The “Supergirl” course correction of 2017 continues, and that’s good news, indeed. With “Alex,” a pattern of sorts has emerged: rather than focusing on the people around Kara (making her a kind of living, breathing plot device), the “Supergirl” team opts to pick a character from her orbit, find some interesting thematic stuff in that character’s ether, and throw Kara and the character in question together to see what happens. Last week focused on both Kara and Lena — theme: friendship — and Kara and Snapper –theme: integrity. This week, it’s Kara and Maggie, and it’s no surprise that the story that brings them together centers on the person to whom they’re both linked.
“Alex” isn’t the strongest episode in the brief history of the series (a few too many leaps of logic in a single bound), but it’s a solid one, anchored by the performances of Melissa Benoist, Floriana Lima, and this season’s MVP, Chyler Leigh. The episode sets up the intellectual component of the story — that Kara often asks as a blunt instrument of sorts, not always useful to cops like Maggie, for whom policing is a delicate process — before throwing that issue into a highly emotional realm. Alex’s abduction is both deftly handled and a little ridiculous, with the mastermind Rick (David Hoflin) simultaneously a hometown boy trying to rescue his dad, an abuse victim still in recovery from severe childhood trauma, a sneering stalker who seems to have some feelings about Alex’s out status, and a genius who’s able to block J’onn from his mind and anticipate a bunch of truly “MacGyver”-y stuff from Alex.
That’s not a slight against Hoflin, who gives a heck of a performance, considering the mess he’s handed. Luckily, a good actor masks many sins, and “Alex” still holds together. Hoflin’s first appearance takes place in an elevator in Alex’s building, which she runs into after Kara makes an untimely exit from a dinner party. Supergirl interrupted a hostage negotiation led by Maggie earlier in the evening, contaminating a crime scene and leaving a “Supergirl-shaped hole” an a historic building in the process. Maggie tells Kara that criminals are using the “Supergirl defense” to have charges thrown out, and Kara, shocked that Maggie doesn’t consider the safe release of hostages a win, quietly storms out. Alex follows, and there’s Rick, looming in an elevator, waiting to enact a plan years in the making. (For those tracking the plotholes, here’s one: how long has Rick been in that elevator? If he’d just been riding it all day, surely someone would have noticed?)
Maggie and Kara discover Alex’s disappearance the next morning, when Kara receives a menacing, voice-distorted phone call from a man who tells her he knows she’s Supergirl. He demands the release of Peter Thompson (Gregg Henry), a convicted murderer, and says if he’s not released, Alex will die. Cue the Maggie-Kara team-up we never knew we always wanted, complete with lots of conflict and even more butt-kicking. It’s difficult to recap exactly what happens in “Alex,” as there’s a lot of getting nowhere and a few repetitive conversations, but after being given 36 hours to rescue Alex from the man Kara and Winn eventually discover is a hometown classmate of the sisters Danvers, Maggie, Kara and company attempt the following: to talk Rick out of holding Alex, to threaten him physically (that’s all Kara), to trick him into thinking his father — that’s the man he wants released — has been set free (that’s J’onn), and to trace Alex by means of her tracker, which she manages to jumpstart by cutting it out of herself and hot-wiring it into a security camera. Unfortunately, the last one backfires — Kara’s arrival at the site reveals that Alex isn’t there, and water starts pouring into the glass case in which Alex is trapped. 36 hours becomes four.
This is as good a time as any to mention the most interesting aspect of the episode — one that, on another show, might have taken up the majority of the screentime. Watching Alex attempt to secure her own rescue is both wildly entertaining and utterly true to what we know of the character. Even when emotional, she’s practical, attempting to use her time speaking with Maggie to say some big, important things in case there’s not another chance. Beyond that, she turns a credit card into a knife, turns her pants into a lifevest and later an oxygen tank of sorts, and does all manner of things in an attempt to stay alive long enough for her sister and her partner to track her down, as she knows they will. Leigh is always good on “Supergirl,” but she’s especially good here, and while it’s likely that the writing couldn’t sustain an episode solely focused on Alex as she both waits and tries for rescue, Leigh absolutely could.
In the end, Kara and Maggie secure Alex’s release after a few tough conversations — Maggie in particular gets into it with Kara about being disregarded in the decisions Kara’s making, while Kara stops Maggie from releasing Thompson, against Alex’s wishes. They appeal to Thompson’s better angels, telling him that his son needs rescuing, as he’ll never be able to live with Alex’s murder on his conscience. Thompson gives them a location to search, they find Alex just as she’s about to drown (and Kara’s blunt instrument qualities come especially in handy here), and she shows up at the DEO just in time to clock Rick in the face (and make sure that J’onn doesn’t wipe that punch from his memory). Kara and Maggie find a new accord, Maggie and Alex say I love you, and all ends well.
Except there’s a b-plot, of course. Lena considers a stunning technical proposal from Rhea, clocks her as an alien, kicks her out, and eventually calls Kara to get some advice. When Kara’s not available, Lena makes her own decision, and Mon-El’s murderous mother is now teamed up with a woman who’s fighting her own demons. Not a good pairing.
Next week: Rhea’s master plan continues to unfold.
Airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, “Supergirl” stars Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood and Chris Wood.