Why last night's Supergirl episode was huge

CBS

Have you been watching Supergirl on CBS? If not, you should—it's pretty delightful and fun, and one of the best shows on TV featuring DC Comics characters. And last night's episode, "Human for a Day," just dropped a bombshell that might actually put the show way ahead of its CW and Fox peers—Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham—in terms of awesome comic book reveals.

Before we go further, be aware: spoilers ahead.

Still with me? Okay. Since losing her powers after a fight with the underwhelming-looking Red Tornado in the previous episode, "Red Faced," Supergirl has to grapple with feeling helpless in the face of a major crisis. National City is hit with an earthquake, and without her abilities, Kara can't swoop in and save anyone's day. Eventually she finds a way to be a hero despite her current weaknesses, and by the end of the episode, her powers return.

But that's not the exciting bit. No, the real DC Comics craziness happened in the episode's B-story, when Alex Danvers and her mysterious (and seemingly nefarious) boss Hank Henshaw are trapped in the DEO's headquarters with the escaped alien Jemm. Longtime fans may recognize Jemm as a heroic throwaway character from the 1980s, better known as Jemm, the Son of Saturn. But on Supergirl, the showrunners decided to make him a bad guy. It's cool, since we find out at the end of the episode that Henshaw isn't much at all like his villainous comic book namesake, the evil Cyborg.

He is, in fact, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

As it turns out, viewers weren't the only ones shocked to discover Henshaw's true identity. The actor who plays Henshaw, David Harewood, didn't find out about the showrunners' new direction until after shooting the pilot, much to his relief. He told Entertainment Weekly:

"After the pilot was picked up, my manager told me that they were changing my character. That's as much as they'd tell me. I was intrigued by that. I didn't quite know what that meant. When I came to shoot the series, they still didn't tell me. I did the whole of Comic-Con just lying through my teeth. I didn't know what I was talking about. They told me about a week after Comic-Con. They presented me with a little Martian Manhunter doll and several comic books of Martian Manhunter. I went home and devoured them. I thought they were just fantastic. I was delighted.

"I must say, I was struggling with Hank Henshaw. I didn't particularly enjoy the pilot. For me, it was a lot of exposition. I just couldn't find an angle that was interesting with Hank Henshaw. He was all, 'I don't like aliens, I don't like Kara.' It was all a bit too one-dimensional to me. So I was delighted that they gave me this guy to play. He's just so fantastical and it's such a wonderful backstory and history. It just gave me so much more to play.

So this is pretty huge for a few reasons. Martian Manhunter is one of DC Comics' oldest and most beloved characters. He's also one of the weirdest, and the hardest to get right. Created in 1955, J'onn J'onzz has been a member of the comic publisher's premiere superteam, the Justice League, in just about all of its various incarnations. He's also got a backstory and power-set that hits pretty close to that of Superman: he's the last survivor of an alien race, he's a stranger on Earth, and he can also fly, has super strength, and "Martian Vision," which I guess are laser eye beams. But just to be different, he's also got a whole bunch of other powers, like telepathy and shape-shifting. Also, he's green, so there's that.

Martian Manhunter starred as a member of the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited shows, and he was a member of the team of the same name in CBS's old unaired live-action Justice League pilot. But despite how long he's hung around in the comics pages and on the fringes of other media, he always seemed like a really tough sell. Last night's big reveal on Supergirl changes all that, and it opens the door for some truly wonderful comic book goodness.

One of the biggest bummers about the new Supergirl show was the fact that Hank Henshaw seemed like an obvious villain from the outset. I, and every other comic-literate viewer, kept counting the episodes until the big revelation that Henshaw was a bad guy, and that he was infused with evil robot parts.

Now that we know he's not only a good guy, but one of DC's most treasured heroes, there's really no telling where else Supergirl will go. What other characters will the showrunners surprise us with before the first season ends? And how much did the showrunners have to change their plans when they decided to switch Henshaw from bad to good? And does this mean that the Martian Manhunter won't be in the upcoming Justice League movie—or does this simply set him up for better name-recognition for his eventual big screen debut?

And, the most important question of all, will he endorse Oreos?

[Source: Entertainment Weekly]