‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 2 Episode 8: ‘Medusa’
Welcome to Supergirl Talk, our feature breaking down the highs and lows of The CW’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the title role. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley and intrepid reporter Katie Schenkel.
This week, it’s Thanksgiving in National City, and there’s an alien-killing virus on the loose! Also, The Flash is (briefly) here! “Medusa” was directed by Stefan Pleszczynski from a script by Jessica Queller and Derek Simon.
Chris: What an episode we have before us this week!
Katie: Definitely. For starters, it’s the first episode of the big crossover between the four main CW DC shows. But for another, a lot of threads seem to get resolved in this episode.
Chris: Since there was so much happening, let’s change things up a bit and instead of just jumping into what we’re most excited to talk about, let’s try to just take this thing on chronologically. It’s Thanksgiving (on the show)! How was your Thanksgiving?
Katie: Not quite as awkward as the Danvers’ Thanksgiving, that’s for sure. As far as I know, no one at my Thanksgiving dinner was hiding the fact that they’re an armored vigilante, for one. James wasn’t in the episode for long, but it’s clear that he is chomping at the bit to tell Kara that he’s the Guardian.
Chris: He just can’t wait to seem relevant again in the midst of all these alien hijinx! And to be fair, I can’t blame him. If I’d just successfully become a superhero, I would be dying to tell everyone as well. That really seems like why keeping a secret identity would be hard. Not because you’re worried about people recognizing you, but because you’d probably be dying for someone to recognize you.
Katie: It’s too bad Winn learned from Kara and Clark’s mistakes and actually gave him a full mask.
This talk between Winn and James leads to Alex snapping at them because it’s her Thanksgiving to reveal a Very Important secret, not theirs. I do feel like coming out of the closet to your mother who doesn’t live in town is a bit more timely than telling your best friend who you see every day that you’re a superhero, too. I mean, Kara’s going to be around after the holidays, Jimmy.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, why even do that at dinner? Just tell Kara one on one. Especially when you know that Kara is the only person at the table you actually want to tell, since Alex and Winn already know, and Eliza and Mon-El couldn’t care less.
Katie: I will say though that generally if you’re at all nervous about coming out to your parents, it’s not always the best idea to take the chance of announcing it in person on a holiday, especially during holiday dinner. I mean, your mileage may vary, but it’s another tiny little stumble on the show’s part as far as advisable steps for newly out people. And considering how well the show treats Alex and Eliza during the rest of the episode (which we’ll get to), this is admittedly mostly nitpicking for me.
Chris: My question is, why wasn’t Kara chomping at the bit to stand up and tell Eliza she was so thankful that Jeremiah was still alive?
Katie: Oh yeah, that didn’t happen either! I wonder if they’ve already talked about it off-screen? I guess discussing Mon-El was a more lighthearted discussion for the actual holiday.
Chris: I suppose, but it really seems like the whole affair would have had a very different tone if she knew he was alive for sure and out there on the run. And, I mean, I’m sure Supergirl and Alex have a lot on their respective plates, but shouldn’t they be looking for him? Maybe they have a lot of DEO resources looking for him around the clock?
Speaking of the DEO, why wasn’t J’onn invited to this dinner? It’s not like he has other family to go be with. I mean, they invited Mon-El, who they just met a few weeks ago, but not the guy that they’ve known for years?!
Katie: Yeah, I got no answers for that, either. Maybe he’s not feeling up to dinner because he’s quickly turning into a White Martian? That’s my best guess, but it would have been nice to have them drop a line about J’onn being under the weather or something.
Chris: See! That would have been great. It takes so little to take these nitpicks away from us! Maybe we’re getting all our nitpicks out of the way early, because I actually enjoyed this episode quite a bit. What about you?
Katie: Well, for one I think this is easily Helen Slater’s best episode to date. I don’t know if it was the direction this time around or just her feeling more comfortable in the role, but she gelled a lot better than she did in season one.
Chris: I was wrong, I still have a nitpick. About her acting specifically. I enjoy her on this show, and I think you’re right, with the one exception being that at one point I thought her acting was a little too “acting.” To the point that it took me out of the scene and made what was otherwise a very touching, well-done scene just a little less so. I really thought I was done nitpicking, but that part just jumped out at me too much. Maybe she’s just more comfortable not having to be around Dean Cain?
Katie: I’m not entirely sure which part you’re describing, so it must have gone over my head. But goodness knows I have a few frustrations with this episode as well. Like, the fact that the not so subtle hints about Mon-El’s feelings for Kara got confirmed this episode and it’s just. So. Boring. I mean we both anticipated this coming, but man, I’m so bummed out that they’re going this route for sure.
Chris: Okay, please don’t be mad at me, but that scene with the two of them stuck inside playing Monopoly was honestly pretty adorable.
Katie: You know, I’m with you on that. Pulling out the Monopoly board is totally a Kara move and they were super cute. But that could have been a platonic moment between them and honestly the romantic moment that happened after still didn’t feel earned for me because they just haven’t had any romantic chemistry before this.
Chris: I dunno, I did not hate it. I wasn’t into it, but I didn’t hate it. And I know that’s weird, because I’ve been so against it in every other episode, but there was some intangible quality to it here that made me willing to let it slide. I mean, I still absolutely do not want them to end up together or whatever, but for at least this episode, the cuteness of them sitting on the floor with Kara still in full Super-gear playing games like it was a rainy day and the Cat in the Hat hasn’t shown up yet made me not hate it. Maybe I’m just a sucker for board games?
Speaking of Mon-El though, he was at ground zero for the first test of Project Medusa, as well as a thorough butt-kicking by Cyborg Hank-Man. What do you think “Medusa” means on Krypton? I mean, because it’s obviously not named after the Medusa from Earth mythology.
Katie: I’m going to guess Medusa means “Irresponsible Bioweapon No Really What Were You Thinking” in Kryptonian. Because did they really think a virus that could easily kill every other species other than Kryptonians was a good idea? Even outside of the questionable ethics, it just seems like a terrible idea for any and all aliens that Krypton would be allies with.
Chris: I want to say it seems really, really crazy that any reasonably intelligent person, much less a scientist from a super-advanced race, wouldn't think this was a terrible idea, but the whole world seems kind of crazy to me right now, so who knows? I can’t imagine you’d be working on this thing and never take a moment to pause and perhaps turn to one of your fellow scientists and say, “You don’t suppose this could ever be used for like… mega-evil do you?”
Katie: Not to get off the point, but I’m also so mad that, apparently, Mon-El doesn’t know what science is? Sorry, non-sequitur, but apparently his planet doesn’t have science even though it’s right next to the most sciencey civilization in their galaxy and that’s weird.
Chris: And we've seen it clearly has science! They have rocketship space escape pods!
Katie: But back to Krypton --- I guess we can chalk Medusa up to the idea that the same society that thinks Brainiac was a good idea would totally do this, too.
Chris: I think the thing this show is teaching us is that this version of Krypton is a world where all cleverness and intellect is put towards coming up with bad ideas.
Katie: At the very least, the show is good about Kara recognizing those ideas as really, really bad. As much as the show can bang you over the head with ideas, I like that it’s good about showing how parents and parental figures you love can be very fallible.
Chris: That’s a tough pill to swallow, so it’s nice to see that even someone like Supergirl has as hard time with it as the rest of us.
After being such a big deal in the first season, have we seen any of her Kryptonian mom this season? Was there a hologram one episode?
Katie: I don’t think we’ve seen any flashbacks, but yeah there was that one hologram that Mon-El saw.
Chris: Then we get to the main point of the plot, which is Cadmus readying Project Medusa, but needing a rare isotope that only Lena Luthor has access to, and Kara and Supergirl both trying to determine what Lena knows and if she can be trusted. Lots of twists and turns here, along with a lot of scenes of people briefly talking to Lena in her office.
Katie: And lots of “Is Lena a bad guy or not?” moments. Also, Lillian Luthor going full Lucille Bluth in terms of passive aggressive mothering. I’m honestly surprised we haven’t gotten a scene with her swirling a highball and casually saying, “I don’t care for Lena.”
Chris: I am laughing out loud for real in real life about this.
Katie: Well, I’m not wrong. And by the way, this crappy mothering is exactly why I was glad that Lena’s apparent heel turn was a red herring and she stayed on the side of good. It would have been really easy for them to make her turn evil because that’s what Luthors do, but having her stay on the side of our heroes is way more interesting.
I still think she could do less honorable things down the line to fit her own needs, but she has some complexity, and I like that.
Chris: Absolutely. I was so disappointed that she’d seemingly decided to join the Dark Side. It might have been nice/smart of her to give Supergirl a heads up though.
Katie: I have to admit that I was convinced by the bomb going off, too. I figured the time to have her show her noble colors was when she was able to put the key in, so the bomb being a dud was a legitimate surprise.
Chris: It worked much better as a surprise for us, the viewers, but I don’t really know what the point of it was in their world other than to… no, I don’t know what Lena gained by not just tipping Supergirl/the authorities off sooner.
Katie: Yeah, agreed.
Chris: We also saw J’onn continuing to struggle with the side-effects of his blood transfusion from M’gann as he fought to keep himself from turning into a White Martian.
Katie: To be honest, I’m kind of bummed that particular story thread got wrapped up with the rest of them. It felt like they could have done more with that slowly destroying J’onn’s sense of self, but nope, Eliza took care of that along with Mon-El! I’m guessing they wanted to wrap up all the big storylines before the winter break, but it still felt too soon.
Chris: Yeah, talk about anticlimactic. I mean, I know the show is called “Supergirl”, so you don’t want to focus too much on the supporting cast, but that really seemed like it had a lot of potential.
Also, that part where J’onn told Kara what was going on and she said something along the lines of, “We have to tell Alex and Eliza so they can help!” and J’onn said he didn’t want them to focus on anything other than Medusa, made me literally ask out loud, “Don’t other people work there too?!” I mean, sure let the guest star work on this week’s main problem, but come on, there are tons of people constantly walking around in the background! Surely one or two of them are part of the science/medical department? This agency seems to have a lot of employees and resources, but they’re headhunting new employees from a magazine and nothing gets accomplished unless it’s by one of five people.
Katie: At the very least, it should have involved M’gann in some way. It just felt like an afterthought here, and totally cut off any thoughtful introspection on J’onn’s part about what it means to be a Martian. It seems clear that the plot point was only there so that M’gann’s secret could be revealed to him without her being the one to admit it.
Chris: Speaking of things being revealed, the other big plot this episode wrapped up was the conclusion of the Alex coming out story and the culmination of the Alex and Maggie romance plot, and it has been really hard to not just talk about this the whole time, because it was obviously the most emotionally rewarding and well-handled aspect of the episode. Alex and Eliza’s scene, in retrospect, was an interesting, and I’m sure intentional, counterpoint to the Lena and Lillian scenes.
Katie: And it was a nice counterpoint to Alex coming out to Kara. While Kara had no idea, it was clear that Eliza saw it coming, probably well before Alex started talking about Maggie. I’m glad we’ve got to see two very different coming out scenes in this show that both ended up being ultimately quite positive and healthy.
I also really appreciated that Alex came to terms with the fact that she was using her feelings for Maggie to explain or excuse her sexuality. I was a little worried after she called out Maggie last week that it would continue to be framed that way, and Alex bringing it up again was a smart move from the writers. Her feelings for Maggie are certainly valid, but she didn’t come out as gay for Maggie, and that’s important.
Chris: And after Maggie gets conveniently shot by Cyborg Hank-Man, and Alex is the one to stitch her back up, Maggie interrupts Alex’s late night drinking alone time with pizza and smooches, and we now get to shift our worries from them not getting together to hoping that nothing bad happens to either of them since happy, stable relationships really seem to be rare on these shows. I’m also glad this show moved to The CW this season, because I’m not certain that this scene would have happened at all, much less the way it did, if they’d stayed on CBS.
Katie: You’re not wrong. Also, I honestly could have appreciated if they kept Maggie and Alex friends for a little while long, just because of so many plot threads wrapped up this episode, but of all the plots resolved, I did think this one was the most earned thanks to how carefully the writers have handled Alex this season.
Chris: This show deserves some kind of award for getting both Alex’s story and Superman so right this season. I think I only point out the nitpicks that bother me, because I want to uphold some kind of semblance that I’m being fair and impartial in my review of this show, but if I’m being completely honest, I really love this show and everything it stands for.
Katie: For all its flaws and foibles, Supergirl makes me really happy. And with this big multi-show crossover that only barely gets started at the end of the episode, we get to see the brightness of Kara Zor-El spread positivity to the next universe over. I wish we could have seen more of that crossover start this episode, but hey, that’s what the next three nights are for!
Chris: And goodness knows, I’m looking forward to it. And since J’onn is in full-on Martian Manhunter fighting form in the posters for the event, I’m guessing Barry will be roping him in as well… which is also probably why they cured him of the whole White Martian problem so quickly. Gotta love that “deus ex brand synergy”!
Follow our story in the rest of this week’s recaps, and be back here next week as we possibly learn why the two Kylo Rens are after Mon-El!