Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

When reviewing Supergirl, I try to use all sorts of intellectual metrics to assess an episode’s strengths and weaknesses. But when it comes down to it, I find that the truly standout Supergirl episodes are simply the ones that make me laugh, make me cry, make me think, make me feel, and make he say “Holy shit!” at least once. “Resist” does all that and then some, perfectly utilizing just about every member of its massive ensemble while offering some of the series’ best action scenes to date. Couple that with the fact that Cat Grant is finally back from her Eat, Pray, Yurt trip of self-discovery, and this easily qualifies as one of Supergirl’s best episodes ever.

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What impressed me most about “Resist” is the way writers Jessica Queller and Derek Simon are able to weave together the somewhat disparate storytelling of season two into something that feels far more unified. Pretty much every major element of the season comes into play in this episode, giving the show a retroactive sense of cohesion. Even the damn alien dive bar gets a moment to shine as it becomes a makeshift DEO headquarters when Daxamite forces infiltrate the real thing.

The episode’s main threat comes from Rhea, who is leading an all-out assault on National City as part of her plan to colonize Earth as New Daxam. And that brings both President Wonder Woman—erm, President Marsdin—and Cat Grant back into town to deal with the attack. Right from the get-go “Resist” ups Supergirl’s action game with some incredibly sleek sequences captured with a confident hand by first-time Supergirl director Millicent Shelton. From the moment Alex leaps backwards off a roof with guns a-blazing, assured her sister will catch her, it’s clear “Resist” isn’t messing around. And the subsequent Air Force One explosion rivals the pilot episode’s airplane rescue for the show’s best aircraft-related sequence.

Action aside, the episode’s storytelling confidence is first on display in how assuredly it deals with the “President Marsdin is an alien” cliffhanger from “Welcome To Earth” and “Distant Sun.” Yes, she’s an alien, but there’s nothing malicious at play, something Cat Grant can vouch for given their long history together. Instead she’s simply an interstellar refugee trying to live her best life on Earth, much like Kara. And much like Kara’s best life happens to involve being a superhero, Marsdin’s involves serving as a particularly fearless president of the United States. Although I don’t know for sure, I suspect this isn’t the resolution Supergirl had in mind when it introduced hints of Marsdin’s alien identity. But I like the choice to have her alien heritage serve as mere texture for her Alien Amnesty Act rather than some grand conspiracy for Kara to deal with. The “aliens as refugees” metaphor has been a big theme of the season, and the reveal of Marsdin’s heritage makes that theme feel especially present tonight.

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In Supergirl’s bid to become a haven for every beloved TV actress over 50, “Resist” brings together not only Lynda Carter, Calista Flockhart, and Teri Hatcher but also a returning Brenda Strong, making the sheer amount of female representation in this episode almost staggering. Although she’s still no fan of Supergirl or the DEO, Lillian Luthor does have a vested interest in getting her daughter back from Rhea’s clutches. That allows Supergirl the chance to use the old superhero chestnut “archenemies are forced to work together for a common goal.” And the episode even lets Kara and Winn be genre savvy as they create a backup plan in case Lillian and Hank Henshaw double-cross them, which, of course, they do. The Cadmus stuff has felt like a bit of a dangling thread recently, and I expected it would remain as such until next season. Instead, Supergirl finds a way to bring things full circle while still leaving a few elements (like Jeremiah Danvers’ location) open-ended for future stories.

“Resist” is both smart and judicious about how it uses its run time so that just about every major character gets a moment to shine, to the point where I was even cheering for an appearance from The Guardian as James swoops in to save Cat and Winn. The Alex/Maggie partnership is on display, as is the Lena/Kara friendship. Although poor J’onn is still in a coma, David Harewood at least gets to chew the scenery as Cyborg Hank Henshaw-man. And in positioning Mon-El as a lovable and loyal damsel in distress, Supergirl continues its recent trend of using Chris Wood effectively without overusing him. Kara gets to rescue her love interest and give him a romantic kiss before going on to save the day alone, just as so many male heroes have done before her.

But the episode’s true star is Cat Grant. From the moment Calista Flockhart casually strolls into an Air Force One conference call and starts delivering slightly confused platitudes about feminism, it feels like Supergirl is home again. Cat’s departure hasn’t been as detrimental to the show as I feared (indeed, to some extent, it allowed Alex to really come into her own as a character), but there’s no denying Flockhart brings something irreplaceable to the series. And Supergirl clearly recognizes that, too, and crams in as many Cat Grant moments as possible.

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There are the quips, of course, and I look forward to reading your favorite ones in the comments. But it’s Cat’s scene on the Dumpster Of Deep Thoughts (filling in for the traditional CatCo Balcony Of Deep Thoughts) that serves as the perfect encapsulation of what she brings to the series. It’s exceedingly rare to find TV shows, let alone superhero ones, that place female mentorship at their center. And Cat gently pushes Supergirl to remember her own superhero ethos: Compassion and love aren’t liabilities; they’re strengths.

That scene alone would’ve been enough to celebrate what makes Cat Grant so great, but the episode also gives her a second moment to shine as she breaks into Rhea’s video feed to urge the people of National City to resist Daxamite subjugation. It calls to mind Kara’s similar plea in last season’s finale as well as the one Cat herself made in “Human For A Day.” But here Supergirl isn’t just providing evergreen platitudes about empowerment and love. Instead it’s specifically issuing a call to arms in the Trump era. In doing so, the series taps into a long history of comic book properties standing up for real-world political values. When Captain America made his comic book debut in the midst of World War II, he did so on a cover that saw him literally punching Hitler in the face. And though it’s a little subtler than that, Supergirl doesn’t mince words as Cat calls for people to resist those who claim they want to “make the world great again.” The speech may be on the nose, but given the on-the-nose villainy of the Trump administration, I’m willing to give it some extra leeway.

I’ve talked before about how long it took me to understand the idea that superheroes are designed to be aspirational figures. And “Resist” puts that idea front and center. Cat pushes both Kara and the people of National City (and by extension the viewers at home) to fight hatred and destruction with empathy and unity. And Kara, in turn, risks her own life to give Rhea one more chance to surrender rather than be responsible for her people’s destruction. Radical compassion has always been both Kara’s greatest strength and her biggest vulnerability, which is something Rhea is more than happy to exploit in a cliffhanger ending.

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After an episode that showed off the strength of the ensemble around her, I’m hoping next week’s finale puts Kara even more front and center. But if “Resist” is the pinnacle of Supergirl’s second season storytelling, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

Stray observations

  • I highlighted the Cat/Kara stuff above, but the episode also makes time for some really lovely Alex/Kara moments. Their “please be faster than me” moment was particularly moving.
  • In other moments of effective plotting: Even the reveal that Rhea has Superman under mind control is subtly hinted at earlier in the episode. I’m so used to the show lazily writing around Superman’s absence that the fact that the DEO couldn’t track him down at the start of the episode didn’t raise the red flags it should’ve.
  • Cat’s immediate recognition of James as The Guardian is great, but I think my favorite Cat moment is when she greets her seeming death with a casual “Okay, well it was nice knowing you” to Winn.
  • I also love that the best alibi Winn can come up with for James and Kara’s absence from CatCo is that they’re both cowards who are hiding. Jeremy Jordan’s comedic sidekick chops are yet another strong season two development on display tonight.

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Next week: It’s Supes vs. Supes in the Supergirl season finale.