This review contains spoilers.
Though Medusa is technically the beginning of The CW’s four-part superhero event, it is mostly a Supergirl-specific episode until its very end. For some, this might have been disappointing. We only got a tiny little cross-show interaction in the final moments, but, hopefully, for most, the strength of this episode overcame any dashed crossover expections.
Like the rest of Supergirl season two, Medusa was an emotion-driven roller coaster of a ride that expanded this world and these characters in awesomely affecting ways. Pay attention during the crossover, other CW superhero TV shows. This is what it looks like when a show is firing on all narrative cylinders.
The Superman mythos has family legacy at its heart. Both Clark and Kara are ambassadors of a dead world. They were sent to Earth not only to ensure their survival, but to act as forces of good. What Kara has learned over the course of Supergirl seasons one and two is that doing What Is Right isn’t always so simple. There are many definitions of truth, justice, and the American way and most people believe they are walking a moral path. Even Lillian Luthor thinks her planned extermination of all alien refugees is the moral choice.
Lillian is not unlike Kara’s own parents in that way, who made decisions that privileged Kryptonians over others in what Kara perceives to be unnecessary, unjust ways. It was Kara’s father who created the Medusa virus, a biological weapon that will kill any non-Kryptonian alien. (It is unclear why this does not include humans, but whatever.) Krypton planned to unleash it only under the event of an alien attack against their home world, but Cadmus has stolen the formula from the Fortress of Solitude, and manufactured it. Lillian Luthor plans to unleash it on the entire alien population of National City.
Coming to Earth shaped who Kara would become. Perhaps she always would have rebelled against her parents’ definition of what is the just path. We’ll never know. But the person she is now sees a different way forward than the one her parents might have specifically imagined for her. At the most basic level, this is how social evolution works. We learn from our parents, but, hopefully, we do a little better with the time we are given and, hopefully, our own children do just a little but more with their lives than what we did. This is the optimistic way of looking at the world, a Supergirl way of looking at the world.
Of course, just because Kara hopes to do better than her parents doesn’t mean that she hasn’t also learned from them. The most concrete example of this in Medusa comes in Kara’s Earth mother, Eliza, who is in town for Thanksgiving and who helps the D.E.O. cure the Medusa virus basically all on her lonesome. Though we don’t see as much Eliza/Kara interaction, we do get to see Eliza respond to Alex’s coming out. She tells her daughter she loves her no matter what and that everything is going to be okay, proving that some of the most powerful acts are small ones and that, on Supergirl, acceptance is the real superpower we should celebrate. (Though flying would be cool, too.)
Kara’s heroism lies in acceptance, too. While her parents look at non-Kryptonians and see something “other” and Lillian Luthor looks at aliens and sees something “other,” Kara sees the “humanity” in all creatures, even if she sometimes stumbles, as was the case with Mon-El. The bigger welcome surprise is that Lena Luthor, too, seems to have a broad definition of acceptance. (Or, you know, she at least doesn’t want to commit alien genocide.)
While Kara may be attempting to live up to and/or challenge parents who exist now only in hologram form, Lena has the arguably much more difficult task of disappointing her in-the-flesh mother in real-time. It’s clear from Lena and Lillian’s conversations that Lillian has never been a particularly loving parent, but it must still be tempting for Lena on some level to take the opportunity to join her mother’s side and finally gain some measure of approval. Obviously, however, that ship has sailed and Lena is strong enough to do what she thinks is right even if it means continuing to disappoint the only mother she has ever known. Lena might not be a very good Luthor, but she is turning out to be a pretty great human.
Speaking of potential heroes with probable family legacy issues, Mon-El gets in some trouble when he runs back into the alien dive bar following Cyborg Superman’s testing of the Medusa virus. Though Mon-El initially survives the attack (thankfully, long enough for half of an adorable board game night with Kara), his immune system eventually begins to fail to the virus. After all, though he may share some DNA with Kryptonians, he is too alien, by Kara’s father’s definition.
Mon-El’s almost death (as well as some teasing from Eliza) prompts Kara to think about Mon-El in a romantic light. (Because he is so obviously into her.) When a fevered Mon-El calls Kara beautiful and kisses her, she doesn’t pull away and asks him about it after his recovery. Mon-El seems not to remember the kiss, though his knowing, longing look as Kara walks away may suggest otherwise.
I’m team #Karamel, something tells me there is at least some heartbreak in these two crazy kids’ future. The aliens we saw speeding towards Earth are after Mon-El, which probably has something to do with that secret he almost confessed to Kara when they were both held captive by Cadmus. Whatever he did to get those aliens so pissed off at him, he, too, has been changed by his short time on Earth. He ran back into the alien dive bar, didn’t he?
While Kara and Mon-El still have lots to figure out, Alex and Maggie are finally on the same page. After Maggie is shot during Cyborg Superman’s attack on L-Corp and Alex fixes her up, Maggie drops by Alex’s apartment. Near-death experiences tend to simplify things — at least for a little while and Maggie uses that insight for good, not evil. “We should kiss the girls that we want to kiss,” she tells Alex, before making a move on Alex. Aww.
Elsewhere in the episode, J’onn finally confessed to Kara that he has been “poisoned” by M’gann’s blood and is slowly turning into a White Martian. The dude is understandably not happy about transitioning into the form of the race that oppressed and murdered his people, but J’onn must eventually accept his current “mutant horror show” status in order to defeat Cyborg Superman. I would have liked to see J’onn continue to struggle with this difficult change, but Eliza manages to “cure” J’onn’s transition. Despite the quick-fix-style of the resolution, it may have been worth it for Kara’s reaction and for the knowledge that poor J’onn won’t have to face such a complicated challenge.
Now, onto the crossover! While we see Cisco’s vibe portals several times throughout the episode, it is only in the final minutes of Medusa that Barry and Cisco appear in Kara’s apartment to ask for her help. There’s not much to discuss here, other than how adorably happy Kara is to see her BFF Barry. (Ice cream cones for everyone!)
We’re in for much more crossover excitement moving forward, but, for now, I hope Medusa brought in some new Supergirl fans from elsewhere in the CW superhero universe. Welcome, friends. We have sunshine and potstickers.
Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, The Darkest Place, here.