[This is a review of Supergirl season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
In the early part of Supergirl season 2, the series dealt largely with the anti-alien sentiment shared by many on Earth — with those like Kara Danvers, U.S. President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter), and the DEO working to mediate the tensions between humans and aliens. Meanwhile, the secretive organization CADMUS, operated by Lillian Luthor, has tried to exacerbate the conflicts between aliens and humans — most recently, by taking the alien-hating human Hank Henshaw and turning him into the powerful Cyborg Superman.
At the end of last week’s episode, viewers got a glimpse into CADMUS’s larger plan when Cyborg Superman visited Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and, using the blood Lillian took from Kara, accessed the location’s information on something called Project Medusa. Now, this week’s episode reveals what Lillian has up her sleeve for Supergirl and the aliens of National City.
In ‘Medusa’ — written by Jessica Queller and Derek Simon and directed by Stefan Pleszczynski — CADMUS releases a virus that is deadly to aliens, forcing Kara to enlist the help of Lillian’s adoptive daughter, Lena Luthor. Meanwhile, Kara additionally celebrates Thanksgiving with her friends and family, since her adoptive mother Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) is in town for the holiday. James and Winn consider telling Kara about their work as the vigilante Guardian, while Eliza reveals she believes Mon-El has feelings for Kara. ‘Medusa’ ends with Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) arriving in National City to kick off The CW’s Arrowverse crossover: Invasion!
The Medusa Virus
‘Medusa’ is an episode packed with all the story and character resolutions to be expected as Supergirl heads into its midseason break. As such, ‘Medusa’ finally reveals CADMUS’s plan to wipe out all alien life forms on Earth through a modified version of Krypton’s Medusa virus. In terms of what Supergirl has been building toward in the first part of season 2, it’s a sufficiently diabolical plan capitalizing on the theme of anti-alien sentiments by proxy for anti-immigration bigotry, which feels especially poignant in the current political climate.
Still, as was the case with Myriad in season 1, while Medusa seems like a decent plan in broad strokes, it breaks down upon a closer look. The virus, as Kara learns, was developed by her father and is lethal to all non-Kryptonian physiologies, which strikes a harsh blow to Kara’s image of her father and her home planet as a whole. But, though CADMUS presumably modified the virus to be harmless for humans, they didn’t modify it to hurt Kryptonians, and since Supergirl (and Superman) are Kryptonian, CADMUS’s Medusa fails to affect the beings most likely to thwart their plan.
That said, the strength of Supergirl has rarely been its narrative structures or the details the series glosses over, but the show has excelled at character development. So, appropriately, it isn’t the science of Medusa that trips up Lillian’s ultimate plan. Rather, it’s her lack of understanding of her adoptive daughter. While Supergirl and Martian Manhunter would have been unsuccessful in preventing Lillian and Cyborg Superman from killing the Earth’s alien population, Lena took a stance against her mother’s ideals and modified the virus to be inert.
Thanksgiving Confessions & Betrayals
Of course, for a show so focused on character development, ‘Medusa’ truly packs a punch when providing meaningful moments for its main cast — particularly, the Danvers and Luthor women. For the most part, James and Winn sit out ‘Medusa’, briefly discussing early on whether to reveal their work as Guardian to Kara, though it’s quickly rendered moot when Alex vetoes their confession so as not to overshadow one of her own.
Instead, ‘Medusa’ features Alex coming out to her mother while Eliza is in town for Thanksgiving and helping the DEO on the Medusa case. As has been the case for all of Alex’s coming out storyline on Supergirl, this particular arc in ‘Medusa’ is handled deftly and with realistic heart. Each of Alex’s moments of coming out to the people in her life are different and reflective of her relationships with those individuals — and Chyler Leigh continues to shine as the earnest Alex, this time bouncing off an equally exceptional Slater.
Alex’s arc seemingly comes to a kind of resolution with her confession to her mother and, as she tells Maggie, she’s finally found her new normal. So, since Alex is now comfortable in her life and identity, and Maggie has survived a life-threatening meeting with Cyborg Superman, the two share a kiss — this time while they’re both on the same page of their relationship.
But, although their kiss feels earned by the well-developed character arc of Alex this season, on the less well-developed side of Supergirl season 2, Mon-El kisses Kara when he believes he’s dying — and pretends to forget it later when he’s cured. Already, the romantic relationship between Mon-El and Kara seems to be included in Supergirl merely to fill a romance quota for the titular hero — one that early episodes of season 2 proved unnecessary to the success of the series.
Still, one other compelling relationship not related to one of the Danvers is that between Lena and her adoptive mother Lillian. Their relationship, or the lack of one as it were, is highlighted during ‘Medusa’ as both Kara and Supergirl attempt to enlist Lena’s help in putting a stop to Lillian’s plan. For much of season 2, Lena has operated in a moral gray area, neither the true villain like Lillian nor the hero that is Supergirl, making her an especially dynamic character especially considering her familial ties. However, ‘Medusa’ played with that grayness, first seeming to indicate Lena had taken her mother’s side, before revealing her to be firmly on Team Supergirl — at least, for now.
The Invasion! Begins – Anticlimactically
The CW, in all of its promotional marketing, has billed the DC TV crossover as a four-night event — a somewhat misleading statement that producers have been attempting to downplay for some time. Plus, the episode titles and synopses for Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow made it clear that the battle against the Dominators would take place across the other three series. Still, the beginning of The CW’s DC TV universe crossover in Supergirl is somewhat anticlimactic.
There is a throughline in ‘Medusa’ of space-time continuum ripping breaches appearing in National City prior to one successfully opening in Kara’s apartment, but the tease for the Invasion! crossover is little more than the one featured at the end of Legends of Tomorrow’s preceding episode, ‘Outlaw Country’. Of course, the reunion between Barry and Kara as well as her meeting Cisco will likely please fans, and tease bigger moments of fan excitement to come. However, ‘Medusa’ is largely removed from the Invasion! crossover storyline — without even a mention of the Dominators in the episode.
That said, though the Dominators don’t receive any screen time or a name drop, a different mysterious alien ship is teased in the final moments of ‘Medusa’. Rather than hoping to invade Earth, however, they’re on the hunt for Mon-El. It seems the Daxamite may not have been entirely truthful with Kara when he told her how he had wound up in a Kryptonian pod. But, with a midseason break to contend with, fans of Supergirl will have to wait to learn who these aliens are and what they want with Mon-El — a mystery for the second part of season 2.
Supergirl returns from its midseason break with the Kevin Smith-directed ‘Supergirl Lives’ on The CW.