“Supergirl” Episode Review – S03E06 “Midvale”

Superman Homepage writer Christopher Hart reviews episodes from the “Supergirl” TV series, airing on The CW.

Check out his review of the 6th episode of Season 3 in which Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) head home to Midvale for a little R&R. While there, Kara recalls a painful memory of a childhood friend’s death and how that traumatic experience brought the Danvers sisters closer together.

MidvaleOriginally Aired: November 13, 2017
WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Parrish and Jessica Kardos
DIRECTED BY: Rob J. Greenlea

Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl)
Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers)
David Harewood (Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz)

Izabela Vidovic (Young Kara)
Olivia Nikkanen (Young Alex)
Helen Slater (Eliza Danvers)
Erica Durance (Noel Neill)
Ivan Mok (Kenny Li)
David Chisum (Sheriff Collins)
Eliana Jones (Josie)

4Rating – 4 (out of 5): “Someone’s listening right now. Someone who can hear every single word you say. Every time you breathe. Can you feel it? She’s coming.” – Alex Danvers

Flashback episodes can be risky, for any show. When handled poorly, it’s easy for them to come across as self-indulgent, time-wasting filler content. But handled right, they bring wonderful insight into the history and motivations of the characters we love. ‘Midvale’ always looked like it was going to be something a little different and out-of-the-norm is exactly what we got. I’m happy to say that it paid off immensely.

Following Alex’s split from Maggie, Kara takes her sister home to Midvale – the charming, suburban town of their youth. Borrowing J’onn’s classy car (secret spaceship) and trying her best to avoid running over stealthy possums, Kara’s makes it her mission to support and be there for her sister. But Alex – still early on in her grief – immediately sees the irony in that and bites back at Kara’s efforts.

“You don’t get to do that,” she tells Kara. “You don’t get to shut down for 6 months, after Mon-El goes, and now sit here and tell me to talk.” And she’s right – the abyss that Kara dove into was far darker and deeper than anything we’ve seen from Alex’s sorrow, so far. “Are you better?” Alex chides, implying that Kara is far from healed.

I’m really glad they acknowledged that, as the last few episodes haven’t seen Kara exhibit any of that lingering darkness, but it’s very clearly still there. Eliza highlighted this well, pointing out that she’s more worried about Kara than about Alex, because Kara closes herself off. “You don’t seem happy,” Eliza tells her, seeing through her daughter’s brave face.

Then the episode veered into flashback. Izabela Vidovic (Wonder) took on the role of a young Kara (sporting dyed blonde hair and blue contacts, to give her eyes that otherworldly glare) and Olivia Nikkanen (Boardwalk Empire, The Americans) took on the role of young Alex. While Nikkanen is new to the show, Vidovic actually played Kara in ‘Far From the Tree’ too. Both actresses were great, but it was Vidovic who shined for me.

She felt so suited to a young Kara that I even mistook her as Melissa in one small moment (as Kara entered through her bedroom window, I thought for a brief second that it had cut back to the present, before I realized it was still Vidovic). In some ways, she’s even closer to comic book Kara than Melissa, facially, in my opinion. It’s the kind of spot-on casting that makes you wish we could fast forward a decade, to see how Vidovic would feel in the role of an adult Supergirl.

At first, Kara and Alex are typical, bickering siblings, with Alex hating Kara for the impact that she’s had on their family, and Kara going out of her way to annoy Alex. After their mutual friend, Kenny Li (played by Ivan Mok, whose performance here reminded me very much of Hayden Szeto’s turn as Erwin in The Edge of Seventeen), is murdered, the girls brand together to solve the mystery of his death.

While the choice for the killer was rather transparent, the journey to arrive at that conclusion was excellent. I really got a feel for who these girls were in their early years. Kara felt like Kara and Alex felt like Alex. That’s not only strong casting and skilled performances – it’s great writing too.

Similarly as transparent was Erica Durance’s Noel Neill turning out to be J’onn J’onzz. This was welcome, in a way, as it made J’onn come across as a life-long protector and guiding light of Kara’s (think of Jacob in LOST). But I’m wary of retconning of this kind, as it feels like dangerous ground to toy with, if the writers even put one foot wrong on the details.

What a wonderful way to pay tribute to the actress Noel Neill, who first portrayed Lois Lane in the 1948 Superman serial, before returning to the role for the majority of the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV series (among other appearances in the world of Superman).

This week dropped perhaps the biggest reference that this show’s ever given us. Early on in the episode, young Kara mentioned that Superman recently took down Lex Luthor, which is standard name-dropping, but later on we got a daringly direct reference to Smallville. Kara brings up Chloe, along with the ‘wall of weird’, and eventually Chloe helps to decrypt the drive for the girls.

Chloe was brought into DC Comics canon in 2010, but she didn’t interact with Superman in those comic book appearances, which makes this a clear and very direct Smallville nod. That means the writers are effectively implying that Smallville is canon in the world of Supergirl. I’m not quite sure if the continuity completely lines up, to allow for that to be accurate, but if it does then good on the writers. It’s a very bold move.

Kenny’s demise (I’m avoiding re-making that South Park reference here) was the weighty shift needed to bring the Danvers sisters together. But the episode was full of light and levity too. I especially loved: “I just wanna live with Clark and be super,” which was mighty cute. And on the subject of cuteness, Melissa’s face seemed brimming full of freckles this week – something I’ve never noticed before – and they really suit her.

This was another episode where Melissa didn’t have a great deal to do, but at least this time Kara did (as Vidovic). While episodes like ‘Far From the Tree’ made Kara feel like nothing more than a sidekick, this episode was truly and thoroughly about Supergirl. That’s what the more recent episodes of Season 3 have been lacking and I’m so glad they placed Kara front and centre here. Where she deserves to be.

Check out the “Supergirl – Episode Reviews” Contents page.

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November 14, 2017 8:25 pm

I think saying that show is implying Smallville is canon is a bit of a stretch. I think it’s more that any new incarnation of Superman has the liberty to cherry pick from tons of material ranging from comics to tv, cartoons, movies, toys etc. We’ve just reached the distance where anybody can do the same with Smallville. If you want to have Chloe in your Superman’s back story you can do that and it’s no more implying continuity to a previous series than it is when you do an iteration of Lana or Pete. Remember there was a time… Read more »

November 14, 2017 9:25 pm
Reply to  MattComics

Well the news I read about Chloe was from the internet and we all know what kind of twisted bs comes from there. I really like the Chloe reference. But I watched Smallville all 10 years!

November 15, 2017 12:21 pm
Reply to  MattComics

Hi Matt. Fair points and I had no idea about that Allison Mack news until you mentioned it. Unfortunate timing indeed.

November 15, 2017 9:11 pm
Reply to  cohles

But how did the writers, in their defense, know about this? Yes unfortunate timing, but…things happen.

November 14, 2017 9:32 pm

I didn’t think I was going to like this episode. But surprise to me, I really did! The two younger girls that played young Kara and Alex did a great job. Thought maybe the cop angle was a little suspect but all and all I give it two thumbs up. Something different once in a while and done this well is A-OK!
Excellent review and the grade 4 out of 5 stands with me as well.

November 15, 2017 12:22 pm
Reply to  redcape

Hi redcape. I’m really glad that the episode pleasantly surprised you. Thanks, as always, for the kind words on my review.

November 14, 2017 10:34 pm

One thing that did bug me was that they went for a lame “underwear on the outside” crack from one of the kids when Kara was talking about Superman. Ugh.
Not only is that one of the most overplayed, was barely funny the first few times somebody said that about 100 years ago thing but also doesn’t even work because we’ve seen Superman on this show and Tyler’s Superman doesn’t even have the trunks! (which is what they are btw.)

November 15, 2017 12:25 pm
Reply to  MattComics

I too found this jibe overused in modern culture, which is why I decided not to mention it in my review. I thought along the same lines as you (not being keen on it), but after Radio KAL brought up the idea that Tyler’s Superman used to wear them this way, then changed his outfit, that made me like the line a little more. As it’s an insight into (this) Kal’s history and his way of thinking.

November 18, 2017 8:28 pm
Reply to  MattComics

Yeah, that lame moronic “underwear” crack really showed off the writers/producers (show-runners) of “Supergirl” in very bad way. Not only with their lack of respect but, for their total ignorance “both-ways” making them look like fools in process.

Other than that, this episode was pretty good “Who Dunnit?” Nice Node to Noel that was appreciated!!

November 15, 2017 9:18 am

While Chloe being referenced was great it really only means that a version of her exists on this earth and has some friendship with Clark rather than Smallville being canon on Supergirl’s earth. There are just too many discrepancies between the two continuities for them to line up. Smallville had it’s own completely different version of Kara, Cat Grant (either of them) was the same age as Clark and Lois rather than older like she is here, Jimmy was white on Smallville while he is African American here, and Smallville had a version of Green Arrow while Supergirl had never… Read more »

November 15, 2017 12:28 pm
Reply to  dragon22a

Very good point about Smallville’s Kara. I did mention that I wasn’t quite sure if the continuity lined up, for the canon notion to stand its ground. Thanks for pointing out some reasons why it doesn’t. I’d rather the answer is as you said – that the Chloe they were referencing was just a different version of her.

November 15, 2017 9:22 pm

“What a wonderful way to pay tribute to the actress Noel Neill, who first portrayed Lois Lane in the 1948 Superman serial, before returning to the role for the majority of the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV series (among other appearances in the world of Superman).” Indeed. I had to chuckle a little at it, but it felt good. ” ‘Midvale’ always looked like it was going to be something a little different and out-of-the-norm is exactly what we got. I’m happy to say that it paid off immensely.” Two words…SPOT ON. The 4/5 review…well deserved. Showrunners said this would… Read more »

November 18, 2017 8:18 pm

The acting in this episode was really good.