SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for “Crossfire,” the latest episode of “Supergirl.”
“Supergirl” doesn’t shy away from the political, and this episode is no exception — appropriate, given that it’s election eve in the U.S. What’s most compelling about “Crossfire” isn’t Cadmus’s shady fear-mongering or its usual (sometimes too on-the-nose) dialogue about political issues like immigration and gun control. Instead, “Supergirl” chose to talk about identities — revealed, discovered, concealed and changed forever.
“Supergirl” typically has a pretty strong game when it comes to theme, but even in comparison to its fellow episodes, “Crossfire” really hits the nail on the head. Every individual story ties into issues of identity, and nearly all of them emerge from things that were already in motion on the show. It’s no small feat, and while not every story hits home in a major way, they’re all more or less successful — and that warrants a tip of the hat to episode writers Gabriel Llanas & Anna Musky-Goldwyn.
If there’s one person not struggling with her identity in some way, it’s Kara. Giddy at the prospect of finally getting to mentor someone, she bursts into Mon-El’s bunker at the D.E.O. and drags him right into a makeover montage of the sort usually reserved for the protagonists in romantic comedies. It’s a clever reversal of a familiar trope, to say nothing of a fun sequence overall (pancakes, popped buttons and laser-haircuts, oh my!). More importantly, it sets up what anyone with eyes could tell Kara might be a problem — she’s trying to turn Mon-El, a.k.a. Mike, into a dude version of herself. There’s even a cardigan and some preppy accessories in the mix. He’s a little Super-Ken, and from the moment he pulls some shades out of his pocket, it’s clear that “Mike” won’t be that kind of Earthling.
Of all the Kara-things with which Mike is saddled, the least successful is his CatCo internship. Come on, that was never going to work. Not to stereotype by planet, but it seems pretty clear from Mon-El’s’ first night on the town with Winn that he’s not exactly immune to the party-lovin’ ways of many Daxamites. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be a great intern, but filing and getting coffee seems to be far from Mon-El’s mind. A few ignored job responsibilities, a copy-room tryst with Eve Teschmacher and one Kara-Alex heart-to-heart later, Mon-El’s unemployed and free to try out looks that aren’t so Kara-drag.
That heart-to-heart proves a turning point in another story as well. Alex’s budding friendship with Maggie Sawyer has been laced with just a hint of sexual tension, and “Supergirl” broaches that particular issue more directly than it has to date in this episode. After learning that Maggie’s girlfriend broke up with her, Alex wants to distract her and cheer her up, as any good friend would. Still, there seems to be something more to it, and after Maggie understandably raises the issue with Alex, the latter gets very nervous and heads to Kara’s to stress-eat a donut and unpack some things with her sister.
The Alex-Kara scene neatly sums up much of what takes place in the episode, as so many of their scenes do. In this case, Alex gives Kara some good advice — namely, that Mon-El needs to figure out who he’s going to be, and the answer isn’t “a male version of Kara” — and realizes that much of it applies to herself. Right before she can tell her sister what’s on her mind, she’s interrupted by yet another National City disaster. It’s not the last time Alex gets to speak some small truth, however: later in the episode, she sees Maggie at a bar and says that maybe, just maybe, what Maggie said earlier was true. She doesn’t come out, per se, but she inches closer to some kind of truth, and in Chyler Leigh’s capable hands, it’s pretty affecting.
The disaster that interrupts the Sisters Danvers’ heart-to-heart takes up most of the oxygen in the episode, but it’s curiously flat. That’s largely due to a total lack of compelling goal, performance, or background for the actual aggressors in the attacks across the city, as well as some uncharacteristically scattered direction from Glen Winter. I know one gun was a levitation gun or something, but what the hell did the rest of them do? It’s beside the point, because what’s really going on here is fearmongering and terrorism, with these attacks (all with alien weapons) designed to stoke anti-alien sentiments. It’s a Cadmus ploy, naturally, and when the hired goons get too greedy and go after a Lena Luthor fundraiser (then get arrested), our mystery villain presses a little button and all three goons drop dead.
Before we get to the episode-closing big reveal, there’s one more big issue of identity. James isn’t feeling like he’s making a difference behind Cat’s fancy desk. When he and Kara stumble into the aforementioned thugs as they commit their first big crime, he tries to help stop them and sees his dad’s camera get destroyed in the process. That feeling of helplessness drives him to some “Arrow“-style vigilantism (seriously, James should be one of Oliver’s new recruits), and when he uses Winn’s D.E.O. knowledge to make sure he’s on the scene for the next crime spree, Winn figures out what his friend is up to. At first, Winn refuses to help James, but you know that dude can’t resist building a suit. We’ll see the results next week.
It’s fitting that the biggest moment of the episode also deals with identity, albeit in a totally different way. After Supergirl shows up to protect Lena’s shindig (and figures out that Lena planned the whole thing to bring down the bad guys), she goes to see Ms. Luthor in her office. Their friendly chat is interrupted when our mystery villain strolls in — turns out she’s Lena’s mother. Lena’s adopted, so there’s a chance that this isn’t the Luthor matriarch, but come on. Of course she’s Mama Luthor.
All in all, it’s a solid, if somewhat slow, installment of “Supergirl,” which continues to fit in perfectly on the CW. If this episode was a little light on the action, that’s not so bad, especially given how much we learn about the characters and their individual journeys. Lots of wheels are set in motion, and it’s likely that next week will bring more than a few great big moments — and we’ll have this episode to thank for all the excitement.
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.
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