“Supergirl” Episode 401 Recap: A New Hope

Hello and welcome back to Supergirl recaps here on Autostraddle dot com! I’m relieved to tell you that despite the majority of last season being… tough, the kernel of hope the finale gave some of us seems to have grown into a little plant. This episode reminded me more of Season One, when Supergirl was about hope and truth and the battle between optimism and reality.

I mean, we open on Supergirl saving the world AND a little kid’s balloon in one fell swoop. Superman is reportedly “off-world” so Supergirl has been working extra to save people everywhere from National City to Kasnia, and hey! Kara even started actually being a reporter, asking President Wonder Woman questions about the alien summit she’s holding for the anniversary of the Alien Amnesty Act. For once, Kara feels like she has a handle on the balance between her two roles in this world.

And funny how this balance just so happened to be achieved when there wasn’t a huge caped wad of soggy bread weighing her down. JUST SAYING.

Meanwhile, at the DEO, Alex has leveled up her gayness with a badass new haircut, and is training her agents by wrestling them to the ground.

Fuck me up, Alex Danvers.

Brainy tells Director Danvers that the President is arriving, only moments before she arrives. But it’s not a huge deal, because President Wonder Woman thinks Alex is doing a great job and thinks J’onn made the right choice in promoting her.

Updates from CatCo include that there’s a new batch of junior reporters coming in that James wants Kara to help mentor (but hopefully not edit??) and Lena just got back from settling Sam and Ruby into their new hope at a different branch of L Corp. James is still in some legal trouble because of the Guardian thing, but has faith things will work themselves out and doesn’t want Lena to pull any strings for him.

And worry not, J’onn hasn’t gone all that far. He’s joined an alien support group at the Gaylien Bar, and there is some debate re: “passing” as human vs being proud of their arm tusks and pointy ears. Unfortunately, the man on the side of the second argument soon finds himself without arm tusks as part of a targeted attack by a Mommi and her brother, who were ready with all kinds of high-tech gear for when Supergirl arrived.

Me when someone tries to tell me they don’t like Wynonna Earp.

Brainy zoomed out and saved Supergirl from the gravity cuffs Mommi & Co threw at her, and while she was able to save one civilian, she didn’t manage to stop the baddies from stealing an EMP from the lab.

There’s a box joke in here somewhere.

J’onn arrives on scene to check on his friend and tries to tell Kara this was a hate crime, but Kara says it was a targeted robbery and probably it’s just a coincidence that the victim happens to be an alien. J’onn tries to tell her about the fresh new wave of anti-alien attitudes but Supergirl brushes it off and assures J’onn everything is fine.

Back at the DEO, Alex lays into Brainy and demands he get better at listening to her; he can’t just zip out and fly to a scene to help Supergirl when she really needs him at HQ. She’s in charge now, and he has to respect that, even if he is, on paper, smarter than her.

Is there an “Alex’s hair made me gayer” support group?

When Kara gets to CatCo the next morning, a girl runs into the elevator and Karas all over the place while Kara looks on with a cool, amused smile. And then they both realize who the other woman is, and we learn that the adorable, rambling girl is Nia Nal, the reporter Cat Grant told Kara about and recommended.

I love love loved this scene.

Later, Kara asks her what her first pitch will be, and Nia mentions wanting story about the fashion industry in National City. Kara is skeptical, wondering why this Cat Grant blessed reporter would want a fluff piece, but when she starts to elaborate, Nia is overcome with this confidence and passion and talks about what this upcoming fashion movement will do for the community, and pitches it as a story about hope.

We don’t deserve her. But we need her.

Kara knows now why Nia was sent directly to her, and encourages her to pitch to James just like that in the upcoming meeting.

Brainy tells Kara that the folks who stole the EMP were a duo named Mercy and Otis. The siblings used to work for Lex, so Supergirl goes to pay Lillian Luthor to visit. Much to her surprise, Lena Luthor is there to visit Lillian as well. At first I was genuinely confused as to why Lena was making such a disinterested face when earlier she all but ran into Kara’s arms, but then I remembered they’re still playing this “Lena doesn’t know” dance and Lena is in a fight with Supergirl.

I’m on team #LenaKnows but I don’t hate the sexy glare.

Lillian swears she’s reformed and prison has changed her, and she offers to help Supergirl, not out of revenge, but out of the kindness of her heart, and tells her what she knows about the sinister siblings.

J’onn goes to attend the alien support group, but it’s just the leader of the group now, Fiona. She wants to start a neighborhood watch, and the reason for it becomes clear when as she’s speaking, the Gaylien Bar is attacked. This attack Supergirl has no doubt is a hate crime, but she’s not feeling so quick to link the two instances as J’onn seems to be. She keeps insisting that the world is different now that humans and aliens have equal rights, this simply cannot be happening.

So J’onn tells her to check her privilege. Kara’s natural form is stunning by human standards, and also appears human, and her powers allow her to help save people’s lives on the regular, making her a hero in their eyes. There are hundreds of other alien races with hundreds of other powers that maybe aren’t quite as publicly useful to humans, and whose appearance differ enough to make the weak uncomfortable. Supergirl gets defensive and storms away, but we all know Space Dad is right on this one.

Alex and Kara have a sisters’ night in the loft, which is genuinely a relief and an excellent way to start the season. Even though Alex is stress eating.

2018 mood.

Kara asks if it’s because of a bad date, but Alex says that she hasn’t found that one special woman yet but that dating has been nice so far. She’s stress-eating because she can’t stand Brainy and he’s supposed to be her right-hand guy. Kara asks her to open her mind a little to him, because he has it a bit rough, coming from a different place (literally and figuratively) than Alex. Ironically she doesn’t hear her own advice, because she immediately starts talking about how she’s annoyed with J’onn for trying to shatter her everything-is-fine narrative with his pesky truths about how the world isn’t as open to diversity and acceptance as she is. Alex, a known lesbian, sees her sister’s blindspots and gently suggests Kara try listening to J’onn and trying to understand.

Dear White Straight People

Alex calls her courageous and says she can conquer anything, no matter how scary.

Lena goes back to play chess with her mother, claiming it’s just a journey of rebuilding relationships she’s on, all while asking Lillian questions about an old criminal buddy of Lex’s under the guise of keeping L Corp safe.

Is she trying to find a wife in this prison? Why is she dressed up like this?

So far, Lillian seems genuinely willing to help her daughter, but we all know that woman is never what she seems.

At Catco, Kara peeks in to the cub reporter meeting just in time to have a woman brag about her many contacts in the fashion world to snag the fashion beat, even though she plans on taking it in a much fluffier direction than Nia pitched to Kara. Kara smiles when she realizes Nia’s pitch is going to blow it out of the water, but fades when she realizes Nia isn’t going to say anything at all and the pitch is given to the first girl.

In the land of villainy, it turns out Mommi Mercy and her brother are working from someone slightly scarier and way more dramatic than themselves. Brainy finds their lair and sends Supergirl, but they’re gone by the time she gets there. All she finds is a bunch of computers open to alien Reddit, where everyone is saying things like “Earth First” and calling aliens cockroaches. A woman calls, a regular-sounding woman, a mom with kids running around in the background, casually talking about bombing some aliens. And Kara. is. shook.

“I thought we solved racism?!”

Supergirl’s eyes are open now, and she doesn’t like what she sees.

Kara goes back to J’onn to apologize and admit she was wrong. She tells J’onn she doesn’t know how to fight this, when it’s not a bemasked bad guy she can punch. These are the regular citizens, the people she saves, hating on each other. She wants J’onn’s help, but he’s not a fighter anymore. He can only be a voice for change and emotional support.

Supergirl goes to the President next, trying to get her to postpone the summit, but the President will not be swayed. There’s always a threat, she says. They can’t cancel every time someone might be mad or progress would never be made.

So the DEO and the Secret Service team up to protect the summit, meaning they had a plan for when the EMP inevitably went off. Alex finds herself face to face with Mommi Mercy and uses her new high-tech suit to protect herself from a bomb Mercy threw at her.

I keep trying to come up with something clever for this but all I can think of is fellow TV writer Kayla’s catchphrase, “Govern me, mommi.”

The siblings take off on motorbikes and Mercy talks to Supergirl, calling her a cockroach, telling her that she’s dedicated to her racism. So dedicated, in fact, that she turns around and shoots her brother off his bike, forcing Supergirl to save him, allowing Mercy to get away. He has a bulletproof vest on, so is fine, and is quite amused despite being taken into the DEO for custody.

When they get back to the DEO, Alex is surprised to find Brainy in his best Winn Schott cosplay. It’s then that Alex realizes she pushed him too far, and she apologizes. She says she had been projecting her sadness at losing someone she worked so well with onto Brainy and it wasn’t fair; he lost friends too. They just have to find their own groove and everything will be just peachy.

Step one, stop Amelia Bedelia-ing all over the place

Surprise surprise, Lena Luthor wasn’t chatting with her mother to try to solve some of her mommy issues, but instead was using her to get leverage with the DA to drop the charges on James. Which technically works, but the catch is, James can never go out as Guardian ever again. Also if James ever finds out, he’s going to be pissed at Lena, thinking she did the wrong things for the right reason, even though I would argue she did the right thing for the wrong reason. When Lillian sees the news and realize she got got, she smiles to herself, almost proud of her little minx of a daughter.

At CatCo, Kara checks in on Nia and asks about the dropped pitch. Nia says that when the other woman pitched first, she found herself afraid to make waves. Kara understands this feeling — after all, she did her best to be Cat Grant’s invisible assistant for years — but she says they have to face the things that scare them. What she literally says is, “Acknowledge the fear, then kick its ass.” Which I love very much.

Kara Danvers, I missed you so much. Welcome home.

Kara goes to the Gaylien Bar to apologize to J’onn for not recognizing her privilege and white-womaning all over the situation. The thing is, she thought the world was moving forward, and the idea that there’s still all this hate and anger out there hurts her heart. And the truth is, that both can be true. Things can be getting better and worse at the same time; better on a large scale, worse on a small scale. And J’onn understands her desire to see the good and ignore the bad, but that’s not the solution. What she needs to do, and what J’onn knows she CAN do, is acknowledge the bad while never losing sight of the good.

J’onn implores her not to lose her sense of wonder, because her optimism can still inspire change, just not at the expense of reality.

Kara admits that she feels like she knows nothing, which J’onn points out is the first step to really understanding.

While they’re sitting at the Gaylien Bar, a third case of convenient-news-viewing in one episode occurs, and they find out that the President was outed as an alien because she tried to save her people during the attack on the summit. The flame of hatred had never died, but now this new wave of baddies are actively fanning it, and the fire is spreading.

J’onna asks after Fiona but sadly she is being sacrificed to the plot by none other than Mommi Mercy.

A whole different kind of mommi issues.

The person who has been giving Mercy and her brother orders is a deep-voiced being sheathed in metal who kills Fiona while calling himself an Agent of Liberty.

Oh and also, because one monster racist wasn’t enough, there’s also another wee problem: there is another Supergirl in Kasnia being used to punch a tunnel that surely can’t be leading anywhere good…

What did you think of this episode? I think it’s such a strong start to this season, and I hope they keep it up. I think Nia Nal is the early-season-Kara energy we desperately needed, a perfect mirror for Kara to realize who she is now that there’s nobody holding her back. I also love that they made it clear that they haven’t forgotten Alex is hella gay, so even if someone was starting this show with this episode, they would know the deal.

See you next week, for another Supergirl recap, AND for a recap of the Legends of Tomorrow season four premiere.

Just a nerdy, TV-loving, Twitter-addicted Hufflepuff who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 120 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. Alex’s hair makes everyone a little bit gayer.

    ———-

    Oh, they redecorated CatCo …

    … I really like it.

    ———-

    I loved Nia’s introductions (yes, plural). The elevator scene shows her energy, the fashion monologue shows her depth, and her talk with Kara after the meeting shows her vulnerability/insecurity. She’ll be an interesting foil to Kara, and I look forward to her story.

    ———-

    I like that the theme of self presentation was subtle in this episode, but pervasive. Kesse Kay (the Aquarian) with his image inducer that lets him pass as human. Dr. Vose now hiding his unique traits. J’onn, who last season said he chose to wear the face of a black man because he didn’t want to live in a world where he had to change his appearance to be accepted. Kara, whose privileges left her a blindspot when it comes to being persecuted for an alien. Nia, with her beautiful monologue about fashion as the “most visceral form of art.” Lena, appearing to be the daughter reconnecting with the mother, but really just trying to find a bigger fish to feed the DA. President Marsden, revealed for a split second as an alien.

    So much rich storytelling in forty minutes. I hope the writers can keep this up all season.

    ———-

    Is James wearing Lena’s purple shirt?

    ———-

    The music in the scene between Lillian, Lena, and Supergirl is so good. I’m not sure if it’s one theme, or two or three themes interweaved, but I love it.

    ———-

    Best quotes/moments

    “Don’t get that look on your face like you’re gonna officiate my wedding!”

    “Would you believe it’s in an abandoned warehouse?”

    “You realize you’re turning into a Cat, right?”

    *Lillian Luthor tips over her king, crosses her arms, and smirks*

    • Speaking of the chess, I know no-one cares about the chess, but I just want to comment on Lena’s chess-playing. Once in an earlier game she had two bishops on the same colour and no promoted pawns, and this time she set up her pieces after the game completely incorrectly, including a bishop in the front row, while Lillian set up normally. Maybe Lena likes to play a chess variant where the starting setup is altered but not randomised, like displacement chess, but only for one side, presumably then balanced with some system like the auction system for transcendental chess. I’m sure this is not actually the canon of the show, but I would prefer to believe it than believing that Lena doesn’t know how to set up a chessboard.

  2. I wish that I could find a good picture that’s a close up of Katie McGrath’s eyes (all of them are from pinterest, which won’t post), because I’ve learned that she has heterochromia. One of her eyes is green, and one of them is blue.

  3. Lena and James are just…it’s like when I was 18 and I was like, “Mom how did you get the tooth out from under my pillow without me waking up?” And she was like “WHO??? MEE?? THAT WAS THE TOOTH FAIRY. SHE’S A *REAL* BITCH.”

    Like, we all know they got Lena and James together to stop the Homosexual Train from leaving any further stations. But like, come on. It was not the tooth fairy. This relationship is not working, nor interesting, nor believable. They have the chemistry of a wet napkin drying on top of a very cold, moist rock. THAT BITCH IS NOT REAL. Let it die.

    But my OLD KARA IS BACK and I love her. And my sweet Alex beating people up right and left. I feel like the dragon in Mulan – our little baby is all grown up and saving China. Bless her gay little heart.

  4. While I still maintain that it’s more like the balance happened because of better writing, that’s a matter of opinion. I do understand your disdain for Mon-El. His relationship with Kara wasn’t exactly well handled.

    Perhaps this puts me in the minority but I genuinely don’t think we’re “playing a dance.” Lena really doesn’t know. She probably should but they’re not writing her that way and we’re at their mercy.

    Speaking of Lena, her company is selling both an alien detector for humans and a disguise projector for aliens. That seems like playing one against the other. Perhaps there’s more Luthor in her than some folks thought.

    Finally, there’s a Legion character named Nura Nal, who calls herself “Dream Girl” because she has dreams that predict the future, and I’m wondering if they’re going in a similar direction with Nia? Regardless, I like the character and I can’t wait to see where they do go with her.

  5. This episode was a delightful start. I think cutting down drastically on Kara’s support system in terms of fighting was a great decision. No Guardian, no J’onn, DEO is scaled back and Lena Luthor is not making any tech for Supergirl. Yay!
    Also loved that Catco is once again given a central focus, the DEO really can’t do all that much as a setting and needed to be scaled back.

    I think James and Lena still does not work, but I guess that’s being doubled down on so. Whatever.

    I think Lena for sure does not know and is for sure too in love with Kara Danvers to notice who anyone else is on the entire Earth.

    The one thing that did annoy me was that if Brainy is being set up as the love interest of Kara then PLEASE DEAR GOD do something more interesting than having him save her what a boring way to set up a romance. Why was that their interaction. Boo.

    ALSO WE WERE ROBBED OF THE ALEX DATING MONTAGE WHYYYYYYY

      • I am virtually certain that we *will* see Alex on a date, Nia will somehow be involved (though probably not as Alex’s own date, due to the age difference), and her being trans will be an issue. This is not a subtle show.

    • For me, the jury’s still out on the reduced support team. From the beginning the show has been about the “stronger together” vibe and it feels like a bit of a departure.

      A big +1 on the renewed focus on CatCo. Plus, the introduction of Nia allows Kara to “grow up” a bit.

      I agree that Lena doesn’t know and has a pretty big blind spot there for whatever reason. We’re all supposed to think her disguise is harder to penetrate than it is but Lena is wicked smart.

      Originally in the comics Brainiac 5 saved Supergirl from a kryptonite meteor to prove he wasn’t evil like the original Brainiac but they’ve paid little attention to canon so we may get something more natural and organic for a change. I know I’d appreciate it.

      And finally, yes, I’d love an Alex dating montage. I hope we get one eventually.

  6. I saw the pull quote for this recap before watching the episode and was like wait, how can the make Alex’s hair even gay–ohhh I SEE.
    Also, I’m sad that Fiona isn’t a recurring character! I was looking forward to more screen time for Tiya Sircar.

  7. I dunno. As much as it delights my heart they amped up Alex’s gayness (holy hotness!), Nia Nal pitching her fashion district piece to Kara and the show totally ignoring the gentrification angle of it? Ugh. Don’t know if Alex’s supreme gayness can outweigh the show’s rather tame, neoliberal, white middle-class politics for me.

  8. Speaking of blind spots.. It is very interesting and amazing how Cat Grant who didn’t even give Kara the respect of her name most of the time, who first forced Kara to date her son and then, treated her ill when she broke up with him, is considered a great boss and a good example..

    While James who is a good boss, and has been mostly a good partner to Lena, who has also been just as supportive of him is implied to be a pretender, possibly a stalker (for the same things that others who have been praised has done), and attempting to reach towards somebody he doesn’t deserve.

    As an outsider to US politics until a couple of years ago, it was interesting to me to learn that there is a narrative in the culture that black men are scary, aggressive, and a threat to white women.

    It is even more interesting to see how those very narratives and harmful stereotypes are being reinforced–unintentionally I am sure–by the sort of comments I see here; in reviews as well as in the comments section.

    1. James is feeling unhappy that the new rich owner of the company (and I am sure for him the whiteness did matter too) comes in to look over his shoulder and comment on how he is doing his job as a chief editor of the company? Someone who has no editorial or newspaper experience? How rude of him to feel threatened.
    2. James has a decent relationship with the same woman? How homophobic?
    3. James brings food to a woman he cares for while also trying to keep his space: he is just a pretender who always intended Lena to see him. (But Maggie coming over to Alex’s house after Alex asked her to give her space is romantic).
    4. Lena buying a newspaper company is romantic (irrespective of whether she plans to use the paper as PR for her company). Lena tricking Lillian to give James a break: Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    I don’t remember the others.. But, these subtle comments over the past season and more has left an impression on me.

    I now have infinitely more sympathy with James wanting to be the guardian and define himself as someone of worth among a people who considered him and people of his ethnicity of less worth, or scary, or a threat just because of how they look. I took him as just another hero and a much unneeded one before, but now I don’t.

    It is a way for him to define his identity from threat to protector. And also try to stand separate from his godly friends (who do look very normative) as one among the people while doing that. Even if his effects are less, he should still be able to do that because that helps him; and people like him. At least, you cannot have multiple rules for the same kind of thing.

    And.. beyond all that.. I do like Lena’s and James’ relationship. I see it as more of an equal partnership than any one that has gone before in this show.

    PS: I went back and forth on whether to post this comment or just slink away and swear never to come back. Then thought.. best to leave a differing perspective than be silent.

    • To be clear, that homophobic thing was about showrunners/writers, I believe. I don’t know if that is true. It is possible since they botched the James-Kara thing so badly, they decided to go with James-Lena as another mixed-race romance. Considering fanfiction doesn’t affect cannon anyways.. and cannon doesn’t need to affect fanfic… I don’t see it as homophobic. That is all I can say.

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