Spoilers ahead for “Changing,” the latest episode of The CW’s Supergirl!
The short version: A climate scientist is infected with an alien parasite and starts sucking the life out of people (literally). James Olsen suits up as the Guardian for the first time. Mon-El actually tries to be a hero (it doesn’t end well). And Alex comes out, but is rejected by Maggie.
The good: Parasite, Alex’s journey, Guardian’s debut
Trent: This episode featured some not-so-subtle homages to The Thing, with its introduction of the classic Superman baddie Parasite, a creature capable of (literally) sucking the life out of you. A climate scientist runs across this mystery parasite frozen in the ice, and it infects him and takes out his entire base (sound vaguely familiar?). Sure, it was basically just a guy who turns into a giant troll monster, but they at least gave it a unique spin. The parasite brought out the base instincts of the scientist, who is using his newfound evil powers to try and take out the people standing in the way of his climate change research. In his mind, he’s trying to change the world. He’s just going about it by killing all the climate change deniers. A clever way to weave in a topical issue, but it does send a bit of a mixed message. So the climate scientist turns out to be evil, but the climate deniers are pretty crummy guys, too? Well, whatever, the fight was cool.
Alex’s story of discovery continued this week, as she comes out to Kara and makes a move on Maggie. It doesn’t go all that well, as Maggie pretty much shoots her down (but still wants to be her friend). The further it goes, this story is really starting to dig into Alex and give her a voice. It’s showing her face the more awkward, scary sides of figuring out who you really are. As Kara made clear, she won’t have to figure it all out alone. It’s a messy story, but it should be.
James Olsen made his big debut as the Guardian, and the suit did not disappoint. We probably could’ve used a bit more detail as to what, exactly, makes it so super (and how he can jump around so easily in something literally lined in lead?), but it at least looked good. Like a mix of body armor and a more closed-out version of Diggle’s helmet, from Arrow. Not bad for CW standards. Not bad at all.
Dany: There's often this misunderstanding (trust me, I wrote about The 100 multiple times, so I know all about it) that LGBTQIA TV watchers just want happy stories for LGBTQIA characters. But what we're really after is authenticity. We want stories that feel familiar. And since it's not Reagan 2.0 times just yet, that means something other than "two ladies fall in love and then one of them dies lol." And the stories of Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer provide exactly the kind of refreshingly honest storytelling so many of us have been craving.
Late-in-life coming out stories? Yup. They happen. And that need to embrace all the things at once tends to be chaotic and even a little destructive for anyone who happens to get pulled into the intense gravity of someone figuring out they're gay for the first time. So I absolutely believe that Alex would be magnetized to the first gay woman to truly open her eyes. And I 100% know that Maggie is right to throw up the defenses and not let Alex in so easily. That uneasy, awkward but beautiful kiss felt so real. I have been there. Gosh, have I been there.
Maybe Alex and Maggie will make it work in the long term. It seems so clear to me that Maggie does have feelings for Alex -- that's why she didn't rush in like a fool. Maggie is mature enough to know that she wants something real with Alex, and that's just not in the cards right now.
All of which is pretty emblematic of Supergirl so far this season. Winn and James slowly making moves to be heroes, Mon-El not immediately rushing headlong into danger, M'Gann recognizing J'onn's need for life-giving blood and weighing her options -- there's so much maturity and depth in these characters. No one is perfect, but they're all able to recognize the world around them and pivot when they need to.
As much as I love Alex and Maggie's story, I might love Alex and Kara's even more. At first I didn't get why Kara was struggling with Alex coming out, but of course it was because she felt guilty for drawing focus with her own, alien secret. Of course Alex would temporarily get bogged down in the regret of not having seen Alex as she was for so long. And of course Kara figured out what she was feeling, sharing that honesty with Alex as they work together to help Alex work through this huge revelation in her life.
Honestly, after one of the worst weeks in recent history, I think Supergirl was genuinely saving lives tonight. Well done.
The bad: The gaping plot holes, Winn is too awesome too quickly
Dany: I got nothing. I guess I think Cadmus is kind of corny. I mean... how did they know Mon-El was going to be walking down the street well enough to have a soldier playing the role of a homeless person? And how many times does the phrase "Welcome to Cadmus" need to be used? Full honesty time? I think the big bad story arc is almost certainly the weakest part of this season so far.
Trent: Okay, seriously. Why do they keep letting James Olsen just stroll right into the top secret DEO office, especially since he has no official capacity or reason to be there? Not to mention, he’s running a media outlet, and has full access to the secret base? It’s getting a little silly. Yes, they obviously want to find a way to let all these characters keep sharing the screen, but having James just randomly pop by the DEO office makes little to no sense. Also: The DEO’s best approach to fight a power sucking enemy is to send its two most powerful people to fight it, so they can immediately have the power sucked out of them? How does this seem like a good strategy? If anything, you think they’ll outsmart it by starving it of power. Instead, they let it get juiced up to rampage the city, then Kara blows it up with plutonium, somehow, by overpowering it? When that could’ve easily backfired and made it unstoppably strong? Yeah, this is just a head-scratcher all around.
It’s been great to see Winn step into a more active role and really embrace his element, but c’mon, this transformation has happened a little too quickly right? He went from quiet IT guy to a position within the DEO where he’s trusted to stop world-ending catastrophes. Oh, and he can also build a super-suit in a week? Winn is the Magic Super-Nerd trope run amok. Let’s bring it down. Give the guy a learning curve. Oh, and no one noticed Winn vanish from DEO headquarters during the attack, to go ride around in a van?
Mon-El took a tiny step toward being a hero, and then was immediately captured by Cadmus. Well, that went well. The Martian Manhunter just unknowingly got himself pumped full of White Martian blood. What are the after-effects, we wonder?
Lines of the night:
“I can't hide behind my camera anymore.” -James
Next week: There’s an arrest warrant out for the Guardian! Uh oh!