This week, Supergirl glimpsed the opportunity to make an amazingly powerful episode. The writers teed up a story that could define the series, making everything before it seem happy and nostalgic, with everything after turning grim with stakes that really matter. They had the makings of a “Kobol’s Last Gleaming” (the Battlestar Galactica episode in which Galactica-Boomer shoots Adama, betraying humanity). It had the chance to take a bold turn.
But it didn’t.
Before we look at what went wrong, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that the Gal of Steel is more than at home on CW after an admittedly wrong fit on CBS. The show took on a more Arrowverse, Berlanti-esque quality. Exploring Alex’s sexual identity, J’onn’s reconciling with M’gann and James becoming Guardian are all good steps in the show’s overall story. “Exodus” was poised to continue that development in a new, complex way.
Let’s start from the pivotal point in the episode and recap what happened. After being tested by J’onn and failing to say no to her fugitive father, Alex goes rogue with Maggie’s help. She finds Jeremiah and Cadmus, only to discover that her father is involved in a plot to forcibly remove aliens from Earth.
Alex boards the ship, trying to stop it from the inside. Supergirl arrives, and uses all her strength to keep the ship from breaking the atmosphere, at which point it will jump to light speed away from our planet. Supergirl tries with all her effort to pull the ship down and finally manages to save the day. J’onn has a heart to heart with Alex, Jeremiah is still missing, and Kara loses her job for defying her boss earlier in the episode.
Whew. Ok, now let’s take a look at how it could have gone.
After finding Jeremiah, Alex realizes her father is collaborating with an enemy with whom she sees no common ground. She boards the ship in an attempt to delay its departure. As it rises through the atmosphere, Supergirl arrives.
Seeing her sister, Supergirl tries with all her might to pull the ship back down. Back at the DEO, everyone works through ways to prevent the ship from leaving. J’onn, expecting the worst, tells Winn to get ready to track the ship, and use Cadmus data to figure out where it’s going.
As she pulls, the metal bends under Supergirl’s fingers, but doesn’t give. Suddenly, an alarm begins to sound in the panel next to Alex. Supergirl looks frantic, trying even harder, straining everything. But Alex realizes nothing will save her. She looks out the window at her sister, putting her hand up to the window in a silent sign of acceptance. Supergirl bangs the window, screaming. Alex’s goodbye catches in her throat as the ship goes higher, when suddenly – it’s gone.
Supergirl is there above the Cadmus facility alone. Faces sit agape back at the DEO, unable to believe what just happened. Lillian Luthor and Cyborg Superman look back with glee as they escape. Jeremiah Danvers, wracked with guilt, slows down intentionally and is left behind by Cadmus.
DEO agents, already on route, swarm the scene and arrest Danvers. He tries, weakly, to explain to Kara as she lands hard, livid at the betrayal. She turns her back and flies off as Danvers is placed in a DEO vehicle.
Think about the stories this small change would have unleashed. One Danvers returned as another is gone. Jeremiah the imprisoned traitor. Maggie would have to deal with the fact that she helped put Alex in a situation that flung her to the other side of the galaxy, possibly forever. She could join the DEO, ostensibly to carry on her partner’s work, all the while following leads and interrogating people they apprehend to find out where Alex could be, if she is even still alive.
Jeremiah would have to sit in a DEO cell, a constant reminder to J’onn that he couldn’t protect Alex; J’onn a reminder to Jeremiah that he wasn’t a father for nearly two decades. Episodes could be written around the two men clashing, J’onn interrogating, Jeremiah justifying. Their relationship would be even more undone than just Danvers being a DEO agent.
Kara would be even more devastated about losing her job. She’s lost her sister and her identity. It would be a fitting way to move her story forward, since her first success was saving her sister from a falling plane. Her biggest failure now would be not saving her sister from a rising spaceship. Superman could return and the Kryptonians and Mon El could compare notes, trying to figure out where Alex went. Clark could teach her about loss and learning from your mistakes, no matter how terrible. He could teach her that he doesn’t hate Lex, despite the understood betrayal of a former friend.
Kara’s scenes with Jeremiah could be built up to with such intensity. We could see Kara lose control. We could see her need to rebuild trust even with Mon El, since the trust she placed in her adopted father had been so betrayed.
Winn’s story would get more complex. Not only is he trying to find the ship to rescue Alex, but he’s trying to get his new girlfriend back. We could see him doubting himself as he tries to figure out where the ship went. Later in the season we could see him showing interest in field operations, a way for him to get on the rescue team when they eventually find the ship.
James would be the least affected, but would have to pick up the pieces and suffer the consequences. Winn could obsess over the ship, leaving Guardian to go out on his own. He could be a foil for Jeremiah, wondering how he could be involved in a forced mass deportation.
So many possibilities.
“Exodus” was the most exciting episode of Supergirl, filled with the most potential since the premiere. Viewers will have to trust that the writers can build up to something that momentous again, and that when they do, they manage to pull the trigger.
What did you think of “Exodus?” Did the writers miss the mark, or were they just right? Tell us below in the comments!