[This is a review of Supergirl season 2, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Due to the move from CBS to The CW for its second season, Supergirl has undergone a soft reboot of sorts in the early episodes of its sophomore outing. Either because of the soft reboot or general changes from season to season, certain characters have gone in new directions. Winn, for instance, left his job at CatCo to work for the DEO, Cat Grant herself left both CatCo and Supergirl to pursue a new passion, while James Olsen took over her role in the company. Additionally, last week's episode of Supergirl set the stage for James to become a new superhero in National City: Guardian.
Season 2 of Supergirl has also been developing an overarching storyline that positions aliens as refugees of Earth, with the show exploring the conflicts that arise between the aliens and their allies, and those who are afraid or against the otherworldly refugees. One such refugee is the Daxamite Mon-El (Chris Wood), who Kara has taken under her wing to help him with the transition to Earth.
Now, in 'Changing' -- with a story by Greg Berlanti, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg and Caitlin Parrish, and directed by Larry Teng -- Kara must contend with an alien parasite that drains her of her power. Plus, James makes his debut in the full Guardian suit, outfitted by Winn, while Mon-El tries his hand at a new career. On a more personal level, Alex further deals with the realization of her feelings for Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) from last week's episode.
Straight Out of The X-Files
Supergirl again treads into the realm of underdeveloped villains in this week's episode, though 'Changing' is helped along in the early scenes by its homage to classic sci-fi like The X-Files and John Carpenter's The Thing. The episode kicks off with researchers in Norway discovering a wolf frozen in the ice -- though it turns out the creature was preserved in a way due to an alien parasite. The alien takes hold of one of the researchers, leaving the DEO to find the majority of the people at the facility ravaged by something completely unknown.
The early scenes in the Norwegian facility certainly set up a compelling science fiction narrative in 'Changing', but the episode largely fails to deliver on this promise. Rather than a mystery concerning the alien parasite hiding among humans, 'Changing' morphs into a standard Supergirl villain narrative. The alien parasite is quickly identified by Winn, Supergirl tries and fails to defeat the creature, Supergirl enlists the help of Martian Manhunter -- which only makes the situation worse -- and she is eventually successful in defeating the foe.
With all the other storylines included in 'Changing', it certainly makes sense for the villain to be the most undercooked -- Supergirl has always played to the strength of its characters, rather than compelling villains of the week. Still, with such an intriguing setup in the early scenes of the episode, Supergirl posits the question of what the show could be if it delved deeper into sci-fi/horror, but doesn't offer any kind of answer.
Alex's Complicated Coming Out
Last week on Supergirl, Alex came to the realization that she had romantic feelings for her newfound partner in alien law enforcement, Maggie Sawyer. While the storyline was earnest in its exploration of Alex's sexuality, it didn't dig too deep into what the realization would mean for Alex or her life going forward. 'Changing' provides that deeper dive into Alex's revelation as she comes out to Kara and additionally professes her feelings to Maggie.
Like last week, Supergirl tackles Alex's sexuality with as much honesty and heart as the show has exhibited in many of its character narratives. The scenes of Alex discussing her sexuality with Kara reaffirm the relationship as the emotional core of Supergirl, continuing to demonstrate the capability of Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist in carrying the more serious drama of the series -- albeit with plenty of charm. Certainly, from Alex viewing her relationship with her high school best friend through a new lens, to attempting to shut Kara out after being rejected by Maggie, Leigh had a number of standout moments this week.
Supergirl has, at times, mishandled romantic relationships -- from the multiple love triangles in season 1 to the abrupt turnaround of the relationship between Kara and James at the start of season 2 -- even while its platonic relationships have been exceptionally strong. But with that said, the show has managed to give Alex an honest and relatable arc. Though there is certainly conflict in that Alex and Maggie aren't currently on the same page, Supergirl has begun to develop a more thought out character arc in Alex.
The Heroes of National City
Since Mon-El arrived in National City, Kara has tried to help him acclimate to life on Earth -- that is, of course, after she moved past her prejudice against Daxamites. In 'Changing', the pair continue their give and take dynamic as Kara is disappointed to learn Mon-El is using his powers as muscle-for-hire, though she (with an assist from Alex) finally gets through to him about stepping up to be a hero.
Mon-El's reluctant hero narrative is enjoyable enough, but doesn't offer much insight into a deeper level of the character. Still, with Mon-El captured by Cadmus thanks to his solo attempt at heroism and kindness, we'll see how the character develops from here.
Due to the alien parasite draining Kara of her power on two occasions, the second time leading the creature to morph into what Winn refers to as a Purple People Eater (Cisco Ramon, he is not), 'Changing' sees James suit up as Guardian. The capabilities of Guardian's suit -- including bombs and a retractable shield -- offer National City a taste of vigilantism, though it remains to be seen if that will work to balance Supergirl's alien-focused environment. Additionally, the arrival of Guardian gives James something more to do than sit behind Cat's desk.
That said, The CW superhero shows have long struggled with finding storylines for their characters outside of vigilantism and superheroics. The majority of Arrow's cast are current or past vigilantes, while an increasing number of The Flash's main characters are becoming metahumans. Now, with Supergirl moving away from Kara's day job/alter-ego as a CatCo employee, the newest show in The CW's DC Comics lineup is similarly moving toward more superheroics -- and it's unclear if that will help or hurt Supergirl in the long run.
Supergirl continues Monday November 21 with ‘The Darkest Place’ at 8pm on The CW.