By Sara Netzley
March 15, 2020 at 11:09 PM EDT
Katie Yu/The CW

Supergirl

S5 E15
B+
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  • TV Show
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genre

This week’s Supergirl episode can essentially be split down the middle: one-half VR cautionary tale and one-half metaphor for a heartbreakingly underreported epidemic of violence against a vulnerable population.

Let’s start with the latter story: Nia’s roommate Yvette insists that Nia not spend another night “crying over that weird little man” (ha!) and instead come out with her to meet her new boyfriend Angus, whom she’s been chatting with on dating app UpSwipes for three weeks.

Nia agrees, but at the club, she has a vision that she can’t interpret while Yvette is lured to the alley by a text from Angus. But Angus isn’t Angus; he’s a predatory bigot who attacks her and gives her a message for Dreamer: “The world doesn’t want a trans superhero.” He warns that if Dreamer doesn’t stop her superheroics, he’ll keep attacking the trans community.

It’s ugly and awful, and although a National City detective promises to do his best to find the attacker, Nia wants to put an end to the man who hurt and humiliated her roommate herself. But Kara urges her to let the police and Supergirl bring him to justice.

“There is no hope speech that can make this better,” Nia tells Kara, but she reluctantly agrees to give law enforcement a few hours to make the arrest.

After her ordeal, Yvette begins deleting all of her social media, tired of making herself a target as a trans woman of color. Nia urges her not to. “They want us to be invisible because of their own fears. They want to erase us, so we need to shine even brighter.” Then Nia moves forward with her own plans, setting up a profile on UpSwipes to lure out the attacker.

Kara, meanwhile, enlists the help of Brainy, who’s morosely watching footage of Dreamer taking down a Dominator. He pushes aside his feelings and agrees to help. Then Kara helps William with his story on Yvette’s attack. They discuss just how often violence against the transgender community is misreported or underreported, often because the victims are misgendered in police reports, which gives her a glimpse at what’s driving Nia’s quest for justice. (All true, by the way, and kudos to this episode for highlighting these statistics this for viewers who may not be aware.)

Nia’s gambit pays off, and she arrives at an UpSwipes meetup as Dreamer, where she confronts Yvette’s attacker. He pulls a knife on her and spews all kinds of vile hate. Dreamer has him lassoed around the neck when Supergirl shows up, having been alerted by Brainy about Nia’s dating profile.

Despite Nia’s earlier warning, Supergirl gives her a hope speech: don’t stoop to this man’s level; she, Alex, J’onn, and Brainy will help keep Nia’s community safe now that they’re more aware of the dangers they face. And with that, Dreamer lets Supergirl make the arrest, although not before threatening the man if he returns to his hate crimes after he’s released from prison.

At CatCo later that night, Kara finds Nia crying on the balcony. She’s overwhelmed and upset at how badly she wanted to murder the attacker. Also, she couldn’t interpret her dream just like she couldn’t save her mother’s life, and she’s still heartbroken that the one person who supported and loved her ended their relationship without an explanation.

Kara apologizes for not considering Nia’s lived experiences but reiterates that not lashing out with violence against the bad guys is what separates them from the bad guys.

Also, Brainy worked his mojo and found the attacker’s online hate group, which he hands over to the detective on the case. “The DEO takes threats against our sister superheroes very seriously,” says an emotionless Brainy. Give us back our old Brainy soon, please!

The other half of this episode starts two months ago, when a mean-eyed man watches a happy couple hop into a sled pulled by a white tiger (goals!) in a North Pole VR setting, then get stuck inside when the end-simulation function glitches. Kelly pulls him out and reports the failsafe glitch.

We then jump ahead to today, when Al from the alien bar asks J’onn and Alex for help finding his brother, who checked into a hotel a week ago for a weekend escape experience at Obsidian Platinum’s Virtual Las Vegas.

While J’onn searches for Trevor’s physical person, Alex puts on the lenses and searches for him virtually with a real-world link to Kelly to guide her.

In the VR, Alex is greeted with a number of experience options based on her own desires, including one that looks a little like Alex-as-Supergirl and one with her cradling a baby. But she heads to the old-school Vegas simulator and quickly finds a spooky haunted house on a hill, which is thoroughly out of place in the Nevada desert. Kelly explains that this is one of the customized add-ons that Obsidian allows advanced users to create without any regulation or oversight, which … yikes. That seems like a big loophole.

Alex walks into the house and finds it set up like the tank where Rick Malverne nearly drowned her. Kelly explains that it’s designed to tap into the user’s worst fears, and worse, the failsafe glitch from a few months ago hasn’t been fixed, so the two men in the tanks have been tortured for days.

This could lead to actual brain damage, so Alex uses her new Hand of the Soldier Martian tech, which isn’t cooperating in the real world, to set them free. They confirm that they’re friends of Trevor’s, and he passed through the adjacent wooden door with Richard, a new guy in their group.

In the real world, J’onn locates Richard’s wife. She’s the woman who climbed into the sled with Trevor in the North Pole VR, which makes Richard the man who watched in envy. His wife admits to a VR affair with Trevor, and J’onn quickly puts it together that her computer programmer husband Richard created a trap for Trevor.

Alas, Alex doesn’t learn any of that because she loses contact with Kelly once she steps through the door and finds Trevor frozen in fear, his whole body lighting up to explode from within before he’s reconfigured to painfully explode again, over and over.

When Richard shows up to watch Trevor suffer, Alex shoots him and sends him rocketing out of the simulation. He comes to in his hotel room, eyes disgustingly bloody around the lenses, to be taken into custody by J’onn.

In the VR, Alex talks Trevor into shutting down the next explosion and gets him to tell her what hotel he’s checked into so she and J’onn can rescue him in the real world.

After everyone’s safe and sound, Kelly and Alex reconvene at the alien bar. Kelly confirms that it shouldn’t have been possible for Alex to eject Richard from the simulation and that the failsafe glitch wasn’t corrected after all. Also, virtual romance is cheating, and virtual torture is real attempted murder. Good to know! Then Trevor shows up to thank Alex in person.

This storyline wraps up with an unconscious Richard being wheeled away from his hospital room by Margot, the Leviathan liaison, to be wrapped up like a silver burrito and suspended from the ceiling alongside other silver-wrapped humans. What do you want with these people, Leviathan, and why am I suddenly craving Chipotle?

Finally, J’onn encourages Alex to give herself more time with her Hand of the Soldier tech, reminding her that it’ll instinctively bond with her bioelectric pulses if she lets it in. But as they end their training session, Alex gets a call from her mother and heads straight to Kara’s apartment with dreadful news: their father Jeremiah is dead.

Snaps of the cape

  • Nicole Maines killed it this week as Nia. Thank you for telling a too-often overlooked story about a too-often overlooked community, Supergirl.
  • Despite the important message this week, this episode did reveal a growing crack in the season: with Alex not at the DEO, her storylines are starting to feel disconnected to the Supergirl storylines. Here’s hoping those can be stitched together more closely in future episodes.
  • Woof, that Kara/William date was … rough. Sure, she was nervous after two and a half years off the market, but that was incredibly awkward, no?


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