Last episode ended with a trapped and desperate Supergirl calling for help in a most unexpected direction. Responding to her call, a very confused Mxyzptlk arrives, seeing Supergirl on one side of him and Nxylgsptinz on the other. Thomas Lennon does a great job as Mxyzptlk, and you can see his confusion and rising panic as he realizes what’s going on. From this uncomfortable spot, a lot of the tension of the episode arises, as well as the title, “Mxy in the middle.”
Mxyzptlk steps up nicely, and saves Supergirl, after revealing a few surprising things. The pair manage to escape, leaving behind a clearly enraged Nxylgsptinz. Most of the team reunites back at the tower, and Supergirl fills everyone in on Nxylgsptinz and their time in the Phantom Zone. Unable to use his powers for fear of being traced, Mxyzptlk gives them more history of Nxylgsptinz in a musical number. No, really. Arriving late to the party, Nia has questions also and manages to hide at least some of her guilt, but only because everyone else is focused on the problem at hand. We get some history of the 5th Dimension, where the Imps hail from, and learn about all sorts of McGuffins that I suspect will be the subject of a big scavenger hunt over what remains of the season, and series.
Once again it’s time for a trademark Balcony Conversation, as J’Onn and Supergirl try and figure out what to do. Brainy and Dreamer join them, and Brainy makes a remark that would be really cold if he knew a bit more about what had happened recently. The team seizes on a course of action, trying to take advantage of something Nxylgsptinz did last episode. Brainy, showing he’s more perceptive emotionally than many would give him credit for, pulls Nia aside and asks what’s wrong. She denies everything at first, then brings him elsewhere and reveals all on an off-screen elevator ride. Nia is worried about how people will react to what she’s done, and ignores some good advice from Brainy.
In a completely different storyline, Lena is in Newfoundland. Having found a few clues about her mother’s early life, she’s in pursuit of whatever details she can dig up. Andrea Rojas, showing she does actually care about her friends, just not really about her employees, helps Lena in her search with phone calls, sent files, and transportation. Lena gets to the town her mother used to live in, receives a warm friendly welcome and then makes the mistake of dropping her mother’s name. The staff at the inn suddenly don’t have a room for her and tell her to get out. Lena is stunned at this sudden shift, used to that reaction to the Luthor name, but not her mother’s.
Ok, time for a pet peeve that I’m sure most people will just roll their eyes about. I’ve never liked the idea that scientists can whip up something that replicates magic. The two are very different things to me, and it seems to lessen the uniqueness of both when they do that, as well as border on lazy writing. They did this last episode, and it’s a big piece of this one as they try to use a magical amulet from a few seasons ago to create a new version of the DEP power-dampening cuffs. Considering no one on the team has magical training, I don’t see how this is supposed to work, my own bias aside. Elsewhere, Nxylgsptinz is on Mitch’s ship, and the ne’er-do-well alien has managed to escape the police and get back there. Nxylgsptinz gives him a lecture and object lesson about betrayal.
Not allowed to use his powers so they can hide from Nxylgsptinz, Mxyzptlk makes a nuisance of himself as the rest of the team tries to get things working. To his credit, Mxyzptlk isn’t trying to be a pest, as he has so often in the past. Now, he really wants to help and just doesn’t have the skills to do so. Mxyzptlk also overhears something kind of mean J’Onn says, which is a big slip for the usually perceptive and cautious Martian Manhunter. Lena continues her quest and goes to a bar. Once again, she gets a really bad reaction to her mother’s name. Pushing a bit this time, she hears something shocking about her mother’s past. At least she’s in the right place to get a drink to deal with this. If they’d serve her, anyway. Lena continues to try and find out what’s going on, and learns some more things that completely surprise her. The writers got a little clever with the last names of some of the people involved, or did a bit of research and got lazy. It could go either way.
Supergirl calls in an energy spike from the Fortress, and the team is almost relieved because they both get a clue where the enemy is and get away from Mxyzptlk’s well-meaning attempts at helping. The team arrives amidst chaos to see a really unusual cause. Even the experienced, arguably jaded, heroes have a moment of “Huh. You don’t see that every day.” Dreamer comes up with a desperate plan that is more born of her desire to atone for bringing Nxylgsptinz to Earth than any real estimation of it working. Brainy tries to talk her out of it, and, when that doesn’t work, preempts her with some tech from his ancestry we rarely see used. Supergirl uses her heat vision in a very creative, and possibly the goofiest possible, way. Lena has another chat with Andrea, and Andrea offers advice and encouragement. This is really an almost completely different character than the one we see obsessing over ratings and clicks with her staff. Lena is persuaded to keep going, and look for another of her mother’s old friends.
Returning to the tower, Brainy pulls Dreamer aside, tells her how rash her idea was, and once again urges the hero to tell Supergirl about what happened with Nxylgsptinz. Dreamer, still dreading repercussions, refuses again, and fibs to Supergirl when asked what they’re talking about. Mxyzptlk has come up with a good idea, which doesn’t work through no fault of his own. Finally, guilty conscience gets to Nia, and she goes to Supergirl to confess what happened. Supergirl is not only compassionate and understanding, but gets an idea. Lena finally meets up with Florence, the other of her mother’s friends, and finds her in a rather unusual setting. Florence isn’t at all what Lena expected, and tells the genius scientist a lot of things she just can’t bring herself to believe. Florence does some practical demonstration, and shows that not only is she telling the truth, but reveals to Lena what happened with her mother. Suffice to say Lena is very much out of her element.
Brainy and Alex finally get their gadget working, and Dreamer and Supergirl reveal their idea. It’s a decent plan, and they set off to do what they need to. Of course, things go badly, and the big secret falls through. Supergirl does her best to reach Nxylgsptinz with her usual understanding, but the Imp isn’t having it and goes on the attack. The heroes all get captured, and Mxyzptlk takes unexpected action, performing heroically himself. The plan sort of works, but the team loses an ally, and there’s a lot of self-recrimination before Supergirl gets her own words quoted back at her, and seems to find them inspiring. She either has a short memory or is kind of egotistical.
As is often the case, there is a series of wrap-up scenes to close out the episode. Lena gets more information about her mother, and then learns something about herself that is hard to believe and would be remarkably convenient given the current plot lines. It’s also arguably a nod to the actress’s prior role. Nxylgsptinz is suspicious of someone who helped her, but gets told what they want and feels more reassured knowing self-interest is involved. As I predicted, a scavenger hunt of sorts is in the works, and both sides make preliminary plans to get started.
As an aside, here’s something I don’t get. There are seven objects in play. Why do both sides go for the same one? If you need all seven, let the bad guy get the first one, and start with number seven and work backwards. If they need the set, and you get some of them, the big evil plan falls apart. Just a hole in a commonly used trope.
What I liked: I’m glad Nia didn’t drag out her guilty secret. I could see that getting to be an obnoxious sub-plot. Mxyzptlk was fun, and surprisingly altruistic, and Thomas Lemon played him well. The big fight was entertaining, and I liked that Brainy used tech he should have and Supergirl’s creative power use.
What I didn’t: A general issue I have with most Arrowverse shows is that every villain has to have a tragic backstory to make you feel sorry for them. Some folks are just bad guys, and this universe as a whole seems to be hesitant to use that approach, barring Arrow and few notable exceptions like Lex Luthor. I wonder where hero in training Kelly was during all this? I’m not sold on Lena’s new history. Is Andrea some kind of multiple personality? She was so remarkably different here than we’ve seen before.
This was, at the very least, a lot better than the last episode. I’ll give this one a solid 3 out of 5. I hope the rest of the season continues to improve and they go out on a high note.