In many ways, the sixth edition of Supergirl was the climactic follow-up to the events we witnessed last week. During Episode 5, the characters of Alex Danvers, James Olsen and Mon-El all began journeys taking their characters to new places. Alex awakened to her sexual identity. James fostered his dreams of being a hero. And Mon-El started to understand that simply following Kara’s path for a life on Earth wasn’t for him. Each would have their own coming out in “Changing,” and many of them found new trials awaiting them once they did. In addition, a fourth character reluctantly stepped forward. Compelled to save (Martian Manhunter) J’onn J’onzz’s life, she donated her blood despite knowing it could mean the reveal of an identity she wanted hidden. (WARNING: Spoilers below!)
Considering those arcs, this week’s villain was a perfect selection. An alien parasite was discovered on Earth. The creature infested its host, then joined with it to mutate into an entirely new lifeform. The contrast was clear. While our heroes were developing into new people for the better, this extraterrestrial was altering people for the worse. Thus, this week’s offering was entitled, “Changing.”
The action plotline started as the DEO received an alert that a disaster had befallen a climate research facility in Norway. The researchers discovered the mysteriously preserved body of a wolf from multiple millennia ago. The corpse was even still warm. As they began a dissection, the lead scientist – Rudy Jones – came into contact with the parasite. Binding to him and twisting his mind, he turned on his colleagues. The symbiote drove him to leach energy off of anyone around him. Jones’ fellow scientists were quickly converted to dried husks.
When the DEO arrived on the scene, Jones was the only person still alive. J’onn J’onzz and Alex brought him back to the DEO for questioning, unaware of the danger he posed. Not long after his release, he began killing anyone who ever opposed his research. Supergirl and J’onn would lay and trap for him, with J’onn assuming the identity of one of his likely targets. The ambush backfired, though, as he drained both nearly to the point of death. Kara was revived easily, albeit slowly, through solar radiation dosage at the DEO, while J’onn would need an emergency transfusion. Only one donor would even be possible – M’gann M’orzz (Miss Martian). Though the transfer would succeed in reviving J’onn, a slight twitch in his frame clearly hints that complications are to come from infusing his Green Martian body with White Martian blood. Soon, J’onn may have to confront that a fugitive of the race that slaughtered his people saved his life.
While Martian Manhunter and Supergirl recuperated, Mon-El and James Olsen (in full disguise as The Guardian) took on the transformed alien symbiote. They managed to keep it distracted, until Supergirl arrived with a weapon that would use its own instincts against it. Carrying plutonium power cells, she lured the parasitic monster into draining them instead of her. The toxic radiation overloaded it, destroying the creature. The episode would end with a scene from the following day, with Mon-El’s nascent altruism becoming his undoing. Project Cadmus ambushed him, taking his unconscious body off to their headquarters. Below are the rest of my reactions.
What Went Right
For the second week in a row, Chyler Leigh delivered an amazing performance as Alex Danvers came out to her stepsister, Kara. While the evil transformation described above was being resolved, Alex was summoning the strength to discuss her own self-realization. Leigh movingly showed Alex’s insecurity over what she was reconciling. In she and Kara’s first conversation, she hesitatingly talked about her emotions and struggled to find the right words. Growing both scared and frustrated, she suddenly stopped the conversation and walked away. When she attempted to conclude the talk later at her apartment, she projected her own anxiety at Kara – accusing her of not being OK with the revelation. This time, Alex overcame her reticence.
As she gained comfort, the chat turned to her feelings on Maggie Sawyer. As movingly as Leigh displayed Alex’s internal struggle, she just as convincingly showed her attraction to Maggie. The character’s joy was palpable at the thought of her. Sadly, all of these swirling passions would collide into heartbreak in the final act. Meeting Maggie again at the underground alien bar, Alex kissed her and believed she was beginning something wonderful. But Maggie hit pause. Saying the two were simply too far apart in their relationship experience, the NCPD detective stated that she would be happy to support Alex, but only as a friend. Back at her apartment with Kara, Alex’s emotions crashed. Just as viscerally, you could feel her pain and rejection. In total, Chyler Leigh gave perhaps the most stirring character journey for the series this week.
Despite my previous reservations about the direction of James Olsen this season, Mehcad Brooks and Jeremy Jordan also brought very strong performances in this installment. When these two actors get to play off one another, it only does Supergirl credit. Olsen’s aspiration to be something more than an interim CEO came across credibly. When Kara and J’onn were sidelined by the parasite’s attack, Brooks ably played the urgency of the moment. Ever the contrast, Jordan embodied the trepidation of a friend watching another get too close to danger. His fear and caution was an equally powerful force. Just in time, though, Winn would complete James’ Guardian suit, which impressed visually far beyond some of the early renderings published for fans. While I may not have been on board initially with the conversion of James Olsen into a superhero, the quality of Brooks’ and Jordan’s acting and the execution of The Guardian’s look have me excited to continue seeing this contribution.
The final praise for this chapter goes to both Chris Wood (Mon-El) and Melissa Benoist (Supergirl). Their characters come from different worlds, and they’ve exhibited that quality in both the literal and figurative sense very well. Their initial antipathy, followed by reconciliation and hope, then dashed by bitter disappointment has been an entertaining thread to follow. In “Changing,” we saw that disheartening crush. Yet, there was also a new optimism. After turning away from the alias of corporate intern Mike Matthews, Mon-El found a gig as a brute for a local loan shark. When Kara intercepted Mon-El in the middle of a collection, she became livid. The two very nearly retreated to their own ethnic corners, judging each other’s actions through the prism of their rival homeworlds. After finding Kara incapacitated at the DEO, Chris Wood’s depiction of Mon-El’s guilt was inescapable. That guilt would turn to a calling as he tried to help fend off the alien parasite on its final attack. At the end of the battle, Benoist gave us a glimpse of a thaw between them. The next day, though, that potential would be endangered by the Cadmus ambush. With the big 4-night crossover now less than 2 weeks away, we can only assume the DEO will move swiftly to locate and free Mon-El from his captivity.
What I Took Away
Overall, episode 6 seems to have capped a deep exploration of many of Supergirl’s characters, both old and new. As the show inches closer to The CW’s huge crossover and its mid-season finale, the writers, directors and actors have accomplished a lot of buy-in for a greatly expanded gallery of heroes. To pile on one more helping of praise for the lead actress, Melissa Benoist has been instrumental in helping pull so much of it off. This week, she was both a gentle and nurturing sister as Alex struggled to understand herself…and was a demanding and stern mentor as Mon-El fell short. And she did all of this, while also taking down the latest extraterrestrial threat to humanity. It was an intriguing choice to have Supergirl accept responsibility for killing her opponent this week. I’m curious if that decision will weigh on her character in an appreciable way.
Regardless, though, it signals a maturity from the show’s producers to allow their hero to face a situation in which there is no choice but the ultimate sanction. Sometimes what makes a hero is the burdens that they alone are willing to shoulder, and Kara Zor-El just took on a heavy one. Next week is “The Darkest Place,” in which we’ll finally get more than a glancing peek inside Cadmus’ base of operations.
Submitted by Jody Money