James Olsen assumes his new superheroic identity as The Guardian. And none to soon! For an alien parasite is loose in National City and has drained Supergirl of her powers! Meanwhile, Mon-El ponders what he wants to do with his new life on Earth as Alex Danvers considers an equally momentous change of her own.
The film The Thing (alien creature attacks remote scientific research station in a cold location), the classic Captain Marvel comics (alien parasite resembles Mr. Mind), the film Alien 3 (The Parasite opens his mouth to reveal another, smaller mouth), the Bloodlines mini-series (mention of Angon, similar M.O. in how The Parasite empowers a host here), various Spider-Man comics (The mutated Parasite looks like a purple version of Venom and speaks of itself in the third person), various Superman comics dealing with Jimmy Olsen taking on a superheroic identity, the villain known as The Parasite and Superman: The Movie (James line about being a friend when Supergirl asks who he is.)
Nobody in the DEO notices Rudy Jones staggering or hears him gagging as he coughs up his alien worm buddy? There were a LOT of extras in that hallway...
Rudy Jones' boss at National City University is awfully quick to go from asking if he should be working so hard in his condition to firing him for his "erroneous obsession with climate catastrophes." As in 0-60 in 3.5 seconds fast.
Despite having the strength and invulnerability of Supergirl, The Parasite still has to pick up a stool to smash a glass window before walking through it.
Hopefully all Martians share a single blood-type regardless of species. Otherwise, the odds of M'gann being a compatible donor for J'onn would be considerable.
With its gaping maw of teeth, the mutated Parasite is pretty much Venom painted purple, right down to the "We are Parasite" dialogue. It even climbs walls...
Why doesn't The Parasite drain Mon-El's energy when it picks him up by the head just before Guardian throws a bomb onto it?
So Supergirl just kills The Parasite... and nobody has an issue with this?
Chris Wood is the comedic VIP of this episode. All the funny bits involve him.
Even ignoring the subplot involving Alex Danvers coming out, most of this episode's action sequences are firmly focused on her character. Cheryl Leigh proves more than capable of carrying the weight of the episode. The dialogue in her coming out to Kara scene isn't particularly well-written but her performance sells it.
The alien parasite depicted in this episode appears to be modeled - both physically and in terms of power - on the classic Superman villain The Parasite, who first appeared in Action Comics #340 (August 1966). There were several versions of The Parasite over the years, but the most famous is probably the second one - the Post-Crisis incarnation, Rudy Jones, who first appeared in Firestorm #58 (April 1987).
In the original DC Comics Universe, Rudy Jones was a janitor at STAR Labs' Pittsburgh location. A lab accident transformed Rudy into a being that drained the life energy and memories of any living being he touched. In the case of ordinary humans, this reduced them to a smoldering skeleton if Rudy touched them for too long. In the case of superhumans, Rudy could absorb their powers as well as their memories, but the affect was only temporary.
The DCTVU version of Parasite has the same powers, but his origins are slightly different. Here, Rudy Jones is a university professor and climatologist who is infected by a worm-like alien parasite.
The idea of an alien worm taking over a host body as seen in this version of The Parasite resembles the classic Captain Marvel villain Mr. Mind, who first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #22 (March 1943). A mutant from a race of Venusian worms, Mr. Mind was super-intelligent and possessed tremendous telepathic powers. Unfortunately, his small size and lack of hands limited his ability to manipulate larger beings unless he was inside their head.
When we first see the DCTVU version of Rudy Jones, he is working at the Thorul Arctic Research Center. Thorul is an anagram for Luthor and in the original comics Lex Luthor's family used "Thorul" as their last name in order to hide their connection to the world's most famous criminal mastermind. This may hint at a connection between the work being done there and Project Cadmus.
On that note, in Geoff Johns' retelling of Superman's early years - Superman: Secret Origins - Rudy Jones was a lazy janitor at The Daily Planet who was selected by Lex Luthor as part of his daily "LexCorp Lottery" to pick a random person and improve their life. While in Lex's lab, Rudy ate a donut that had been splashed with some purple liquid derived from one of Lex's experiments with Kryptonite. Somehow, this transformed him into The Parasite.
Later in the episode, Winn identifies the alien parasite as being from The Angon System. Angon was the name of an alien villain who first appeared in Lobo Annual #1 (January 1993). Angon was a member of a species of parasitic aliens - seven of whom were responsible for creating a number of new superheroes during the Bloodlines event.
As mentioned last week, the idea of Jimmy Olsen operating as a costumed crime-fighter is not a new one. Numerous Silver Age stories involved Jimmy Olsen temporarily acquiring super powers and trying to use them to help out Superman or trying to operate as an undercover agent or powerless crime-fighter. In one of the more prominent cases, Jimmy gained stretching powers and was made an honorary member of the Legion of Superheroes as Elastic Lad. He also teamed with Superman in the Bottle City of Kandor, where they adopted the aliases of Nightwing and Flamebird.
The Guardian was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7 (April 1942). Comparisons to Captain America are inevitable, given Joe Simon and Jack Kirby also created Captain America and both heroes make use of a shield as their primary weapon and defense.
The first Guardian was a man named Jim Harper. Born and raised in the rough Metropolis neighboorhood known as Suicide Slum, Jim Harper turned his life around thanks to the mentorship of an ex-boxer named Nat Milligan. Milligan trained young Jim to hone his body in an effort to turn the boy into an Olympian. Years later, Jim returned to Suicide Slum to find out his childhood best friend had become a gangster. After witnessing the death of said friend, Jim resolved to become a police officer and take back his neighborhood from organized crime. When the crime bosses he went after proved to beyond the reach of the law, Jim adopted a costume with an armored helmet and shield. Since his goal was to safeguard Suicide Slum and the good people who lived there, Jim dubed himself The Guardian.
Later, Jim adopted a quartet of homeless orphans who shared a similar heroic impulse. Dubbed The Newsboy Legion on account of their working as newspaper sellers among other odd jobs. The four boys became scientists as adults and became part of The DNA Project, which would later evolve into Project Cadmus. They would later create a clone of the original Jim Harper with all the memories and abilities of the original.
Jim Harper had no super-powers but was in the peak of human physical conditon. He was both a skilled marksman and hand-to-hand combatant, able to hold his own in a fight against Batman.
In the comics, Jim Harper was the great-uncle of Roy Harper a.k.a. Speed/Arsenal/Red Arrow.
The second Guardian was a teenager named Mal Duncan, In the original comics, The Teen Titans helped Mal fight off a street gang and were impressed enough by how he handled himself to ask him to join them. Mal assumed the identity of The Guardian, using Jim Harper's old costume and shield as well as an exo-skeleton that increased his strength.
Mal Duncan also took up The Guardian identity in the Young Justice animated series.
The vehicle Winn uses as a mobile base for helping James is disguised as a van for the Star-Spangled Delivery Company. This is a nod to the comic book in which The Guardian first appeared - Star-Spangled Comics. The side of the van reads "Established 1941." This is indeed the year Star-Spangled Comics was first published, though The Guardian did not appear until Issue #7 in 1942.
In the original comics, The Guardian's vehicle of choice was a motorcycle. The same is true of The Guardian in the DCTVU.
The opening scene takes place in Svalbard, Norway - a real-world city, notable for being one of the north-most inhabited settlements in the world and home to numerous scientific research stations.
Dr. Rudy Jones notes - when told about the stone spearhead - that he is not an archaeologist. This is likely a nod to another Dr. Jones who IS an archaeologist - Dr. Henry Jones Jr. a.k.a. Indiana Jones.
Mon-El and Kara have Aldebaran Rum at M'Gann's bar. Aldebaran is a real-world star - Alpha Tauri. In the reality of Star Trek, Alderbaran is a star system, part of The Federation and most famous for exporting Alderbaran Whiskey, which has inspired a real-world mixed-drink.
The evil climate-change denier responsible for getting Dr. Rudy Jones fired in this episode is named Rand O'Reilly. This may be in tribute to Objectivist founder Ayn Rand (whose philosophy on selfishness being a virtue would be in keeping with the character's behavior) and political pundit Bill O'Reilly (a noted climate-change denier).
Near the end of the episode, Winn refers to himself and James as The Super-Friends. Superfriends was the name of a long-running cartoon in the 1970s' and 1980s' based on various DC Comics heroes.
Dr. Jones notes that the rate of permafrost decay in Svalbard is already so high that Helsinki will be underwater within a decade.
The stone spearhead found in the frozen wolf dates back to 3000 BC. This means the wolf was trapped in the ice for over 5000 years.
After one hour out of the ice, the wolf body is warm to the touch, with soft tissue and a normal core body temperature.
Aldebaran rum is deadly to humans but quite enjoyable for Kryptonians and Daxamites.
The organism Dr. Rudy Jones is exposed to absorbs his red blood cells, rewriting his DNA into something new, making them one distinct being rather than two separate ones.
Dr. Jones mutates after draining both Kara and J'onn simultaneously for reasons Alex can't explain beyond his body not being able to cope with more than one kind of alien DNA at a time.
The DEO uses yellow sun lamps to empower Kara after she is drained to near-death by The Parasite.
Kara uses Plutonium-239 to kill The Parasite.
The Guardian costume is lead-lined to prevent Supergirl from being able to see through it.
(Kara is trying to talk Mon-El into letting her train him.)
Mon-El: I can control things.
Kara: That's dangerous! You have to know how to-
(Suddenly, the glass in Mon-El's hand breaks.)
Mon-El: This was not a prime example of that.
(Two DEO guards are standing in a hall. Suddenly, the metal door behind them collapses outward with Mon-El on top of it. He groans in pain.)
Mon-El: Okay. (looks at the guards) I slipped.
(James asks Winn for whatever he has finished for his super-suit so he can go after Parasite.)
Winn: Are you serious? No-no! I'm not taking orders from you.
(James starts to protest but Winn cuts him off.)
Winn: Dude, I'm not your assistant! I'm not the IT guy! I'm the guy who knows what he is talking about! In fact, I am better at this kind of stuff than anyone else you will ever meet! And until I finish making it all... fancy, it's just going to be a glorified Halloween costume! So when I tell you the suit is not ready, that means that if you go out there, right now, you're going to die. You. Will. Die. And then what? You're not going to be helping anyone.
(Kara has just found out that Mon-El is working as hired muscle for an alien bookie.)
Supergirl: Are you kidding me?! This is how you're using your powers? As muscle for hire?!
Mon-El: It's a living. A temporary living.
Supergirl: You're supposed to help people! You cannot use your powers for money!
Mon-El: Why? Don't you?
Supergirl: Absolutely not!
Mon-El: Well, that's a missed opportunity, because-
Supergirl: This goes against EVERYTHING that we stand for!
Mon-El; Uh - everything YOU stand for. I never said I wanted to save the world. Things in this world cost money, and if I can make a few bucks using my powers, why shouldn't I?
Supergirl: Okay. I get it.
Supergirl: No. You are so selfish!
Mon-El: Oh, okay.
Supergirl: I don't know what else I should have expected from a -
(Kara cuts herself off.)
Mon-El: From what? From a Daxamite?
Supergirl: I didn't say that!
Mon-El: Yeah, but you were going to, Kara! Okay? And I may have your powers but I don't have this... innate desire to go leaping into trouble. But that doesn't make me a bad person, all right?
Supergirl: It kind of does.
Mon-El: No, it doesn't! And you're no saint, Kara Zor-El!
Supergirl: Excuse me?
Mon-El: You fly around rescuing people, like you're just pure of heart. But that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless!
Supergirl: And you are no hero. I thought you could be but I was wrong.
Winn: Before you open it, I need you to make sure you're sure. Alright? This will be the end of James Olsen. Full stop. You do this, you are someone else. But there's a cost. Are you sure?
James: I have been ready to do this since the day I found out the truth about Clark Kent. This is who I am. I can't hid behind my camera anymore. If there's a cost, I'll pay it.
Winn: That's... a pretty good answer.
(Supergirl tries to look through Guardian's mask but finds that she can't.)
Guardian: Couldn't make it too easy on you.
Supergirl: Who are you?
Guardian: A friend.
(James and Winn watch a news report on The Guardian.)
Winn: You wan't to keep on doing this, don't you?
James: Yeah. (pauses and looks at Winn) So do you.
Winn: Yeah, I do. (chuckles) What's wrong with us?!
James: Nothing. We're heroes, man. Just like Kara. We have no choice in the matter. It's who we are.
Winn: Hmm. You uh - you really think we should keep this a secret from Kara? It just feels kinda weird lying to her.
James: Yeah, I know what you mean. But I think we should. At least until we get a handle on it. Otherwise all she's going to do is try to stop us.
(They both laugh.)
James: And she could.
Winn: Long live the Super-Friends then.
James: To the Super-Friends.
It's a close thing which is more painful - Dr. Rudy Jones' unsolicited speech about the dangers of climate change to Alex and J'onn or Rand O'Reilly's practicing his speech about how climate change is a hoax. I will give the show credit for this much - it makes both characters appear equally awful.
Alex: You've been through a lot in the last 24 hours I would like to keep you for observation.
Dr. Rudy Jones: Global Warming isn't taking a break. Our planet is being destroyed - not by any invader or army but by us - just taking it for granted.
Jones' Boss: Jones! You should be at home! Resting. After what you have been through.
Dr. Rudy Jones: What I have been through is extraordinary. It has energized me to continue my work with new fervor!
Jones' Boss: Well, the world's not going to end overnight.
Dr. Rudy Jones: Not today. But one day soon. I'm right about this. The world is changing and not for the better.
Jones' Boss: Perhaps you'd better take more than a day off, Dr. Jones? Your erroneous obsession with climate catastrophes might be better indulged at a different institution!
Dr. Rudy Jones: You're firing me?
Jones' Boss: It's not the first time I've had cause.
Dr. Rudy Jones: No. No, we don't accept that.
Jones' Boss: We? You and who else?
Dr. Rudy Jones: We.
Rand O'Reilly: Gentlemen... gentlemen... the Earth is in peril. Not from climate change but from misguided scientists and the liberal news media with its Chicken Little pronouncements about the end of the world.
Alex Danvers is almost 30.
Maggie Sawyer's family was comfortable with her coming out.
Alex comes out to Kara.
Alex's best friend in high-school was a girl named Vicki Donahue. Alex thinks she may have first had romantic feelings for a woman regarding her after a sleepover.
Winn thinks the parasite was originally from the Angon System and got trapped on Earth during the last Ice Age.
M'gann donates blood for J'onn's transfusion, despite her knowing he would not want White Martian blood in him, even though they are compatible.
Martian blood is red.
Alex kisses Maggie. Maggie tells her she wants to just be friends for now. Alex does not take this well.
At the end of the episode, Mon-El is abducted by Cadmus.
The Thorul Arctic Research Station in Svalbard, Norway
The Kryptonite Factor
Kara's attempting to punch The Parasite is uncharacteristically stupid given that she knows he can drain the life from people. To say nothing of her "That's my job!" reaction when The Parasite speaks about saving the world. Whatever happened to the Supergirl who tried to talk things out with villains and make them into allies?
Given that he knows The Parasite can absorb the super powers of an alien after what it did to Kara, why does J'onn go after The Parasite at all, much less try to fight it in close quarters?
The Bottom Line
Possibly the most painfully awful episode of Supergirl ever, despite simultaneously having some great scenes. Cheryl Leigh gives her best performance ever and teaming Winn and James to bring The Guardian to life was a masterstroke on the part of the writers. All of these elements make up for the absence of Melissa Benoist for most of the episode, which is fortunate because the show's worst episodes have always been the one in which she's been sidelined to a supporting role. This show has a strong ensemble and this is one of the few episodes that has given them all a chance to shine.
Unfortunately, that doesn't quite make up for a Venom-esque Parasite that rips off The Thing and Alien in equal measure or a totally forced environmental message with an even more ludicrous human villain. Rand O'Reilly is barely in the episode and what little we see makes him look less nuanced than a Captain Planet villain. Honestly, what was wrong with Rudy Jones just becoming a monster who is in pain unless he is feeding on the people around him? And why does nobody make a big deal about Kara killing The Parasite?