HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY RECAP OF HANDS DOWN MY FAVORITE EPISODE OF SUPERGIRL SEASON TWO. Heck, it might be my favorite episode of any TV this entire season. We’ve had some amazing scenes and storylines this season, but this episode, from the word go, was so complex and thoughtful and beautiful and tense and wonderful. And it was all about the ladies again. Winn had some cute lines and J’onn had a nice supportive supporting role, but mostly it was about Kara, Maggie and their separate relationships with Alex. And a little bonus Lena.
BUT before we get into that I want to tell you a quick little story about my own relationship with Alex aka that one time I met Chyler Leigh. (I know.)
Last week, I went to two East of Eli concerts that Chyler was supposed to be at, but she had to cancel the first one because of a family emergency, and was on a flight that was delayed something like six hours and missed the second one. However, she refused to be defeated, and even though she missed the show, she came to the venue anyway, and she and her husband (Nathan West, lead singer in East of Eli, Jan Jan the Cheerleader Man), performed a little impromptu concert in the bar attached to the performance space. Side note: they’re adorable together; the East of Eli song Chyler sings on is called “Nowhere” and there’s a line that goes, “You remind me of true love when it’s nowhere to be found,” and that’s how I feel about Chyler and Nathan. (Which surprised even me.)
Anyway, after they sang a bit for us, Chyler stayed to meet every. single. one of us. She was running on two and a half hours of sleep, had gone right from her last day of shooting Supergirl to hours of flight delays, right from the airport to the bar. I left at 4:30am and she was still smiling and hugging and meeting people. It was inspiring and beautiful.
When it was my turn to meet her, she gave me a big hug and let me babble at her about how important Alex is and how equally important the way she talks about Alex is, and that her support of the community is invaluable. (Except I didn’t use the word invaluable because I was literally babbling.) She gently touched my arm, looked me square in the eye, and said that it all means a tremendous amount to her. She did use the word tremendous. She knows what’s at stake and she cares so deeply. I’ve never been more sure of it. We took this picture together:
Then I thanked her eleventy billion times — for the photo, for Alex, for staying out and meeting us, for everything — and floated home.
I say this all the time, but I don’t mind repeating myself: They say don’t meet your heroes. I say get better heroes.
Okay, on to the episode that I’m so glad I didn’t see before I met Chyler because otherwise I would probably have just thrown myself on the ground at her feet and that might have been awkward.
The episode opens at a crime scene, with Maggie being all Detective Sawyer and doing some hostage negotiations with a baddie. She’s giving him a speech about thinking about his life and his choices and trying to get him to choose the right thing.
Aaaaaand then Supergirl comes crashing in. Literally. Busts through the wall and scoops out the bad guys. Maggie is obviously frustrated but Kara doesn’t see the big deal. She saved the day and she’ll see Maggie at dinner.
And though Maggie does indeed see her, she isn’t pleased about it.
She’s salty about 17 hours of hostage negotiations going down the drain because Supergirl flew in, (arm) guns blazing. Maggie explains that some criminals get charges dropped when Supergirl intervenes and Kara says Supergirl stands for hope and help and their fighting makes me feel like my skin is trying to remove itself from my bones. Alex intervenes and tries to explain that what Maggie is maybe suggesting is that Supergirl is better suited for the supernatural and despite that potentially being a very reasonable turn for the conversation, Maggie and Kara are heated now. Maggie suggests that Kara never looks before she leaps and Kara snaps back, “Because I can fly.”
Kara excuses herself from the situation, and Alex is visibly stressed as she stands between her sister storming and her girlfriend steaming. She asks Maggie to give her sister a chance, and explains how badly she wants her and Kara to get along. Maggie says technically it’s not Kara she has an issue with, it’s Supergirl. But Alex knows that’s not really how that works so she tells Maggie she’s going to go also tell Kara to give Maggie a chance (she rightly is not taking sides in this) and tells Maggie not to wait up because her sister is very stubborn (not unlike her girlfriend).
Meanwhile, Lena talks business with who she thinks is a fellow businesswoman but is really the Queen of Daxam. Rhea charms her and invites her to dinner and Lena eats it all up, thrilled to meet another smart woman, and probably to have a reason to get down with her bad(ass) self even when Kara is otherwise occupied.
The next morning, Maggie struts into CatCo to ask Kara where Alex is.
Kara hasn’t seen Alex since she left her sister’s apartment in a huff last night, which makes Maggie nervous until Kara’s phone rings and it’s Alex. Well, it’s Alex’s phone. But it’s not Alex on the other end, it’s someone who shops at Oliver Queen’s Voice Modulator Emporium, saying he has Alex and will refrain from adding her to the long, long list of dead queer TV characters if and only if Kara gets a man named Peter Thompson released from prison. Which he knows she can do, because he knows she’s Supergirl.
In a mysterious location, Alex wakes up in a cell and immediately starts shouting for help. She punches multiple parts of the glass to find a weak spot, yells threats at the invisible being holding her, demanding they free her before her people find her. And I know this is Alex fucking Danvers so we wouldn’t dare expect anything less, but can I just mention here how much I appreciate that she didn’t just press herself in a panic against a wall or uselessly stand there and yell, “Help!” She was actively trying to find ways to help her damn self. And this was only the beginning.
Kara and Maggie go to the DEO to enlist their help finding Alex, but they can’t trace her by her tracking device, so they’re at a loss. They all throw out dead-end ideas until finally Maggie tells them how they should be thinking about this: Who is Peter Thompson, and why would someone want him released from prison?
Oblivious to all this danger is Lena, who is out to dinner with Rhea. Rhea obviously has done her research on both Earth education and the Luthor family and plays on Lena’s mommy issues. But Lena does what so many of us have done with our pain and turns it into a few jokes. Rhea, in a manipulative move, then confides that her mommy issues are kind of the opposite and that she has problems with her son because of a “horrible” girl he met. Lena beams and says that even if their business deal doesn’t work out she thinks she might have made a new friend. Rhea says, “Thank the gods I found you” and Lena’s face does an almost-imperceptible flicker of doubt because she’s a damn genius is why. A genius with trust issues at that.
Maggie, Kara, and J’onn go to the prison to visit Peter, J’onn and Maggie maintaining their professional cools, Kara decidedly not. But J’onn can read his mind and knows he isn’t involved in Alex’s kidnapping, and Kara is practically bouncing off the walls, full of anger and fear and lacking a target to punch. Maggie tries to calm her down but Kara can’t do calm while her sister is in danger.
Winn calls before Kara spontaneously combusts and says that they figured out that Thompson has a son named Rick Malvern, who went to grade school with Alex and Kara. Without a second thought, Supergirl flies to Rick’s house and starts banging around, shouting for Alex, but all she finds are monitors with security camera feeds from Alex’s cell.
Rick has known Kara was Supergirl for a while now; he saw her that day on the beach when she saved a baby from a burning car and walked away from the explosion unharmed, and he put two and two together when Supergirl showed up in the city Kara happened to live in. One thing I liked about this story was that they came very close to the whole “Alex and I dated in high school but now she’s gay so she must be punished” situation, but they never crossed that line. He targeted Alex because he needed Supergirl’s help and he figured out that was the best way to leverage it. He says plenty of creepy things but he’s not doing this for revenge or out of spite; he liked Alex, he liked her weird kid sister. He lost touch with them because he moved away when his dad saved him from his abusive mother, and he’s a little too broken from losing his dad to prison (because he murdered some folks) to have thought of just asking for help.
Rick is firm on this fact: he wants to repay his father for rescuing him as a child by rescuing him from his life sentence. And if Supergirl won’t help, her sister will die.
Maggie and Kara, frustrated, leave the interrogation room, but before they do Rick says he’s excited to see which one of them loves Alex more; he thinks it might be a close call.
Meanwhile Lena uses her wiles to get Rhea to put her thumb on her alien detector and calls her out on a) being an alien b) being a lying liar who lies. Lena Luthor truly is a clever girl.
Lena tells Rhea to kindly see herself out and never return.
Maggie brings Rick’s father in to see his son, hoping to get Alex’s location in return, but it’s not long before Rick realizes it’s J’onn doing his best papa impersonation: he’s been watching them, closely, for a full year. He knows their tricks. And he’s not telling them where Alex is until he and his father are far, far away.
But don’t worry, Alex STILL isn’t sitting around waiting to be rescued. Instead she’s dismantling the security camera and hooking it up to her subdermal tracking implant that she RIPPED OUT OF HER OWN SHOULDER.
Winn gets the ping from Alex and immediately calls Kara, who storms into Maggie’s interrogation room and tells Maggie it’s over. But Maggie notices Rick didn’t react to the news the way he would have if Kara was right, and tries to warn Kara, but Kara can’t be stopped. Maggie tries to explain that you can’t punch your way out of every situation and that Kara isn’t the only one who cares about her, but Kara is already as good as gone.
Kara Supergirls up and flies to the tracker’s location, but is sad to find more screens instead…and her countdown clock losing time. Now she only has four hours to save Alex, because Alex’s cell is filling up with water.
Supergirl flies back to the interrogation room, where Rick sits, smirking his stupid smarmy smirk. At Kara’s request, he lets them talk to Alex one more time. First Alex tells Kara that no matter what, she doesn’t give Rick what he wants just to find her. “Supergirl is bigger than me,” she says, where most people would have begged to be saved.
Maggie comes in and Alex asks to talk to her alone, because she wants to say goodbye. She can’t do it in front of Kara; she needs her baby sister to hold onto hope. It’s the only way she has any chance of Supergirl saving her. But just in case this is the last chance she gets, Alex wants to tell Maggie how much she means to her.
But Maggie won’t let her. She tells Alex she’s a badass, and that if Alex can’t find her own way out, they’ll save her. Maggie’s eyes fill with tears as she tells Alex that they have too many more “firsts” to share, and a dog named Gertrude to adopt someday.
Maggie begs her to hold on, begs her to promise, and Alex starts to, but the screen shorts out before she can get the word out. Maggie’s upset now, more visibly shaken that we’ve seen her. She stomps up to Kara and accuses her of making things worse for Alex, for all of them. Maggie tells Kara that she should have listened to her; she’s not just a civilian tangled up in this, she has skills that should have been taken into consideration. Kara should have listened to her, worked with her. Maggie says she has just as much to lose as Kara.
Because the thing is, they’re both so important to Alex’s life. Kara grew up with her, they’re sisters. They have a bond that is so unique and special. It’s deeper than blood, indescribable in its strength. But Alex chose Maggie, and Maggie chose her back. Despite what Rick was trying to do, you can’t compare it apples to apples. You can’t put each type of love on either side of the scales and see which weighs more. There are two whole different sections in the heart for the kind of love Alex and Kara have and the kind Alex and Maggie have, and they both fill Alex’s right up. Maybe it’s a ton of feathers and a ton of steel; they look different but they weigh the same.
Anyway, the Queen of Daxam, now dressed as such, goes to visit Lena through her Supergirl door and apologize for lying to her; she plays the mom card and says that everything else she said was true and she still wants to build one of those transportation bridges with L Corp.
Lena calls Kara to ask her advice, but Kara is too upset and can’t talk to her right now, which concerns Lena but she doesn’t push it.
Kara is upset, and J’onn comforts her; she’s not mad anymore. She’s just sad. She repeats Maggie’s words, she knows now she was right…she can’t punch her way out of this situation. J’onn understands why Kara did what she did, but also knows Kara will figure out the right thing to do to save Alex, even though they’re all scared.
Maggie’s fear looks different than Kara’s. It leads her into the interrogation room, where she makes her last stand. Nobody wins if Alex dies, so what can she do to end this?
Rick is impressed and says creepy things about how, during his year of stalking, he saw how much Maggie loves Alex. And he thinks maybe she’ll surprise him by being the one to release his father instead of Supergirl.
By the way, during all this, Alex is just swimming around in her cell, STILL not giving up, still trying to stop the water, break the glass, anything. She even makes her pants into a goddamn flotation device. My eyes started to sting a little writing that sentence: I’m just so…proud of her??? The fact that not for one second did she stop fighting to survive made my heart grow three sizes.
At the DEO, Kara is ready to talk to Maggie about what to do next, but Maggie is already halfway out of the prison with Rick’s father. (There was a cute “nice gun” “It’s my girlfriend’s” exchange here; THE WRITING IN THIS EPISODE WAS SO PERFECT.) Supergirl appears then, and she faces off with Maggie, the pendulum having swung the opposite way. Kara says that she understands what Maggie was saying earlier, and that Alex wouldn’t even want it to go down like this. So she uses Maggie’s interrogation skills from the beginning of the episode (did I mention how good the writing in this episode is). She tells the man that he was a good father, and that he made some terrible choices, but if he helps them save her sister now, he can still salvage the one good thing he’s done. He can keep his son from being a killer like him.
Kara’s Maggie-inspired speech works and Rick’s father tells them where he thinks Rick would hold Alex, and he was right. Kara and Maggie get there after time runs out, and for a second it looks like it might be too late…
…and they panic for a heartbeat…
…but then Supergirl zips over and smashes the tank and Alex swooshes out, coughing up water, a little worse for wear, but alive. ALIVE. And being held by her two favorite girls.
When Alex wakes up in the DEO med bay later, the first thing she asks is if Maggie is okay. Maggie laughs at the irony and thanks her for keeping her promise and holding on til they got there. Alex does want to finish her speech though, this time with 100% less “goodbye forever” in it. She wants to have a million more firsts with Maggie, because she loves her. She says so. “I love you, Maggie Sawyer.”
And Maggie basically turns into the heart-eyes emoji and says it right back. “I love you, Alex Danvers.”
There’s a precious little “Yeah? Yeah.” and they kiss and they kiss and they press their foreheads together and they smile and it’s so perfect and beautiful. AND WE DESERVE THIS.
We deserve this because the whole first time I watched this scene, I couldn’t breathe. Partly because it was so beautiful, yes, but also because a tiny sliver in me was waiting for the other shoe to drop. They said I love you to each other, they kissed; where was the gunshot? The bomb? The Risen Mitten? And when the episode ended and all was well on the Sanvers front and I realized I let out a breath I had been holding I recognized the fear as it left me. The fear conditioned in me. But as a wise doctor once said, “Just this once, everybody lives.”
We deserve this joy, this positive representation. Even if it’s not perfect forever, it’s perfect for now, and I’ll never forget it.
Alex sees Rick being hauled off to get mind-wiped to protect Supergirl’s identity and when she makes the guards stop for a second J’onn thinks she disapproves but really she just wants to PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE. It’s beautiful. And she wants the mind-wipers to make sure he remembers that.
Maggie pulls Kara aside and thanks her for stopping her from going all…well, all Supergirl at the end there. Kara says she was just finally taking Maggie’s advice, and Maggie concedes that once they started listening to each other, they made a great team.
Kara knows it’s because they both love her, and hugs her right into the family corner of her heart.
Lena calls Kara again, but not for advice this time, just to make sure she’s okay since she sounded so upset earlier. They make brunch plans and maybe they can only ever talk to each other on the phone again if I’m to believe they’re just friends because I finally bought it!
When Lena hangs up we see she was mid-meeting with Rhea, who promises that together they’re change the world. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s in the same way Lena thinks it is.
And thus concludes one of the best episodes of television ever created. And I’m not just saying that because it was a happy ending for our resident lesbians. Though of course that played a part. It made me feel every feeling, it leveraged the things that truly make this show great: love as a bond and a motivator, heroes being flawed, women helping women, women being badass, women kissing women. Not a second was wasted, the pacing was fast enough to feel the pressure but not so fast you felt you couldn’t keep up. Plus! The metaphor! I love me a metaphor!
The bad guy was a creepy white man (aka the patriarchy) trying to pit an alien and a lesbian against each other. And it’s not until they realize there was space for them both to be right — that there was space for both of them, full stop — that they solve the problem. They were better together. And I know that’s a slogan this show has touted from the beginning, but it’s one of the hardest to remember, especially when, like Kara, like Maggie, like so many of us, you’ve had some of the people closest to you betray you, or you watch people you care about get betrayed. But when you can find it in your heart to trust people, to love people, and to work together, beautiful things can happen. It’s a lesson we all learn over and over and over again, even Detective Maggie Sawyer, even Alex fucking Danvers. Even Supergirl.