Does it ever feel like your TV shows are crossing over? While Batwoman leaves Alice locked up in Arkham quoting Alice in Wonderland, Supergirl‘s episode this week is titled ‘Alex in Wonderland.’ And while this episode deals with being trapped in a simulation, the second episode of Westworld‘s third season is all about one of its main characters being trapped inside a simulation. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 5, Episode 16, “Alex in Wonderland.”
“Alex in Wonderland”
Supergirl ended last week with Alex Danvers finding out that her father, Jeremiah, has passed away. Meanwhile, the man she apprehended was kidnapped by Leviathan and brought to a creepy holding center they’ve trapped in VR. This week zeroes in on those ideas and holds onto them for a surprisingly focused episode.
Alex, drowning in grief, lashes out at her sister, her girlfriend, and her best friend, and then retreats into her apartment to drink. Eventually, she ends up popping in the Obsidian VR lenses that have been at the center of this season’s stories. Once in, Alex decides to spend some time escaping from reality by… becoming Supergirl. Okay, that’s a little weird considering she’s your sister, but let’s go with it.
Alex appears in a cool black-and-blue variant of the Supergirl outfit with long black hair and goes about flying around National City. Quickly though, things go sideways. She ends up making friends with another VR adventurer and runs into her a few minutes later. By this time, her new friend has forgotten that she’s in virtual reality. Shortly after, Alex starts to forget, too.
Things get weirder by the minute as Alex escapes from the VR world… only to still be in her Supergirl garb.
In the real world, Kelly is still running down the bug from last week that saw people trapped in VR, and she realizes that she hasn’t heard from Alex in a long time. She goes into VR to pull Alex out, but the VR is now actively working to keep Alex inside the illusion, with creepy VR versions of her friends chasing her down like terminators, reminding her that they, the scary people, are her friends.
Meanwhile, male model and journalist William Dey is looking into a list of people who went into VR and haven’t been heard from in a while. His NSA contact leads him to the facility where Leviathan is holding its VR-locked victims.
As I’ve said a bunch of times this year, Supergirl has struggled to find a consistent, steady story. This week, though, all the different character arcs tie together. The show is trying to look at themes of connection and disconnection and healthy expressions of emotion. Obsidian VR is a pretty on-the-nose stand-in for social media and real-world VR, but it works well here. Alex’s grief pushes her to disconnect herself, and she quickly finds herself lost in a fantasy that’s much more appealing than reality. It’s only because she has close friends who care about her that she ends up back in the real world and not hanging in Leviathan’s red-eye gallery. Meanwhile, the story is now pulling in William, Kelly, and Andrea. The whole show feels more streamlined–like everyone is heading toward the same conclusion.
The episode is disappointingly Kara-lite, but it’s also fun to see Alex get so much screen time. Chyler Leigh is a core part of the cast and it’s good to see her steal the show for a little bit.
I’m still waiting for Supergirl season 5 to kick into high gear, but it at least feels like it’s on a track toward that at this point.