“Change is good when you finally become what you’re meant to be,” says Kara at one point this evening, spelling out the theme of tonight’s episode because Supergirl still struggles with subtlety. Big shifts are afoot in “Changing,” which finds Alex, James, and Mon-El inching closer to who they’re supposed to be. However, change isn’t easy, and for some, there are a few poignant bumps in the road.
As I watched “Changing,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of The X-Files season 1 episode “Ice,” which bears several similarities to Supergirl’s latest outing — and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence. The similarities begin with tonight’s cold (literally) open, set in a research facility in the Arctic where Dr. Rudy Jones (Lost’s William Mapother) is researching climate change. One of his coworkers summons him into the lab to examine a wolf that’s been buried under ice for 5,000 years, but is somehow still warm. Rudy sticks his hand inside the wolf’s body and something latches onto him.
The next thing we know, everyone at the outpost is dead except for Rudy, whom the DEO transports back to National City. For some reason, J’onn lets Rudy leave the DEO before his test results come back, creating a whole bunch of problems: We soon learn he’s now the host of a parasitic alien that compels him to drain people to stay alive. (This is yet another connection to the aforementioned “Ice”). This is especially bad news for Rudy’s boss, who tries to fire him because of his extreme stance on climate change. But instead, Rudy just sucks the life out of him.
Alex is still processing her recent epiphany and at Maggie’s urging, she decides to tell Kara. The sisters go for a walk and Alex stutters her way through coming out to her sister. It’s rather heartbreaking to hear Alex talk about how her feelings for Maggie helped her realize she had suppressed similar feelings over the years. Kara starts asking way more questions than Alex is prepared to answer, so Alex cuts their conversation short.
Then, Winn discovers a video of Rudy attacking his coworkers in the Arctic. Kara and Alex rush over to the university to confront Rudy. Supergirl tries to stop him from leaving, but Rudy drains her powers and manages to escape.
James rushes to the DEO after hearing what happened to Kara and demands Winn give him the suit he promised him. Their interaction gets rather heated — James insists on going out there, but Winn refuses because the suit’s not ready and he doesn’t want James to die. While the scene itself didn’t entirely work (the show is rushing James’ dive into vigilantism), I did enjoy how the director positioned Winn and James on opposite sides of this big room to demonstrate just how far apart they are on this issue.
Meanwhile, Kara returns home to get some rest after her encounter with Parasite. Alex can tell something’s up and follows her. Alex thinks Kara is disappointed in her, but that’s far from the truth. Kara apologizes for not creating an environment in which Alex felt comfortable talking about this… They were always worried about her and her powers. “Alex, you are not alone,” Kara assures her sister, and then she invites her to talk about Maggie. The compassion Kara shows her sister in this moment was particularly moving given recent real-world events, and the scene soars even higher thanks to the actresses’ strong sisterly bond.
NEXT: It’s time to step up
While Kara has no problem accepting her sister, she’s still struggling a bit with accepting Mon-El. She convinced Mon-El to let her train him, but tonight she finds out he’s been using his powers to collect debts for bookies, which is not okay in her book. Mon-El doesn’t understand what’s wrong about using his powers to make money, and Kara, out of disappointment, says she should’ve expected this selfish behavior from a Daxamite, putting a damper on their burgeoning friendship.
In anger, Kara flies back to the DEO declaring she needs to punch something, and she just might get her chance since Winn finds out Rudy’s possible next target: a climate-change denier named Rand Riley who played a hand in getting him fired. J’onn and Kara lure Rudy into a trap by having J’onn pretend to be Rand, but Parasite gets the upper hand on both of them and takes their powers. As he absorbs their life force, he undergoes a pretty gnarly transformation into a grotesque version of Parasite we know from the comics.
Although artificial sunlight is helping Kara slowly recover, J’onn is struggling and desperately needs a blood transfusion from another Green Martian. Alex turns to Miss Martian for help. She hesitates at first — she’s actually a White Martian and knows J’onn would hate this — but Alex’s pleading changes her mind.
With Kara and J’onn out of commission, others are forced to embrace their heroic sides sooner than they would’ve liked when Parasite starts rampaging through the city. Mon-El, who received a stern talking to from Alex, steps up to the plate and tries to take on Parasite on his own, but finds himself way over his head. Thankfully, The Guardian (a.k.a. James in the suit Winn built) wades into battle, too, and manages to hold his own against Parasite. The Guardian’s interference gives Kara the time she needs to recover and come up with a plan. She tricks Parasite into absorbing Plutonium-239, which causes him to explode. At the end of the battle, Kara tries to figure out who The Guardian is, but she can’t see through his lead armor.
“Changing” ends with several scenes that focus on connections and intimacy. The next day, Winn heads to CatCo and finds James watching news reports about The Guardian. By removing the physical space that separated them earlier in the episode, director Larry Teng conveys they’re on the same page now. There’s a nice medium shot of them leaning against James’ desk with only a chair between them. James decides it’s best not to tell Kara what they’re up to (which is a dumb idea because lying is stupid, but whatever).
Meanwhile at the DEO, J’onn finally wakes up and finds Miss Martian by his side, which he finds very comforting. He grasps her hand and asks her to stay with him awhile longer, and she agrees. She also notices a slight tremor in his hand, probably a side effect of her White Martian blood coursing through his system.
Having come out to her sister, Alex meets up with Maggie for that drink she promised her after coming out. In her excitement, she kisses Maggie, who is flattered but lets her know she only wants to be friends — she thinks jumping into a relationship with someone “fresh off the boat” could lead to trouble. Humiliated, Alex runs off and skips work the next day. Kara finds her at home, heartbroken. “I’m proud of you,” says Kara as Alex cries into her arms.
The strengths and weaknesses of “Changing” make it quite the interesting episode. On the one hand, James’ change makes sense for the character, but feels kind of rushed; on the other hand, the show is succeeding by taking its time with Alex’s arc. It wouldn’t have been satisfying to have Alex immediately jump into a relationship with Maggie, and it’s good the writers recognized there’s still more for her to do before she’s ready for that. Furthermore, it’s hard to complain about the pacing of Alex’s arc when Chyler Leigh is delivering such a poignant performance. It makes you want to linger a bit longer, even in the scenes where she’s tearing up your heart — she’s just so good.
Wall of Weird:
- The episode ends with Mon-El trying to help a homeless person. The guy turns out to be a Cadmus agent who stuns him and tosses him into the back of a truck. That’s probably the last time Mon-El helps someone.
- Earlier in the episode, Mon-El got Kara drunk and it was adorable.
- Parasite as a villain was fine. While Rudy as a character wasn’t anything to write home about, using Parasite allowed the show to try some new things visually and dip its toes into sci-fi horror a bit.
- Another good moment: Winn telling James he’ll become someone else once he puts on that suit, and James assuring him he’s ready because he’s tired of standing behind the camera.
- Are we going to talk about the fact Supergirl definitely killed Rudy?