Supergirl returned tonight for its fourth season, and while the story they are telling is not based on any one storyline from the comics, it was peppered with references to several.
Beginning with its title and going all the way until its final shot, tonight's Supergirl has plenty for comic book fans to take in, and we are sure we didn't even catch everything ourselves.
Diving back into reporting, Kara (Melissa Benoist) welcomes a new cub reporter to CatCo. Meanwhile, James (Mehcad Brooks) and Lena (Katie McGrath) argue about James’ impending indictment for acting as the vigilante Guardian, while Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Brainy (Jesse Rath) struggle to get in sync at the DEO.
Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) is called into action when remnants of the anti-alien terrorist organization Cadmus try to assassinate pro-alien leaders, but their endgame turns out to be much more sinister than she expected. J’onn (David Harewood) relishes his peaceful new life, but an outing with an old friend causes him concern.
Jesse Warn directed the episode with story by Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller and teleplay by Gabriel Llanas & Aadrita Mukerji.
Let's run them down. If you see anything we missed, let us know in the comments below or tweet them at @russburlingame!
Landis is arguably best known in comics circles as the one who made a bizarre, low-budget short film "adapting" the Death and Return of Superman story in order to insult it at length using Hollywood actors.
He also wrote movies like American Ultra and Bright, and served as showrunner on Dirk Gently. That show was cancelled around the same time Bright came out, and Landis is not working on the Bright sequel, so he is likely headed back to his own projects now.
That may be the first time she has ever been called that on the show, as it is not one of her most common nicknames, used more frequently for Superman — but because of the way Supergirl has been reshaping the world on the show, it makes sense that it would be equally applied to her in TV in a way that it rarely is in the comics.
Later in the episode, we learn that Superman is on Argo City, presumably getting to know some other Kryptonians for the first time in his life.
One way that you know things are going generally well for Superman or Supergirl in one of these adaptations (and, usually, that things are about to get much worse) is a montage of "superfeats."
Watching Kara being carefree and using her powers to acclaim from the masses, including an iconic "save a train" moment, feels like it's an extension of one of the most beloved montages in Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, which almost every new take on Superman or Supergirl eventually does.
In this instance, the train save in the episode's opening moments also sets up for a bigger tease at the end.
First of all, while it happens pretty regularly in local events, entertainment events, and the like, it feels unlikely that reporters appearing at a credentialed Presidential event would be taking audio recordings with their iPhones from the front row.
Second, Kara is lucky she has super-hearing, because she asked the President of the United States a question, and the President answered it, but Kara (who is holding her own recording device) begins speaking to James while the President is talking. Most reporters would either get in trouble for acting like that, or at least be unable to properly transcribe the President's quote over the sound of your own voice, which is closer to the microphone.
Alex's sparring with cadets at the DEO, from her cold demeanor and dominant fighting style to especially the "again" after she knocks down Jensen, feels a lot like what Jayna Zod (Ann Ogbomo) did in the pilot to Krypton.
It's probably good for James Olsen that the Luthor family gets themselves involved with his indictment. If Archie Andrews and Oliver Queen are any indication, you do not want to be the head of a vigilante group charged in connection with your crimes on a CW comic book show.
The character, played last season by Odette Annable, was apparently relocated to the L-Corp offices in Metropolis after the events of last season's finale, where she and her daughter get a happily ever after.
Luckily for the rest of the world, Superman is (usually) in Metropolis, so when and if her powers reignite she has someone there who can help handle it.
According to her official character description, Nal is the newest addition to the CatCo reporting team. A soulful young transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others, Nia’s journey this season means fulfilling her destiny as the superhero Dreamer (much like Kara came into her own as Supergirl).
The Dreamer becomes the first transgender superhero on TV, played by Royal Pains veteran Maines, a trans actress.
Nura Nal, the Legion of Super-Heroes member known as Dreamer in the comics, was an alien with precognitive abilities. The character was created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte in 1964, although the Dreamer identity debuted in 1996 in a story by Tom Peyer, Tom McGraw, and Lee Moder.
The episode is full of callbacks to the pilot, especially since Nia is essentially starting out in the same place Supergirl did as Kara.
We get the whole thing with her having trouble getting to work on time, spilling coffee, the thing of Cat being very temperamental about the temperature of coffee, etc. All of that feels ripped right from interactions between Kara and Cat in the first episode.
Lex Luthor's former head of security Mercy Graves will be a recurring threat on the new episodes, played by Rhona Mitra. Her brother Otis Graves will also be by her side, played by Robert Baker.
Graves will become the face of the growing "human first" movement, seen in this episode and emulating some real-world political events, as Supergirl is wont to do. Given the fact that she used to be Lex's bodyguard, she's very lethal. But she'll also be very cunning, making her a threat to Supergirl on multiple levels.
Otis Graves will be her enforcer, who isn't as smart as his sister but is described to have "savant-like abilities to assassinate aliens." Otis, who wasn't originally a Graves, has not appeared in the comic books, but was created for Superman: The Movie by Richard Donner, where he was a dopey comic relief sidekick to Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor.
Mercy Graves also appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, played by Tao Okamoto in the film.
This feels like some of the most nuanced political metaphor Supergirl has dealt with yet (the show is usually pretty heavy-handed in that area), with Supergirl representing many mainstream Democrats, who believed that everything was "fine" under Obama and were shocked by Donald Trump's election because it did not jive with their idea of what was going on in the country around them.
Lena uses intel on Manheim obtained from her mother to buy James Olsen's freedom with the DA.
Interestingly, in the comics, Intergang's fall was tied in with the first appearance of Agent Liberty.
"Would you believe it's an abandoned warehouse?" Brainy asks when he has tracked down the place where Mercy and Otis are hiding.
That gag gets made,in various forms, across the Arrowverse a lot, since there are so many fight and action sequences that take place in abadoned warehouses, since that is a space large enough to contain the action and where special effects and such can be used effectively.
Phorians are not a race of aliens from the comics.
They are, however, characters who have already showed up on Supergirl. A peace-loving race with mental powers, the use of Phorians is a callback to last season's episode "City of Lost Children" and a pretty fucking obvious clue as to what will get James back on the street as Guardian considering how tied to that episode he was.
When talking about the comic shop that he used to "gear up" so he could dress and act more like Winn, Brainy says that it's "off Excelsior," meaning that there is a street in National City with a comic shop on or near it that shares its name with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee's most famous catchphrase.
The masked man in this episode, who seems to be directing the anti-alien actions taken by Mercy and Otis Graves, is Agent Liberty.
Liberty is described as "the ruthless and terrifying leader of the Children of Liberty, a human-first hate group. The character is described as "a brilliant orator in the guise of a family man", who can easily convince people that he's right." This lines up, to an extent, with the comic iteration of Agent Liberty, who first debuted in 1991. Also known as Benjamin Lockwood, Agent Liberty is an ex-CIA agent who becomes disenchanted with the goverment, forming his own paramilitary group. Liberty eventually sees the error of his ways, separating from the group and assisting Superman and Justice League in the years that follow.
A superhero in the comics who espoused conservative politics and used sometimes brutal methods, Agent Liberty here is reinvented as a villain, although writers have teased that we will get more of a sense for what pushed him that way in the upcoming episode that explores his origin.
Last season's finale ended with someone identical to Kara crash-landing in Russia, and we see a continuation of that theme here. After Kara was in a former Soviet republic to save a train, the episode ends with a Supergirl whose uniform is reminiscent of the color scheme of the "Red Son" Superman from a popular Elseworlds comic set in a world where the Man of Steel landed in the USSR instead of Kansas.