By Sara Netzley
October 14, 2019 at 12:21 AM EDT
S5 E2
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Supergirl’s second episode of the season puts several plotlines in the oven to bake, and we’ll no doubt see them crisp up to a golden brown as the weeks march along.

Front and center is J’onn, who introduces us to more Martian lore: after rival brothers attacked each other and led to the Green Martian/White Martian rift, a curse now delivers crippling pain to brothers who fight one another. His suffering is better than a DNA test to prove that the mysterious Martian was honest about his identity. And indeed, we see his brother battling post-battle pain, too.

Supergirl -- "Stranger Beside Me" -- Image Number: SPG502a_0060b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen/Guardian and David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/JÕonn JÕonzz -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Dean Buscher/The CW

Brainy suggests treating J’onn with Q-waves, which exist between X and gamma rays and conveniently are what Kelly’s researching at Obsidian. She fits J’onn with a pair of VR contacts that map his memories, uncovering missing sections indicating possible brain trauma. She joins him in the VR simulation, and they discover memories missing about crucial battles during the Martian civil war.

As Kelly ups the Q-treatment, he’s able to break through the void and discovers that his brother, Malefic, betrayed the Green Martians and was sent to the Phantom Zone. In his vision, Malefic says, “You’re still in the dark, brother,” and they both wake up free of pain.

On the couple front, Brainy gives Nia her best morning ever with breakfast burritos, while Alex almost poisons Kelly with blueberry pancakes, then beats herself up for not knowing little details about what could kill the woman she’s crazy about. It’s been a while since I was on the dating scene, but isn’t the “I carry an epi-pen” conversation one you have fairly early on with someone you’re spending vast amounts of time with?

Kara’s still struggling at CatCo, where Awful Andrea tells Kara to write a fashion story about who wore what to her Pulitzer party. The idiocy of this business model makes my brain hurt, and thankfully for all of us, Kara’s pulled away from her computer research by a call that the DEO has a line on Malefic’s location. Snooty new reporter William, who’s at an adjacent computer examining pics of Andrea arguing with someone named Dr. Niles Jarrod, is suspicious when Kara rushes off on a family emergency, so he calls in an NSA favor to track her.

And whaddya know, he follows her to a sewer, where Supergirl, Brainy, and Alex are battling a White Martian. Supergirl rescues William from death-by-alien, demands to know what he’s doing there, and barks at him to leave. William scampers away while the newly pain-free Malefic arrives too late to save his White Martian comrade from the DEO assault. So now Malefic really wants to tear J’onn’s new family apart.

Back at CatCo, Kara’s furious to learn that William wrote her fashion article and that Awful Andrea’s punishing her by assigning her half the day’s copy-editing jobs. (Yoooo, that’s a specialized role and not just anyone in the newsroom’s going to seamlessly slide into that job, but at this point, I’m thinking a few Oxford comma mishaps are the least of CatCo’s worries.) Kara stomps over to yell at William for stealing her byline and tattling, dumping her editing assignments on his desk since he’s so keen to do her work for her.

When J’onn and Kara catch up at her place, he frets about what other memories he may have lost and Kara admits she may not be able to cut it at the new CatCo. J’onn tells her to hang in there, and then they’re interrupted by an SOS from Alex, who’s got Malefic in her apartment posing as Kelly.

Alex confirms the ruse by offering fake-Kelly more blueberry pancakes and then reaches for the gun she has strapped under her kitchen island (because of course she does). When Supergirl arrives, Malefic-as-Alex gloats that humans are so fragile, and Supergirl launches into a fight that takes them into the street and then airborne. Ugh, it’s hard to watch Supergirl punch Alex, even when we know it’s a shapeshifter situation.

Thankfully, Kelly finds the real Alex unharmed in the closet, and J’onn and Guardian arrive to handle the civilians. Eventually, the fight takes Malefic to the roof, where Kelly and Alex have a run. He shifts into Kelly again, but Alex easily identifies the imposter, who knocks real-Kelly off the roof and flies away, leaving Supergirl to catch Kelly.

Back in Alex’s apartment, J’onn asks Kelly to turn up the intensity of the Q-treatment to recover more memories, but Kelly says they’d run the risk of completely resetting his brain. Alas, Malefic’s hanging out as a literal shape-shifted fly on the wall, and thanks to Kelly’s warning, he now knows how to recover the powers that he lost in the Phantom Zone: a Q-brain reset.

By the end of the episode, Alex and Kelly are happier than ever together, while Brainy’s driving Nia crazy with his abundance of food gifts and spoken-word poetry. Oh, how the couple-tides have turned! Kara, meanwhile, is more determined than ever to crush it on the job. She takes her editing back from William and announces that while he’s a sniveling saboteur, she’ll keep doing her job with heart and integrity. She strides into Awful Andrea’s office with her editing done and 11 pitches ready for the next day’s meeting, while William clocks out and heads to a soup kitchen. Soooo maybe he’s not all bad, then?

And we close with Lena, who’s the one who black-bagged Eve last week. From her holding cell, Eve at first claims that she can’t tell Lena who forced her betrayal because “they’ll” kill both of them, and she tries to explain that she fell in with “them” when she was a 16-year-old debt-saddled orphan. But eventually, Eve pulls a Walter White and admits that she liked doing all the bad things she did.

Lena doesn’t seem to mind, though. You see, Andrea busted her earlier in the episode for attempted IP theft after Lena broke the code on her Obsidian VR contacts. She wanted to enter the black space in the human mind created by the VR technology to install her own code, Non Nocere, to eliminate the human instinct to hurt others. Now, after mapping Eve’s brain to find her honesty and loyalty centers, Lena unleashes her own tech and rewires Eve into a placid, smooth-haired, human version of her AI Hope. And now they can rebuild humanity together.

Snaps of the cape

  • Oh, Lena. Don’t you know that the path to evil genius is paved with good intentions?
  • We need to talk about William — and specifically William’s wife. She was pointedly mentioned early in the episode, and by the time Kara declared that she felt sorry for the woman who has to deal with him, I became convinced that the wife is out of the picture, and Kara and William are being set up for a hate-to-love-you situation. It’s Chekhov’s absent wife! The bigger question for me is whether William already knows that Kara’s Supergirl and whether that’s why he covered the story for her.
  • With a name like Malefic, J’onn’s brother never really had a chance. It’s the spiritual successor to Malfoy.
  • I love the swagger that Jesse Rath brings to Brainy’s handling of accessories. He twirls tablets, books, whatever he’s holding with a confident flourish that only a twelfth-level intellect who’s driving his girlfriend bonkers can pull off. Such a fun character quirk!
  • Awful Andrea’s office remodel is going to look like an Apple store, isn’t it?
  • Okay, look, we all took it in stride last week when we learned that Kara won a Pulitzer, but James Olson being courted to run for Senate? I dunno about that. Something tells me his other career option as media director at the Smithsonian doesn’t stand a chance.

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Kara (Melissa Benoist) steps out from her super-cousin’s shadow to become Supergirl and defend National City in the third Arrowverse show.
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