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Nails Are Bitten Down to the Nubs in the Race to Save Alex on Supergirl

Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 19, “Alex”

Holy hot potatoes, Batman! Talk about an intense hour of television. Normally Kori doesn’t care for the race-against-the-clock style episodes, but Elizabeth was chomping at the bit for “Alex” to air and Kori was sucked in against her will anyway. Where this episode falls in your personal rankings is directly correlated with how much you love Sanvers, so for Elizabeth it was, of course, the best of the season. Your mileage may vary. Let’s break it down!

Or just plain break down. Elizabeth’s still recovering.

Recap

The episode opens with Maggie expertly coercing a pair of bank robbers to release the hostages they’re holding and surrender peacefully. Oh, how we love seeing Maggie at work. Unfortunately, we never get to see if her persuasion is successful, because Supergirl takes the situation into her own hands by crashing through the roof of the bank with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. Supergirl then roughly perp-walks the two robbers out the front door into the eager arms of Maggie’s police team, and even delivers a clever quip as a parting gift.

While Kara is very good at catching bad guys, she’s not so great at social graces; she’s completely oblivious to the deeply annoyed expression on Maggie’s face when she tells her she’ll see her later at dinner. So, apparently at some point this season Maggie and Kara have had That Talk. Probably should have happened on screen, but whatever. Small nitpick. Onward to yet another trademark Awkward Danvers Family Dinner!

We catch up with our heroes as Kara is walking into Alex’s apartment with pizzas, as Alex has burned dinner to an epic degree. Alex shows the smoke alarm what she thinks of its critiques of her cooking by climbing up a ladder and prying it off the wall with her bare hands. We love everything about this. It’s been a popular headcanon in the fandom for a while now that Alex cannot cook to save her life, so it’s delightful to have that canonically confirmed.

Once most of the smoke has dissipated, the foursome sits down for a nice dinner and conversation. Unfortunately, Maggie isn’t really in a conversational mood, and Mon-El’s assertion that National City “doesn’t need a police force anymore” because of Supergirl flips the ‘Kill Bill Sirens’ switch in Maggie’s brain. Not ones to beat around the bush. Maggie and Kara immediately get into an argument about vigilantism while Alex and Mon-El desperately try to diffuse the situation.

Clearly, the diffusing attempt was not successful.

Maggie brings up the fact that Kara’s man-handling of suspects makes it much easier for them to get off on a technicality. Kara argues that the rules are for squares that sometimes protocol gets in the way of swift justice. Maggie digs her stubborn-mule heels in and goes for the kill. Kara’s feelings are sufficiently hurt enough that she opts to leave rather than continue the argument. Mon-El follows her and takes several slices of pizza with him for the road. We’re mildly surprised he didn’t stuff a few extra in his pockets, but they did leave in a hurry.

Poor Alex. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place here. On one hand, Maggie does have a point. (Though Kori still thinks the Supergirl Defense should have been brought up with the non-sanctioned vigilante, the Guardian, as well.) Kara does crash in and often cause far more damage than what the police would have been able to resolve the issue with. On the other hand, do you really think the hostages give a damn if Supergirl swoops in and ends the 17 HOUR hostage crisis?

It’s the classic “my family and my lover are both technically right and now I have to mediate” scenario, only this time it’s for wlw. Fortunately, Maggie is more grumpy than stubborn with Alex. She agrees to make an effort to meet Kara halfway, for Alex’s sake. Alex tells Maggie she’ll be home later and to not wait up, and heads out to smooth things over with Kara.


Cut to the next morning at Catco, where Maggie shows up at Kara’s work asking if she’d seen Alex after last night. While the implication that Maggie stays over at Alex’s frequently is fabulous for the audience, the conversation quickly turns to concern when the two ladies realize neither of them have seen Alex since dinner the night before. It doesn’t take long for the Phone Call of Doom to come through, and we get our answer as to where Alex ended up. Long story short, Creepy Voice Guy knows Kara is Supergirl, has kidnapped her sister, and gives Kara 36 hours to free a prisoner or Alex dies.

Ruh-roh.

When we return from the conveniently placed commercial, the DEO is reviewing the call. Mon-El floats the possibility of freeing the prisoner, but J’onn reminds him that the DEO doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Moreover, they cannot open that door and have Supergirl be at the whims of any asshole who decides to go after her loved ones. (This is why so many heroes have alter-egos. Because, as we can see, people are assholes.)

Maggie cuts through their guesswork on who is targeting Supergirl and reminds them all that they should be focusing on who the prisoner this jerk wants released is. Police procedure for the win! Cut to J’onn, Maggie, and Kara all interviewing one Peter Thompson (Gregg Henry). Unsurprisingly, Kara can’t keep it together and has to leave. However, Winn and the DEO analysts did get something worthwhile. This guy has a son, and he went to high school with Alex and Kara back in Midvale. Better yet, he has a house in National City.

Kara immediately flies to the house and it’s about as standard empty/creepy as you’d expect for a stalkery kidnapper. She finds a computer station setup to monitor Alex in her prison, and then there’s Rick Malvern (David Hoflin) in the flesh. Kara has to hold herself back from incinerating him on the spot.

We just have to say, casting did a marvelous job with booking Hoflin for this role. We both wanted to take a monkey wrench to this Rick’s face. Hoflin is superb in his role as a taunting, one-step-ahead manipulator.

What a punchable face.

And taunt he does. Back at the DEO, Rick isn’t budging. He wants his dad released or Alex dies. Kara can’t understand how this all comes together. Rick clarifies as we see a flashback from the car incident in season one (you know, where baby Kara saves a woman and her infant from a fiery death?) and realize Rick was the guy who invited Alex to the beach that day. Now, Rick was a nice kid (emphasis on ‘was’). When Alex was out with the chicken pox, and Kara was stuck sitting alone at lunch, Rick went and sat with her to keep her company.

But this is what Supergirl does best. It humanizes. Yes, we still want to punch Rick in the face. But we get to hear what happened with him. His mother was physically and emotionally abusive, and he suffered in silence until his dad, Peter, came back for him. For Rick, Peter literally is his white knight. His dad saved him, and regardless of how hard things were, always kept a roof over their heads and made sure Rick knew he loved him.

Look, it’s still a “cool story, still murder” situation. But we understand what’s motivating Rick’s actions. Unfortunately for Alex, that still leaves her stuck in her cell with a countdown clock ticking down.

Over in official episode subplot territory, we see Rhea of Daxam, husband killer extraordinaire, pay Lena Luthor a visit. She presents Lena and L Corp with blueprints for a matter transmitter and spends the first half of the episode buttering Lena up, giving her a sob story about her son, and generally working to cement an alliance between the two.

Only Lena ain’t no dummy. One of the elements necessary for this machine to work isn’t even found on Earth. Armed with this fact, and the same little device she used on Kara way back at the start of the season, Lena confronts Rhea over her lie and has her escorted from the building.

Back in the main plot, Maggie and J’onn try to fool Rick by having J’onn disguise himself as Peter. Rick isn’t having it, saying he prepared for this scenario. Jeez, dude, how did you NOT wind up on the DEO’s radar at some point with all of the research and stalking you did? One might go as far as to say that’s a big enough plot hole to drive a truck through. Sideways.

Anywhoo, they’re back at square one. Alex has the pain tolerance of a freaking bull elephant, because she cuts her tracker out of her shoulder and then uses it to “hack” the cameras in her cell so she can let the DEO know where she is. Kara comes bursting into Maggie’s interrogation to say they found Alex and, oddly, Rick doesn’t seem worried. He even warns Kara not to go. Maggie wisely picks up on this and chases after Kara to point this out to her. But Kara wouldn’t be Kara Danvers/Zor-El if she weren’t the most determined (and bullheaded) buttercup in the buttercup field. She flies off despite Maggie’s adamant protests.

She lands in a warehouse and pries open a steel lid thinking she’s found Alex, only to find out that Rick was indeed one step ahead of them. He somehow managed to reroute the signal from Alex’s tracker, and now Alex only has four hours left as her cell begins to rapidly fill with water.

Back in Rick’s cell, Kara is once again forced to hold herself back from harming him, and asks to speak with Alex. Rick acquiesces, and opens the audio channel on the laptop we see Alex on. Alex, like J’onn, is adamant that Kara not give in to Rick’s demands and insists that Supergirl is more important than her.

Alex then asks to speak alone to Maggie, and we’re sure you all sensed the rumbling in the femslash force. No description of this dialogue could possibly do it justice, it’s so good:

Maggie: We just started this. You and me. And it’s not gonna end. Not today, not for a long time. WE just had our first Valentine’s Day. I want to do more with you. I want more firsts. I wanna have a first vacation. We haven’t even argued about where we’re going to go yet. Or, I don’t know, loading the dishwasher. Or what to name our first dog. Do we get a dog?
Alex: … Let’s name her Gertrude.
Maggie: See, there’s a lifetime of firsts we’re gonna do together. So you hold on, okay? Hold on until I get to you. You promise. Promise me.

The call is cut off before Alex can reply. Maggie is understandably upset and takes it out on Kara. Look, Maggie was right. Kara did make it worse. These two have had this situation coming for some time, back since the not-quite-resolved tensions of “The Martian Chronicles”. Who gets to take precedence on making these decisions? Family or partner? Maggie’s feeling awfully shut out of this process, and reminds Kara how much she has to lose here as well.

We’re not crying you’re crying!

Back to the subplot. Rhea does not give up. She transmits down to Lena’s balcony and owns up to her “lie,” saying she only lied about being an alien because she knew how anti-alien Lillian was. She then states that she can see now that Lena is nothing like her mother, and apologizes for her error in judgment. Reiterating how much good they can do if they join forces, Rhea asks for Lena to reconsider before having Daxam!Scotty or whomever beam her back up to her ship.

This episode really reminded us just how good of an actress Teri Hatcher is when she shows up to play. Rhea is a wonderfully, terrifyingly charming and manipulative character. We saw this with how she played Kara like a Kryptonian fiddle in “Star-Crossed”, and she’s just as effective here with Lena. She’s always got a contingency plan, and she knows just which weaknesses to target to get her claws in.

Lena tries to call Kara to get her advice, only for once, Kara can’t really talk to her. Because, you know, her sister is about to drown. Kori really appreciates that while of COURSE this is the moment they miss connections, Lena isn’t put out by Kara not being available. In fact, she picks up that something is wrong and asks Kara as much. Kara, being the sad puppy that she is, doesn’t really answer, and says she’ll call her back.

Maggie goes into talk to Rick again and try to level with him. Rick turns the tables, saying he over-estimated Kara. She’s too much of a girl scout to do what needs to be done, but Maggie? He overlooked her. Maggie, thankfully, reiterates that he stalked them. It’s just a small sentence, but we’re just happy that it’s reinforced that Rick is a f*cking creep, and that stalking is not cute, it’s not funny. It’s a crime. Rick goes on to say that love makes you do things you didn’t think you were capable of, and implores Maggie to help them both save the people they love.

And here Maggie breaks.

She’s done everything by the books, she’s followed procedure. But she’s not ready to let Alex go. So she saddles up with some DEO tech and Alex’s gun (!), and goes to break Peter out. Around the same time, Kara twigs in on the fact that Maggie’s gone, and rushes after her to keep her from carrying out this plan.

Kori has pointed out before that she’s missed some of Kara/Supergirl’s more inspiring speeches, and she was on the ceiling when this episode treated us to Kara at her best. Kara appeals to Peter and the one thing he did right in his life: being a good father. She implores him to not let Rick become a killer, and to be the good father that she knows he still is. By imploring to Peter’s better angels, by talking to him, she’s finally able to break through.

Peter gives them a location Rick might have used, and Kara and Maggie arrive just in time to rescue Alex.

Maggie keeps a watchful eye while Alex recovers in the med bay at the DEO, and runs to her girlfriend’s side the second that Alex wakes up. Any trace of the typical Maggie Sawyer Brand Sarcasm is gone, and she is just…bubbling over with emotion. We’re so used to seeing Maggie’s emotions under at least one layer of self-defense mechanisms, it’s startling to see her so open and expressive.

     

Yes, it finally happened. Elizabeth still hasn’t recovered. This is all she’s going to talk about for probably the next month. Possibly the next year.

Afterward, before J’onn goes to mindwipe Rick, Alex breaks Rick’s nose. It’s very satisfying. Maggie definitely seemed to find it satisfying.

So very satisfying.

Now that the situation is resolved, Kara returns Lena’s call, and Lena (still being the amazing friend) asks if everything is okay. It is, but when Kara asks what Lena needed advice on, Lena just says she’s got it figured out as the shot pans out to show both her and Rhea in Lena’s office, toasting to a long relationship.

Double ruh-roh.

Thoughts & Feelings

First off, Elizabeth would like to state for the record that she is grumpy as hell, because Kori bet that it would be Maggie who went rogue to save Alex. Elizabeth bet it would be Kara, and Elizabeth hates being wrong. However, she will concede that it made much more sense for Maggie to break first.

Speaking of. Boy, Maggie Sawyer really needs some high stakes to talk about her feelings, doesn’t she? It took a bullet to the shoulder just to get her to ask Alex out, and now this is what it took to start the “maybe we should move in together?” talk. But once Alex is in danger, all the passion and romance just comes pouring out of Maggie like water. We’ve seen little flashes of this vulnerability when Alex is in danger in earlier episodes, but nothing like this. Maggie is not someone you ever expect to see scared, and she is terrified of losing Alex.

Elizabeth has written extensively about this in the past, and will likely write more about it in the near future, but everything about the Sanvers arc is absolutely pitch perfect. Could it have more screen time? Of course, don’t be ridiculous. We are always desperate for more screen time for LGBT+ characters. But as far as femslash ships go, what we’re already given in canon with Sanvers is pretty damn impressive. Alex’s coming out arc is related to her romantic arc with Maggie, but the two aren’t enmeshed or intertwined. The development of their relationship has been spread out across the 2B season, but all of the pieces are there.

In television, especially with queer couples, we tend to race really quickly towards the ‘I love yous.’ But these things can, and should, take time to develop. Having the ‘I love yous’ in this episode just feels right, in ways that are actually kind of hard to articulate. It’s really goddamn hard to write a romance that feels natural and organic, and Sanvers oozes that sort of authenticity. There’s nothing else like it on television right now. Elizabeth needs a bit more time to solidify and properly articulate her thoughts on Maggie Sawyer as a character and Sanvers as a couple, but just take our word for it for now. Sanvers is perfect.

It’s difficult to express how well the emotional beats work this episode, especially for Alex and Maggie, but also for Kara. We know that some people felt Kara was out of character in this episode, but we personally feel that Kara’s reactions were very much believable. When it comes to Alex, all the rules go out the window and all bets are off. We’ve both said that the one thing that could make Kara go “Injustice” would be Alex’s death. This episode added some nice structural support to that headcanon. We know that Kara would die for Alex, but it’s clear from this episode that she might also be willing to kill. That bit of vengeful fire we saw glimmers of in the first season is still simmering below the surface.

While the emotional beats all landed extremely well with this episode, there are some pretty horrendous plot holes to contend with. For Elizabeth, they didn’t break the immersion or the suspension of disbelief, but they were pretty humongous even on the first viewing. Rick is… unusually well informed for a random nobody. We suppose he could have, maybe, seen J’onn transform during his year of stalking. Last season, J’onn did reveal himself to save Kara publicly, but we’re not sure how many people witnessed it.

Even if we can fill in the blanks of how Rick knows about J’onn, we can’t really honeypot how he knows how to protect himself from J’onn’s mind reading abilities. This isn’t a common alien gift, so it’s not like there would be a huge market for this sort of mind protection. This is a common problem with one-step-ahead sort of villains; the writers write backwards from the solution to the puzzle, so you end up with a villain who knows things he couldn’t possibly know without reading the script himself.

As a device to drive the emotional beats, he works well, but from a logical standpoint, Rick is literally too smart for his own good. How much this weak writing hinders your ability to enjoy the rest of the episode is up to you, but we at least have to be fair and admit that this guy’s scripting has more holes than a block of swiss cheese.

At least he got what was coming to him.

Conclusion

Despite these writing issues, the episode was an emotional rollercoaster and an absolutely wild ride. The creators had warned us that the last few episodes of Supergirl would be very, very, intense and they’re definitely delivering on that threat. We only wish that they had started crafting this part of the story a few episodes sooner, so we could have even more of this wild ride. Oh well, at least we still have a few episodes left this season. 

Next week: Buckle up, buttercups, the ride’s not over yet! Next time we get a much needed Guardian-centric episode. See you next week!


Images Courtesy of the CW

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When not working on her degree or at her actual job, Elizabeth pursues her true passion of complaining at great length about pop culture on the internet. She serves as a Managing Editor for The Fandomentals. You can find her on Tumblr, Twitter and Steam @ohemgeelizabeth

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