It’s been a difficult week for a lot of people, and last night’s Supergirl offered some much-needed comfort. “Changing” starts as a horror movie homage of sorts — John Carpenter’s The Thing first came to mind — but then transforms into one of hope and optimism. I dare say that it’s almost an apt metaphor of what’s happening (and what hopefully will happen). Plus, a new hero steps in to help save the day.
Acceptance and denial are the big themes this week. There are also some other elements one can draw and compare with reality, but for the sake of keeping this review from turning into a five-page essay, we’ll stick with acceptance and denial. Dr. Rudy Jones (Willian Mapother), a climate change scientist, is infected by an ancient alien parasite while in the Arctic. His passion becomes an obsession and sets out to destroy those who’ve denied the relevancy of his work. Meanwhile, Alex, Mon-El, and Jimmy are slowly coming to terms with and embracing parts of themselves they previously dared not explore. In charge of these transitions, is Kara/Supergirl, who should know a thing or two about the difficulties of hiding your true self.
While there was plenty of superhero-ing to do in “Changing,” the episode truly shines thanks to Chyler Leigh as Alex. Leigh’s time on the drama Grey’s Anatomy is put to great use here when Alex struggles with the process of coming out to Kara. Not only that, but she’s still scared and apprehensive about this new side of herself. Seeing these vulnerabilities rise to the surface in someone who’s usually seen as the protective older sister and competent butt-kicker is a welcomed character beat many television action shows don’t bother exploring. On the other hand, Supergirl is also considered to be within the realm of science-fiction, a genre that has no problem exploring social issues and presenting them in various angles. It’s still nice to see a coming out story that is handled with a kind of realism, respect, and love that can resonate with just about everyone. I’m not sure if the writing staff is pulling from personal experience(s), but Alex’s storyline feels incredibly real.
After Alex accepts that she has feelings for Maggie, she begins to recall past female friendships in which her feelings were more than platonic. She spent so much of her life in denial that she accidentally denied herself certain emotions to keep with the heteronormative flow society expected of her. This ultimately made her unhappy and unsatisfied with the relationships she’s been in with men. Now that Alex knows on which side of the Kinsey Scale she prefers, she’s feeling much freer. As with all things new and exciting, one can’t help but feel elevated. Then reality steps in and turns on the gravity.
By the end of the episode, Alex shares her feelings with Maggie by kissing her. Maggie, while she appreciates the gesture, doesn’t see Alex in the same romantic light. She and Alex are at very different points in their lives — Maggie is already established within the lesbian community, and Alex is a recently hatched fledgling who has yet to experience this brave new world. Maggie thinks it’s best that they stay friends, and Alex is humiliated and heartbroken. Watching her sob hard while Kara embraces her is the most human I’ve seen these characters since the series started.
Alex’s coming out story isn’t the only change up in our already established characters. Jimmy Olsen debuts his superhero persona, Guardian, this week. I’m honestly still not sold on Jimmy becoming a crime fighter, even though a lot of elements work. His working with Winn to serve (in secret) their mutual love interest/best friend as more than just sidekicks operating on the sidelines makes sense. Plus it gives these characters more to do. The idea that Jimmy wants to help people more than he has as a photojournalist also makes sense given how much he looked up to his father. However, the fact that Jimmy has always wanted to fight bad guys since knowing Superman and then Supergirl feels like a retcon. I’m willing to forgive this sudden change-up since it gave Winn an excuse to call Jimmy and himself the “Super Friends.”
Where James has been holding back his superhero proclivities, Mon-El is just now discovering he’s not as selfish as he once thought. At the start of the episode Mon-El is willing learn from Kara, but he prefers to use his powers for profit than for good. This deeply disappoints Kara, and later Alex who gives Mon-El a swift talking to. Chris Wood continues to be my favorite new character. He brings a lot of charm and personality to the role, especially when he’s just hanging out and egging on goody-two-shoes Kara to loosen up. By the way, drunk Kara is cute as button.
I love that Supergirl is introducing more characters to the show, two of whom will take their respective spots as the show’s new heroes. However, this also makes Supergirl yet another CW show hell bent on creating a super team for the headliner. It’s losing its originality in that respect. I guess we asked for this, though. One of the more frequent complaints during Season One was the tonal whiplash we got when Kara struggled to keep her double life as separate as possible.
- We finally get to see Alex’s apartment!
- Mon-El gets kidnapped by Cadmus in the dumbest way possible. Who stops for a random coughing dude? Granted, the kidnapper posed as homeless, but -again- who randomly stops for some random coughing dude in the middle of the night?
- I’m gonna need for Melissa Benoist to turn the cute waaaaaay down. Just kidding, I love her.
- J’onn is in need of a blood transfusion after his life nearly gets sucked dry by Parasite. M’gann reluctantly gives some of her (White) Martian blood to save his life, but now we have to worry about adverse effects this will have on J’onn.
- Mon-El saves a little girl from getting hit by a flying car. The way the girl was standing and calmly holding her hand out at the car, I almost thought we were getting another alien or metahuman reveal. But no, it was just another extra kid who didn’t know what was happening. Or was she…?