"Supergirl" Goes VR, SJW in "Reality Bytes": Effective Message, Flawed Execution [SPOILER REVIEW]

This week, The CW's Supergirl was really all about Dreamer/Nia Nal (Nicole Maines), a welcome change of pace since Nia has been MIA for most of the post-"Crisis" episodes. Someone is targeting the trans community in an attempt to bully Dreamer into quitting being a superhero, and she ends up putting herself in danger to try to fight it. While the execution of the episode was occasionally a little off, the meaning and message couldn't be more important.

Supergirl and Nia/Dreamer
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Dreamer gets a lot of social media attention for taking down a Dominator — in record time that beats even Supergirl — but the only approval she really wants is from her ex, Brainy (Jesse Rath), who in his new persona as head of the DEO is still incredibly cold and distant with her.

So while Kara (Melissa Benoist) goes on a date with William (Staz Nair) [Boooooooooooo! Booo to all Kara and William shipping!] she feels comfortable knowing Dreamer can protect the city. Meanwhile, Dreamer herself sits on her couch eating ice cream, depressed over Brainy. And who can blame a girl?

Luckily, her roommate Yvette (Roxy Wood) is determined to get Nia out and having fun! Having recently met a guy on "Upswipz" she pulls Nia out as her co-pilot for the evening. But it turns out the date is a setup, and the perp not only beats Yvette in the alley behind the club, her tells her he's doing it to intimidate Dreamer. He literally leaves a message that "The world doesn't want a trans superhero, so crawl back under the rock you came from."

Adding insult to injury, going to the police doesn't help. Despite an empathetic detective (Doron Bell), the police visit does little to calm Dreamer down, who tells Kara this violence towards her community is all too common, and she plans to deal with it herself.

"Supergirl" Goes VR, SJW in "Reality Bytes": Effective Message, Flawed Execution [SPOILER REVIEW]
Supergirl — "Reality Bytes" — Image Number: SPG515B_0001b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Doron Bell as Detective Rivers, Nicole Maines as Nia Nal/Dreamer and Roxy Wood as Yvette — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Meanwhile in the secondary storyline, J'onn (David Harewood) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) investigate people who have apparently been lost in Obsidian North's virtual worlds. Alex ends up going in to one of the simulations, a "Virtual Vegas" and then ends up off the grid in a torturous escape room.

Luckily, her new Martian weapon gives her the ability to summon any weapon. While this has been glitching in the real world, she has absolute control in the virtual world. Perhaps also most importantly for our next episode, we saw one of the simulations Alex could've chosen was to be Supergirl. That will be a fun next episode.

Meanwhile, when Dreamer finally tracks down Yvette's attacker, she almost goes overboard. She ends up strangling him while he tells her that she's not a superhero because they're supposed to be pure and honest, and that being trans is lying. No, in fact, what it means is he wanted her to be sexually available to him, and when he found out she wasn't (his choice, not hers, as there's nothing wrong with dating a trans person), it hurt his fragile ego.

The episode overall is good. There's a little more melodrama than there needs to be, but the message is incredibly important. Trans (and non-binary) people are people. (wow! imagine that!) Their rights are the same as everyone else's and they deserve to just live their lives. And it's a huge tragedy the amount of violence and discrimination the community faces.

"Supergirl" Goes VR, SJW in "Reality Bytes": Effective Message, Flawed Execution [SPOILER REVIEW]
Supergirl — "Reality Bytes" — Image Number: SPG515A_0244b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Roxy Wood as Yvette and Nicole Maines as Nia Nal/Dreamer — Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

While not brought up in the episode, it's important to remember that trans/non-binary/non-conforming people, especially people of color, are more likely to experience poverty and homelessness than other segments of society. And violence against trans people is incredibly common (one in four trans people will experience assault, and higher for trans women of color) and as the episode points out, it is both underreported and underprosecuted, with dozens killed last year.

So despite any flaws in execution, having an episode centered around a trans character dealing with violence in her community is incredibly important. On top of all of that, it should be noted that Nicole Maines is a badass herself as an equal rights activist herself even before becoming an actress. And Supergirl as a show should be applauded for not only tackling these issues but also putting real trans actors in trans roles, which is still, shockingly, a rarity.

And in a final scene where Nia breaks down, finally talking through with Kara everything that's been weighing on her — not only the weight of caring for her community but also trying to wade through the inexplicable breakup with Brainy — it's incredibly real and moving. While other scenes may have been a bit over the top, this one hit a good balance.

And it seems like next week's episode is going to play out the tease we got this week, with Alex living in a virtual world where she's Supergirl. Can't wait, as it will be good to explore more with Alex's character who, similar to Nia, has been more sidelined recently.

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About Andy Wilson

A mild mannered digital strategist working for an environmental nonprofit in Austin, TX roaming the interwebs fighting his nemeses by day, and by night consuming all manner of media. You can find him either on his couch or at the nearest Alamo Drafthouse catching the latest. Don't follow him on Twitter @CitizenAndy.
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