REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E6 – Midvale

Sisterhood was the theme of this week’s Supergirl, which showcased the Danvers sisters mourning their recent relationship tragedies by visiting their childhood home of Midvale. Eliza (guest star Helen Slater) was on hand to welcome her daughters back to the fold, but Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) were having a rougher go of it than usual. In order to shed light on the distance between them, “Midvale” took us back to their youth in an episode-long flashback. Izabela Vidovic and Olivia Nikkanen played young Kara and Alex with aplomb – and though the mystery that brings their characters together left something to be desired, the heart more than made up for it.

Mother knows best.

Though Kara brought her sister home with the best of intentions, Alex is still not ready to talk about the breakup with Maggie. Instead a fight breaks out between the sisters (almost too quickly given how united they have been until now), and Supergirl flashes back ten years to explore a time when the Danvers girls were equally as contentious over bathroom privileges. Back in 2007, Kara and Alex competed over everything and blamed each other for even more. The fact that Alex held Kara responsible for her father disappearing was especially surprising, but it was understandable given the magnitude of her loss. In turn, Kara felt believably out of place on Earth and did not know how to connect with her new family.

She did have one genuine connection, though, with fellow classmate Kenny Li (guest star Ivan Mok). He and Kara sneak out late one night to stargaze together and almost share a kiss before she changes her mind. He is immediately likable, particularly because he does not hold the non-kiss against her and promises he wants to be her friend regardless. Of course a good and pure character such as Kenny cannot be long for this world, and the mystery of who killed him starts the next day. Vidovic does extraordinary work reacting to the tragedy, and the scene in which she goes to see his parents was truly heart-wrenching. It was easy to see Benoist’s Kara in her performance, as well as to believe that Kenny was her closest friend.

The best part of “Midvale” is how Alex and Kara decide to investigate Kenny’s death together, and in doing so develop a bond that will last their entire lives. At the same time, the weakest part of the episode was how flimsily constructed the mystery and peripheral characters were. Unfortunately that undercut the poignancy of the main story, but the writing for the family scenes and the performances of the young Danvers sisters still made the hour incredibly memorable. Another memorable moment? The reference to Smallville‘s Chloe, who winds up playing a pivotal role in solving the mystery of Kenny’s murder. Given the news that came out about actress Allison Mack this week, it was perhaps unfortunately timed, but still a cool Easter Egg for fans of the CW superhero series that started it all.

Other parts of the small-town murder mystery devolved into Riverdale-style antics, complete with teachers preying on underage students and authority figures being secretly evil all along. While the plot of “Midvale” doesn’t do much to help the audience understand Alex’s hometown better, it does provide a possible explanation for why it took Kara so long to become Supergirl. After a car almost runs the girls over due to their detective work, Eliza calls in an agent who looks just like Kara’s mother (guest star Erica Durance) in order to talk some sense into her adopted daughter. The scene between the two of them is touching, making it easy to see how a pseudo-mother figure could convince Kara that her powers will endanger her new family. The later reveal that it was actually J’onn (David Harewood) disguised as her mother only made it more touching, seeing as he would one day become her family too.

Time for another musical ep?

Since “Midvale” tips the audience off to how shady the town sheriff is pretty early on, it’s not much of a surprise when he attacks Alex in the climax. But the heel-face-turn does allow us to witness the first instance of Alex’s innate faith in Kara, which was absolutely lovely. The conclusion of the flashback story also provided a nice contrast to the present, since the Kara of yesterday chose to live as a normal human in order to protect her sister while the Kara of today thinks that she must avoid being human to protect herself. Speaking of the present, Alex and Kara wake up the next morning with clearer minds and manage to bond over Kenny’s telescope.

The story of Kenny was very moving, but I can’t help feeling that it would have resonated even more if we had heard about Kara’s childhood friend in a prior episode of Supergirl. Regardless, the closing moment of two sisters singing along to “Sweet Escape” was the most uplifting thing anyone could have asked for after the emotional roller coaster – both on and offscreen – of the last few weeks. Kudos to Caitlin Parrish and Jess Kardos for a truly empowering and emotional episode that helped enrich the characters’ lives without needing to push the season-long arc forward.

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on the CW.