Chyler Leigh as Alex, Laura Benanti as Astra, Melissa Benoist as Kara.
Happy New Year, everyone! While we were away bidding 2015 adieu, Supergirl remained exactly where we left it, with its hero suspended in midair in front of Lord Technologies, flying headfirst into Non, the militant, radicalized husband of Kara’s less-than-friendly, currently imprisoned aunt, General Astra. This, you’ll remember, happens right before Cat Grant corners Kara and tells her that she knows her meek assistant is really Supergirl. And that wasn’t all that long after Kara’s sister, Alex, found out DEO chief Hank Henshaw is really a shape-shifting Martian hero named J’onn J’onzz, better known to comic aficionados as the Martian Manhunter.
Okay, maybe it’s time to take a deep breath.
Supergirl was getting pretty busy before it went away for the holidays, and it’s just as busy now. Which brings us back to Kara, as she pummels her way toward Non. Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as skilled a fighter as he is. He easily gets the upper hand against Kara — and Hank’s plan to save her by distracting him backfires. Non grabs Hank, then flies away with his Kryptonian henchmen.
In the aftermath of the fight, Maxwell Lord gets extremely testy with Alex; he’s furious that Supergirl has seemingly brought aliens to his doorstep. He’s decided he’s going to take care of this new menace himself, somehow.
Back at the DEO, we find out that Hank had planned for Alex to take over in his stead — but that doesn’t work out either, when the president of the United States steps in to say, “Nah man, you’ve got too much of a personal interest in this. Let world-class jerk General Lane take over instead. Remember how he was the only competent Secret Service agent in 24? If that guy is good enough for Jack Bauer, he’s good enough for me.” (Okay, so the president didn’t actually show up, but wouldn’t it have been fun if that happened?)
Alex’s conflict of interest develops when Non gets in touch with the DEO with an offer: He’s willing to exchange Hank for Astra if they hand her over in the next 48 hours. And if they don’t, Hank is donezo. General Lane is a jerk, but yeah, maybe this conflict-of-interest thing is legit.
Then, it’s time for the first CatCo scene of 2016, where Kara has a mild panic attack in front of Winn and James, stressing to them that they have to act extra normal and mundane and boring because Cat may have figured out her secret identity. So, Kara has to fool Cat Grant into thinking she’s wrong. The same Cat Grant who allegedly saw right through Paul McCartney’s incessant reassurances that Yoko Ono was just a pal of his who came over to play Xbox and totally not make out or anything.
That’s a longish way of saying that Kara is not good at convincing Cat that she isn’t Supergirl. To Kara’s credit, however, she sticks to her story.
At Lord Technologies, Jimmy Olsen is taking some day-after photos of the attack — he’s suspicious because Lord chalked up the chaos to a lab accident, covering up the fact that his building was raided by super-strong, flying alien ex-cons. Lord knows that’s why Jimmy is really there, and takes the opportunity to confront him about his continued support of Supergirl. This guy is really leaning into the whole xenophobia thing, y’know?
So, at this point, you might be wondering how General Lane is handling his first day on the job as head of the DEO. The answer is: horrifically. He goes to Astra’s cell, gives this prepared speech about how The Day the Earth Stood Still terrified him as a child the same way that Astra terrifies him now — apparently admitting your fears to your enemy is a sign of honor on Krypton — then begins torturing her with Kryptonite injections to learn Hank’s location. Kara arrives in time to try and stop him, but thanks to all that Kryptonite, she’s literally powerless.
Meanwhile, James reveals to Winn that he wasn’t really taking pictures of the scene at Lord Technologies — he was scoping out security. He believes Lord is working on something to take out Kryptonians, and he wants to find out what it is, so he enlists Winn to helping him crack Lord’s security and break into the building. (Winn Schott and Jimmy Olsen: Heist Buddies is a spin-off I would watch.)
Unfortunately, Jimmy and Winn’s Big Heist doesn’t quite go according to plan: James is caught by Max’s goons and tied up in a creepy basement where Max beats him up. Maxwell Lord, a wealthy, public-facing Science Philanthropist, is detaining and punching out James Olsen, a journalist. This is a little weird. It always seemed like he would tease out the whole “I’m actually evil” thing, but no, he’s gone full “Say goodnight to the bad guy!” now. Okay, I guess. The confrontation ends with Maxwell smashing Olsen’s camera, then threatening to do worse if Jimmy meddles again. We’re all sure that the threat will work, right?
Kara is also having a miserable time of things, as the DEO believes they’ve found Hank only to fall into a trap — it’s a bomb disguised to look like Hank, and it takes out an entire squad. Kara’s day job falls out from under her too, as Cat Grant’s final gambit after days of grilling is to demand that Kara either prove she isn’t Supergirl or pack up her desk. If she is National City’s big hero, as Cat’s thinking goes, she can’t conceivably waste her time at CatCo when she could be helping others. Rather than reveal herself, Kara chooses to quit.
This is when Supergirl pulls off yet another Perfect Superhero Moment, something it’s proving itself to be really good at doing.
After retreating to Team Supergirl’s abandoned office hangout, Kara finds Olsen nursing his wounds and flips the hell out on Winn and James for going after Lord half-cocked on their own, which bubbles over into her frustration and anger about every other part of her life. She has all this power, and yet she can’t hold onto her day job, save Hank, stop Non, or get around General Lane’s horrible decisions. She is angry and lost and wants to take the fight straight to Max’s doorstep, but Winn reminds her that she can’t. If she does, she’ll only prove his point about aliens being dangerous. Then, James tells her that everything’s going to be okay, because when things look bleak, that’s when heroes find a way.
I love this show so much for that. It’s the most Superman thing to ever Superman and it’s not even about Superman.
So, Kara finds her way: She goes back to Astra and admits her fears, her fury, and how she has to be better. Her estranged aunt is moved, then Kara asks her to tell her the truth of what happened between Astra and her mother. We find out the broad strokes of Astra’s version is true — she fought to reveal Krypton’s impending ecological disaster, and Alora sent her to Fort Rozz for it — but we also learn that Astra was hiding the fact that Alora believed her about Krypton’s doom, and had to imprison her because she resorted to terrorism and violence. Before she sent Astra to Fort Rozz, though, Alora pledged to carry on her work. She’d try to find a way to save their homeworld.
After reaching an understanding with her aunt, Kara agrees to carry out the trade and convinces Alex that it’s the right call. Lane objects, but stands down when one of his men places his trust in Kara. (She saved his life during that disastrous rescue attempt.)
Kara and Alex go to make the trade, and Non nearly calls in his goons to double cross them — which leads Alex to panic and tell Hank he needs to transform — but Astra demands they stand down. She asks Non to honor the deal, which he does. Astra tells Kara not to mistake her gesture for a truce. Kara says they can “call it a start,” so who knows what will happen the next time they all get together.
Hank, however, has some ’splaining to do, since Kara overheard her sister’s whole “transform” comment. He decides to spill the beans — which, neatly enough, gives Kara a solution to her Cat Grant problem. As a Martian, Hank/J’onn can shape-shift and also happens to have Supergirl-like powers. All he has to do is pay a visit to Cat’s office disguised as Supergirl, while Kara shows up at the same time. They shake hands, Cat is astounded, then tells Kara that she can have her job back if she never speaks of this whole thing ever again. Problem solved.
Next up on the agenda for Team Supergirl: What is Maxwell Lord up to? Whatever his plan is, it involves a top-secret room where he’s storing Red Tornado’s arm and a blonde Jane Doe with freakish black eyes.
It looks a bit … bizarro, don’t you think?