SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for “Medusa,” the latest episode of “Supergirl.”
The prelude to the much-heralded DC four-part crossover was a little light on the whole “crossover” thing — a few attempted breaches and three minutes with Barry and Cisco do not a “crossover” make — but “Medusa,” the latest episode of “Supergirl,” doesn’t lack for excitement. It’s possible that CW watchers just tuning in to get the full picture of the crossover will walk away disappointed, but it’s also hard to imagine they won’t be drawn into the “Supergirl” by an episode that has so much going on. Action, check; romance, check; intrigue, check; Cisco and Barry, check. All in all, not bad for a Monday night.
Writers Jessica Queller and Derek Simon begin “Medusa” on a seasonal note, with Kara hosting her friends and family — including Eliza Danvers, who we’re reminded early on is a scientist — for Thanksgiving dinner. While Supergirl’s busy cooking a turkey with her eyes and Mon-El sucks up to Eliza, James, Winn and Alex each face off over who, exactly, is going to get to come out at dinner. James (pretty selfishly, one might say) tries to beat Alex to the punch, but neither of them actually gets to speak their truth aloud, as a giant breach in the space-time continuum interrupts the festivities. In roughly 55 minutes, that will matter.
Back at the D.E.O., J’onn, Kara and company are still mighty concerned about Lillian Luthor’s plans for Kara’s blood. Alex and Winn plan to hack Lena, but Kara protests that she can get the truth out of her with sneakiness and reporter skills. Alex, of course, tells Winn to hack Lena anyway (one of the episode’s funnier jokes) as Kara heads off to ask some decidedly un-sneaky questions about Mama Luthor. Within minutes of their interview, Lena’s called the whole thing off and reached out to her mom, telling her they need to talk.
Meanwhile, back at National City’s coolest dive gin joint, Mon-El sits down for a drink, turns down a pass from a female alien who isn’t named Kara, and spots a familiar face under a hood at the other end of the bar. Chris Wood does a bang-up job with Mon-El’s more comic moments, but not all of his heavier stuff lands, and this particular storyline is no exception. The fellow under the hood isn’t J’onn J’onzz, there to kick Mon-El’s ass and kill some of the bar’s alien patrons with a mysterious airborne contagion. Having missed death only because he was taking a beating, Mon-El winds up in quarantine, just in case.
He’s not the only one. When Cadmus makes their intentions clear — they’re going to take out all aliens with a virus — Kara and J’onn are similarly confined to the D.E.O., just in case. Unfortunately, that means Kara’s not around to be sneaky and watch Lena meet with her mother in an exposition-heavy relationship-setting scene that nevertheless gives both Katie McGrath and Brenda Strong a chance to arch their eyebrows and look disdainful in a delicious way. We learn that Lillian openly admits to loving Lex more than her adoptive daughter, a line Lena later uses to accuse her mother of deception. She knows Lillian’s lying, she says, because “you told me you loved me, and we both know that that’s not true.”
When a board game played through a cell window and a cutesy conversation about whether or not Mon-El likes Kara gets interrupted by the former’s collapse, the need to identify this virus get ratcheted up to 11. Eliza identifies the contagion as a Kryptonian virus, which sends Kara to the Fortress of Solitude. After a quick fight with poor old Kal-Ex, a hologram of Kara’s father reveals that Hank Henshaw was in search of Medusa, a virus that Papa El created to kill all non-Kryptonians. Kara understandably finds this extremely distressing, rushing back to the D.E.O. and a friend who’s likely to die because of her father’s creation. As always Melissa Benoist soars when given the opportunity to do some heavy lifting, and she’s particularly great in the scene in the Fortress and those that follow.
Benoist’s quieter moments here herald a brief respite from the plot’s constant advancement, as Eliza coaxes Alex out of the closet and J’onn and Kara take a moment to talk about her parent’s legacies, their jobs as heroes, and J’onn’s transformation into a White Martian. While both scenes are excellent, they give way all too quickly to more action, as more of Eliza’s science tips the D.E.O. off to the fact that Cadmus needs a dispersing agent from L-Corp. Kara and Hank face off — we could do without another “I am Cyborg Superman,” don’t you think? — and while Kara saves Lena’s life, Maggie gets injured.
From here on out, it’s all relationship-driven, a welcome development for a show that’s great on theme and not always on character development. Supergirl asks Lena for help in stopping her mother and gets turned away, an apparent reversion to Luthorishness that of course winds up being a fake-out. McGrath does a solid job throughout this episode, but she’s never better than in that final moment, in which she tells her mom that not only did she foil her alien-killing plan, she also called the cops.
Patching up Maggie’s wounds, Alex tells her friend that thanks to her mother’s understanding, she now sees why one should come out for themselves, not for any one person. “It’s not about you,” she says, “it’s about living my life.” A few scenes later, fresh from her brush with death, Maggie turns up on Alex’s doorstep with a pizza and some beer. As soon as a pop ballad starts playing in the background, it’s clear where this scene is headed.
Elsewhere, Kara sits vigil beside Mon-El, who wakes up to tell her that he knows he’s probably dying. That leads to another big smooch, one clearly intended to read as every bit as romantic as Alex and Maggie’s but which falls a bit flat. Apologies to the Kara and Mon-El ‘shippers out there, but while it was beautifully shot and acted, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of Wood-Benoist chemistry. Whether more will emerge remains to be seen, since near the episode’s conclusion it becomes clear that Mon-El either doesn’t remember the kiss, or is pretending not to remember, and Kara follows his lead.
There’s one last relationship that dominates the episode’s final act: that of the Henshaws, real and imitation. When the time comes to stop the murder of all of earth’s aliens, J’onn tells Kara he’d rather die trying to stop the slaughter than wait for death, particularly given his pending transformation, and so the pair head out to take on Cadmus. That means we get a Henshaw-J’onzz confrontation, giving the terrific David Harewood a chance to play two parts at once. Hank’s disappearance at the end of the battle makes it likely we’ll be seeing it again.
That leaves us with the crossover portion of the crossover, a brief scene in Kara’s apartment in which Barry and Cisco — still not calling Barry a friend, thanks to the revelations of the most recent episode of “The Flash” — ask her help in a little problem back on their earth. While brief (and again, likely disappointing to those just here for the crossover), the scene recalls some of the fun of last year’s Barry-Kara team-up, and sets the stage for what will likely be a fun few episodes.
Starring Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel, “Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars David Harewood as Martian Manhunter, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott and features appearances by Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant as well as Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman.