REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E5 – Damage

Supergirl had a lot to live up to this week, given the big Sanvers break up that fans knew was coming, but unfortunately “Damage” failed to live up to those expectations. Aside from Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Maggie (Floriana Lima) parting ways, the episode also dealt with the possibility that Lena (Katie McGrath) may have caused an outbreak of lead poisoning among National City’s children.

Girls just wanna be innocent of poisoning kids.

Since the majority of “Damage” focused on Lena’s plot, we will start there. Once again, Supergirl tied Sam (Odette Annable) into the story quite nicely by having Ruby’s friend from school be the first victim we see. Lena herself doesn’t find out about the situation until she’s at CatCo, discussing the necessity of advertorials with James (Mehcad Brooks), who also manages to have an important and organic role in the proceedings. Of course, the fact that Morgan Edge (guest star Adrian Pasdar) is the one accusing Lena of creating the tech that led to children falling ill means that there’s no way it’s true. Even though this zaps an otherwise strong moral dilemma of much of its tension, the episode still mined the most out of Lena’s doubt and self-guilt. The best part was James and Lena negotiating how she might step down from CatCo, both because it was a realistic depiction of damage control in a crisis, and because it showed how well they worked together under pressure. The worst part might have been the crowd chanting “Lock her up!” as it was so on the nose that it took me out of the moment. But James got to be a hero and save Lena from a bullet despite not being sure how innocent she is, so I can forgive a lot.

Kara (Melissa Benoist) plays the role of supportive friend and eternal optimist quite well in “Damage,” refusing to give up on Lena and even investigating with Sam to uncover the truth behind the lead poisoning. This allows for some interesting bonding time between herself and Sam, where they discover that they both have bad dreams and are adopted. It’s not enough to establish their Kryptonian connection, but a good tease for now. Thankfully, Kara’s quick thinking and Winn’s (Jeremy Jordan) portable evidence transfer device – is this a real thing? – clear Lena of responsibility and point the finger at Edge instead… But not before Ms. Luthor goes a little off the deep end.

Now, it’s totally understandable that Lena would be a little out of it this week. She was just accused of a heinous crime, was shot at, got drunk, and then found out her worst enemy was the real culprit. So showing up at his office late at night to confront it is seems like just the kind of response she might have. But pulling a gun on him and being on the verge of shooting? That was too much for even me to stomach. Especially because it didn’t seem like Kara or Sam ever found out that it happened, since one of his bodyguards just knocked her out and stuck her in a cargo plane to die. Kara rescuing her friend, who had to participate by recognizing herself as worth saving, was lovely to see. But it would have felt more fulfilling to have a real discussion about how close to the edge Lena teetered. Not to mention how unfulfilling it was for Edge to get away unscathed once more thanks to a random patsy. At the moment he’s not threatening enough to be a Big Bad, but too much of a problem to be overlooked.

An emotional but brief goodbye.

Meanwhile, Alex was handling her own trauma, and though it wasn’t as large scale as Lena’s it was just as devastating. Her first scene with Maggie indicates that they’ve already had the discussions and fights about having kids offscreen, which is a real shame because of how important this representation has been for so many Supergirl fans. It felt cheap to ignore the nuances of the issue, but I am glad that Alex remained steadfast in her desire to be a mother after weeks of not wanting to rock the boat. They had a dance party as a goodbye before sleeping together one last time, and while that moment did not hit home, their bittersweet talk afterwards did. Both Leigh and Lima gave heartfelt performances that brought more layers to the relationship and breakup than the writing did. Although it was touching to hear how they’ve improved each other’s lives and how they’ll carry that with them despite their parting ways.

Afterwards, Kara stepped up once again to be the loving and supportive sister, offering Alex not only a shoulder to cry on but also a chance to get away on a road trip. While this is obviously setup for the Danvers sisters episode next week, it also felt like the perfect reaction for Kara to have and a subtle sign that Kara and Alex’s relationship has come a long way. Alex has spent her life looking after Kara, so it’s nice to see Kara return the favor.

“Damage” ended with another foreboding Sam-is-Reign moment, as she finds a bullet in her jacket and realizes she had been shot during the protest. As well-crafted as each of these final scenes are, I can’t help but feel that they are dragging their feet on this particular plot. Hopefully the climax will be worth all the anticipation.

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