REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E13 – Both Sides Now

Supergirl gets quite a few plots rolling in “Both Sides Now,” but almost too quickly considering how they’ve been dragging their feet the last few weeks. Kara (Melissa Benoist) momentarily gets the upper hand against a Worldkiller while Alex (Chyler Danvers) uses Purity to work out some of her personal issues. Meanwhile, Mon-El (Chris Wood) finally admits that his feelings for Kara haven’t disappeared and Lena (Katie McGrath) figures out what’s wrong with Sam (Odette Annable). It’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive right in!

Relax, Alex.

The opening scene deserves its own paragraph, as there’s a lot to unpack – and most of it exemplifies just how Supergirl fails to tell intersectional stories. Of course Julia Freeman AKA Purity is a Kryptonian, and she’s played with a great balance of vulnerability and darkness by Krys Marshall, but she is still in the body of a black woman. So for “Both Sides Now” to open on the DEO busting down her door (potentially without a warrant?) and drawing guns on her before she’s even done anything wrong hits too close to home, and not in a good way. The episode never addresses the optics of this, and while Kara pleads for clemency because her role is to hope for the best, Alex doesn’t even notice that she frightened Purity out of Julia by waving a weapon in her face. It seems like a blind spot that keeps cropping up for this show, juxtaposed with the times they actively try to deal with real world issues and wind up having non-latinx actors talk about how the president (played by actual Mexican actress Lynda Carter) is building a wall to keep them out. And with that out of the way, I’ll get back to “Both Sides Now.”

Purity has a powerful scream that functions similar to Black Canary’s, and Kara is taken out by it pretty easily as its frequency is explicitly meant to hurt Kryptonians. Nevertheless, J’onn (David Harewood) steps into the fray and manages to subdue her – offscreen, of course – so that they can talk to her in a DEO cell with power inhibitors. This is where the crux of the episode emerges, which is that Kara believes that Julia is trapped inside Purity and wants to lure her out with kind words while Alex prefers the Bad Cop routine of threatening Purity and eventually torturing her. Alex has certainly shown signs of veering dangerously into police brutality before whenever she’s in pain, but it seemed like she was handling herself a lot better recently so this burst of aggression and cynicism came a little out of nowhere. If it had been about her fear of losing her sister it would be one thing, but “Both Sides Now” specifically ties it to the loss of Maggie which rang a little false.

That being said, the dichotomy between the sisters does highlight how much of Kara’s faith in humanity has been restored since the start of the season. She falters momentarily when Purity manages to wound Alex emotionally by alluding to the break up, but for the most part she stays true to the Supergirl ideals even when it almost costs her her life. In one argument with her sister, she even reminds Alex, “My feelings have saved lives countless times.” I’ve never been prouder of my favorite Kryptonian. Alex herself has a change of heart when she literally sees Purity’s eyes flash while Julia struggles not to kill Kara, and this allows her to give the lethal dose of pep talk required to save Supergirl and (temporarily) Julia. Leigh sells it as well as ever, but it still felt hollow because her previous position was so extreme.

Sam’s got a true friend in Lena.

Unfortunately, Julia’s return to herself doesn’t last long thanks to an appearance from Reign. Instead, the newborn Worldkiller willingly turns herself in to spare Alex’s life – which is awfully kind of her. And in order to collect her “sister,” Reign had to abandon Ruby in the middle of an ice skating rink on their mental health holiday. This storyline only took up a few scenes, but it led to one of the more interesting reveals on the night thanks to Lena Luthor’s keen observational skills. Not to mention that Emma Tremblay plays the role of terrified daughter with such conviction that your heart breaks for her.

As a concerned boss and friend, Lena ordered Sam to take some time off and spend it with her daughter, but that’s cut short by the call of an evil Kryptonian daughter. Ruby, being the smart 12 year old that she is, called Lena to pick her up when her mother disappeared and confessed her knowledge of previous disappearances. This is when Lena is able to connect the dots in perhaps the most satisfying sequence of “figuring things out” that Supergirl has ever done. When she attempts to question Sam later on at the office, she unwittingly triggers another blackout before her very eyes. But while many shows would create a misunderstanding out of this situation and thus a rift between the two women, instead Lena is able to confirm her theory and put her brilliant Luthor mind to work saving her friend.

The last big plot point in “Both Sides Now” is the tension in Mon-El and Imra’s marriage, which ties back to Kara despite the exes not having any real scenes together outside of fighting Worldkillers this week. (Sidenote: I’m very glad both Mon-El and J’onn were part of the action, because no one should be leaving Kara to fend for herself like they did in the midseason finale.) Mon-El is intent on restoring the Legion’s spaceship to functionality, but when J’onn notices the marital spat he puts the rebuilding plans on hold to have a little chat in his role as team dad.

Again, this story is another instance of the audience walking into a bout of character development or regression that occurred offscreen, but at least it finally answers the question of whether the show plans to move forward with Karamel after a half-season break. The answer is, of course, yes. Mon-El admits to J’onn that his marriage was arranged in order to unite the planets, but that with time he did grow to love Imra. Of course, a man “growing to love” is death on a television show – especially one whose writers find good people in love to be boring – and Mon-El himself admits that his love for Kara defies logic, so that answers that question. J’onn urges Mon-El to be honest with his wife, wise man that he is, and the couple do seem to handle the old obstacle with grace.   The only issue is that Imra is genuinely in love with Mon-El, and he’s being portrayed as torn between the two women. This makes for a much messier triangle, unless the sudden and unexplained confession Imra makes about her mission on present-day Earth manages to put the kibosh on the marriage already.

Supergirl delivers an intense and high-stakes episode with “Both Sides Now,” though a few of the character beats should have been spread out over the last few episodes. But at least we can all agree that it was about time Lena Luthor got let in on at least one secret.