Supergirl -- “Hope for Tomorrow” -- Image Number: SPG615fg_0047r -- Pictured: Melissa Benoist as Supergirl -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What’s harder: being mom to a lonely, frustrated young alien, or stopping nuclear war? It’s kind of a toss-up, apparently. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 15, “Hope for Tomorrow.”

“Hope for Tomorrow”

NYXLY KIDNAPS WILLIAM — Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) continues to fight Nyxly (Peta Sergeant) for the remaining totems but after Nyxly kidnaps William (Staz Nair), Supergirl realizes she needs to take a more proactive stance to keep National City safe. Meanwhile, Alex (Chyler Leigh) faces the biggest challenge of her life.

Like a multi-part fetch quest in a video game, the seven totems are giving Supergirl structure, and the show has been solid in the back half of its final season. Characters have found stuff to do and new ways to grow that seem to fit better and better. Despite that, a lot of this week’s episode feels like a dip compared to some of Supergirl’s recent adventures.

The focus this week is split between Supergirl’s race against Nyxly for the remaining totems and Alex’s stumbling start at motherhood. The latter story resonates a lot more than the former, and that’s at least in part because the former doesn’t really resonate in any meaningful way.

Each of the early CW DC shows had its own enemy type. Oliver’s enemies were humans linked to his past. Barry’s villains are metahumans powered by dark matter. Black Lightning’s enemies were usually linked to the Greenlight drug in some way. The Legends are just doing whatever they want as usual. For Supergirl, enemy and ally alike are, without fail, aliens. The Superfriends are more than half extra-terrestrial in origin, and most of the seasonal arcs have related to alien rights, aliens, and things like that.

Alex Danvers, Mother

That holds true in Alex’s story, too. She started as someone defending the earth from extra-terrestrial threats, but through working with J’onn and Kara, has become someone who works to protect the many aliens living on Earth. Her partner, Kelly Olsen, acts as a social worker focusing on non-human children. Their newest storyline brings all of that together. The couple has decided to adopt Esme, a young orphan girl who found herself once again homeless when her human parents were frightened of her powers. Alex has been pursuing motherhood for a few seasons now–it led to her breakup with Maggie previously.

So now, as we watch Alex struggle with her first day as a mom, it feels like a huge moment for the character, something she’s spent years earning. Watching her stumble is heartbreaking, and seeing her friends support her is equally heartwarming. It’s not a very exciting storyline, and it’s not the kind of thing I usually want to see on a superhero show. I’m here for capes and jump kicks. But it’s hard not to enjoy it when it feels like the character and writers have worked so hard to make the storyline work.

Hard work rewarded

It also is an important step toward a happy ending for this character. Some of the most frustrating tropes in modern television revolve around the many ways gay characters are denied happiness by the writers and stories. The ‘bury your gays’ trope is the best-known one, in which a gay main character or their partner ends up sacrificing themselves or being killed to move the other one’s story forward. That carries through to things like successful relationships and parenthood.

Supergirl seems to be resisting that for Alex. Without rushing into any of it, the show has given Alex a rewarding, positive career, a relationship that feels genuine, and now a chance at motherhood. It’s not impossible that the show could take that away from her in the last batch of episodes, but that would come from far beyond left field.

MacGuffin Chase

Meanwhile, Supergirl’s quest this week feels fairly rote. There’s a totem. Nyxly wants it, Supergirl wants to stop her. Nyxly thinks she’s the good guy. There’s a challenge that forces Supergirl to rethink a preconceived notion.

This week, as she and Nyxly battle for the Hope totem, Supergirl has to find a way to inspire hope in the world. Out of nowhere, a war between Kaznia and Corto Maltese erupts. Initially, I thought that these two places couldn’t be further apart from each other–one is in Eastern Europe, the other off the coast of South America.

However, this seems to be a callback to two Supermen: The one seen in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns book, and the one from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. In Dark Knight Returns, Superman tried to prevent nuclear war between Corto Maltese and the Soviet Union. He’s successful in diverting the missiles, but they still detonate and cause chaos. In The Quest for Peace, there’s that iconic shot of Superman hauling all the world’s nukes into the sun.

Supergirl is initially reticent to interfere in world events, but realizes eventually that Nyxly is actively interfering in world events by filling people with supercharged emotions. She, Brainy, and J’onn work to stop and gather up the two nations’ nukes before sending them into the sun.

The referential nature of the storyline is fun, but I ultimately felt myself shrugging my shoulders. Nyxly felt petty, and Supergirl a little lost. It was pretty rote compared to the more effective motherhood story Alex was working through at the same time.

Ultimately, the episode was fine, but not quite what I’d hope for from the show’s 121st episode of 126. We’re close to the end, and this is no time for ‘acceptable.’