Warning: This contains spoilers.
Supergirl’s second season has been uneven at best, but one thing that has been consistent is its handling of Kara and Alex’s relationship. The only thing more rewarding to watch has been Maggie and Alex’s relationship. Basically, anything involving Alex. So when you have an episode titled solely after her, you know you’re in for a treat.
Our story proper kicks off – as you’d expect – with Alex getting – as you wouldn’t expect – kidnapped. She’s taken, imprisoned, and held hostage by someone with a surprising demand: free Peter Thompson, a guy serving a life sentence in some remote jail. A life for a life. Simple.
But things, of course, aren’t that simple, as it turns out that the kidnapper chose Alex for a reason: because he knows that Kara is Supergirl, and that she has the ability to bust someone out from behind bars. The complex part? Kara wants to do just that, while Maggie wants to solve the case like a cop.
It’s a cracking little device to force the two of them to put aside their differences, which are telegraphed in advance by a prologue that sees Supergirl solve another hostage crisis by flying into a bank, punching some people and flying off again – leaving Maggie, who was halfway through a successful negotiation, with several injured people to deal with. A pizza takeaway dinner later and they’re bickering about the merits of braun versus brains – or, in this case, laser vision and super strength versus brains.
The narrative doesn’t get any more complex or surprising than this – it turns out that the kidnapper is a boy from the sisters’ school, who noticed Kara’s super-strength and put two and two together when Supergirl popped up on the news – but it doesn’t have to. Like last episode, which used evil robotic bees to explore the relationship between Kara and Lena (trust us: it’s better than it sounds), Supergirl doubles down on the emotional consequences of the plot, rather than worry about the plot itself. And once again, it’s a move that really does pay off.
That’s mostly because of the cast, who have had two seasons’ worth of experience in delivering scripts full of on-the-nose dialogue, and it shows. Melissa Benoist really sinks her teeth into a fresh dilemma for her hero, which see her get angry at the kidnapper in an interrogation room, frustrated at Maggie in the corridor outside and sad at the prospect of losing her sister. Floriana Lima, meanwhile, is the show’s secret weapon, bringing a feisty ruthlessness to her police officer and a welcome confidence: her character isn’t cool because she’s bad-ass, but because she’s genuinely good at her job. And Supergirl gives her the chance to prove it.
Lima’s chemistry with Chyler Leigh, furthermore, is off the charts, and that believability she helps bring to their relationship gives the whole episode a decent weight that makes up for any other lack of substance: the standout scene is surely when Maggie and Alex briefly reunite and tell each other all the things they still want to do together.
As for Chyler Leigh, well, she’s gone from MVP to virtually the main character here – it’s testament to how good she is, and how well Alex has been written these two seasons, that we’d gladly watch a bottle episode just following her own attempts to get herself out of her cell. Spoiler alert: They do rescue Alex in the end, but by Maggie breaking Thompson out, while Kara ends up becoming the voice of reason. A brief bit of role swapping later and it’s all sorted.
Three nuanced female characters all interacting for 45 minutes? Supergirl, as ever, makes some quietly big steps for mainstream telly, particularly in the comic book genre. When it’s not busy trying to squeeze in James Olsen and the pointless Guardian subplot, it has the room to allow for such distinctions as Maggie’s relationship with Kara (absolutely fine) and Maggie’s relationship with Supergirl (awwwkwarrrd). Even when J’onn counsels Kara, he doesn’t tell her to man up or bury her feelings, but admits his own concerns too – there’s no patronising patriarchy here, just rounded characters supporting each other. (Again, see: everything that Guardian isn’t.)
If that wasn’t enough for you, though, this episode serves up yet another two nicely written female characters: Lena and Rhea. Lena, fresh from a wonderful showcase last episode that has left us firmly on her side, is taken out to dinner by Mon-El’s scheming mother, who pretends to be a smart businesswoman and techspert engineer. Sharing her Daxam designs for a teleporting device, she woos Lena with the three-pronged appeal of fancy space gadgets, flattery and a friendly face with money to burn – mostly on wine.
Their chat’s great fun to watch, as we wince and worry about Lena being seduced by this seemingly innocent benefactor. Teri Hatcher’s having a hoot, and it’s clear that she’s enjoying playing someone playing human, something the Daxamite queen manages far more convincingly than her son, Mon-El. She even turns on the waterworks as she talks about her dead husband and lost son, not mentioning that she’s to blame for both. But Lena isn’t an idiot and she works out that Rhea is an alien – and Katie McGrath, again, does a lot with a little, finding a fresh scorn for yet another betrayal in a life that isn’t really going her way right now. But with Kara out of touch, Lena’s lacking a moral anchor, and she ends the episode being won over to continuing to work with Rhea anyway. Not all kidnappings are violent. The question is: how will Supergirl solve this hostage situation?
Supergirl Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
Where can I watch Supergirl Season 2 on pay-per-view VOD?