The writers of Supergirl season 3 have taken what might be the most interesting tack for an on-screen Supergirl story: treating her as the alien she is. This is something I’ve written about before – how she is fundamentally different from Kal (Superman) in that he has no living memory of Krypton or of any significant loss. That alone sets her apart, but there are many other aspects that don’t usually get much of a mention that I’m very happy the show is addressing any of them at all.
One of the biggest eye rolls you get from reactors happens whenever Kara says that she’s an alien or that this isn’t her home. In “Midvale” (S3E6), I think it was really brought home as both young and present day Kara say that. Present day Kara even underscores that by saying it still doesn’t feel like home. What makes this profound is that she says that on a deck under blue skies and surrounded by a verdant woods and an inviting lake. Contrast that to past scenes of non-exploding Krypton and you can really appreciate her point of view.
Earth, by her reckoning, is very alien indeed. They are technologically backward in many ways – still no flying cars or personally visiting other worlds for vacations. Worse, the sky is the wrong color. Gone is the warm red hue of home. Every time she looks out a window or goes up-up-and-away, she flies into a cerulean shell that is as alien to her as Venus’ sky would be to us – always broadcasting the fact that this isn’t where you were meant to be.
And speaking of technology, we also have confirmed that Kryptonians are much more precocious than we poor humans. Learning calculus at age four implies something that is profoundly alien about these children of Rao. Humans not learning calculus in our fourth years isn’t just a cultural thing, it’s a developmental limitation. Our brains haven’t yet gotten to the point where symbolic and abstract mathematics are even an option for all but a handful of demographic outliers. Kryptonians have different brains and developmental passages.
If Kara is such a mathematical and scientific genius by Earth standards, why doesn’t she show it? It’s entirely possible that she has gotten so used to having to play dumb in order to fit in, she doesn’t often exercise the ol’ gray matter. What a surprise it will be when, as a part of her renewed alien self-acceptance, she whips out her education. She might even have some nifty non-weapony inventions known and studied on Krypton but new for Earth. This could provide her with an independent source of funds from products and licensing.
When you look at comments from the season 2 finale, when Supergirl beat Superman in an unrestrained fight, a massive majority of fanboys whined about how a “girl” could best a “man”. Again, I think it’s due to her alien background. Unlike Kal, Kara grew up in a red sun environment up until puberty (assuming puberty ages are roughly analogous to humans). This developmental difference between her and Earth-raised Kal almost certainly affects their ability to metabolize the yellow sunlight they absorb.
Leaving Krypton, though, I think was also key to Kara’s advantage. To date, she has ultimately beaten all Kryptonians despite their having a greater red sun developmental period than she. Perhaps it was the mixing of red sun and yellow sun during adolescence that has again given her a small but ultimately tide-turning difference.
Also, her forced emigration seems to have smoothed over some of the less agreeable edges that adult Kryptonians appear to have. While the show’s sample pool is largely populated by criminals, it does seem like adult, Krypton-raised Kryptonians being authoritarian and firm in their points of view, if not outright belligerent, is the norm. While Kara is definitely more hot-headed than Kansas boy Kal, she doesn’t exhibit the dance toward psychopathy or the degree of self-righteous narcissism that the extinct world tended to produce.
Season 3, at least up through episode 6, has given us a profound look into how Kara has no choice but to recognize who she is. She is more than a refugee, from a human perspective, as her points of reference are completely different than what was her reality. Even hugging someone or holding a coffee cup forces her to remember not to break them while doing so. In this strange land, she has to juggle thin-shelled eggs almost every moment she’s not Supergirl.
This extreme take on the immigrant and refugee stories offers the series a lot of possibilities. Sure, there are political arguments that will continue to be addressed in ways both subtle and otherwise, but it also reinforces how and why Kara can be so empathetic to those who are victims, considered as other, or who struggle though their desperate but normal lives. Her mother Alura was right when she told young Kara she had the heart of a hero.
While the writers are beholden to plot necessities and fan (and network) desires, I hope they continue to feature Kara’s journey to reconcile what she is with who she can grow to be. It gives the show a dimension and perspective that other shows not only don’t have, but lack the narrative device to even give them the option. This story thread likely wasn’t planned from the beginning, but now that it has surfaced, it is a shining ore that can be mined to make this interpretation of Supergirl a true and lasting jewel.