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How do you keep a show like Supergirl fresh and timely? Season 3’s sixth episode comes up with two solutions, but tries to do them both at once, resulting in muddled episode that mostly leaves you frustrated.
The series picks up from Kara’s decision to whisk Alex back to their childhood home for a weekend of recuperation and recovery, following her split from Maggie. It’s exactly the kind of thing that Kara would do – and exactly the kind of thing that marks Supergirl out as a show worth watching, because it’s willing to invest time in its central sisterly relationship. But going back to their childhood home is taken literally by the writers, who end up turning the whole thing into a flashback to Kara and Alex’s teenage years.
The cast are excellent, as they manage to emulate the behaviour and interactions of their adult counterparts seamlessly; Alex, in particular, is just the way you’d expect a young Chyler Leigh to be, simultaneously kind, annoyed at being overlooked by her super-sibling and capable of standing on her own two feet. Kara, meanwhile, gets to show off some rare, youthful anger, as she struggles to contain her powers and resist the urge to stand up against some high school bullies.
It also emphasises just how different the two characters have always been, a rift that continues all the way through their relationship to the present day. Just as they fight over who gets to use the bathroom first in the mornings, it’s a subtly made point that Kara is only really looking after Alex in the way that she thinks she should be looked after – rather than taking into account how Alex would choose to recuperate, i.e. by sitting alone and drinking heavily.
That nice observation aside, though, and this episode feels like a bizarre misstep, as we follow Kara and Alex’s investigation into the death of a mutual friend, Kenny. Their detective work discovers that a teacher is in a relationship with Alex’s friend, only for the teacher to attempt to murder them to keep the relationship secret. What follows is then a bait-and-twist, as we learn that really, it was the sheriff who bumped off Kenny, due to some corrupt, dodgy drug-dealing. While it’s nice to see the Danvers duo bond over some Veronica Mars-like sleuthing, it’s hardly a compelling or surprising mystery. It doesn’t help that we don’t know Kenny or particularly care for him.
With its vaguely period design (this is set in 2007), the result is an episode that feels more like a cheap copy of Riverdale than an original Midvale adventure. And while most flashback episodes are designed to complement the present day story or fill in some missing gaps in information, all Episode 6 of Season 3 does is leave us with unanswered conundrums. If Kenny was so important to both Kara and Alex, why have neither of them mentioned his murder – framed here as a formative chapter in their lives – before? And why, given their difference in age, are they are even in the same history class? The chance for both Alex and Kara to develop over a solo, dedicated episode is welcome, but Midvale winds up less an exploration of two complex female characters and more a waste of them. Or, to put it in high school terms, A for Effort, D for Attainment. Must try harder, Supergirl.
Supergirl Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Monday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.