Synopsis: An alien parasite endangers Kara’s life, and forces her to imagine her life as it would have been if Krypton had survived.
One thing Supergirl has going for it that Superman, in all its iterations, mostly didn’t, is that Kara actually remembers Krypton. She was practically a teenager when she was sent to Earth, where she’s lived almost the same amount of time that she lived on Krypton. She remembers her family, she remembers their culture, and even some of their language. It’s refreshing that it means something to her more than conceptually. Her biggest character struggle has been to find out how, or if, she fits into the human race, on a much more personal and emotional level than Clark Kent.
Which is why, when under the thrall of a Black Mercy, Kara envisions her fantasy life with her family, back on Krypton. Astra and Non, it seems, have created an awful solar storm to upset electricity and communications on Earth as part of the next phase of their mysterious plan to do mysterious things. In order to keep Kara from interfering, but respecting Astra’s wishes not to kill her, Non sent a creepy alien plant creature to trap her inside her own mind by showing her everything she wants most.
While the DEO works frantically to save her, Winn’s lies to Cat about where Kara is are far from convincing, and she threatens to fire Kara if she’s not at work pronto. Knowing how symbolically important the job is to Kara, Alex convinces Hank to shape shift into Kara and hold down the fort. It’s ridiculous, objectively – Hank runs the DEO and sh*t is at DEFCON 5 – there’s no way he’d be off impersonating an assistant. But we’re all so glad he did because, as expected, Cat eats him alive. And narratively, it’s really great that hard-edged Hank gets a glimpse of Kara’s “human” life.
Unlike most of the fantasy “what if” hallucinations that shows often do, Kara’s dream world functions like and actual dream. Initially, she wakes up wondering how she could possibly be back on Krypton or how her family could possibly be there. She even says that Astra and Non must be behind this and she needs to get home. But, the longer she stays, the fewer details she remembers.
Just like after waking from a dream, she keeps forgetting what she was feeling so urgent about, and gradually becomes convinced her life on Earth was never real. Usually in this trope, the hero is contentedly living in the constructed world, and slowly realizes that something is not right. The reverse, I’ve decided, is actually more compelling.
In a twist that comes surprisingly late in the episode, the DEO gets their newest prisoner Max Lord to rig a virtual reality helmet that will allow Alex to insert herself into Kara’s fantasy, in the hopes of convincing her to reject it and wake up. After a heart-wrenching sequence where Alex literally tries to fight her way across a room to get to Kara, it’s the word “Supergirl” that finally snaps her out of it.
Once again turning an old trope upside-down, when Kara wakes up, she is not confused, and her default reaction is not relief or pleasure at seeing her loved ones. Instead, she stands up shakily without saying a word, and turns around with a dark look on her face that’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before. She asks who did this to her, and when Alex tells her it was Non, and Winn and Max find out where he is, Kara wrecks him, furious that he made her lose her family all over again, and that he’s trying to take her new world away from her too.
In the fight, Alex kills Astra with a KRYPTONITE SWORD (!!??), but Hank claims it was him, so that Kara doesn’t have to know her sister killer her aunt.
In the end, Alex tries to confess but can’t bring herself to do it, and Winn tells Kara, in his way, that he’s okay with being her best friend. Everyone eats pot stickers and drinks whiskey and makes fun of Kara because she can’t get drunk and, appropriately, there is a Wizard of Oz reference.
Special shout-out to Chyler Leigh who was in top form this week. Her inability to cope with Kara’s condition, and her reaction to seeing Kara’s hallucination were raw, complex, and utterly convincing.