Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)
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By putting more of a focus on Kara’s secret identity this season, Supergirl has discovered a really wonderful dynamic in Kara and Lena’s friendship: When Lena and Kara are put into high-stakes situations, Lena feels an innate responsibility to protect what she assumes to be her less capable friend. The show often plays that for comedy—like in the hilarious sequence in which Kara secretly helps Lena land an airplane only to pretend she passed out during the turbulence—but in “Will The Real Miss Tessmacher Please Stand Up?” Supergirl finds the deeper emotional truth of that dynamic too. When Lena and Kara’s investigative trip to Kaznia leads to a situation in which Lena thinks she’s let Kara die in the self-destruction of Lex’s lab, Lena doesn’t just feel sad, she feels personally responsible.

That’s something Kara herself comes to realize over the course of this episode. There’s a fundamental unfairness to keeping her superhero identity from Lena, not just because she’s lying to her best friend, but specifically because she’s making Lena worry about Kara (and herself!) when she doesn’t have to. That’s why Kara comes as close as she’s ever come to telling Lena the truth, in this episode’s most surprising, exhilarating moment. It’s only Lena’s speech about the pain of betrayal and the importance of Kara’s steadfast friendship that makes Kara reconsider at the very last second. As Kara tells James, however, she’s still committed to telling Lena the truth. She just wants to wait until this Lex situation is wrapped up first. (I’m sure that’s going to work out just perfectly!)

It’s great to see Supergirl seriously grapple with the decision to keep Lena in the dark for so long, rather than just handwaving it away one way or the other. It also brings a welcome dose of emotional nuance to a storyline that’s otherwise mostly focused on logistics. While investigating his Kaznian lab, Kara and Lena learn that Lex has been experimenting on DEO alien prisoners in order to harness their powers and transfer them to humans. (That seems to be a big thing in the Luthor family, huh?) They also piece together Red Daughter’s origin story, and uncover Lex’s plan to use her as part of Kaznia’s attack on the U.S.

Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)

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As is so often the case, Kara’s immediate response to learning about Red Daughter is empathy. Rather than hating the woman who’s ruined Supergirl’s reputation, Kara feels pulled to find some commonality between them. After all, if she hadn’t had Clark and the Danvers family to guide her, Kara could’ve easily been raised to be a weapon too. On the other hand, when Kara learns that Red Daughter has been investigating and infiltrating her life, she’s unsettled in a way we’ve never really seen before. Kara can barely keep it together as she and Lena escape. She even doubles back just to destroy the photographic evidence that would almost certainly be destroyed in the self-destruct explosion anyway. It’s a fascinating response, and—given Red Daughter’s own complicated feelings towards Kara—makes me even more excited to watch those two finally square off.

Outside of those compelling character beats and a fun appearance from Eve as a multi-cloned supervillain, there’s not quite enough to the Kaznia storyline to carry the whole episode. So “Will The Real Miss Tessmacher Please Stand Up?” features two other major storylines that jostle for prominence and leave the episode feeling just a little bit disjointed.

While Kara is dealing with a crisis in Kaznia, Alex is dealing with a very different kind of potentially life-changing event. After a year of hearing nothing from her adoption agency, Alex suddenly has 12 hours to decide if she wants to adopt the baby of a teenager who’s just gone into labor. The randomness of the storyline is meant to reflect how randomly and unexpectedly this opportunity falls into Alex’s lap, although that doesn’t entirely wipe away the weirdness of the whole thing. The logistics are definitely questionable, but it doesn’t matter that much because the storyline isn’t really about Alex’s feeling towards motherhood, it’s about building her relationship with Kelly.

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I do wish the episode had more openly acknowledged just how strange it is that Alex’s relatively new acquaintance is the one helping her make such a massive decision, even going so far as to travel with her to Portsmouth to pick up the baby. The good news is that this Azie Tesfai’s best, most comfortable performance in the role yet. She plays better opposite Chyler Leigh than she did Mehcad Brooks, which is good news considering we seem to be headed towards an Alex/Kelly coupling. And while the baby storyline doesn’t quite work, Kelly’s final monologue about her own personal tragedies and how deep wounds become faded scars is a beautifully performed bit of character building. Perhaps in retrospect, the failed-adoption storyline will feel like the start of a new arc for Alex. Right now it mostly just feels like the means to a romantic end.

Photo: Colin Bentley (The CW)

The Ben Lockwood storyline also feels a bit undercooked, despite some compelling moments around the margins. Incensed by his wife’s death, Lockwood leaves her funeral to take command of the DEO and hunt down her extraterrestrial killer—as well as take out his wrath on any other aliens he can find. After discovering Harun-El serum in Lena’s lab, he also makes the semi-impulsive decision to give himself superpowers, which puts yet another superpowered player on this season’s board. Ben’s son George hasn’t been enough of a meaningful presence this season for me to care about his heel-turn against his dad’s villainy, but I did appreciate Brainy taking a moral stance against institutional complacency—which demonstrated a different kind of heroism in action. And J’onn’s surprise mid-battle arrival was a nice way to bring him back to the fold after his rather pointless jaunt to Mars.

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“Will The Real Miss Tessmacher Please Stand Up?” is much too fun, active, and emotionally nuanced to be dismissed as just a table-setting episode. (That plane crash scene alone is a highlight of the season!) But it does set the table for the final two episodes of this very strong season. Season four has been nothing if not unpredictable, and it looks like that streak is going to continue as we head into the home stretch. From Lockwood to Lex to Red Daughter to James’ newfound superpowers to Kara’s commitment to telling Lena the truth, Supergirl has an awful lot of balls up in the air. Now we’ve just got to see if it can actually juggle them all.

Stray observations

  • One more facet of Lex’s plan: The President of the United States is in on it! Plus he’s proactively filled the Oval Office with Kryptonite.
  • I hope we get a Kara/Alex heart-to-heart about everything Alex went through in this episode.
  • Alex’s monologue about Eliza’s parenting skills was very sweet, but seemed to simplify their fraught mother/daughter relationship a bit too much.
  • When Kara’s not around, how do people get back and forth from the Fortress of Solitude so quickly?
  • Love that before she goes to warn the President of the United States about an impending foreign attack on U.S. soil, Kara makes time for a quick catch-up chat with James. Priorities!
  • Which is the better cheesy action hero line: Kara’s “Thank you, next” or Lena’s “Snake on a plan” quip?
  • There were definitely shades of this fantastic scene from Richard Donner’s Superman in Kara’s almost-confession to Lena:

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