This week’s Supergirl opens once again in a scene that reminds me of Legends of Tomorrow, with a snowman coming to life, and a couple getting into a sleigh that large white bengal tiger is pulling. But this wintery wonderland isn’t wonderful to all, and we realize exactly what’s happening when a man who seems to hate what he sees says, “End simulation.” But the thing is, the simulation doesn’t end. A giant glowy button that says “end simulation” shows up, but it disappears again before he can hit it. Eventually he’s woken up from the outside with an injection and he finds Kelly watching over him.
Kelly is concerned that his failsafe didn’t work and promises to report it as she hands him off to an older woman who offers to give him his exit interview.
Fast forward two months to the present day, where Dreamer takes down a Dominator, impressing Supergirl by beating her record.
Nia waves Supergirl off because Kara has a date to get to, and Nia handles the rest of the handover of the Dominator to the DEO, where Brainy thanks her with an attempted casualness that ends up coming off as more awkward than anything… and not the cute kind of awkward they used to be. Just stilted and sad.
Meanwhile, Kara calls Alex over to have her help her pick out an outfit for a date. I vote she just borrow Alex’s but that’s just me.
Kara says it’s been two and a half years since she’s gone on a date and what if she forgets how to do it? And frankly I really appreciate that they didn’t try to retcon any off-screen dates into Kara’s history, because I also haven’t been on a date in years, and I also don’t know what I would do, and it’s nice to show that Kara has been able to be a functional, relatively happy adult without having a significant other for a long time. One of my biggest pet peeves on TV shows is when grown-ass adults act like they are going to die because they haven’t had sex for six weeks. Eh hem. Anyway. Kara pivots to talking about how happy she is she can even go on a date, because she knows Dreamer can cover her for a night, because Nia is such a badass and has grown into her powers so beautifully. Kara is so proud of her little protégé.
A news story flashes onto the screen about Lex and the platinum lenses but they shut it off in disgust. Kara assures her sister that they will get Lex out of the DEO and Alex back in as soon as they can.
Alex says for now, she’s just working with J’onn to master her Hand of the Soldier. She manifests a gun to show Kara but that’s about all she can do before the Hand zaps her. She calls it stubborn and Kara laughs and calls her stubborn back and Alex pretends to zap her and it’s all very cute and sisterly.
Meanwhile, across town, Nia is hanging out with her roommate Yvette. Yvette is watching a clip of Dreamer from social media and says she thinks she likes Dreamer even more than Supergirl. But then she’s distracted when she sees Nia moping about her earlier encounter with her ex. Yvette decides what Nia needs is a night out on the town.
Yvette is meeting up her new boyfriend she met on Upswipez, the dating app Ray Palmer invented, and Nia is coming with. Nia is a little wary because Yvette lied about knowing Dreamer in her profile and also she technically hasn’t met this boyfriend in real life yet.
At the gaylien bar, Kara and William are on their date and Kara admits she doesn’t know how to play pool, which is the first time I’ve ever thought, “Oh… maybe Kara IS straight?”
But then despite her best efforts to pretend to be a regular human, her natural strength and skill makes her break the balls perfectly on the first try.
Meanwhile, Nia and Yvette are out in the club (that’s what the kids call it these days, right?) when Nia gets a vision.
She isn’t sure what she’s seeing, just blood and fear, so she runs to the bathroom to try to wrap her head around it. After she leaves, a man approaches Yvette, who has gone outside to meet her boyfriend, Angus. This man admits he was pretending to be Angus this whole time and calls her a liar, too. Nia gets another vision, this time clearly about Yvette, but by the the time she finds her roommate, “Angus” is long gone and Yvette was left beaten and with a message from the man to Dreamer, telling her the world doesn’t want a trans superhero. The note goes on to tell Dreamer to stop what she’s doing, and that if she doesn’t, he’ll keep attacking “people like” her.
After what I’m sure is an exhausting night talking to the police, Nia and Yvette go back to the apartment with the detective who I think is probably far more kind and gentle than most real cops would be in this situation.
Especially since they explicitly called out the cops later. We didn’t need to see any more violence or aggression than the one Asshole to get this point across.
Kara rushes in as the detective leaves; she hugs Nia and asks about Yvette. She was so worried about them both and wishes Nia had called her. Nia tells her that it’s heartbreaking on so many levels; not only was Yvette attacked, she was also betrayed. She thought she made a connection when really she was being catfished and targeted because she was trans. Nia is furious that this man is going after people in her community and she’s ready to kill him dead.
Kara looks a little alarmed and says she knows Nia is upset but they can just arrest this man. But Nia said what she said. She says there’s no redeeming this man, no inspiring speech that can fix this. She says her community is vulnerable, that Kara couldn’t understand how often this happens. How many people want her and her trans peers to be afraid, to disappear. How despite the fact that this one detective seems to be doing his job, most cops simply don’t care about them. But she will not be erased.
Kara concedes that she’ll never really understand what the trans community goes through, but she promises she will help Nia bring this man to justice, that they don’t have to resort to killing him. Nia agrees to try it Kara’s way, but isn’t letting go of her original plan.
Over in The Tower, Alex is trying to train with J’onn but she still can’t quite get her Hand of the Soldier to work. J’onn tells her she has to let the weapon in and not be so closed off to the psychic link but Alex snaps and asks how she’s supposed to trust something that just keeps changing. And then we see it, a little crack in that Director Danvers armor. She wasn’t a Paragon, so even though J’onn restored her memories, the world turned upside down on her twice in a short period of time. One minute Lex was the most evil man in the world, the next he was the most beloved. Then a heartbeat after that the facts of that second world remained true while her memories of the first came back. Everything is scary and changing and Alex feels all kinds of upside down about it.
And she just wants her life back. The life she knew before.
Their training is interrupted by Al from the bar, who tells them that his brother Trevor is missing; all he knows is that he left to go to Virtual Las Vegas and that he really doesn’t think he would have stayed there for a week without checking back in. So Alex offers to go into Obsidian to find him.
At the DEO, Brainy is wistfully watching Dreamer on the news when Kara calls and asks for his help. As soon as he hears what happened to Yvette, and about the message The Asshole left for Dreamer, he agrees to help Kara track the man who did this.
Alex goes to Kelly for help finding Trevor, and Kelly helps her get set up to go to Virtual Las Vegas.
Kelly explains that Platinum connects to biology so everything will feel real, and that there are no rules when she gets in there; the only limit is her imagination. No rules is very stressful to one Alex Danvers but Kelly will be able to talk her through it, and Kelly also teaches her how to emergency exit herself if she has to.
So off she goes.
Alex finds herself in the lobby, which is like a futuristic version of that clearing in the woods at the beginning of The Nightmare Before Christmas, except instead of holidays it’s Alex’s innermost desires. Of the ones we can see I glimpsed Alex as Lexie Gray, SuperAlex, and Alex with a baby before she finds the Virtual Vegas she was looking for. Kelly tells her she might have to ask around to find where the party was, but warns her that everyone with three lines on their neck is an NPC so probably won’t have much information for her. (Also Alex didn’t know what an NPC was, which means she has never played D&D, even though she would be an amazing monk or fighter.)
Alex asks around and finds herself heading toward a house on a haunted hill, and when she gets there, she sees people in tanks just like the one she was trapped in a few seasons ago. Kelly says this room seems to be designed for people’s worst fears, and *I* was traumatized by that whole situation, so I can’t imagine how Alex feels about it. But Kelly is in her ear reassuring her that it isn’t real, though if she doesn’t get those people out of the tanks soon, they could experience real psychological or brain damage. So Alex summons a nightstick and goes to town on the tanks.
She eventually breaks through them and asks them about Trevor; the three of them came in with their new bud Richard, but they got stuck here in this hall of horrors while Richard and Trevor went into the big scary doors. So Alex has Kelly pull those two out of the simulation while Alex heads toward the doors.
Back in National City, Nia gets another flash about Yvette’s attack and feels a wave of guilt and anger wash over her, so calls the detective to see where he’s at.
He promises he’s trying but he doesn’t have any leads, Nia fakes a smile and thanks him but then decides to do things her way.
Nia sets up an Upswipez profile, bragging about knowing Dreamer, and dares The Asshole to come and get her.
Across town, J’onn psychically traces Trevor to a house where a woman denies knowing anything about him. He asks if Trevor could be friends with the woman’s spouse, and she insists her husband Richard doesn’t know him. J’onn calls her out on lying and she concedes that she stretched the truth a little; technically she doesn’t know him in the real world, but she’s been having a virtual fling with Trevor in Obsidian. And somehow doesn’t think it’s cheating. She says Richard can be possessive but she escapes via VR, but between that and Richard being a coder, J’onn figures Richard has something to do with Trevor’s disappearance.
At the DEO, Brainy is searching for Dreamer’s name on all platforms when he’s interrupted with an agent who came back with the assignment he gave her. She tells him she found over 200 social media groups and message boards catering to trans hate groups. A heartbreakingly realistic statistic. Brainy sadly thanks and dismisses her, and turns around to see his search brought up Nia’s Upswipez bait.
Alex, still in the VR escape room, is trying to get through the doors while Kelly updates her on what J’onn learned about Richard and Trevor. Kelly seems… surprised that people were using VR to have virtual affairs? Because, despite being very smart and also a psychologist, she’s apparently very naive.
Kelly talks Alex through getting through the door using her willpower, and Alex manages to manifest a key to get in. She finds herself in a bright white hallway that is a stark contrast to the room she was just in, and also she realizes she can’t hear Kelly anymore. Somehow Richard made a room that can’t be remotely monitored. Alex is on her own now.
Out in the real life CatCo, Kara and William are working on a piece about violence against the trans community. Kara is overwhelmed by the statistic that there were 24 trans people murdered in the past year, and William correctly points out that the real number is likely much higher but misreported because of police reports misgendering victims. I think this conversation is so important, because even though folks like us know these things and talk about them often, there is definitely a subset of people watching this show who love Nia and Dreamer and whose hearts are open to trans people but that aren’t involved in the LGBTQ+ community so who just don’t know how vulnerable the community is. Who don’t know how much our trans siblings need our support and protection and uplifting and celebrating. People like Kara, who thought they knew, but didn’t really know the depth of it until she had her eyes opened to it.
Kara understands the depths of Nia’s anger better now, and wants to do more to help her friend. Brainy calls Kara and tells her about Nia’s Upswipez article and Kara immediately goes to find her.
Alex continues down her virtual hallway and finds Trevor standing in the middle of a circular room. He’s happy to see her but also tells her to stay away because he keeps exploding at random then coming back. Alex is alarmed to say the least.
Trevor says that he’s been tortured like this for a long time and he’s in so much pain, and that sometimes Richard shows up just to watch. And then, as if on cue, Richard does appear, and Alex shoots him out of the simulation. When he wakes up, J’onn is in his hotel room, so he attacks, and Richard zaps him…but he still has the Obsidian lenses in his eyes, so something goes wrong and he ends up in a comatose state where his brain is flickering between virtual reality and reality reality.
In the simulation, Alex tells Trevor that he can control this virtual environment, that he can make his own rules, and talks him through stopping the next explosion, cheering him on and making even ME feel like I could do anything.
Trevor is so happy, and tells Alex where his body is so she and Kelly can go get him out of hte sim. When Alex gets out of the simulation herself, Kelly is there waiting for her and so glad to see things went well even after they couldn’t talk anymore.
When The Asshole goes to meet up with Nia from Upswipez, he finds Dreamer waiting for him instead. He says she’s not a good role model, and that someone has to stand up to “you people” which is one of the most annoying things an asshole can (and will) say. He comes at her with a knife but she’s smarter and faster and stronger than him so she quickly gets him wrapped up in what Nicole Maines called the “phone cord of justice” and thus it will henceforth be known.
He uses all of the transphobic buzzwords, calling her a freak, accusing her of “tricking dudes,” accusing her of being a liar. But Nia has heard it all before, and she’s not having it. She tells him that his male ego is fragile and his sense of self is so shaky that anything outside of his narrow worldview feels threatening to him. She pulls her cord tighter and is ready to end him right then and there but then Supergirl shows up and begs Dreamer not to let The Asshole turn her into something she’s not.
She begs Nia not to let his darkness infect her, that she’s a symbol of hope and stooping to his level isn’t the message people need right now. Nia expresses her wariness that he’ll actually get justice, that he’ll actually get the punishment he deserves, and Kara agrees that it’s not something she can promise, but that the best they can do is try. Try to bring him to justice. Try to protect the trans community. Together.
Kara emphasizes this point. Nia isn’t alone. Kara and Alex and J’onn, and yes, even Brainy, are on her side. She says that they should have been more explicitly turning their eyes and their capes towards the trans community earlier, and she’s sorry for that, but they have now, and they’re not going anywhere.
So Dreamer lets go of The Asshole, and whispers in his ear that he’s going to prison and that if he ever attacks anyone in the trans community again, she’ll give him “a nightmare you’ll never wake up from.” Which is the perfect Dreamer threat, in my humble opinion.
Later, Kara finds Nia crying on a balcony. She holds her dear friend as she reckons with the fact that she almost killed a man today. She doesn’t want to be a killer, really she doesn’t, but she’s so… overwhelmed. She admits to Kara what honestly takes so much strength to admit: she’s not okay.
Everything is crashing over her. Her community is constantly under attack, she had visions about her mom and about Yvette that she couldn’t interpret in time to help them, Brainy broke her heart and she doesn’t know why, it’s all just so much. So Kara just holds her.
Nia tells Kara that she thought she could get a sense of control if she stopped this one guy but gets that she went too far. Kara understands that kind of pressure, that moment of knowing you are powerful enough to do something equally bad or worse to someone who wronged you but having to be the better person about it. But, importantly, Kara clarifies that while she can relate on some level, she knows she can’t truly understand exactly, specifically what Nia is going through.
But she tells Nia that the difference between people like them and people like The Asshole is that they CAN do these bad things, but they don’t. That choice is what makes them different. What makes them heroes. She tells Nia that her community needs her, and that she’s sorry she wasn’t more supportive, that she didn’t know how much pain she was in. But she knows now and she’s here for her.
Nia cries into Kara’s shoulder and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking and I wanted to throw all of the awards at Nicole and Melissa.
That night, at the gaylien bar, Alex and Kelly decide right then and there that their relationship is not an open relationship, not even for VR flings, and they’re both on the same page about it. Kelly still believes this Obsidian Platform technology can help people, but she feels guilty and angry that she didn’t foresee the way people would take advantage of it. Which on one hand feels very “duh” but on the other happens with big tech companies in real life all the time. They agree there should be more rules in place for who can use the tech and how, but Kelly isn’t even sure how much that will help since she flagged the glitch of not being able to get out of the sim months ago and it seems like it hasn’t been addressed.
Trevor comes into the bar to meet Alex in real life, and he joins Alex and Kelly for a drink to thank them for saving him.
Back at their apartment, Nia and Yvette are sitting on the couch, and Nia tries to assure her roommate that The Asshole is gone, behind bars, done with.
But Yvette is still deleting her social media. She’s tired of putting herself out there. She says she’s a trans woman of color, and knows what she’s up against, and she’s tired of pushing against it all. She wanted Angus to be real so badly she didn’t even think to not trust it. Nia promises she’ll find a real love someday. She says it’s their own bullshit that’s making them act like assholes, nothing to do with Yvette, or Nia, or anyone but themselves. She tells Yvette she’s a beautiful woman, and that they can’t let people erase them. They need to shine brighter than ever. Because their light can change the world.
Across down, Brainy gives the police the list of trans hate groups he found, highlighting attacks they’ve bragged about and future attacks they’ve planned. He says that the DEO takes threats against their sister superheroes seriously, and implores the NCPD to do the same.
Alex is in the Tower still having trouble with her Hand of the Soldier despite getting it to work in the sim when she gets a call from Best Fictional Mom Eliza Danvers. Alex’s face falls and it’s clear something is wrong.
She immediately goes to Kara’s and tells her what she learned; they found their dad. Jeremiah is dead.
And I’m really not ready for the kind of heartbreak this will bring the Danvers sisters, but at least we have each other?
The final scene is Richard being taken to the hospital, but the woman from earlier (who honestly could be the Leviathan woman but also maybe is a brand new nefarious old white woman) brings Richard into a room where a bunch of people are wrapped in tinfoil and suspended from the ceiling in a totally chill, not terrifying at all kind of way.
Next week, Alex goes into the Obsidian simulation and becomes Supergirl, which I personally cannot wait for.