The CW's Supergirl shifts its focus this week from Kara to Alex (Chyler Leigh) as she enters the Obsidian North virtual world looking for escape. Instead she finds herself unwilling/unable to leave after getting overtaken by the fantasy of living as Supergirl. For a season that has set the idea of escaping into a virtual world such a key plot point, this was the first time all season it not only felt real, but also appealing. You can (finally) see why someone would want to spend time there, and how it can both reinforce and heal trauma people are experiencing.
We begin where the last episode ended, with finding out Jeremiah Danvers had died. While Kara (Melissa Benoist) dutifully begins making arrangements for a memorial service for her adopted father, Alex retreats, refusing to attend on the basis that she barely knew their long-absent father.
This was, of course, cover for her grief. So when she slips on the Obsidian North contact lenses, it is to escape her harsh reality. As we saw in the last episode, there are many simulations to choose from. She briefly pauses on having a baby (I don't miss that subplot. Also, what a terrible idea to have ever considered for the plot of the show.) But then she chooses the fantasy to become Supergirl.
And Alex is a great Supergirl. This is, frankly, the most fun the show has had in months. It's the same sort of plucky optimism we need from the show, especially at this time. There's callbacks to previous Superman movies with a message to Alex saying she's the only being on two legs who can hear that frequency. Alex gets to save Kara– repeatedly. And all of the supporting cast are also all playing almost caricature versions of themselves, which they all seem to enjoy. It's really fun.
David Harewood especially seems to relish getting to play dual roles as both J'onn and the villainous Hank Henshaw. This all sort of begs the question– how did Obsidian North programmers know all of this to be able to program it? Either the DEO has some amazing PR or Obsidian has amazing corporate surveillance to be able to spy on an intelligence agency. It's probably best to not think about this too much.
But the absolute best part of the episode is Alex meeting other folks inside the virtual world who are also trapped inside their fantasies. One of them is a treasure hunter named Tilly who is on some sort of Indiana Jones type adventure. And then there's Derek who seems to be channeling Jimi Hendrix, except he's riffing on the Supergirl theme music. Convenient.
All of this leads to the real world problem of people who have seemed to have fallen too far into these virtual worlds. While Alex becomes one of them, in the real world William (Staz Nair) and Kelly (Azie Tesfai) start trying to track some of these people down. William is even able to find the warehouse where many of them are being housed, but at the last moment an illusion from one of the leaders of Leviathan makes them all invisible. But he smells a story, and he knows Lex Luthor is involved. Ok, this is a William I can get behind. He just doesn't need to be Kara's boyfriend.
One of the other best blink and you'll miss it moments is when Andrea (Julie Gonzalo) asks one of her assistants to look into reports of people being unable to exit their virtual world, and the camera swoops around to reveal her assistant is. . . Eve Tessmacher (Andrea Brooks).
But really this episode is about trauma and grief. It's totally understandable why someone dealing with all of the troubles Alex is to want to escape into a reality where she's Supergirl. But really it's about processing the death of her father, Jeremiah. It's worth noting at one point in the simulation, she attempts to confront her father and he disappears in a poof of black smoke. It's almost glaring that it seems they almost went to great lengths to not feature Dean Cain in this episode, especially when Helen Slater has several scenes.
While there may be reasons to speculate that Cain was intentionally excluded from the show, especially over his comments calling LGBTQ activists "intolerant," especially after a watershed episode last week all about transphobia, it seems largely irrelevant. The fact is Cain hasn't been on the show for several seasons. And whether it's for politics or he was hard to work with (I've heard both).
But killing him off was ultimately all about moving Alex's story along, giving her a trauma and reason to deal with this loss, which is really about moving the season story along with Obsidian North. While I'm not sad to see Cain gone, it is somewhat sloppy storytelling. It's a sort of reverse-fridging, which I don't mind in terms of social commentary (killing a man to further a woman's story? How novel!) but it's ultimately a cliche and a trope for a reason.
Regardless, this was mostly a fun episode and one which put Alex at the center of the story. So much of our story has been centered around Kara, and it's good to focus on our supporting cast more often. Furthermore, I'm glad we're finally getting into the true dangers of Obsidian North and what Leviathan are hiding. Could this season turn it around in its final episodes? One can hope.