8:15am PT by Sydney Bucksbaum
DC TV Watch: Political 'Supergirl' Season 4 Will "Try and Unite a Divided People"
Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly DC TV Watch, a rundown of all things DC Comics on the small screen. Every Saturday, we round up the major twists, epic fights, new mysteries and anything else that goes down on The CW's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and Black Lightning, and Fox's Gotham. The new seasons of all the Arrow-verse series are (finally!) almost here, so this week let's take a deep dive into what awaits in Supergirl season four ...
Key changes: After a very sci-fi season three, Supergirl is getting back to the basics in season four with much more human-focused stories.
"We wanted to ground the show a little more than it had been," executive producer Robert Rovner tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Last year was all about battling Reign [Odette Annable] and going into outer space and Argo, so we wanted to bring it back down to Earth so we could concentrate on Kara's [Melissa Benoist] dual life as a reporter and the superhero and dig back into more of the real-world stories that we had tackled in season two."
Larger theme: While Supergirl is adapting the comic book arc "Red Son" this season, there is a different overall theme to season four.
"Our main theme is, which is stronger, hope vs. fear?" Rovner says. "The Red Son — or Red Daughter, really — storyline gets threaded throughout the season and evolves into a bigger thing they're focusing on in the later half of the season. The Red Son story tells an alternative origin story for Superman if he had landed in Russia instead of the United States, so we wanted to see what that journey would be like if, in the context of our show, we had Supergirl face someone who had been brought up counter to the way she had been brought up, living here and raised by the Danvers. What she'll face in Red Daughter is somebody that is fighting for the things that she believes in as strongly as Supergirl believes in them herself. How do they bridge that divide?"
New villain: Smallville alum Sam Witwer joins Supergirl this season as DC Comics antihero Agent Liberty. In the comics, Agent Liberty sometimes works for the heroes and sometimes works for the villains, living by his own code of ethics. But on Supergirl, he will be the main big bad of the season.
"Agent Liberty is a character that is preying on people's fears about aliens from outer space as they've disenfranchised people that he's familiar with," Rovner says. "He's a very persuasive orator and a very charismatic figure who breeds this discontent first in National City and then the nation against aliens. It's very frightening because he's a very forceful figure unlike a lot of the villains that Supergirl has faced in the past who she could punch and battle physically; she's dealing with what he's creating on a much more hearts-and-minds level. How does she combat this villain when it's not like the key to it is punching her way out of it?"
Sound familiar? Supergirl is once again purposefully taking on a very prescient issue to mirror the political issues people are facing in real-life today. "We're happy to have the opportunity to tell that story," Rovner says. "Superman and Supergirl always were able to speak out for issues and for social justice. In a world where a lot of us are divided it's great to explore how a character like Supergirl can try and unite a divided people. It's something that she will struggle with all season. It's something that a lot of us are dealing with and I think she can hopefully inspire all of us to figure out a way to bridge the divide."
New main character: Trans activist and actress Nicole Maines has joined Supergirl as a series regular in season four, bringing DC Comics hero Nia Nal to live action and making history as the first trans superhero.
"The show has always been about inclusion and representation," Rovner says. "We were excited to bring on a trans superhero and a character that could represent the trans community because the show should reflect back the people that are watching it and the world we live in. It was very important for us to cast a trans actress to embody that character and to work with her and the trans community and the LGBTQ community to make sure we were making her authentic and real. When we meet Nia we will learn her superhero story as part of her season arc, and we were looking for a character that embodied a young Kara so we could see the challenges Kara dealt with in the early seasons of the show and have Kara be a mentor."
The future: After officially joining the Arrow-verse in season two and juggling alien sci-fi with grounded human stories over the past three years, Supergirl has found its footing as the heart of The CW's extended universe. Rovner and the rest of the Supergirl writers plan to continue with that M.O. moving forward.
"We want to continue to tell stories that reflect the world we're living in and have Supergirl be a beacon of hope of strength and help guide us any way she can so she can inspire the best in people," he says. "We always want to have the show stick to its hallmarks of heart, humor and spectacle. We love making sure that every episode carves out room for all of that. We've learned to focus on the characters and what they're going through and keeping it as authentic as we can, even in the superhero realm they're inhabiting. Every season is a new chapter for the show. This is no different. The show feels fresh and invigorated by the new characters."
Fun fact: There's a hilarious Grey's Anatomy Easter egg in the premiere for anyone who watched earlier seasons with Chyler Leigh and Robert Baker, as they now share the screen once again on Supergirl.
Supergirl season four premieres Sunday, Oct. 14, on The CW.