Last week’s previews teased a fate worse than death for Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), a painfully prolonged death by drowning courtesy of the villain-of-the-week (also weak),Rick (David Hoflin) and his obsession with Tarsem Singh’s The Cell. No, not really, but this week’s episode, appropriately titled “Alex,” takes The Cell’s central motif, death by drowning to a timer as video cameras roll, and gets within inches of Alex losing her life. Spoiler alert: Alex doesn’t die. She’s too key, too central to Supergirl the TV series and Supergirl/Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), her adoptive sister. Alex often plays big sister to Kara, dropping in with well-placed pep talks about Kara’s personal and professional life, helping to ground her younger, punch-first, ask-questions-later. In Supergirl’s second season, however, Alex’s personal journey – her coming out, her romance with Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) – has emerged into one of the more compelling storylines, thanks in large part to the sensitive writing, directing, and performances.
While Alex finds herself alone in a glass-and-mortar-cage, whereabouts unknown, Kara and Maggie, at odds over their respective roles in Alex’s life (i.e., who loves her more, who’s more important to Alex and vice versa), another conflict threatens to derail their relationship: Maggie sees Supergirl’s acts of super-heroism as a hindrance to everyday police work. In the opening scene, Maggie tries to talk two bank robbers into giving up without firing a shot, but Supergirl drops in out of the sky, taking out the bank robbers, injuring both in the process and causing unnecessary property damage. Comic-book superheroes often side step the collateral damage and Supergirl’s no different. The public good, public safety, takes precedence over property damage (the police, not to mention property owners, might object). At dinner, Maggie raises an important issue: Supergirl’s handy when super-powered villains stop by National City to wreak havoc, but maybe not for garden-variety, street-level crime.
Episode 19 never really resolves the issue, so it’s left hanging, maybe to be picked up in a future episode or maybe not. When Kara leaves in a temperamental huff, Alex follows her, only to be kidnapped by Rick, an old junior high comrade of Alex and Kara. Long ago, Rick spotted Kara in superhero mode. It didn’t take much of a leap in logic to connect the Kara he once knew with the Supergirl now protecting National City. And Rick needs Supergirl. His father, Peter Thompson (Gregg Henry), currently resides in National City’s maximum security prison and Rick needs Supergirl to break him out. Kidnapping Alex and putting her life on countdown is all the leverage Rick thinks he needs to get Supergirl – or barring Supergirl, Maggie – to intervene on his father’s behalf (i.e., break him out of prison). It’s a semi-solid plan dependent on Supergirl restraining herself from giving Rick the beatdown of his life. He’s right, of course. Supergirl wouldn’t be Supergirl if she didn’t keep her superpowers in check when faced with human villains (she can go all-out on supervillains).
Eventually, Maggie and Supergirl find Alex, not through coercing or tricking Rick into giving up Alex’s location, but by convincing his father, a man convicted of murder, to do the right thing and help them find Alex. They do, of course, moments before Alex breathes her last. By the end of episode 19, Alex and Maggie’s bond has only strengthened, implying that a march down the wedding aisle might be in the near future. Before we get there – if, in fact, we ever get there – Kara, Alex, Maggie, and the rest of their team, including Mon-El/”Mike” (Chris Wood), will have to contend with Mon-El’s very pissed off, queen of a Daxamite mother, Rhea (Teri Hatcher). Rhea doesn’t drop out of the sky, but she appears suddenly, almost by magic, at Lena Luther’s (Katie McGrath) door, offering a too-good-to-be-true deal, a technology exchange/transfer that sounds an awful like an inter dimensional portal or teleportation device. Lena ultimately sets aside her doubts about Rhea’s true intentions, a decision she’ll no doubt regret in the coming episodes when Rhea’s hidden agenda reveals itself.