There’s this time between realizing you’re gay and saying you’re gay that we don’t see a lot in media. Usually a character goes straight from “holy shit” to making out with someone in the course of an episode—sometimes in the course of a single scene. And so when they actually announce they’re gay, it can be anti-climatic.

But there’s this time in between the realization and the announcement and that’s when a person feels their most alien. Like Kara Danvers in the Supergirl pilot, they’re stuck in the closet, biting their lip and waiting for just the right moment to present themselves—their real selves—to the world. To say what they are, and make real what’s long been concept.

Supergirl spent the last season and change heavily mining in the queer experience to help us empathize with the last daughter of Krypton. And now the show has come full circle, and it using it to help us empathize with a gay woman—Kara’s sister Alex.

Alex’s experience this episode—in a C storyline just as big and as impactful as the big plots brewing with Kara, Mon-El, James, and Lena—is rare in so much as it isn’t about who she’s going to bang or when she’s going to bang them. Despite her full-scale crush on NCPD detective Maggie Sawyer. Alex’s experience is very much about long-simmering issues in her life; Maggie just happens to be a catalyst.

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The show wisely takes Alex’s complete lack of a personal life and instead of retconning it to hell and back (like the James/Kara romance) it turn it into something. It leans in and digs deep and asks “why.” It’s such a simple writing exercise, but the show expands upon it naturally, and Chyler Leigh does an amazing jon role-playing all that confusion.

This was particularly true in Alex’s last scene of the night, after the bad guys have been stopped and mysteriously murdered and the good guys have all split off to tie up their respective episode arcs. Alex stews most of the episode over her feelings before finally seeking out that woman who made her figure out she’s gay (welcome, Maggie Sawyer, you’re now in the esteemed company of people like Gillian Anderson, Xena, and that one chick from college). The exchange is remarkably tender, Alex’s nerves astonishingly real. As a scene partner, Floriana Lima plays Maggie with endless compassionate understanding.

Of all the people in Alex’s life, Maggie gets it. She doesn’t force Alex to say she’s gay, and crucially Alex never does. She dances around the word like gay people dance around gender whenever someone they’re not out to asks about their dating life. It’s a word on the tip of Alex’s tongue that cannot make it past her lips, not without giving voice to all the baggage the word entails for Alex.

And Maggie understands. She simply smiles and tilts her head and when Alex, thoroughly embarrassed and free, flees the scene, Maggie doesn’t give chase. The Latina lesbian from Nebraska comprehends like no other.

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On the one hand, it is completely surreal that the best coming out scene of the past several years happened on a superhero show on the CW, where queerness is almost always an occasion for lessons or frank titillation. On the other hand, it makes utter sense. Everyone on Supergirl is the Other is some kind of way. They’re aliens in disguise, or the sons and sisters of supervillains, or just a hero yearning for a new identity. Alex was always the outsider simply because she had no claim on Otherness. Now, with a heartbreaking monologue in a seedy alien bar, she’s on the same level as the last daughter of Krypton and son of Mars.

This is superheroism and scifi as allegories done damn right.

Assorted Musings:

  • Kara’s face when she hears Mon-El.
  • Kara’s face when she sees Mon-El.
  • The entire “let’s get Mon-El ready for work” sequence.
  • Kara and potstickers.
  • Frankly the entire episode is a gem that can’t be missed and Melissa Benoist is firing on all comedy cylinders.
  • James is on his way to becoming the Guardian and it is a great move.
  • Yet the complete retconning of his relationship with Kara is still bizarre.
  • Kara and Mon-El—romance or bromance?
  • The Mon-El/Winn romance was sidelined this week. We all wept.
  • The Lena/Kara romance was forefront this week. It will never happen but Lena Luthor would very much like it to.
  • Brenda Strong (the evil Cadmus doctor) is Lena Luthor’s mother. She could be a Luthor, but she and Lena have similar jawlines, so maybe she’s Lena’s birth mom?
  • Last week we learned M’gann is secretly a White Martian. If this is a shock to you please go check out Young Justice. It just got renewed yesterday.