REVIEW: Supergirl, S4E12 – Menagerie

In an unusual turn of events, Supergirl combined the theme of familial love with the visual of devoured hearts in a special episode entitled “Menagerie.” While J’onn (David Harewood) tried to help Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) reconnect by putting them on a case together, Brainy (Jesse Rath) tried to induct Nia (Nicole Maines) into their ever-expanding family with some superhero training sessions. All the while, a Venom-esque alien symbiote had latched itself onto jewel thief Pamela Ferrer and turned her into a literal maneater. Who said Valentine’s Day wasn’t romantic?

Space Dad to the rescue!

The biggest love story of the night, as always, belonged to Kara and Alex. While the pesky memory wipe situation still wasn’t resolved, “Menagerie” managed to highlight both sides of the supposed sisterly divide without making Alex out to be an alien (or Supergirl) hater. Instead, J’onn’s matchmaking plans to get Kara and Alex working together on the case of the missing hearts revealed that Alex’s overprotectiveness not only kept Kara from going out in the field but also kept Alex from living her best life.  Kara fretted at first that she’d never again be able to work with her sister in any capacity because Alex’s fearful love of her distracted her from things like dating and adopting, but it was Alex who wound up explaining that she needed to learn to put herself first and not go into overdrive when Kara could handle herself. So the Danvers girls ended the night eating chocolate, agreeing to work together again, and setting Alex up to ask a girl named Becca out for drinks.

A somewhat less successful but still adorable round of cupid belonged to Brainy and Nia. Brainy first hoped to woo Nia with a proposition of definitely not dating and instead superhero training after storing her grief into tiny boxes. As helpful as he was being and as much as she would love to join his family – a keyword throughout “Menagerie” – she still needed time to ease into her Dreamer persona. Instead she invited him to a Valentine’s Day party at her apartment,  ensuring the “date” part of the evening was understood by all. And while Brainy still needed Alex’s guidance despite her claim of hating the holiday,  he came away deciding he did in fact want to move forward with her. Unfortunately their opportunity was waylaid by the heart-eating vixen whose villain name coincided with the episode title, but some wise words from Kara and the love of her new family helped Nia step into a her light and save the day. Though she and Brainy have yet to clarify their relationship status, they will finally be training together after weeks of beating around the bush. Sidenote: Alex saying she hated Valentine’s Day was strange, because it was actually Maggie who had a problem with the date. Is this a scar left by her ex’s absence, or is this Alex’s memory wipe playing tricks on her? (The writers also may have forgotten, but let’s pretend that’s not the case.)

Two people who deserve to date (not each other).

Those two relationship storylines dovetailed nicely on Supergirl, converging at Nia’s party and cementing the bonds of this makeshift family. Unfortunately, the episodic glue holding them together wasn’t as strong as the character foundation. Menagerie as a villain lacked any clear drive and wasn’t given the chance to be very dynamic, serving instead as a prop for several plot points. Among them, Agent Liberty (Sam Witwer) passing the Children of Liberty torch down to his actual child, making him a murderer in the name of the cause. Despite Colonel Haley (April Parker Jones) and Alex’s hard work tracking down Menagerie, and despite Supergirl and Dreamer joining forces to take her down, it was Ben’s son who delivered the killing blow. For this, he garnered accolades in the name of defending humanity and even got his father released on account of terrorism only being illegal when it was directed at humans. It was probably the biggest down of the night, although at least the show’s learned subtlety when it comes to its real-world parallels. On the bright side, there’s hope for Pamela Ferrer herself, as she gets a letter from Manchester Black sent to her jail cell – heralding the start of the Elite.

The rotting cherry on top of this heavy-hearted Valentine’s Day was the dissolution of James (Mehcad Brooks) and Lena’s (Katie McGrath) relationship, for perhaps the final time. Whatever one’s personal feelings towards their dynamic, the way this particular breakup was nonsensical. After springing a Paris getaway on her boyfriend, Lena then admitted that the government had offered her a contract in exchange for access to her super-powered discoveries. When James cautioned that such a contract would inevitably lead to weaponization, she turned his wariness into a sign that he regretted forgiving her and that they should never have gotten back together. It was almost as if the entire conversation and vacation had been a test that he didn’t know he was taking before failing spectacularly. She stopped short of pushing him out a moving vehicle, but her final call confirming the contract with Haley seemed to put the death knell on a romance that neither writers nor fans seemed particularly invested in.

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