“Alex” is the strongest episode of Supergirl‘s very uneven second season. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the episode’s title. Any episode that focuses on Alex is bound to slay, but I need to stress how much I enjoyed and was invested in tonight’s hour right from the top. Written by Eric Carrasco and Greg Baldwin and directed with purpose by Rob Greenlea, “Alex” puts all of the show’s and the season’s best parts front and center: Alex and Maggie’s relationship, the Danvers sisters’ relationship, and, last but not least, Lena Luthor, whose soul is definitely in play.
The hour opens with Maggie patiently talking to a criminal during a hostage crisis. She’s this close to convincing him to let his hostages go when Supergirl swoops in and handles the situations with force. This sets the tone for the Kara and Maggie conflict that dominates the episode, as Maggie doesn’t really appreciate Kara ruining 17 hours worth of work.
Maggie lets Kara know as much later that night, when they all gather at Alex’s apartment for dinner. Maggie brings up the fact that criminals have started using the Supergirl defense to avoid the hand of justice, but that doesn’t really faze Kara because she’s arrogant and thinks saving the day is all that matters. Eventually, the dinner becomes too tense, and Kara abruptly leaves. After calming Maggie down, Alex runs off to speak to her sister, but she never catches up to her because a sketchy figure kidnaps her in the elevator.
Unfortunately, Maggie and Kara don’t realize Alex is missing until the next day, when Kara receives a call from a mysterious voice who says he’ll kill Alex unless Kara uses her Supergirl powers to break a man named Peter Thompson out of jail. This threatening voice knows Kara is Supergirl, and that’s why he knows she can handle it.
Meanwhile, Alex wakes up in a cell and yells at the camera that she recognized her kidnapper and knows her people will find her soon. Chyler Leigh spends most of the episode trapped in this cell by herself, but she makes the most of it. Supported by direction that really amps up the suspense and anxiety, we get a chance to see what makes Alex such a badass. She doesn’t just sit there throughout the episode. She uses all of that DEO knowledge to find a way to break out, or at least get a message back to her team. If there’s one thing Supergirl never forgets, it’s that Alex is a trained operative. Sure, she’s in distress, but she’s trying just as hard to be her own savior, too.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise but Kara is not taking Alex’s kidnapping well and basically reveals that she’s not human by leaving a dent in a table when she, J’onn, and Maggie visit Peter Thompson in jail. He doesn’t know who kidnapped Alex, but that’s okay because Winn figures out that Thompson has son named Rick, who went to school to with Alex and Kara.
Supergirl flies off to a home registered in Rick’s name and finds him there. After Rick allows her to briefly speak to her sister, Kara flies him back to the DEO for interrogation. Kara and Maggie enter the room together, and Rick explains that he knew Kara was Supergirl because of the time she saved that woman’s baby when they were back in high school. This ends up tying to a flashback we were shown in the first season. I’m sure this story wasn’t planned back then, but I’m glad the writers found a way to connect this perpetrator to the Danvers sisters’ past. Rick reveals that he’s doing this for his father because his father saved him from his abusive mother when he was younger. He also informs them that he’s been stalking them and planning this for year. So it’s fair to say that Rick is très creepy.
Team Supergirl tries a few tricks on Rick, like having J’onn shapeshift into Peter Thompson, but that doesn’t work. As the deadline quickly approaches, Kara and Maggie’s desperation rises. However, things start to look up after Alex uses the camera in her cell to boost the signal of her tracker and contact the DEO, which allows Winn to track her. Obviously, Kara wants to fly right there but Maggie advises her not to since Rick doesn’t seemed worried. Kara ignores her advice and wades into danger.
Unfortunately, the IP address of the camera was a decoy. Instead of finding her sister, Kara finds a countdown clock, which cuts the time they have left down to four hours. There’s a computer screen there, too, which shows Alex’s cage start to slowly fill with water. I knew Alex wasn’t going to die, but I still found myself scared here.
Alex’s kidnapping brings Supergirl and Maggie’s conflict to a head. When Kara returns to the DEO, Maggie lashes out at her for not listening and for putting Alex’s life in danger by simply running off without thinking. “I have just as much to lose as you,” Maggie reminds her after Maggie shares a heartbreaking conversation with Alex via Rick’s laptop. Alex tries to say, “I love you,” but Maggie won’t let her because she doesn’t want her to give up.
As the deadline approaches, Maggie, in an act of desperation, heads to the prison intent on breaking Peter Thompson out to save the love of her life. As Rick, explaining his motives, told her in the earlier episode, “Love can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do.” Thankfully, Kara arrives in time to stop her from crossing that line. Moreover, instead of using her fists, Kara takes Maggie’s advice and uses her words to convince Peter to tell them where Rick would’ve hidden Alex. The scene reminds me very much of “Human for a Day.”
Kara’s words work, and Maggie and Supergirl find Alex in the nick of time. The visual of Kara punching through that glass is particularly powerful. However, no feels match the ones I got toward the end of the episode when Alex and Maggie said, “I love you” to each other. It was as moving as you would expect.
“Alex” had a thematic coherence that’s been missing for some of the season: While all of this kidnapping drama was going on, Lena’s relationship with Rhea deepened. At first, Lena resists Rhea’s business offer because she discovers she’s actually an alien. But by that point, it’s already too late; Rhea, a master manipulator who shares how her son betrayed her, has already started appealing to two parts of Lena: the part of her that is still hurt by her mother’s actions and the part that wants to use technology to save the world. Even as Lena fights back against Rhea’s proposition, you can tell that Rhea has already won.
Lena calls Kara right in the middle of the Alex stuff to talk it through, but Kara doesn’t have time to talk, which you know means trouble the moment Kara hangs up the phone. Unable to bounce this stuff off of her best friend, Lena agrees to partner with Rhea to build a transmatter portal together.
What’s interesting about this episode, and a lot of this season, is how you can read it as a commentary on superhero properties’ obsession with parents. Several of the recent films have basically come down to the heroes’ inability to get over their parents (Batman v. Superman; Captain America: Civil War), as have current story lines in comics. However, Supergirl has shown time and time again how this focus on parents has led many astray: the recent Jeremiah Danvers mishap with Alex; Lena, driven by her poor relationship with her mother; and Rick stalking and then kidnapping Alex tonight. Love has definitely made many of the characters on this show act in a way they normally wouldn’t.
Wall of Weird:
- Best part of the episode: Alex turning her pants into a flotation device to buy herself some time as her cell filled.
- Second best part of the episode: Alex using a credit card to cut open her skin.
- There wasn’t a single Guardian story line in sight this week.
- J’onn and Kara turning to each other for support in the episode was also very touching.
- “Supergirl is bigger than me,” says Alex, urging Kara not to succumb to Rick’s blackmail.
- Rick definitely had a crush on Alex in high school and is definitely not okay with her being a lesbian.
- Do we think Supergirl will end up having to team up with Cadmus to defeat Rhea? Or will she have to team up with Rhea to defeat Cadmus, which will probably kidnap Mon-El again?