‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 2 Episode 6: ‘Changing’
Welcome to Supergirl Talk, our regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of The CW’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the super smiling title role. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and newcomer, Katie Schenkel.
This week, almost everyone has a lot of important life choices to try to sort out! Also, there’s a giant purple monster! "Changing" was directed by Larry Teng from a story by Greg Berlanti and a teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg and Caitlin Parrish.
Chris: Well, Kaite, this week’s trip to National City was a welcome vacation from things here on Earth-Real. And they were nice enough to give us plenty to talk about, so what did you think of this week’s episode?
Katie: After a very... trying week in the real world, I was indeed glad to get to jump back into Supergirl’s universe where Lynda Carter is the leader of the free world and Clark Kent is an adorable cinnamon roll fighting the good fight against corruption. Like with the last few weeks, there were several storylines juggled at once (even with CatCo barely featured this episode), but there were a couple plots that engaged me, and the other couple storylines not as much. Where do you want to start?
Chris: I think the first thing I want to talk about is the Alex coming out story. Most importantly because of the following comment left on an article about last week's episode. The screenshot of the comment was making the social media rounds, and we saw and were elated by it last week after our last recap went up.
I know I’ve mentioned in the recaps for this and other shows before that the romance subplots are usually the things I’m least interested in, but I’m also more than happy to have them in every episode if they can lead to stories like this in real life. These characters are powerful and meaningful to people for all kinds of reasons, and this is an outstanding example of that. This is a silly superhero show having a real and positive effect on a kid’s life, and that’s amazing and wonderful.
Katie: It is pretty dang wonderful. This visibility matters, now more than ever. And just as important as the representation being there at all is it being handled and framed well. I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning shows and movies include LGBT+ representation but then totally bungle it up. I’m happy to say that except for some critiques I have here and there, by and large (as we mentioned last week) Alex’s story is being handled beautifully. There are some very nuanced elements to how she’s being written as a woman nearing her 30s who is questioning a lot of how she perceived herself.
Again, so much praise to Chyler Leigh for really nailing the tone and weight of her dialogue. When she tells Kara about pushing down childhood feelings so deep down that she’s only really recognizing them and remembering them now, I held my breath it was so good.
Chris: Couldn’t agree more. Every bit of this has clearly been handled with a lot of thought and care, and it shows. I think they know they’re doing something that goes a little bit beyond just being light, action entertainment, and I can only hope that stories like the one we shared make their way to the showrunners so they know how much that care is appreciated.
Katie: I think it’s also worth it to talk not just about how Alex is written, but how the people she confides in are written as well --- namely, Kara and Maggie. In hindsight, it was silly for me to brace myself during the scene where Alex comes out to Kara, but I also knew how really, really important it is that queer kids get to see Supergirl openly and enthusiastically supporting her sister. Shoot, I’m tearing up thinking about it.
But I also really liked that Kara didn’t know what to say at first! I liked that it wasn’t a perfect moment. And I liked that Kara later apologized for not always creating a space where Alex could be herself. Even when she mentioned how she felt being alone and different as an alien (which was not always well-phrased last season), the writers made sure to preface that her experiences and Alex's are not the same thing. There is just so much good stuff in this storyline, and I’m so impressed by the writers.
Chris: As that scene started, all I could think was, “Please don’t let Supergirl have a bad or weird reaction to this. Come on, she’s Supergirl, she should be totally fine with this and supportive.” I guess that’s the kind of nervous reaction I’ve gotten used to having with these shows, because Kara reacting badly and then having a learning moment and coming around by the end of the episode is the kind of predictable, formulaic arc so many of these shows fall back on. But, thankfully, that’s not what happened here, and Kara handled it in a loving, and much more “real” way than you’d expect from a show about people in capes. Like I said, obvious care was put into it.
Katie: And then we have Maggie. The best thing, hands down, about the Maggie/Alex scenes this week was when Alex warily backs up a bit with, “Maybe it’s just a phase.” That’s such a common thing for LGBT+ women to feel, especially when they haven’t seen their own experiences framed as valid before. For Maggie to immediately, adamantly tell her no, “This is real. You are real.” matters so much.
If I had one critique, it’s in Maggie’s advice to Alex early in the episode. Look, I know they wanted to progress the story and have Kara know what’s going on with Alex. But there is no way that a lesbian’s first advice to a newly accepting-herself-as-queer lady would be “come out to your family.” For one, as Maggie says later, Alex is dealing with a rush of emotions and feelings, and jumping head first into something that intense is probably not a good idea.
But also, Maggie knows little to nothing about Alex’s family, and there are plenty of cases when coming out to your family isn’t safe, emotionally or otherwise. Maggie should know this, and even saying, “Well, it’s different for everyone,” doesn’t seem like enough of a caveat. Whereas the rest of the storyline felt very authentic and thoughtful in how it was written, that particular moment had me going “Nopety nope.”
Chris: Do we have any reason to believe Maggie knows anything about any of Alex’s family except for Kara? If not, and she just meant, “You should tell your sister, because I can see how close you two are”, then why not just have her say that instead of “tell your family”?
And I know this is jumping ahead to the end of the episode, but what did you think about Maggie’s reaction to Alex’s acceptance and advances?
Katie: I mean, it was maybe the hardest scene to watch, because I have been Alex in that moment, at least in terms of being completely vulnerable and getting rejected, even if for a good reason. But what I did like about that scene is that Maggie has a totally good reason for making the choice she did! She does know Alex is vulnerable and going through big things.
Whether Maggie is interested in something serious or just wants something fun and casual, starting up something right at this moment is a bad idea, especially if it’s the latter, since taking advantage of Alex’s emotions right now in order to fool around would be pretty crappy. This was a super adult choice to make, and while Alex was still really upset, Maggie stressing that she wanted to support her as a friend was still the right choice to make in a very tough situation.
I do genuinely think Maggie is into Alex, and we’re going to see them end up together eventually when Alex is in a better place. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to watch Alex sobbing because she thinks Maggie doesn’t like her that way after all. Like I said, it’s rough.
Chris: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right in your assessment and your predictions. And, once again, I have to give it to the showrunners/writers for not just doing the easy thing and immediately putting them together. When they finally do get together, it’s going to feel so much more earned and fulfilling, since we’re going to be so much more invested in them getting together by that point than if they’d just put them together immediately. But yeah, watching Alex crying while Kara hugs her was pretty rough.
So, what else happened this week? Everyone was having to make tough choices! Mon-El had to decide if he wanted to continue being a douchebag and use his powers to shake people down, or try to live up to the faith Kara has put in him.
Katie: Didn’t they establish Mon-El served his Prince as a member of the guard or something? How is it he can’t pull from that sense of duty at all since that flashback was shown? I hate to say it, but I find little to nothing interesting about his character, and it’s not that hard to give him some motivation besides mild... disinterest? Laziness? I’m trying to think of character traits they’ve given him besides being snarky sometimes, and I’m coming up with nothing substantial, and it’s been too many episodes by now for me to have this little to say about him as a character.
Chris: Come on, what about how he likes to drink?
Katie: So maybe the only plus I can say about this episode’s Mon-El plot is that he and Kara felt very sibling-like in their dynamic at the bar, which I like way better than as love interests. I’m hoping they stick with that. Oh, I also liked when Kara kicked his butt during training. That was extremely satisfying.
Chris: I don’t think we’ve talked about it much this season, but Melissa Benoist has clearly gotten so comfortable with “flying” that there are moments when it’s not all that hard to forget that she can’t actually fly. Her take-offs and landings are so smooth sometimes that it doesn’t even seem like a special effect. This was something Christopher Reeve was always so great at, and there’s really something magical about it, something that seems to be completely missing from CGI flying no matter how advanced the technology gets.
Katie: And considering people were worried about the special effects getting downgraded and not being as convincing in the move to the CW, this kind of detail helping sell these moments is great to see.
Chris: Nothing looks more real than someone actually doing something, so when Supergirl takes off or lands and it’s not CGI, even though you know Melissa Benoist is just on wires, it has that verisimilitude that your brain knows is missing otherwise.
We also had the continuing arc of Jimmy going from Superman’s pal, to Supergirl’s love interest, to vigilante on a motorcycle. I wonder who’s paying for all that stuff.
Katie: God, though, at least Jimmy has a personality (and I don’t care about what the haters think --- I like Mehcad Brook’s James Olsen, dang it), so I’m way more willing to give this storyline a bit of benefit of the doubt, even after a couple episodes worth of so-so set-up. To answer your question, I have no idea how they’re paying for it, but I also don’t have any idea how a major member of the press can just walk into a secret government building whenever he wants to because his friends work there. I feel like the DEO doesn’t pay enough attention to their security, nor their supplies.
Chris: Hahaha, I wave that off by assuming they’ve given Jimmy a pass. He’s clearly a good guy, and already knows everyone there, so they’re just like, “Yeah, fine, whatever.. give him a guest badge.”
What’d you think of his gimmick?
Katie: It was... fine. I hate to sound so middle of the road about it, but I didn’t hate it, didn’t really love it. It doesn’t bother me, per se. I could appreciate that they had his costume not being completely painted or done up completely (since Winn said it wasn’t quite ready) and I like Winn and James working together as a team.
But what I really wish was that the writers had kept the whole thing a secret from the audience. Think of how they did J’onn’s reveal last year. And how effective it was. So what if, instead of telling entertainment sites that Jimmy was going to be the Guardian weeks ago, we just saw the Guardian show up in this episode, with Kara going “Who are you?” and not getting a good answer. Very mysterious, right? Some actual suspense! And then either reveal at the very end of the episode that it’s Jimmy, or wait an episode or two for the reveal. Either way, it kind of feels like a waste how they did it.
Chris: That would have been neat, but maybe they want us to feel like we’re on the journey with Jimmy and Winn… and it’s kind of running parallel, but also completely different from Mon-El’s journey? I don’t know, I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here, but I’d certainly like to know what exactly Winn has done to it to make it more than just a Halloween costume.
And after making Supergirl’s costume so colorful, I sincerely hope that Winn gives Jimmy’s suit some color before too long as well. The various incarnations of The Guardian have such great, bold, colorful designs in the comics, and there’s no reason this version can’t have something a little more interesting going on. I will say that I liked the nod to Superman: The Movie when Kara asked him who he was and he said, “A friend.” It’s pandering pretty much, but I’ll take it with a smile on my face.
Katie: Speaking of homages, apparently the main bad guy plotline was a nod to a particular X-Files episode, but I'm pretty sure that was an homage to The Thing too, right?
Chris: The Thing was certainly the first thing I thought of, but I did watch it two or three times in the last month, so maybe I’m not impartial enough. I don’t know which X-Files, in particular, you’re talking about, but I’d be surprised if that episode wasn’t also referencing The Thing itself, so… pop-culture is a snake eating its own tail.
This was a new take on Parasite, and even if it was a little over the top with all the mouth/mouths business going on, I liked how scary-looking he was. This would have been a good episode for closer to Halloween, just for the monster factor.
Katie: So confession --- I have no connection to the character and forgot who you said it was going to be at the end of our recap last week, so until they name-dropped him mid-episode, I kept thinking he’d turn out to have been Floronic Man.
Chris: I just love that you know The Floronic Man, but not Parasite.
Katie: My knowledge of DC canon is... eclectic, to say the least.
Getting back on point, I did actually think the design work on Parasite was impressive, and I agree that I’m surprised they didn’t try to time this episode out to premiere on Halloween. My one thought was that it was maybe weird that they gave this episode an environmental message (very much the “social topic of the day,” per their recent trend on this show), but they made the one environmentalist a bad guy?
Chris: Yeah, clearly draining the juice out of people like a purple vampire isn’t a good thing to do, but what he was saying all sounded like… reasonable stuff. I think they spent so much time on all the soul searching this episode that, even though he looked great, his character and motivations were a little undercooked. I thought Supergirl was going to convince him to find a better way to help the planet… and then she had some plutonium that made him explode?
Katie: First of all, my household (meaning my boyfriend) let out a big “What?! That’s not how plutonium works!” cry of frustration when she said that’s what it was. And then started on about how plutonium doesn’t make you explode, it just gets really hot and makes steam. He was so sad about the bad science. Buuuut what are you going to do --- it’s DC Comics.
I’m totally with you, though, about her giving him a chance, and then the writers having him be too far gone or whatever. It seemed like a really disappointing end for a gruff but passionate guy who got corrupted by an alien worm thing.
Chris: Was there anything else we missed? J’onn’s blood transfusion?
Katie: Yeah! So that’s the other part of the episode that was actually interesting to me besides Alex’s storyline. To give the show credit, this is a good use of suspense compared to the Guardian stuff. We, as the audience, know that M’gann is not what she seems (specifically, that she’s a White Martian). And this episode we get to see Alex convince M’gann to give her blood to J’onn, thinking that she’s a Green Martian. Whatever is going to happen next episode (and the preview hints that the blood transfusion has gone wrong), M’gann is clearly scared about it. We as the audience know just enough to be very nervous throughout those scenes --- either for M’gann to be found out, or for something bad to happen to J’onn. I know this was basically the tiny D plot of the episode, but I liked what they did to set up next week.
Chris: I can’t and won’t argue. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to see how it plays out next week! Let us know what you thought in the comments, and we’ll see you back here in seven days!