Fight With Knowledge: Supergirl, “Crossfire”

This week on Supergirl, we got a gala, a gun control debate, and hints toward a new, non-superpowered vigilante. But more important than these big events were the subtler character moments underpinning them, making for an uneven episode—not that thrilling plotwise, but giving you enough to chew on in terms of character development to look forward to those arcs continuing on in future episodes.

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×05 “Crossfire.”

After last week’s alien fight club, Project Cadmus is back, but they’re pivoting from their experimentation on humans to just using stolen alien guns to rob the National City Diamond Exchange and otherwise screw with the status quo. And it seems to work, to an extent: The blasts knock Kara down even before the weapon is fully charged (that would have been bad), and humans start thinking, Hmm, maybe I need a weapon to defend myself from aliens. Thankfully, these prototypes aren’t available to the public, but The Doctor’s (Brenda Strong) henchmen just keep upgrading weaponry to take down Supergirl. And they find a perfect opportunity in Lena Luthor’s charity gala to help rebuild the National City Children’s Hospital, damaged in recent attacks.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

At first, Kara is all too happy to support Lena by attending the gala, as Lena’s only friend in National City. But then Lena comes to cash in her favor from last week: Convince Supergirl to attend the gala as well, to support LCorp’s attempts at rebranding its image. So not only does Kara have to figure out how to be two people in the same place at once (without J’onn’s help with shapeshifting this time), but once Cadmus pulls out its shiny new toys, she has to keep the gala from going up in flames. Part of that involves what the team cheekily names “Operation Doubtfire,” in which Kara pops up in a party dress and then in her Supergirl costume so quickly that someone has to have noticed, and manages to never mix up her hair or outfit. Fortunately/unfortunately, this only happens for about a minute, though I would have liked to see an entire act of the episode devoted to Kara struggling to keep her two identities separate.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

The identities—or rather, identity crises—that Kara has not noticed are the ones plaguing both James and Alex. Getting injured in the robbery, with his father’s camera destroyed, is the final straw for James, who has apparently been nursing resentment at always being the helpless human friend of Superman and Supergirl. Thanks to some intel from Winn, he dons a hoodie, mask, and makeshift shield and tries to go after the Cadmus thugs on his own. But Luke Cage he ain’t, and his recklessness brings an entire building down. Thankfully, he’s able to rush people out, but that only encourages him that he too can be a vigilante!

Winn, self-aware dude that he is, tries to nip that impulse in the bud:

Winn: Guys like us, we are here to give people information. To fight with knowledge. There’s no shame in that.

But at the same time, he gets that James is dissatisfied with new media, with covering celebrity gossip (like Winn used to before he joined the DEO) instead of any important work. This really resonated with me, as I worked in the celebrity culture sphere for a handful of years in/out of college. As much as I crack jokes about how fascinating it is to see what that corner of the internet prioritizes, it was also soul-sucking to report on the minutiae of famous people’s lives as if it were breaking news. Clearly James doesn’t feel that he can make enough of a difference as the head of CatCo, but being a vigilante won’t fill that hole, either. We see this at the gala, where James is only marginally less helpful than Supergirl, as we’ve established that those guns can vaporize anyone, human or alien.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

The only people with a solution are the two brains of the operation: Lena, who has taken refuge under a table with some device I didn’t remember to write down, because it’s basically a deus ex machina, and Winn, who reminds her of the missing component needed. Again—the specifics of the moment were not important, but it did bring two characters together who I hadn’t anticipated crossing paths, and they were quite adorable. I also appreciated the fact that Lena is smart in addition to shrewd; this episode provided several layers, including the big one I’ll mention at the end.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

For the moment, Winn’s attraction to Lena will have to take a backseat to him helping James come up with a reinforced costume that will keep him from getting killed as he explores this vigilante thing. And you know what? I’ve really missed James and Winn bonding.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

Speaking of bonding, Alex is trying to be Maggie’s bestie and confidante when the latter’s girlfriend—whose face nor name was important last week—dumps her for the usual inane breakup reasons including accusing her of being a workaholic and borderline sociopathic. Alex tries to turn their daytime beer-and-pool date into a girl-talk session, but Maggie just wants to go home and “lose [her] cool” alone. Understandable, but Alex keeps trying to find excuses for the two of them to hang out when they’re not busting aliens. Which prompts Maggie to respond that “I didn’t know you were into girls.” “I’m not,” Alex quickly counters in the clichéd way of all closeted TV characters. Maggie takes it smoothly, apologizing for coming on to her but not entirely dropping it:

Maggie: I get it, you’re not gay.

Alex: Right.

Maggie: You’d be surprised how many gay women I’ve heard that from.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

Later, after talking about being true to oneself and who one has always been meant to be, Alex tracks down Maggie at the bar to give her this speech:

Alex: My whole life has been about being perfect: perfect grades, perfect job, the perfect sister, taking care of Kara. But the one part of my life that I have never been able to make perfect was dating. I just never really liked it. I don’t know, I mean–I tried, I got asked out, I just… I never liked being intimate. I just, I don’t know, I thought maybe that’s not the way I was built, that’s just not my thing. I never thought that it was because of the other—that maybe I—I mean, I don’t—I don’t know. Now I just can’t stop thinking about…

Maggie: About what?

Alex: That maybe there’s some truth to what you said.

Maggie: About?

Alex: What you said. About me.

A really lovely speech, very human in its awkwardness. That’s all we get for this week, as Alex flees before Maggie can formulate any response beyond a knowing smile. So, Alex is queer—but what does that actually mean? Headlines and Tumblr posts are calling Alex gay, which matches the showrunners’ tease that a Supergirl character would come out as gay. But I read a lot of possibilities into that speech: For one, there’s my ongoing beef with stories about characters making a complete 180 from “straight” to “gay”—I’d be much more interested in seeing Alex come out as bisexual, realizing that she’s attracted to women without it meaning she never actually enjoyed being with men. Or, if we’re unpacking those intimacy issues she mentions, could Alex be asexual? I’ll reserve the rest of my judgment for the next few episodes as Alex’s arc unfolds—and hopefully her romance with Maggie begins—but I really hope that Supergirl treats this situation with nuance.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

Poor Alex tries to talk to Kara about her conflicting and confusing feelings, but instead, as the perfect older sister, she gets roped into helping Kara figure out her problem: The one person whose life she has been interfering with doesn’t even need her. That’s Mon-El, a.k.a. “Mike,” as she shows him the ropes of being human. But she misses the mark in the most adorably earnest way possible, as she dresses him up in argyle and fake glasses (in case he should ever try to save the world someday) and lands him an internship at CatCo. No surprise, Mon-El does not find answering phones and filing reports fulfilling. Instead, he dumps all of his work on Eve Teschmacher (who’s crushing hard) and then hooks up with her in a side office. But he doesn’t shirk his duties or take advantage of Eve’s crush with any real malice, more of an entitled naïveté.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

I dunno, guys, I’m pretty tired of Mon-El already. If this season is about Kara learning how to be Kara, she shouldn’t have to waste her time hand-holding someone else through the infinitesimal tiny, vital steps of how to be a human. I’m also getting the sense that Kara’s “reward” for doing this will be a cute boyfriend from an opposing planet. Completely agree with The A.V. Club that putting Kara and Mon-El together would be bad for multiple reasons:

I was onboard with the idea of the show cutting its losses on the James/Kara romance and having her focus on the non-romantic parts of her life this season. But having Kara dump her black love interest only to immediately take up with a new white one definitely isn’t the best optics.

Supergirl 2x05 "Crossfire" television review

Photo: Robert Falconer /The CW

The relationship I’m more interested in watching develop is Kara and Lena’s friendship. (Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath have enough chemistry that I found myself wishing that both Danvers sisters would have queer love stories, but alas.) They’ve bonded over wanting to fulfill potential that they haven’t even tapped yet, and of course being adopted. But as we discover in this episode, Lena’s relationship with her parents isn’t as peachy-keen as Kara’s is with the Danvers—mostly because Mrs. Luthor is Project Cadmus’ Doctor! Though the twist was dropped, anvil-style, in the final seconds, it’s a smart move. Earlier in the episode, The Doctor (I’m just gonna keep calling her that) enigmatically mentioned that she was fighting for her children’s sake, and I assumed that meant little tykes who needed to grow up in an alien-free world. Instead, she was talking about jailbird Lex and his sister, who wasn’t surprised that her mother couldn’t make her gala yet was still stung. This brings Cadmus directly in line with Supergirl; I’m excited to see the writers and actors play all the angles of everyone’s multiple identities.

Other Thoughts

  • “Do you have protection?” “You mean like a sword…?” Now I’m wondering what Daxamite (or Kryptonian) contraception is like…
  • Maggie calling Alex “nerd” and her reaction face was one of the cutest moments this week.
  • Great point from IGN about how Smallville focused so much on the father/son drama between Lex and his dad, that it makes perfect sense for Supergirl to delve into the fraught mother/daughter dynamic.

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