The New Normal: Supergirl, “Medusa”

I had to keep reminding myself that this week’s Supergirl kicked off the four-night DC TV universe crossover event—mostly because laying the groundwork for the crossover was almost an afterthought. Like an overstuffed turkey, the show crammed in too much: a brief (post-)Thanksgiving plotline, the introduction—and wrap-up—of the Project Medusa mystery, and the appearance of “special guest star” Grant Gustin for less than a minute. Yet again, the show traded in a forgettable series of events that were mostly a backdrop to furthering the personal and romantic relationships of the main cast.

Spoilers for Supergirl 2×08 “Medusa.”

The opening of this week’s episode was basically a rehash of last year’s Thanksgiving special, with Eliza Danvers watching Kara heat-vision-cook the turkey and waiting for Alex to reveal yet another huge secret to her. Never mind that James wants to spill the beans about being the Guardian to Kara—Alex is all ready to dominate the annual Danvers “I’m thankful” tradition with her coming-out, but they’re interrupted by some weird rip in the space-time continuum. But then they get distracted from that by Cyborg Superman setting off a poison gas bomb at the alien bar, which kills everyone inside except for Mon-El—partly because he ran after Hank Henshaw and didn’t inhale much, but also because we discover that the gas is the mysterious Project Medusa: a virus created on Krypton to kill non-Kryptonian aliens in the case of an invasion.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

More than that, it was created by Kara’s father. “But I thought your work was saving lives,” she protests. “I was saving Kryptonian lives,” he responds. Poor thing—she can’t go a season without another parent(al figure) to be disillusioned by. But, like a good reporter, she channels that frustration into manipulating Lena Luthor to find out what her mother Lillian and Project Cadmus intend to do with Medusa. Under the guise of interviewing Lena for a puff piece about successful women and their (often difficult) relationships with their mothers, Kara tries to get info, but Lena won’t give her much more than platitudes. Of course, Alex and Winn weren’t just throwing shade when they pointed out that Kara fails at being sneaky; the moment she leaves, Lena calls up her mom because she knows that something is up.

“Medusa” is strongest in the aforementioned thorny mother/daughter dynamics. Surprising no one, Lena and Lillian aren’t very close, and not just because Lena is adopted; Lex was her mother’s favorite, though Lena was her father’s. Lillian doesn’t blink when she responds, “No parent loves their child equally. And though maybe I loved Lex more, I do love you, Lena.” But the Luthors specialize in lies, so Lena knows when she’s being deceived. Though interestingly, she isn’t moved to help Lillian until after Supergirl confronts her with the revelation that Lillian is behind Cadmus. Lena looks surprised, and then suspicious, and then hurt—not because of the accusation against her mother, but because Supergirl is fake. Just like her cousin manipulating Lex, this alien is trying to bring out the worst in Luthors, she believes.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

The stubborn chin, the glittering eyes—it’s a great act. Seriously, Kara should take notes from Lena on sneakiness, because Lena inserts herself directly into Cadmus’ master plan by playing into everyone’s expectations of her as a Luthor. She hands over LCorp’s valuable isotopes and even gets to turn the key that sets off Medusa.

But you know who doesn’t know when she’s being deceived? Lillian, who is so glad to see her daughter joining the cause that she doesn’t consider how suspicious it is when the Instagram-worthy virus rains down from the sky but doesn’t actually kill anyone. By the time she realizes she’s been double-crossed, the cops are already there.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

Thankfully, the Danvers women know each other a bit better. Eliza takes a moment with Alex at the DEO to let her know that not only has she already guessed that Alex is gay—partly because of how much she talks about Maggie—but that it doesn’t matter:

Eliza: Why would your being gay let me down?

Alex: You always wanted me to have a regular life.

Eliza: Alex, look at the life our family has led. Look at me, look at your sister. I don’t think you believe I ever expected you to have a regular life. You were always going to be different, Alex, because you were always going to be exceptional, and I love you however you are.

Best mom ever. And with that acceptance, Alex can finally begin to feel comfortable in her new queer identity; maybe she hasn’t quite made it to pride, but she realizes that it wasn’t about Maggie, it was about living her true life. Of course, this is when Maggie—who got singed by Cyborg Superman in the big fight—decides that they should give this thing a try:

Maggie: I almost died. […] It got me thinking that I was so stupid. I thought—and I guess I was kinda right—that you came out for me, and that scared me. But life is too short, and we should be who we are, and we should kiss the girls that we want to kiss. And I really just want to kiss you.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review Alex/Maggie kiss

That’s not the only kiss: Mon-El also lays one on Kara while he’s doped up on medicine and, of course, doesn’t remember it when he’s cured.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review Mon-El/Kara kiss

And Kara won’t mention it, at least not immediately. I guess she is good at being sneaky.

Something that’s been bugging me is how easily Kara is able to compartmentalize her two identities. If this whole season is about “learning to be Kara,” I’d like to see Kara screw up and share information with Lena that she shouldn’t know as Supergirl, or vice versa.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

Speaking of identity crises, J’onn must confront transforming into a White Martian for all of three scenes: After starting to involuntarily shift, he embraces the body of his hated enemy in order to fight Cyborg Superman (and kick his ass, naturally). Immediately afterwards, Medusa is released, and there is a brief moment where J’onn is ready to meet his wife and children in the Martian version of the afterlife. He goes through an incredible number of beats one after the other, only for a deus ex machina to literally rain down on him: Turns out that Medusa was so easily weaponized that Eliza uses it against his White Martian cells. J’onn is back to normal!

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

Bullshit. That quick fix completely undermines J’onn’s arc of the last few episodes and reverts him to a background character, a mentor figure for the Danvers girls instead of an alien survivor grieving the world he once knew and learning to empathize with the aliens who took it away. I hope that the series is just back-burnering this for the moment, because otherwise that would have been a waste of everyone’s time.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

We end “Medusa” with Lillian Luthor’s fate uncertain, Cyborg Superman on the run, some creepily-masked alien lords searching for Mon-El, and Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon finally catching up with Kara. She doesn’t even let them finish their pitch when she asks, “What are we up against?”

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

Photo: Bettina Strauss /The CW

And so the crossover begins! Watch The Flash tonight at 8 p.m. EST; we’ll be wrapping up the crossover across FlashArrow, and Legends of Tomorrow at the end of the week.

Supergirl 2x08 "Medusa" television review

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Other Thoughts

  • Interesting cover of Santana’s “Smooth” at the alien bar—it’s no Westworld music choice, but still caught my attention.
  • The new DEO seems to have its own Balcony of Feelings, since we’ve spent barely any time, let alone engaged in any deep emotional conversations, at CatCo in the past few weeks.
  • I find Lena’s flailing run rather endearing.
  • “Some mothers wear lockets with pictures of their children. You wear the keys to a bazooka.” “It’s a rocket launcher.” More Luthor lady banter, please.

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