifically a Sony-inspired hack and leak of Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) voluminous emails. Someone, somewhere, wants to embarrass Cat or worse, force her to resign as CEO. If “Hostile Takeover” is any indication, Supergirl should stay away, far, far away, from corporate espionage as a B-plot, let alone an A-plot. It’s equal parts flaccid and turgid, narrowly saved by the final scene between Cat and Kara. Cat’s oft-referenced journalistic acumen finally shows itself: After witnessing Supergirl’s feats up close and Kara’s presence/non-presence at opportune/inopportune times, Cat makes the blatantly obvious conclusion: Kara and Supergirl are one and the same. Where Cat and Kara/Supergirl’s relationship goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the final scene, a battle royale (as always, on a TV budget) between the forces of all-American exceptionalism, the DEO, with Henshaw and Alex leading the charge, and evil personified represented by team Astra/Non, promises the escalation of stakes viewers have been waiting for since Astra stepped out of the shadows the first time.