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About That D.E…Oh No

It’s time to get serious here. Supergirl season 2 has lent itself to a lot of discussion, from those squeeing with delight at the all things Sanvers, to those who…may be less enthused at the not exactly flawless portrayal of Mon-El. However, one topic has been criminally overlooked in fandom conversations. The most important topic, at that.

What the fiddlesticks is up with the DEO?

The DEO is, of course, The Department of Extranormal Operations, a subdivision of the US Department of Defense. And with its portrayal in Supergirl, it sort of feels as though it makes no sense. But don’t worry; Kylie and Griffin have a foolproof ten-step plan (only eight of which will be skipped) for discerning if this is truly the case.

Let’s start with the basics. The name itself is rather woolly. What exactly does “extranormal” mean? What is their legal definition when it comes classifying “extranormal”? Does that include the paranormal? And, if so, are there officially sanctioned Ghostbusters? Does this mean that Ghostbuster merchandise is government propaganda that helps fund our defense department? We think the implication here speaks for itself. Well played, Director Bones.

From what we can tell, the general population is fully aware, and accepting, of the fact that aliens exist. Well, accepting enough to debate their status as citizens. So then, why is the department that works on their cases secret? In fact, wouldn’t this be for the protection of said aliens to understand that there are dedicated government agencies, or is this just the secret group behind a public one, which is kept secret because… They have to do shady things that violate alien rights?

That seems rather unconstitutional, so maybe it’s just because the government doesn’t want the public to know the wasteful shit they spend their money on for the DEO.

For instance, they paid money to put lead into their paint at the DEO headquarters. Which yes, isn’t out of the realm of possibility for our government as of late, but you’d think the health hazard alone would turn them off of the idea. We promise, Superman would still fuck them up if things got really bad, even with their well-hidden stash of kryptonite.

More wasteful still, they are willing to pay for property in the heart of the city, which happens to comprise the entirety of a massive of a high-rise that also happens to be one of the most recognizable buildings in the National City skyline.

We don’t know a ton about real estate prices in this fictitious city on Earth-38, but we have a feeling it would have been just a touch cheaper if they had gone with the ol’ bunker-in-the-desert thing. Also because no one would get into it by accident.

Image that.

Which reminds us, what the hell do the people of National City think is in this building? Does the DEO have to spend money to hire actors (who would have to be agents with security clearance) to play disinterested administrative professionals in a fake corporate office, or is it more like a very fancy hotel that is always booked? If it’s the latter, how do they feel about letting people use the lobby bathroom? During coffee breaks, are agents required to put on suits and dresses and mill around the foyer? Our personal recommendation would be holograms, of course, despite the fact that power outages would render them useless.

Oh, speaking of power outages, the DEO goes on lockdown like…a lot. And even if it wasn’t a regular lockdown, there’s always emergency drills of some kind because they have to do that, just like any other government agency. So do they just eject the poor people who wandered into the lobby having to pee using a blast of pressurized air? Granted, we can think of other ways to throw them onto the streets, but imagine how much better this would be (on the environment too) if they hadn’t insisted on renting space on the busiest damn block of the entire city.

Is it cloaked? Did the DEO drop money on a downtown high-rise that needed a constantly running cloaking device, with the hopes that helicopters might only sometimes hit it? No, even that’s too stupid (not to mention environmentally irresponsible) to be a true possibility. Much better that they have fake hotel workers.

Don’t even get us started on Kara entering and exiting through the windows. Though we suppose if they went with the fake hotel scheme, the public might just assume that she lives there. We’re glad they have their contractors in mind.

BUT WAIT. Contractors! It’s all coming together now! The DEO clearly contracts construction workers so that the building will appear closed down. They’d of course have to be real crews, or else competing construction companies would be trying to figure out who the fake team was, and why they don’t appear anywhere else in the city and… It’s a whole thing. Just trust us. Now, what these construction workers are actually fixing is beyond us, but maybe there’s a constant gas leak. Or they’re always being bug bombed for termites. Or perhaps the DEO agents use their coffee breaks to destroy entire sections of the facade for fun. And stress relief. We know Alex would dig it.

But this, dear readers, brings us to one of the most confusing and glamorous aspects of the DEO—payroll. Real talk: is Kara a contractor or internal employee? We lean towards the former, because we don’t recall “Agent Supergirl” ever being uttered (and good thing too; it sounds really stupid). She also didn’t even know an HR department existed, which suggests an incredibly haphazard onboarding process for her, if there ever was one at all. From what we remember, she just kinda showed up one day, and J’onn never told her to leave. Good thing too, those employee handbooks must be thick as redwoods and quite the dull read.

The only thing that gives us pause here is that J’onn made Kara and Mon-El fill out an HR form to disclose this relationship. Mon-El is most likely the same status as Kara vis a vie internal vs. external worker, but it does seem over and beyond to require relationship disclosure for contractors. Especially since Alex didn’t even mention this potential conflict-of-interest when she cheerily insisted that Kara date the boy. Maybe this was J’onn going rogue, thinking that the paperwork would seem like too serious of a commitment and by asking them to sign it, Mon-El would choose to go the way of Poochie. We applaud J’onn for trying.

There is something we can’t applaud J’onn for, however, and that’s letting random people just walk their asses into the headquarters. It’s not even like this is a rare occurrence. Maggie may as well have security clearance at this point, because she’s magically able to waltz in at all hours at the night for no reason other than to see her girlfriend (well, only the mind-reader knew this for the bulk of the season) and get a slightly earlier start on their date. It’s possible that J’onn just takes the head on security clearance given his abilities, except…he’s not there all the time. And even when he is, he can sometimes forget to do the mind-reading thing for plot purposes, so it’s not very useful.

While we’re on J’onn, that reminds us: the Director of the DEO directly participates or intervenes in many of their operations. Like, he’s the one punching people. It’s great that he’s the Martian Manhunter, but maybe that means someone else should be in charge since he’s always in the field and cannot do administrative work. Or, you know, direct the operations. If only they had a living skeleton who sweats cyanide and has a lovely collection of neckties.

He even comes with puns.

But frankly, do they even need a director? They only have maybe 3 or 4 agents active at a given time, unless the plot demands otherwise. Heck, they didn’t even have a dedicated IT guy until Winn got the job this year. Which sadly just bring us back to the GIANT BUILDING! Who is using it, if no one is in it? Or are they just sub-tenants with the following floors: top, ground-level, basement, and sub-basement. Those poor businessmen who work in the middle and have no way of getting in their building (or out). Is this up to code? We have our doubts.

No no, back to the agents. From what we can tell, there is a constant fluctuation in team size from 4 agents to…over a hundred. You know, for those operations where the vans come and stuff. What happens to the van crews during the normal day-to-day, when they’re almost never needed? Do they have other day jobs? Does everybody have an incredibly high number of vacation days they can take? Are they temps and called as-needed (and if so, how does no one know about them)? Are they there, but merely hiding behind the cameras during most episodes? OH! Maybe they live in the vacant parts of the building, which means that the DEO definitely owns and operates a luxury hotel with actual service.

Well then, nevermind us. We were going to go on about how Maggie magically knew of the DEO despite it being a top secret held secret, or how their HR department is sorely lacking in recourse for its employees stealing equipment and going on rogue missions, but it’s clear these are mere quibbles. The DEO makes perfect sense, and its agents are true American heroes.

Especially the ones who cook the meals for the room service of the hotel that they clearly live in and staff.

Images courtesy of The CW , Toys R’ Us, and DC Comics


Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.


Griffin is a geeky writer person doing geeky writer things operating out of the Chicago area. He hopes beyond hope that they never discontinue Americone Dream.

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  • Em

    love the tone of the article, perfectly matches the seriousness and the development of the deo.

    I was thinking about this I feel like part of the issue with the whole what’s up the deo thing is that the entire world of supergirl made a huge leap forward in term of plot between season one and two. In season one the deo seemed to actually be a secret and the alien population on earth seemed very small, basically just fort rozz aliens. we never see any indications that of an alien population, there’s no mention of public debates or any hints of any sort of alien society. But then in season two it’s like national city developed a big non fort rozz alien population overnight, complete with it’s own bar scene. It feels like there’s a missing season there that focuses on the public becoming more aware of aliens and the deo shifting from a black ops organization to an alien based law enforcement agency.

  • SuperYakGirl94

    I am now taking as canon that the DEO runs its own luxury hotel for its agents as a cover for its agency. Because that’s just hilarious, and it makes as much sense as anything about the DEO this season.

    • We have done our jobs.

  • Bo


    It’s been so weird reading the DEO in Batwoman since my first exposure to them was through Supergirl. I’m imagining Mon El walking into the Batwoman DEO and being shot on the spot by Cameron Chase. It makes me happy. But then Maggie might be shot as well and that doesn’t make me so happy.

    Perhaps all those other floors of the skyscraper are for the various Marshall Eriksens of the DEO who can’t “read a magazine” in a bathroom other people use? Or they’re always under construction and they keep the various corporations of the city competing for these “soon to be open” offices? Maybe the bribes they receive to award those never-opening offices is the DEO’s only source of funding and that’s why they can’t afford an IT department.

  • luvthejem

    Kara must be getting a paycheck from the DEO, otherwise how is she not homeless? She’s been fired from CatCo, so how is she paying the bills? How does she pay for all those lunch dates with Lena?
    Do they have to buzz visitors into the building? Some high security businesses do that, right? Maybe that’s how they keep random lost people from wandering in? Well, random people who aren’t James or Maggie or Eliza. And Winn did manage to take a suit and shield out of the building. Do they even have security?

    • Barbara Kateřina

      I always assumed the opposite – that she must be an unpaid intern and that’s why she worried about her job at CatCo so much and insisted she absolutely has to work full time. I actually wished they’d include her worrying about money at some point, since that’d probably be the only thing that could make me interested in that plotline…

      But maybe they finally gave her a paycheck after she was fired from CatCo?

  • Thomas Hayes

    I feel like the DEO only became part of the treatment of the show to fulfill what CBS would understand as a procedural element. It has never really felt like it belongs in the show in spite of Alex being a member of it. Rarely did the DEO and the CatCo sides of the show dovetail properly in Season 1 and that isn’t any better in Season 2 really.

    • Yeah at this point it’s like, a nice plot device to say “bad things THIS WAY!” But it’s frustrating, because organizations like this have so much potential for compelling stories, when there’s actual consistency and realism. Though I do admit I’m a bigger fan of paperwork dramas than most.