“Supergirl” Episode 503 Recap: The Girl with the Spider Tattoo

Previously on Supergirl, J’onn’s brother attacked, Kelly helped J’onn explore his missing memories, Lena put her AI into Eve’s body, Andrea and William were turning CatCo on its head, and Brainy was bugging the heck out of Nia.

We open this episode with a very lovely, very tattooed lady at a bar.

tattooed lady sips a martini

I’d like to get tangled in her web if you know what i mean.

William is in this same bar, fighting with a man who ultimately decides to blow William off to go hook up with the Spider Woman. Unfortunately they don’t get very far before one of Spider Woman’s tattoos COMES TO LIFE and crawls INSIDE HIM and kills him dead.

Outside Catco, Kelly is therapizing her barista while she gets her morning coffee, which honestly is relatable, and this leaves Alex concerned about her girlfriend’s openness, what with a shapeshifter running around.

kelly smiles at a barista while alex waits impatiently

Strangers tell me their life story ALL. THE. TIME. I once helped a cab driver pick a school district for his son.

Kelly waves off her concern, kisses her goodbye, and heads into work.

When she’s gone, it’s Kara’s turn to worry, because she’s having lunch with Lena today, their first time since Kara’s coming out. Alex reassures her that it will be fine and that they’ll get their relationship back on track; Kara just has to let go and let Lena love her.

Kara shovels donuts while Alex looks on concerned

Using donuts to cope with stress is a mood. Superheroes, they’re just like us!

In her secret lab of secrets, Lena is getting frustrated because she can only figure out how to use the Q Waves to map the brain, not to change it. Or at least, not to change it without obliterating willpower. But Hope knows Lena doesn’t want a world of robots, just better people. This prompts Hope to hug Lena, maybe acting in instincts taken from Eve, but either way, Lena is taken aback.

hope hugs lena, lena is alarmed

“Kara is the only person who has ever hugged me and meant it. I don’t know what to do with this.”

Hope suggests that Lex’s research could help Lena, and Lena knows just the person to help her get his journals.

lena looks decisive

Are we 100% sure that Lena isn’t an AI that the Luthors built? Because she’s impossibly attractive.

At Nia’s apartment, Brainy is still shouting poetry (and villanelles!) at his girlfriend, and not getting her hints when she asks him to tone it down a bit.

Nia smiles at Brainy

Honestly I can’t blame Brainy, if I was dating the cutest girl on the planet I’d be overdoing it too.

At the CatCo morning meeting, the death of that man in the club comes up, and turns out it’s Dr. Niles Jarrett, the man Andrea was fighting with in the photos on William’s computer last week. Andrea and William shut down Kara’s request to look into his death, since she had interviewed him about gene manipulation once, which makes her a bit suspicious.

Kara tells James about this mysterious behavior, and James offers to help by talking to the M.E. about it. He still hasn’t made his career path choices yet, so he’s down to Superfriend the case with Kara as a little distraction.

Across town, J’onn’s brother, as a Martian fly, goes into Kelly’s apartment and inspects her pictures and becomes one of the men he sees. Which is risky but a bold move. And my question is… can J’onn do this? Can he shapeshift into anything he wants? We’ve seen him be people but can he also be animals? Can he be a cactus? Or a trash can? I feel like he’s been holding out on us.

Anyway, the Martian goes to see Kelly, who seems excited to see her old pal Pete Andrews. He asks for her help, and of course she offers to help him, because she has a big heart.

kelly smiles at her old pal pete

“Your past acting roles have lulled me into a false sense of security about your character.”

And if there was supposed to be some kind of parallel there between her helping the barista and her helping her old friend, I’d like to call foul.


If, before I watched this episode, you told me that Kara Danvers flew all around the world to get Lena her favorite foods, I would assume you were talking about a fanfic. But guess what? I did watch this episode and Kara did fly around the world to get Lena her favorite foods and it was NOT a fanfic. It was real life. And Lena is delighted.

Lena smiles at Kara

Lena looks like she’s going to devour Kara alongside those scones.

They talk a little about work and how Lena’s old boarding school buddy is low-key ruining Kara’s life, but Kara wants to talk about how Lena is doing. And Lena, oh Lena. Lena lies. Lena lies BIG. And Lena lies WELL. She tells Kara she’s been having nightmares about Lex and that she thinks the only cure would be reading Lex’s journal. Like how I listen to true crime podcasts to quell my fear of being murdered. Knowledge is power. She knows Kara is feeling guilty and like their relationship is fragile, and she knows Kara will do just about anything, now more than ever, to make Lena happy, and Lena takes advantage of that.

lena looks sad


And Lena is brilliant about how she does it, too. She never asks Kara to do anything. She lays out the bait and Kara predictable eats it up. Offers to help. Lena even insists she could never ask Kara to do such a thing, knowing full well that it would make Kara double down on helping.

To her credit, when it works, she does appear to have a flash of regret, or questioning. Like maybe this win didn’t feel as satisfying as she might have liked.

Lena looks regretful

This poor woman is STRUGGLING and she’s ALONE and it HURTS.

When Kara and James get to the morgue, Kara scans Niles and sees a spider tattoo… on his heart. Which is disconcerting to say the least, but proves her point that this death was suspicious and worth looking into.

Meanwhile, J’onn is still having some brain issues so he asks Nia to use her dream powers to help.

Nia uses her dream powers and blue light eminates from her

Even her powers are pretty.

J’onn unlocks a memory of his little brother being teased for not being able to connect to the hive mind aka cheat at hide-and-seek. When they realize he can also control people’s minds, he’s also locked away by J’onn’s dad. But soon White Martians come and take him away, causing J’onn’s dad so much grief that young J’onn panics and erases the memory of his brother from the entire hive mind, which to Martians is a fate worse than death.

That night, at Kara’s loft, Alex asks Kara about her Lena lunch, and Kara tells her about the favor she agreed to do. Alex has… concerns, to say the least.

alex shoots kara a Look

Chyler is SO good at making the Big Sister Face.

Kara insists it’s a victimless crime and it would be worth it to help ease her gal pal’s mind.

And besides, Alex doesn’t really have a leg to stand on re: “we can’t do that, because it’s wrong” considering they break the law all the time. This very moment, Kara is reviewing security footage from the bar that Brainy hacked to get her. Alex huffs a little about that, but they have more important things to worry about, like the Spider Woman in the video who definitely killed Niles.

Kara and Alex look at a laptop together

“Hold on let me minimize Impulse real quick…”

Alex takes this info back to the DEO and explains that the tattoos are actually an alien, and the woman is a host. So Supergirl flies off to this woman’s apartment and finds a flash drive, but she gets Spider Pinned to the wall and Guardian has to swoop in to help. Supergirl eventually gets herself unstuck, but not before the woman flings a spider at/into James.

Supergirl takes him back to the DEO, where Alex shoots him with science and collects the spiders for them to study. James putting himself in danger to help her inspires Kara, and she decides to do the thing for Lena after all, getting Lex’s journals and also swiping a watch while she’s at it.

She gets back just in time to kill a spider thrown by the Spider Woman, with Alex none the wiser about her side quest.

At Obsidian North, Kelly starts to scan Pete’s memories with Q Waves but quickly realizes it’s J’onn’s brother, not her old friend. His mind-control powers are back and the first thing he decides to do with it is try to force Kelly to kill herself.

Kelly holds glass to her neck

Kelly must be strong of mind because she fought this off long enough to be saved.

But Nia gets a dream-blast warning that Kelly is in danger, so J’onn gets there just in time. And as J’onn’s brother tries to get away by shapeshifting, Kelly realizes that she can tell who the Martian is, even when he’s shifted into human form.

Back at the DEO, Alex uses her science gun to get the spider alien out of the host woman, but while she’s interrogating her, a shadow swoops in and kills the woman without warning. When she hears about the attack on Kelly, she of course goes to check on her girl.

Alex holds Kelly's hand

“There will be no burying of gays on our watch.” – Chyler and Azie, probably

They figure out that apparently the explosion at the Obsidian lab somehow linked Kelly and J’onn’s brother. J’onn feels horrible that he got all of his friends into this mess, but the Superfriends have his back no matter what. Alex inexplicably wants Kelly to go somewhere far away from Supergirl to be “safer” which makes no sense at all but okay. I would personally have handcuffed her to Kara but whatever helps her sleep at night. James offers to go with Kelly, which is the only reason Kelly agrees to go in the first place, because if James is willing to back down from a fight for her, it must be serious.

Kelly smiles sadly up at James

Kelly better not be actually gone for even one single episode.

Nia, seeing that J’onn learning the truth about his brother hurt him but ultimately was for the best, decides to go home and tell Brainy that he’s being a little too over the top for her, but instead of being grateful to know the truth, Brainy explains that he operates at 100% so if she doesn’t want his excess of love, she doesn’t want him at all.

nia looks alarmed and sad

Making Nia Nal sad should be considered a felony.

While all this is happening, William is being shady with a man in the park, who gives him money and tells him to keep on keeping on, so I guess William is going to be more than just a foil for our Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter.

Since the fighting all seems to have settled down for now, Kara suits up and flies over to Lena’s to give her the journals, but not before gazing down into the window at her for a minute. Lena is delighted to see Kara in the moonlight.

lena smirks up at supergirl

Also someone on Twitter pointed out that this scene was YET ANOTHER Superman/Lois Lane parallel. WHAT DO THEY WANT FROM ME?

Then there are intercut scenes that are both taking things too far in opposite directions.

Kelly says she’s too open and trusting, which is unfair to her because of course she was open and trusting with a man she thought was her friend, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that she was running around being terrified that everyone she talked to was the Martian who wanted to kill her friends.

And on the other hand, Kara is telling Lena that there should be no boundaries between them, which is just a bad idea for any kind of relationship. Romantic relationships, friendships, coworkerships, twitter mutualships, they all need boundaries.

Lena looks like she is having second thoughts

You can tell Lena’s deepest instincts are setting off alarm bells but she can’t hear it over the roaring of her pain and IT IS STRESSING ME OUT.

After she leaves Lena’s, Kara goes to meet up with Alex, where the Danvers sisters see the Olsen twins siblings off. Kara gives James one of Lex’s portal watches, and they all say their goodbyes.

alex kisses Kelly goodbye

“Feel free to leave James wherever you go when you come back.”

Alex is still worried about Kelly, because she’s “so open,” which is also technically something she worried about for Kara becoming Supergirl back in the day, and now she’s encouraging Kara to come out to people and Kara is giving her identity away to random bakery cashiers in other countries. So maybe Alex will come to trust that Kelly knows what her own boundaries are, too.

Alex and Kara exchange glances

Boundaries be bangin’.

In her lab, Lena is reading Lex’s journal.

lena reads the journal


She gives Hope Lex’s journal and tells her what kind of cipher it is, and Hope immediately gets to work decoding it. As the screen starts scrawling out notes about Q Waves and mind control, Lena gets ready to get to work.

lena looks determined but sad

Lena, bb, even if your intentions are better, if your plans and Lex’s plans overlap at all, it might be time to reconsider.

Which… can’t be good. Lena should have learned from the last time she made some awesome science and the military tried to weaponize it that just because her intentions are good doesn’t mean this is a good idea. It’s the age old mad-scientist conundrum: just because you CAN doesn’t mean you should.

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd 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 550 articles for us.


  1. sorry, I find it just sad that even after these canon romantic scenes we still have to think if we’re not queerbaited

  2. – Can James just be gone already?
    – I love Kara stress eating, and doughnuts at that. It’s so…Kara.
    – So “Q” waves weren’t discovered until the Legion’s time, but everybody and their brother is researching and using them in the early 21st?
    – Kara getting Lena food from all over the world is a parallel to Clark getting Lois Chinese from China. IT’S RIGHT THERE!
    – “Move on the villanelle.” So even the characters in Supergirl are watching Killing Eve?
    – THERE. For the first time I heard Katie’s accent slip.
    – I’ve never heard that expression before.
    – Space Grandpa!
    – Teenage J’onn kind of looks like Tuvok.
    – I’m impressed. They’re not trying to walk back that what J’onn did was evil.
    – Why didn’t the tattoos kill James? They certainly had the time.
    – You can’t tell me that that final scene that juxtaposed Kara/Lena with Alex/Kelly wasn’t showing Supercorp as a couple.
    – What did cause the martian civil war? If it was racism or something like that you would have expected it to have started small scale and for it have simmered for centuries. But J’onn said that it came from nowhere. Just one day the whites attacked.

    Also, this is/was a real thing on AppleTV.

  3. As much I don’t want to see Lena in pain (even if Katie McGrath gives great Sad Face), I love love love that they’re pushing Lena’s mad scientist tendencies to a natural breaking point. It would have been unrealistic to have her just be perfectly moral after her childhood, career, EVERYTHING she’s been through. She creates first, thinks about the consequences later. It’s very Silicon Valley and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I doubt she’ll ever go full villain but I bet it’ll get darker before it gets better.

    • Yeah I’m really enjoying this trajectory – I of course hope she comes to her senses eventually but I’m enjoying the ride.

  4. I know this has probably been said 1 billion times, but if either Kara or Lena were male, they would have had a full relationship with multiple break ups and make ups and on screen sexy times by now. The Superman parallels cannot possibly be an accident.

  5. Look.
    There‘s this lengthy Supercorp ff that’s been sitting on my computer since…season 2?
    I‘ll occasionally get back into the grind and add another chapter or three, but I‘ve refused to publish it so far, because I‘m already going to hang out in purgatory for the stuff I haven’t finished, floating around out there in the great black void of the interwebs of days gone by.
    With this season, I‘m just quietly cussing every other episode, mentally throwing crumpled up sheets of paper over my shoulder.
    This isn’t a „I would have written it the same way!“ situation, it’s an „I have“, others have,too, the food,the setting,I’ve read the the donut stress eating about a dozen times!
    But seriously,though.
    I‘m very confused.
    First they give Kara the Emma Swan treatment of dress away the gay, then they unearth every ff and TV trope imaginable.
    Romeo and Juliet balcony scene? Check.
    Superman/LL,sorry, Lois Lane parallels? Check.
    Check, check,check.
    Is this like, a friendly nod?
    Yeah, I’m nodding back.
    But seriously, I’m kind of over the secretly and knowingly nodding. We‘ve done that pretty much all of the last century.
    I‘m all for the glitter and be gay! Give me the drama and the complicated feelings, the conflict, but breathe a spark into those embers you keep laying out there. A spark, something that shines and sparkles and..ignites.
    Otherwise that whole Lena/Hope situation is getting really meta really fast.

  6. I can never figure out if these writers are intentionally queerbaiting or if they’re just very, very stupid and oblivious. You know, that they’re all basically Harolds. I do tend to think it’s the latter and spend a lot of time yelling at my screen WHO WROTE THIS AND THOUGHT IT WAS STRAIGHT, but that may just be because I don’t want to be super angry at them because then I won’t enjoy the show.

    Also, how tf did a reporter and a CIVILIAN just get to casually examine a body in the morgue with no oversight??? There are some things where I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but COME ON.

    • I have no explanation for the first thing (I wish I believed that the network is like “no you may not make Kara queer” and so this is them just pushing it as far as they can.)

      But the second thing, I do think they explained away by saying James knew the M.E. and called in a favor to get 5 minutes that they were looking the other way.

  7. Ok, the writers just HAVE to know about the Supercorp shipping that’s happened for like the entirety of the series existence, so I have to say, this season, they’re definitely getting … well, queerbaity, I have to say. They can’t not know what they’re doing here.

    I mean, I’m personally ok with Kara & Lena remaining friends, as I actually like that for them. I’m personally not a Supercorp shipper.

    BUT at this point I feel like they’re toying with us queer fans a tad, really, because there’s no way even straight people are THIS oblivious, and that honestly makes me feel a tad uncomfortable, as I really don’t like being toyed with like this, especially with how wonderful the series has been with Alex.

    It just doesn’t seem right to me.

    • I find people in general to be perfectly capable of not seeing what they don’t want to see: the family members who just can’t believe you’re really gay even though you’re the butchest thing walking, the “boyfriend” who is convinced you’ll learn to like it eventually, the friend who is shocked to learn that you’ve been in love with her since eighth grade…

      But, yes, the dialogue and cinematography are starting to feel queerbaity as all heck, especially that last scene with Alex and Kara comparing their relationships.

  8. Okay, so all of us can finally agree that the only hetero thing about Supercorp is the heterochromia in Katie McGrath’s eyes?

  9. I think the writers are baiting a particular fandom at this point like the Pied Piper only to lead them off a cliff, deservingly so after the toxicity and racism displayed by SCers, including in all the posts trying to get rid of an OG cast member, Mehcad Brooks, and now all the hatred on display for Staz Nair.

    Hell would freeze over before Kara will ever trust Lena again after she finds out that Lena killed Lex in cold-blood, gaslit her about not knowing her identity, manipulated her into getting her the diary, and is mind-controlling Eve. FYI – All of this is worse than anything Mon-El ever did to Kara, and not at all romantic. Shipping this behavior is vile, toxic and truly demented. If a man was doing this (AKA Maxwell Lord because Lena is just a female version of him), the fandom would be up in wars. Instead, they find this delicious when this kind of soapy telenovela trash is pulling the show down.

    If there is any parallel to be drawn from the Superman mythos, it is between Lex/Clark and Lena/Kara, not Lois/Clark. Shippers see what they want to and delude themselves.

    • I only know this show from the recaps, so I’m taking it on faith that the character is being a terrible person and a terrible friend, but… no, it isn’t “vile, toxic and truly demented” to ship fictional characters who treat each other badly in canon, as long as that doesn’t bleed through to how you judge interactions between real people (and as long as any disturbing subject matter in fan content is tagged so people can avoid it.) Harassing actors over your ship and trying to pressure the writers into making your ship canon are extremely not okay things to do, but that’s a problem with assholes, not with everyone who shares ships with assholes.

      I’m not a fan of how much Autostraddle recaps editorialize about shipping either, but this is a bit too extreme in the other direction.

      (Also, I have some news for you about how many people interpret the Clark/Lex relationship.)

      • I agree with your assessment that not all shippers are assholes, and I appreciate you pointing out the difference, since I think a lot of people tend to associate entire fandoms with the angriest and loudest among them. However, I wanted to address this:

        “I’m not a fan of how much Autostraddle recaps editorialize about shipping.”

        1) With the exception of screenshot captions, which are always extremely jokey (spoiler alert: Kara wasn’t watching Impulse, either) I didn’t mention shipping Kara or Lena at all. I literally just described what actually happened on my actual screen.

        2) Editorializing is kind of the whole point of these recaps. Supergirl from the perspective of one particular queer gal (that’s me.) If you are looking for an opinion-free beat-for-beat recap, you’re in the wrong place.

    • Calling Lena the female Maxwell Lord is extremely insulting to her seasons-worth of character development and growth.

      I can’t speak to the fandom in general – I agree that people shouldn’t be attacking actors or writers – I’m just here to write about what I see on the show, and I actually very much disagree with you; if Lena was a man, the show itself would have already had them in a romantic relationship. Not the other way around.

      You can dislike a ship or even disapprove, but sweepingly calling shippers things like “vile” and “demented” is uncalled for. This is a show about aliens and metaphysical science, situations like “my best friend didn’t tell me she was also this superhero I was friends with!” aren’t realistic parallels to anything that happens in real life, and if this was like The Bold Type I would be more concerned with someone shooting their abusive and murderous brother, for example.

      And when I said there were parallels between Louis and Clark, I mean literal shot-for-shot parallels/homages. I agree there are some Clark/Lex aspects too but it’s not a delusion when there are actual screenshots that prove the parallels.

    • I’ve got no idea what’s being shouted about Mehcad Brooks out there on the interwebs, but I have to say that I dislike the character. It has nothing to do with the actor as far as I know–I have no other frame of reference, so I can’t tell if it’s his acting, the directing, or the writing, I wouldn’t miss him if Jimmy moved back to Metropolis.

  10. Also, is it just that now that the suit has pants Kara’s not allowed to wear pants anymore? Like woah baby that would just be TOO MUCH PANTS. CAN’T HAVE THAT. Just annoying dresses from now on.

  11. Ok 2 Points
    1. As a huge fan of the series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, it is CLEAR that the writers are as well. They are literally lifting plotlines from that series which makes me laugh and pissed at the same time.
    A. In Lois and Clark, when Clark finally confesses that he is Superman, the first time he has to go be Super, he changes into his cape and tights and Lois nearly comes at that moment. Ahem, as did Lena when Kara did the same damn thing.
    B. Then in Lois and CLark, he literally flies all over the world the give her her favorite foods JUST LIKE KARA does for Lena.
    Now do I find this hilarious? Yes, but why do all of this stuff if they are platonic friends? And at the same time . . . .
    2. Can Alex have a fucking girlfriend for more than 10 seconds? The full blown relationship between Kara and Lena is thriving and Alex can’t have a healthy, meaningful, visible relationship for the life of her. That, and that alone, makes me want to skip this all together. And I love the show, but it is insulting to do this every season.

    • Kelly isn’t going anywhere! She still has a girlfriend! I do agree that I wish they would pull it to the forefront more often.

  12. “Alex, when you said that you didn’t want me to leave Kara’s side, I didn’t think you meant it literally,” Kelly said, lifting up her hand, handcuffed to Kara.

    “And where did you get these handcuffs?” Kara inquired, looking puzzled at the fluffy pink novelty cuffs. “Are they special DEO equipment?”

    Alex, Kelly, Nia, and Lena all suddenly find the walls very interesting to look at.


    When Supercorp becomes canon, Lena and Kara are going to be so extra with each other.

    “For a friend like you, there are no boundaries.”

    “I love you and there is no line in the universe I won’t cross to keep you safe.”

    “If your billionaire girlfriend cannot whisk you away for a romantic holiday, then there really is something wrong with the world.”

    “You know you don’t have to go to Paris to pick up lunch, Kara.”

    Birthdays are going to be stressful, though. What do you get for a woman who can buy anything? What do you get for the woman who has lost everything?


    I think the reveal that J’onn committed the worst sin in Martian culture is to set up the idea that there is no such thing as unforgivable. Lena has crossed several lines already – she’s killed Adam, Lex, and Eve* – and will cross more before this arc is finished. The super family will forgive Space Dad – they’ve forgiven each other of sins of equal weight. And they’ll forgive Lena too; the question is whether or not they’ll forgive themselves.

    * I argue that Eve is “dead” because we see no sign of her personality. Unless it is established that Hope can be safely removed from Eve’s brain, I count her as dead.

  13. The part about having nightmares and not sleeping was probably mostly true though at least. We’ve seen she didn’t even realise it was morning last episode. I can see her just decided to not sleep. And being sleep deprived doesn’t help bad ideas.

    I just got back to supergirl and what jumps to my eye is how alone Lena is in comparison to the other superfriends.

    I really hope they won’t make Lena the bad guy (why the guilt and doubtful face she make I confident they won’t but you never know), Kara is already a journalist… if I wanted to watch superman, I’d watch superman.

  14. If that “Boundaries be bangin’.” caption is a reference to ‘Playing House’ (RIP, you were too pure for this world, Bosephus), let me just say I see it and I appreciate it.

  15. I feel like I can see all of the cut out parts of Alex and Kelly’s scenes – so many moments where the camera cuts away a touch too quickly and an emotional moment isn’t given space – and it makes me so sad. I remember Chyler saying at ClexaCon that some huge percentage of the scenes she shot with Maggie were cut and I can see that they’re doing that again. There’s a lot going on already in these episodes and I get it to an extent, but I remember how Hurt Chyler seemed about it and it makes me sad. Especially with the baiting happening with SuperCorp

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