Supergirl S2E5 – Crossfire

Supergirl placed identity at the forefront this week. James Olsen finally joined in on the action after a month of existing mostly offscreen, while Alex Danvers confronted a long-awaited truth. While these two characters explored who they were meant to be, Kara spent the episode trying to keep Mon-El from revealing too much about his true self.

James wants to be a hero, but without powers.

James has had so little time to shine this season, and it seems as though the character himself is aware of it. He’s been watching from what he considers the sidelines while his best friends suit up and fight crime, and he’s starting to get a little jealous. Even Winn now has a position working for the DEO and directly impacting Supergirl’s ability to defend National City. This jealousy and desire to do more leads him to grab “a baseball bat, a ski mask, and a death wish” to start fighting off bad guys on his own. While he manages to make Kara’s fight against Cadmus terrorists easier in one instance, he almost gets himself and a building full of bystanders killed in another.

Aside from the fact that he’s seriously outmatched, it also brings up the question of why James being a journalist or running a media conglomerate can’t be a way of doing a great deal of good. At first Winn suggests that brains are what James has to offer and that he helps in that way, but after some evaluation he agrees to help James become a vigilante because he understands the addiction to heroism. While it certainly an interesting story line for James, it feels a little empty right now. Everyday heroes exist in the real world and should be reflected on our screens even when there are super-powered people around. James Olsen can and should do good in the press – just like Iris West on The Flash or Lois Lane in the Superman mythos – and it would be a shame for Supergirl not to follow through with that when CatCo is such a large part of the show.

Alex slowly realizes she's into girls, with Maggie's help.

Maggie helps Alex realize she’s into girls.

While James got his biggest plot all season, the heart of the episode belonged to Alex Danvers. Her budding friendship with Maggie has brought her so much joy that she’s even daydreaming about it while at work. Once she hears that Maggie’s girlfriend dumped her, she’s ready to hit the town and mend her friend‘s broken heart. But the elder Danvers sister balks when Maggie suggests that Alex is interested in becoming something more, surprising both Maggie and the audience. Up to the point, Alex seemed very confident about wanting to spend time with Maggie – and the sexual tension was so thick that it seemed impossible for both sides not to be aware of it.

From a storytelling perspective, though, Alex being unaware makes sense given how much of her life she’s spent attending to Kara’s needs instead of her own. Her revelation to Maggie at the end of the episode and subsequent hasty departure was hands down the most touching scene this episode, with stellar acting by both Chyler Leigh and Floriana Lima. Not only that, but it was written with such specificity and care that I don’t doubt it rang true for thousands of viewers at home who have felt similarly confused or isolated.

While Supergirl is still primarily about Kara, her role this week is of a more comedic nature. Her goal of helping Mon-El blend into the world of humans (with his hilarious “Mike Matthews” personality) is a noble one, but she is going about it the wrong way. Mon-El is a bit of a frat boy mess, conning girls into doing his work for him and getting laid his first day on the job, but Kara trying to turn him into Clark Kent 2.0 isn’t going to help matters. Mon-El has a long way to go before he can fully function as a human, but with Kara’s guidance he’s already learning about empathy at the very least.

Lena considers Kara her only friend.

Lena considers Kara her only friend.

Lena Luthor is another character whose motivations have been murky thus far, and this episode goes further than ever before to cement her intentions. For the most part, she seems genuinely interested in Kara and hoping to differentiate herself from the rest of her family. Her friendship with Kara leads to a humorous sequence of Kara zipping back and forth between herself and Supergirl in a move straight out of the Christopher Reeves Superman playbook. Of course, Lena finally proving herself to be on right side means that something else must go wrong. And it does, because it turns out that the Cadmus scientist who armed this episode’s group of terrorists with alien guns and then had them murdered Suicide Squad-style is none other than Lena’s mother. How much does the young Luthor know of her mother’s actions, and what will she do when the truth comes to light?

The character work on Supergirl has been excellent this season, making up for last year’s lost ground. And now that the mystery of the season is finally dovetailing with the lives of our protagonists, the show is poised to get even more exciting.