Supergirl Review Season 2, Episode 05, “Crossfire”
We (Gretchen and Elizabeth) know it’s the only thing on people’s minds right now, so we’ll just start with it: Alex Danvers came out. They did it again. They DID. IT. AGAIN. Supergirl topped itself, both with storytelling and the gay. It’s just…
Anyway, let’s just dive right in, shall we?
To become the new CatCo intern, Mon El (human alias Mike Matthews) gets a makeover complete with a heat vision haircut courtesy of Kara and a fake birth certificate courtesy of Winn. Cut to Alex and Maggie playing pool, where Maggie confesses that her girlfriend broke up with her (5 minutes in and Maggie is single. OMG). On their way to get coffee, Kara explains Mon El to James but their conversation is interrupted by a robbery. Unfortunately the robbers are packing fancy alien weapons even Supergirl can’t fully handle and she is beaten. Cue another creepy Cadmus hacker video taking credit for the robbery.
James tells Kara he feels helpless in his current work while Mon El, far from helpless, pawns his work off on James’ secretary Miss Tessmacher. Lena comes to see Kara at her work (Squee!) and invites her to come with her to a gala over the weekend because she’s her only friend in National City (SQUEE!). Winn inadvertently gives Alex relationship advice about Maggie (SQUEE!). Kara faces the Cadmus gang and loses again. Alex tries (awkwardly) to hang out with Maggie, which leads to an even more awkward discussion of Alex’s sexual orientation and a bit of oh-so-relatable panicking on Alex’s part. Kara walks in on Mon El and Miss Tessmacher doing the do in the supply closet, and is hilariously traumatized by it. James visits Winn at the DEO to
get a tip on a crime to stop shoot the breeze. He runs into the Cadmus gang and saves people from a collapsing building.
Winn confronts James about trying to be a hero; James confesses he feels sidelined and overlooked and wants to be his own superhero. Sister frustration bonding! Kara bitches about what she perceives as Mon El’s
entitlement low work ethic. Alex advises her to let him be himself rather than force him to fit her mold. Alex is about to confess her struggle over Maggie when the doorbell rings. Lena enters (she knows where Kara lives…) to call in the favor Kara owes her: get in touch with Supergirl. Cadmus gang plans on attacking Lena’s party but the Cadmus boss lady tells the leader he’s on his own. She wants to save the world from an alien apocalypse (and protect her children) not take on the Luthors.
Supergirl visits Lena and gets invited to the party as well. Commence awkward costume changes so Kara and Supergirl can both be at the party! (Kara eats a lot of potstickers.) The Cadmus gang attacks; Kara fights them off. Winn finds Lena hiding under the table with a special bomb she’s built and planted. They nerd out for a second, then the bomb knocks out the Cadmus gang’s guns. The next day, just before the gang leader gives up Cadmus to Maggie, we hear boss lady’s voice in his head and he dies. Winn agrees to help James be a hero. Mon El is fired (duh!). Alex comes out to Maggie (OMG). Lena thanks Supergirl for her help and says she wants to work together more in the future (Squee!). They’re interrupted by Cadmus Lady, whom Lena addresses as Mom after Supergirl leaves (WHAT???????).
Best Quote: “My whole life has been about being perfect. Perfect grades, perfect job, being the perfect sister, taking care of Kara, but the one part of my life that I’ve never been able to make perfect was dating. I just never really liked it; I don’t know, I mean I tried. I got asked out, I just…I never liked being intimate. I just…I don’t know, I just thought maybe that’s not the way that I was built. You know, it’s just not my thing. I never thought that it was because of the other. That maybe I, I mean, I don’t know. Now I just can’t stop thinking about…That maybe there’s some truth to what you said about…what you said about me.—Alex Danvers
Thoughts & Feelings
Let’s start off with Kara’s mentorship arc (we’ll get to Maggie and Alex in a second don’t worry). Kara finally understands the frustration of being a mentor, and we’re sure Cat will be quite smug about it the next time she visits her favorite protegé. Like Steven Universe, she’s learning how best to help people, which includes letting them be themselves, as she was allowed to be with Cat. Though well intentioned, forcing Mon El to be a miniature version of herself helped neither of them. It did not respect Mon El’s individuality, or the banner of personal choice that Kara has been proudly flying since season one. But with a little help from Alex, Kara figured out what she needed to do; she needs to allow Mon El to take his own path, but stay close by so he can ask for help when he needs it (as any good parent or mentor should).
Kara is also learning to embrace their differences, rather than pushing against them, which is something she consistently struggles with across the course of the show. It’s great to see Kara figuring out her new roles in life, and to stand by her through both her failures and successes. She still needs a bit of nudging from Alex & company sometimes, but she’s grown a lot since the days when she needed long motivational speeches. We miss Cat, but we appreciate Kara’s growth, too. It is a common problem with superhero stories that the heroes are rigid and unchangeable across their story arcs; Kara is a breath of fresh air in that regard, staying both true to her ideals but not getting stuck in her ways.
James and Winn have some great friendship moments this episode as well. Winn has a point about James wanting to be a superhero and probably ending up dead. Winn also saw firsthand what happened to Siobhan when she felt overlooked, so it’s understandable he’d be more cautious. James is also kind of right about wanting to find something meaningful and personal in his life that wasn’t handed to him or revolve around someone else. He’s spent his career revolving around supers rather than being his own person. Most poignantly, he has a revelation that his father gave his life for his country, and the best way to honor his father’s memory would be to also stand up to fight for what he believes in. Kara is starting to step out on her own as Kara Danvers the human this season. In contrast to that, James will be getting in touch with his superhero side and stepping out as the Guardian. While James had been hanging back a bit in the first quarter of this season, we feel greatly reassured that he is not going to be stuck on the bench for the rest of it. And with Winn designing his costume, you can bet it will be epic. #TeamSidekicks
Speaking of Winn, let’s talk about his conversation with Alex in the DEO. When Winn says he couldn’t stay out of Kara’s relationships because he was ‘into her’, then turns to Alex with “It’s not like you’re into this Maggie person.” Ugh. The look on Alex’s face was just…gut-wrenching perfection. It was obviously a “but I am, and I’m confused about it” moment.
We found this scene to be a particularly good inclusion, because it is a wonderful reflection of just how absurdly heteronormative most of the world is, and it’s one of those scenes that really reminds you that this show is written with a queer audience in mind. It’s not that Winn has anything against LGBT+ people, it’s just that they’re not on his radar because his worldview is appropriately heteronormative, considering he’s a straight, cis, white guy. A big element of the coming out process is coming up against heteronormativity for the first time, both from your own internal worldview and the worldview of others. The thoughts and viewpoints of your social circle can be a hindrance to the self discovery process, not necessarily in a negative way, but simply because you might have a small sample size. Fortunately, Alex has a broader circle of influences than just Winn, and an admirable amount of willingness to examine her own feelings on the matter.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: Alex coming out. First off,
Ahem. Alex’s conversation with Maggie at the end was really, really well done. We were a bit hesitant about the inevitable ‘big coming out moment’ after Maggie confronted Alex about being gay, and Alex’s knee-jerk reaction was slightly panicky denial. The nervous feeling intensified a bit when Alex seemed so confused while she went to Kara’s apartment, especially since they never quite got to talking about Alex’s issues. We didn’t want a huge existential crisis, as that seemed out of character for Alex, and we are quite frankly really tired of that trope. Thankfully, the show once again didn’t let us down by giving us a very real, very honest, very in character moment of understanding for Alex to have reached based on her life and history. And the speech itself was ineloquent, filled with stutters and stumbles, which rings true both for Alex as a character and to real life. Realizations like this are rarely ever well crafted speeches like we see on TV. They went for sincerity and realism over eloquence and they nailed it. Chyler Leigh herself killed it. It just felt so viscerally authentic.
There was no fanfare or big internal struggle, more of a slow clicking of the pieces into place. With someone like Alex, it works. She’s spent her whole life taking care of Kara and focusing on just about everything but herself. It makes sense that it might take a while for her to understand herself; she doesn’t have time to think about it. The time frame in which most young people start to figure out their sexual orientation, Alex was too busy trying to protect her little sister, and it’s clear from the brief flashback last season that Alex wasn’t really in the mood for introspection while in college. After that, her life was devoted to the DEO, and she said it herself; she hasn’t dated in two years. She’s had no time to date, much less think deeply about her sexual orientation. And her struggle to even say she’s gay? Because if you say the word, it’s real and you can’t take that back. So she hedges around it in a dark corner of a loud bar and can’t even look Maggie in the eye. Because coming out doesn’t happen all at once. It comes in steps, and this is Alex’s first. It’s so relatable, and so real. Elizabeth has had this conversation several times in her life (on Maggie’s side of things) and can attest that it was arguably the most wonderfully written coming out scene she’s ever seen in a television show.
Above all, that coming out speech was about Alex, not a ship. Maggie listened politely and kindly while Alex talked. She didn’t pressure her to follow through on drinks, or kiss her or assume that the realization was about her at all. Then Alex immediately left. Whether she actually had something to do or was merely overwhelmed and embarrassed (or both) doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same. Alex came out without needing to rush into a relationship. Do we hope the relationship flourishes now? Hell yes. God yes. But for now, we’re happy Alex got to have a moment to acknowledge herself as a wlw, end of episode. We have time to get them together later. We’re just happy for Alex. So happy.
Moreover, we deeply appreciate that they’re exploring an adult coming out rather than a younger person’s. And perhaps that’s the reason for the lack of fanfare and angst. When you figure out you’re queer later in life, it looks different. It feels more like a realization than a struggle, as they showed us with Alex. In an article that went up minutes after the episode aired the executive producer of Supergirl discusses how he and the team worked on Alex’s coming out as an adult wlw:
“After talking to [executive producer] Greg Berlanti and doing some research on my own, anecdotally it seems like people who come out later in life come out because they’ve met someone. There’s a specific person for whom they’ve fallen. The idea that Alex who never really had a strong romantic connection with anybody and had come to dismiss it, and then meets Maggie and has her world turned upside down, it seems like interesting territory to us, that it wasn’t about a young teenager coming to grips with it. It was somebody who was an adult and in some ways had more to overcome on an internal level to get to the point where she could recognize that she has these feelings.”—Andrew Kreisberg
For someone like me (Gretchen), who figured out I was bi later in life, Alex’s story is a huge validation. Older closeted and unaware women exist and we deserve to have our stories told alongside the young, angsty coming out stories. It took me hours to fully process what I had just seen and in a way, I’m still doing it. (Elizabeth herself is still in shock). Because I just saw my story told on TV and it punched me in the gut. In the best way of course. This is why representation matters.
From my (Elizabeth) perspective, I relate much more to Maggie’s gentle and knowing nods, and the quiet empathy you try to exude when a woman is scared of or confused about how she feels about you. I felt the same gut-punching level of validation from seeing myself on screen, just from a different perspective. I share Maggie’s bluntness, and I am about 110% sure I’ve said the exact words “you’d be surprised how many gay women I’ve heard that from” to several past girlfriends prior to us dating. It’s true that we wlw can spot each other, and it is a survival instinct. We want to be around our own kind, and protect each other: we tend to huddle together like gay penguins in an antarctic storm. But we can sometimes lack tact and subtlety if we’ve been out ourselves for a long time (I’ve been out since 14, almost 14 years now), and Maggie’s blunt assertions to Alex were ridiculously accurate to my personal experiences with these kinds of situations. But how Maggie acts going further is wonderfully respectful and responsive to Alex’s needs, and very grown up. When Alex provides a wonderful example of an adult woman coming out, Maggie is an equally wonderful example of the other side of the coin; the out and proud member of the wlw community who serves as the light that guides another one of our own home.
Ultimately the thing about this pairing that is so striking is how true-to-life it feels, and how well it fills a very large gap within wlw representation: the ages between 20-40. I (Elizabeth) identify with Santana and Brittany, but on a retrospective level; their experience is true to my high school experience, but that was over a decade ago. Lexa and Clarke were intense, in an almost classical way, as are Carmilla and Laura, but both of us are just too old to really identify with that story anymore. It’s also awkward for us to really ship it, because these characters are so young; We could have babysat them when we was in high school (regardless of the actors’ ages, which more often than not are around our own, but that’s an issue for another time, or another podcast).
Shows like Grey’s Anatomy or The Fosters feature something to aspire to (being married with children) but this is only something I (Elizabeth) started to consider a possibility within the past few years. I had spent about a decade assuming that this was an unattainable goal, because until recently I couldn’t get married. That ideal just never factored into my future plans when I was younger, and even though my current relationship is strongly headed in that direction, it’s not my current reality. It probably won’t be for several more years. ‘Married with children,’ even when it’s two women, isn’t relatable to me right now. I need something in between, something like Alex and Maggie. I am eternally grateful for Alex and Maggie. This ship and these characters have completely captivated me, and will march on the CW headquarters personally if they fuck this up.
Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Subtextia, Lena continues to flirt with Kara at every chance. She even seems to have bit of a crush on Supergirl (not so triangle love triangle anyone?). Kara being Lena’s only friend because “no one will touch a Luthor with a ten foot pole” genuinely hurt our souls. The sense of loneliness that surrounds her is profound. Someone give her a hug and a cuddle. Preferably Kara. Once again, Lena’s behavior seems to teeter on the edge of “this has to be intentional, right?” levels of queer coding, though we can still probably attribute most of this to Katie McGrath’s amazing… stage presence.
As we said last week, even in the presence of a canon ship, Supergirl is always a subtext and shipping friendly show. It feels queer coded but not queer baited, and that is a really damn hard line to walk. Lena and Kara are straddling it quite nicely (#sorrynotsorry).
Okay, moving on to Momma Luthor. We’ve been suspecting a connection between Lena and Cadmus since Lena debuted the alien identification device, but neither of us suspected the head of Cadmus was Mrs. Luthor. (Elizabeth apparently did, but she never mentioned this to Gretchen, so how was she supposed to know this theory was in the works??) In hindsight, it explains the show’s unwillingness to give her a name. Whether predicted or not, the reveal is that good. Like J’onn J’onzz as Martian Manhunter levels of good.
With all the internal conflict this generates, Lena just got much more interesting. Like Kara/Astra and Winn/Toyman from Season 1, Lena stands between Supergirl and her own mother as head of Cadmus (Asami Sato vibes anyone?). There’s so much potential for angst of all kinds as well as narrative tension. At this point, we don’t think Lena is evil, or even working with her mother on the darker side of Cadmus. She hardly seems the kind of character to intentionally lie about wanting to do good or intentionally manipulate Supergirl. She seemed genuine in her desire to have Supergirl at the gala to protect her, and her
interest in friendship with Kara seems genuine as well.
She’s not evil yet, but she is conflicted. Caught between mother and friend/superhero? Love it. That said, we think her arc is about to get complicated. We can see her doing some bad things this season, either because she’s backed against a wall or because she doesn’t know the depth of her mother’s plans or projects and truly believes they are good. She’s pro-human and pro-alien registration; we could see her pulling a Lord-like flirt with the dark side in the quest for what she thinks is the greater good. Ultimately, we think she’ll join team Supergirl. Another unredeemed Luthor just doesn’t do it for us, nor is Supergirl that lazy with storytelling or characterization. Supergirl does complicated and nuanced well, so we’re confident we’ll get that with Lena. We’re also hoping we finally get the full redemption arc we missed out on with Astra last season.
We also think that coping with adoptive families would be a good bonding point for Kara and Lena eventually, no matter what kind of relationship they end up having. Kara still has yet to deal with the bomb Alex dropped about Clark kind of abandoning her with the Danvers. Come on, he never even showed her the Fortress of Solitude? Lena, on the other hand, has already mentioned that Lex made her feel the most at home in her adoptive family. What must she be feeling now with her mother around and making trouble, no one trusting her as a Luthor, and Lex in jail? So much internal conflict that’s ripe for exploring. We can’t wait!
- Sorry Mon El got kind of squeezed out in the review. We’re suckers for awkward introductions to a new society, though. Culture clash ftw. He’s pretty adorable trying to answer a phone.
- James’ dad’s camera broke, and so did our hearts 🙁
- Mon El: “She wanted to please me. On Daxam, when a woman wants to please you…” SHUT UP MON EL. Sheesh.
- Is no one going to mention that Lena knows where Kara lives?? Or that there were potstickers at the gala? I mean, who has potstickers at a party like that? Lena fucking Luthor that’s who.
Because she knows Kara loves them.
- “Operation Doubtfire”
- Mon El’s: “Hello beautiful! Oh, it’s you,” to Kara was amazing.
- Wethinks the James x Winn shippers will soon be coming out of the woodworks
- Not sure how James, head of CatCo, just waltzed in and out of the DEO without being challenged but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Maybe he’s on the list?
- Alex had a punk rock phase. Here is the proof:
- Fun fact we learned from the Kreisberg article (above): the writers and producer had discussed having Alex come out last season but it didn’t feel right with the story. So in a way, we were right all along, Alex has always been queer. #boom
- James’ hoodie and baseball bat ensemble immediately brings Luke Cage to mind, with a little helping of Daredevil. And it was awesome.
Supergirl has a lot of balls in the air this season, but it’s yet to drop one. The writers have really hit their stride, and it’s clear that they are very confident in both the story they are weaving and the real issues they are pulling inspiration from. It could not possibly be more transparently obvious that a member of the wlw community is part of the executive team, and that the rest of the creative team cares very much about doing right by that audience. Our concerns about James being sidelined have also been addressed, in almost a meta way now that we think about it, and he will be stepping back into the spotlight moving forward as the Guardian. J’onn was missed in this episode, as we adore our Space Dad, but that’s a very tiny nitpick on what is otherwise quite possibly the highlight of this year’s television offerings. However, we said that about last week’s episode, so hopefully the show just continues to shock and amaze us in the most wonderful, exciting way.
There is one last thing we’d like to bring up, and this seems like the perfect episode to say it; this year has just flat out sucked for the wlw community, no ifs ands or buts about it. But Supergirl has always been, and continues to be, this charming bright spot amongst the grimdark, dimly lit, gorefest of the television landscape. The show is, superficially, almost campy in its cheerfulness, but don’t be fooled. It might be one of the deepest digging shows on television right now when it comes to social issues, and it’s happy veneer lets it get to the real meat of these topics without hurting an already vulnerable and wounded target audience. As we’ve seen in this episode, to an absolutely pitch perfect, visceral level, Supergirl seems to be determined to become a safe space for queer television viewers.
What was previously simple subtext is now canon. It’s here, it’s queer, and we love it. But it’s not enough to simply be queer; what we need as a community right now is some good news, and Supergirl is always ready to bring it. The world might end on Wednesday, but at least we had “Crossfire”. And we have a feeling this episode will be one that will be remembered as a key moment in queer television history. It was just that good.
And rumor has it, it’s just going to keep getting better.
“Alex has put her hopes and dream on Maggie, which may or may not sit well with Maggie,” Kreisberg says. “But watching them navigate Alex’s coming out, their own ongoing romantic relationship will make up the emotional crux of the next few episodes.”
“Alex mistakes Kara’s reaction for not being entirely supportive,” he says. “When Alex tells her, Kara feels guilty because she feels like their entire worlds growing up were so much about Kara and her secret that there wasn’t enough room for Alex to feel comfortable bringing this up to her. But the people who love Alex continue to love Alex as it should be in life, and everybody is going to be there for her.”
We are simultaneously totally not emotionally ready for this, but also indescribably excited to see it in action. See y’all next week!