Welcome back to Supergirl
and welcome back to a brand new Supergirl
status quo! Rather than pick up on the Ben Lockwood arrest storyline from
the midseason finale, “Suspicious Minds” takes some unexpected swerves as it explores Kara’s newfound separation from the DEO. It’s a pretty weird outing,
one that starts as an engaging alien
mystery palate cleanser, only to pivot to something else entirely. For most of its runtime, “Suspicious Minds” centers on the
mystery of the Morai—an invisible alien race with a dark past. Only it turns out the Morai are mostly just there to fill for time while the episode builds to its real climax: The reveal that Alex is
going to have to mind wipe her knowledge of Kara’s Kryptonian heritage in order to protect her sister’s secret identity from the DEO.
While an unexpected pivot can sometimes be a really compelling storytelling choice, here it just feels like a random one. One of the biggest problems is that the Morai are incredibly compelling on their own. A powerful alien race with the ability to turn invisible, they were captured by the U.S. government as children and forced to become assassins. It’s dark stuff, and Colonel Haley—who worked on the initial phase of the project—even notes that the government specifically used trauma as a way to force the Morai to obey. Once the government decided to cut ties with aliens, however, the Morai were deemed collateral damage and set to be executed. Only they managed to break free and set out on a vengeance mission against the government agents who first enslaved them.
It’s an incredibly grim story, one with
a huge amount of potential for the show to dig into the horrors of the government’s
treatment of the Morai and to tie that into this season’s larger exploration of alien oppression. (The Morai seem to have been enslaved for decades, right?) In the end, however, they’re mostly just there to provide a few Predator-inspired action beats. Director
Rachel Talalay succeeds at creating some compelling action
sequences despite clear budget limitations. But it’s strange that this episode introduces
the Morai as this big ethical dilemma and then just loses interest in them. Despite a pretty shocking moment where one of the creatures
kills itself rather than be taken into custody, the episode doesn’t even
really resolve their storyline in any kind of meaningful way. Most of them seem to get killed, except for the one
Kara manages to imprison when she swoops into the DEO to save the day. Given
the way Haley operates, however, I can’t imagine that Morai is long for this
Meanwhile, the “Haley tries to learn
Supergirl’s secret identity” subplot unfolds along its own strangely convoluted
path. Though she apparently has a truth-seeking/mind-reading alien
creature at her disposal, for some reason Haley doesn’t call upon that resource right away.
Instead she goes through normal interrogations, successfully discovers
Supergirl’s identity, has her mind wiped by J’onn, and then pulls out the alien deus ex machina. It’s an
unnecessarily messy arc the show could’ve easily streamlined by having the
truth-seeker be a looming threat from the beginning. That also would’ve given
the episode a chance to build up to all the mind wiping business, rather than just
tossing it all in at the end.
What elevates “Suspicious
Minds” is the fun stuff that exists around its margins, from Kara and Lena
taking a spin class together to Brainy’s attempts to find Kara a “Girl Friday”
now that she’s operating on her own. By far the episode’s best reveal is that J’onn is
officially starting a new career as a private investigator, which is a fantastic
addition to the season. It was really refreshing to see Kara, J’onn, and Alex all working
together to solve a problem again, and it occurred to me during their investigation into the Morai that I
really wouldn’t mind the show dropping the DEO altogether and just having the
three of them work as superhero freelancers. Alas, that’s not the direction the season chooses to go. (At least not yet.)
Still, if there’s an upside to this
episode’s weird final swerve, it’s that it allows Melissa Benoist to turn in an
absolutely heartwrenching performance as Kara breaks down at the thought of cutting Alex out of such a huge part of her life. The preview for next week’s episode
seems to imply that things pretty quickly go wrong for the mind-wiped Alex, which isn’t really all that surprising. Kara’s been such a huge part of Alex’s life since she was kid that the idea that Alex could wipe away such major memories (while somehow
still remembering that Kara is her sister?) seems incredibly dubious. Alex
argues that she has to wipe her memories because that’s the
only way she can keep her job at the DEO and keep fighting to make it a better
place. But given how much of Alex’s identity and morality has
been shaped by her relationship with Kara and Kara’s abilities, is there even a guarantee that
she’ll still be a good person without half her memories?
That’s for the next
episode to parse, however, and, on principle, I’m excited about any storyline
that puts the Danvers sisters’ relationship front and center again. It seems like there’s a pretty high margin of error for this memory loss arc, but hopefully after clearing away the hiatus cobwebs, Supergirl will find a little more structural confidence next week.
“Red Daughter” (a.k.a. Soviet Supergirl) has upped her
training sessions and abilities. Her handlers also reference “our friend” and his
ability to control her. That has to be Lex Luthor, right?
- Brainy and Nia go on an adorably failed date/meeting during which he encourages her to embrace her role as a superhero. He even has codename and costume ideas!
- Also, Brainy opens up about having been on a dark path before
being arrested and given the opportunity to change and become a hero. I think
that’s all new information, right?
- James and Lena patch up their relationhip after he apologizes for criticizing
her behind-the-scenes manipulations, and she opens up to him about her attempts to give powers to humans. Let the countdown to James getting superpowers begin!
- That five agents at the DEO know Supergirl’s secret identity feels like a pretty massive thing for the show to just offhandedly reveal.
- I’d previously considered Haley to be a morally grey
character, but between cruelly justifying the Morai enslavement and planning to coerce
Kara into DEO servitude, this episode seems to move her into full-on villain territory.