It’s been almost a week since 2016 came to an ugly head and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse got put in charge of our entire country. It’s been one hell of a week. Literal hell. But I’ve been finding it really important to do something I’ve been calling “mining for joy.” I’ve been seeking out anything and everything that brings me joy so that I don’t feel so defeated I never get out of bed. Joy is my yellow sun, and the more I get, the stronger I’ll be for the fight.
Friends are my number one joy-bringers; I never feel stronger than when I’m with them. But TV is another joy-bringer for me. And TV that tells our stories and tells them well, especially in this time when representation is more important than ever? Well that makes me feel like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Let’s get some plot stuff out of the way first.
Mon-El is having a hard time figuring out his place on this planet, and even though Kara keeps singing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” at him, he is still not as swift as a coursing river, so when he comes at things with the force of a great typhoon, he tends to make a mess of it. But he doesn’t WANT to be a hero, he just wants to get drunk.
A brilliant side-effect, though, is he Kara sozzled on some alien booze and it’s fantastic.
Also at the end he gets kidnapped for trying to be a good guy and talking to what he thinks is a homeless person but ends up being a Cadmus minion.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, James is getting hella whiney now that Kara doesn’t have a crush on him and he’s basically inconsequential. So he demands Winn finish his supersuit and starts showing up at alien crime scenes looking like a rejected version of a Cyberman and calling himself Guardian even though you’re not supposed to name yourself because when you do you end up calling yourself something stupid like Guardian.
The monster of the week is a terrifying looking alien that was living in a frozen wolf and decided to some eat scientists studying climate change. Kara makes it disappear like it’s a polar ice cap. (Sorry, bad environment joke. I’m just trying to get to the Gay Stuff™ faster!) The only other thing you need to know about this storyline is that the alien sucks the life out of Kara and J’onn, and Kara gets better but J’onn is going quick, so Alex asked M’gann to help.
She is hesitant but it’s his only shot at survival so she gives him some blood. It’s unclear what exactly the mixing of white and green martian blood will do — all we know is that she was concerned that it made his hand shaky — but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
IT’S SANVERS TIME.
Let’s start with the first time our sexy duo sees each other this episode. The whole gang is in the gaylien bar (I guess I should know the name of it. Is it just called Dollywood?) and Maggie checks in with Alex to see how she’s doing. Alex kind of backpedals and tries to make the whole thing an un-big deal; maybe she just ate something funny! It’ll pass! But Maggie looks her in the eye and tells her to embrace her big gay feelings because they’re not going anywhere.
She says, “You’re real.” She sees her. And she’ll be there for her. She tells Alex that the first thing she did when she realized she was gay was start coming out to people, and they have a coming out conversation like I’ve had with so many queer women before. I actually got dizzy — I call it the Killing Me Softly effect — because it felt so real, I didn’t know how to handle it. (Little did I know this was nothing compared to what was to come.) It was just two adult queer women in a bar talking about coming out.
Alex knows she has to tell Kara, and Maggie says she’ll be there to have a drink with her when she does.
So Alex invites Kara to take a walk by the river, and Kara knows something’s up, but Alex is dancing around the words. Finally Alex decides to talk about Maggie instead. It’s easier that way. So she tells Kara that she has…feelings…for Maggie.
She can’t really look directly at her sister while she says it. And Kara isn’t exactly jumping up and down about it; in fact, she has questions. Has she always felt this way? Has she ever been with girls before? Alex says no she’s never been with a girl, but maybe she has always felt this way. And then she talks about the truest thing, something that every single queer person I have ever talked to has been able to relate to: She’s seeing certain things from her past in a new light. That best friend she had in high school who she pushed away after a few too many confusing sleepovers? The Pink Ranger trading card she used to kiss goodnight before bed every night? (Oh was that one just me?) Maybe these feelings have been there all along, she just never realized what they meant.
Kara still has more questions but Alex is done with this conversation. She was hoping for a little more support from her sister, and she’s a little raw from baring her soul, so she stalks off. Which also happens to be my method for dealing with talking about my feelings. I share for like three minutes, get dizzy, and have to run away. (So I ended up coming out to my parents in a car on the highway halfway between Boston in New York.)
Later, after Kara gets knocked down in a fight, Alex asks if they can talk again, but Kara says she’s not hurt and walks away, which is salt in Alex’s wounds. But Alex can’t leave things like this between them, so she goes to see Kara at her apartment. She admits that she feels like telling Kara the scariest thing that she’s ever told anyone didn’t go like she planned and she’s afraid Kara isn’t okay with it.
Kara interrupts her right the fuck there. She is so okay with it.
What was bugging Kara wasn’t that her sister was having Feelings for another woman. What was bugging Kara is that they were best friends for her entire time on Earth and Alex never felt safe enough to talk to her about it. Kara says their whole lives were so focused on keeping Kara’s alien-ness a secret, it didn’t leave much room to talk about other secrets, and she feels horrible about it. But one thing she does know is how lonely it can be, to keep part of yourself from people you care about. So she tells Alex the one thing she needed to hear from her sister all along: “You are not alone.”
These two, man. Right in the feels, every time. Now that they have the heavier stuff out of the way, Kara asks about Maggie. And Alex SWOONS. She gets all smiley when she describes her, and when she calls Maggie beautiful, she realizes how good it feels to speak the truth out loud so she says it again.
They get called in on a rogue alien situation then, and Kara literally says, “I’ll go get the alien, you get the girl.”
BECAUSE THIS SHOW.
So after all the alien stuff and whatever, high off a successful coming out to her sister and defeating the big bad of the week, Alex skips into Dollywood, coyly asking Maggie if she’s ready for that drink now. Maggie’s so pumped for her, and says she’s buying the drinks all night. But Alex wants to skip that part, so she takes Maggie’s arm and pulls her in for a kiss.
Maggie’s hand lingers on Alex’s elbow, but she pulls away from her. Alex looks like she’s never been so happy, and she tells Maggie she’s wanted to do that for a long time. She says it like it’s a truth she didn’t even know the full trueness of until she said it. And Maggie just looks at her for a moment, knowing what she wants to say next, not wanting to be the reason that smile fades. But fade it does as Alex asks her if she did something wrong.
Maggie explains that it’s not that Alex did anything wrong, it’s just that she knows that right now, in the post-closet high, colors seems brighter and everything tastes better, and maybe an intense friendship with a lesbian feels like more. She says that this is a journey Alex has to take by herself, but that she is still ready, willing and able to be there for her as a friend and buy her all those drinks she promised.
But Alex doesn’t want that, so she politely excuses herself while trying not to cry right there in the bar, ignoring Maggie’s protests.
Alex goes home and tries to dull the pain with some booze, but when she misses work without calling, Kara comes over to check on her. After some pleading, Kara gets Alex to tell her what happened: She put herself out there, and she got rejected. Maggie doesn’t feel the same way, and she’s humiliated. (Which…to be fair, Maggie didn’t say she didn’t have feelings for her. She just said relationships don’t work out between baby gays and vets. Which implies maybe she would rather be in a relationship with Alex that worked out? After she sorted her feelings? Maybe? Anyway.) Alex got to the top of Mt. Feelings and she went tumbling down. Kara holds her as she sobs the most heartbreaking sobs I’ve ever seen or heard. But Kara wraps her arms around her sister and holds her tight and tells her that she’s proud of her for being so brave.
And okay, it’s time for Feelings Corner, because this scene ripped open two real wounds on my heart. They’re older wounds, mostly healed, but they still ache with the rain. And my friends it hath poured.
So let me tell you what I felt in the wake of Alex kissing Maggie, Maggie pulling away, Alex running away. Let me tell you how I have been on both sides of this.
Let’s start with Alex, and the reason that a kiss gone wrong left her sobbing in her sister’s arms. Alex said it herself. She feels like a kid again. You’re in your 20s but all of a sudden you’re feeling all the things everyone else was feeling when you were 13.
Alex opened the closet door and took a big gulp of fresh air for the first time in her life. She felt high and unstoppable and decided to sprint out of the closet instead of testing her balance. So she tripped. Maggie tried to catch her before she fell on her face but that just made the whole ordeal more embarrassing for Alex. So now she’s devastated. She’s not crying just because Maggie rejected her. She’s crying because when she started running out of the closet, it was on a clear path to Maggie. But now that path is blocked and she’s still out of the closet and everything so bright and new and scary.
Before I came out, I fell in love with a girl. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and then I was holding that ton of bricks, and I didn’t know what to do. So I told a friend, gave them a brick. I used code at first, avoiding gender pronouns like a champ. But eventually it didn’t even matter anymore, coming out was something I had to do so I could talk about my feelings about this girl.
Once she was supposed to come over to my place (my dorm; I was a senior in college) and watch Buffy with me. I didn’t sleep the entire night before. I couldn’t. I tried. I literally Googled “symptoms of being in love” because I wasn’t sure if that’s what it was. (Google told me that being in love could feel like you’re doing speed just all the time, and I’ve never done speed, but that still feels right somehow.)
To make a very, very long story short: it didn’t work out. She said she loved me back, but couldn’t be with me. Her reasons were different from Maggie’s, but my heart was broken like Alex’s. I had finally acknowledged my queerness out loud, I had fallen for someone who was also queer, and I was rejected. I was 22, Alex is “almost 30”, it doesn’t matter, like she said, you feel 13. No matter how old you are, they’re brand new feelings. No other rejection or breakup ever mattered as much as this one. No other person mattered as much.
Was it because they were great and also queer? Was it just some sort of queer imprinting? Like when a baby duck hatches and decides the first thing it sees is its mother? It’s hard to say. Either way, the feelings were raw and real and all-consuming.
Fast forward to ME being almost 30, out and proud for years now, and I’ve been in Maggie’s shoes, too. I know what it feels like for someone who is newly out to tell you they have feelings for you and to not be able to trust it. I know what it feels like to have to try to tell them that without sounding like you’re invalidate their feelings; you know it’s real for them.
And you know there’s a chance it could be more than imprinting, but you’re not sure your heart wants to take that risk. I know what it feels like to try to say no while also trying not to ruin the friendship. And Maggie just got out of a relationship where she thought she had something special and she got dumped, hard. So she’s probably feeling pretty shitty about herself, which means she’s probably closer to my general, everyday mindset of, “This person is obviously mistaken about their feelings because I am not worthy of someone having a crush on me.” So of course Maggie pushed back, of course she told Alex she needs to find herself by herself and not use Maggie as a crutch. Of course that’s how she feels.
But I bet Maggie didn’t feel great about breaking Alex’s heart. I bet it made her sick to her stomach, because she cares about Alex, and she knows how hard coming out is. But she knows it’s for the best. Or she hopes so. (I’m not implying that I broke anyone’s heart. I just hurt their feelings and it sucked. But Maggie saw Alex’s face crumple. She knows a broken heart when she sees one.)
Alex just needs to get her queer lady swag on, maybe go on a few hilarious bad dates, find some queers to have Bad Lesbian Movie Brunch with, and THEN go back to Maggie and tell her that her feelings are real and not going anywhere. Or maybe they can’t be together now, maybe instead they’ll be best friends and each other’s wingwoman. (I think this is a better IRL scenario; I don’t have a lot of faith they’d bring more queer characters into the fold on this show, so I’m more apt to hope they work things out.)
But either way we haven’t seen the last of Alex’s coming out journey, and I’m sure there will be more feelings to drown in. But hey, you’re feeling, right? Me too. And after this week, that’s something. That’s really something.