Kelly Olsen, recent addition to Supergirl and sister of James Olsen, was introduced about a year ago, during the series’ fourth season, as Alex’s love interest. Despite promises for stories for Kelly, we’ve seen nothing.
Azie Tesfai’s Kelly Olsen has become one of my favorite characters on Supergirl, even though she’s been around for a little less than a year. Though Kelly was introduced as Alex’s love interest, we’ve learned more about her that has made her much more than that, and she’s taken on a role during the season that should allow her to be included in many of the stories the show is telling.
During the first half of Supergirl season 5, fans were promised that Kelly would have stories and be connected to the overarching plot of the season. However, despite her mental connection to Malefic, she was barely in any of the episodes after episode 3, and since “Crisis on Infinite Earths” happened, we’ve been lucky to see one scene or one line from her. Why is an important character with such potential — and so many story opportunities — being wasted?
Kelly and Alex’s relationship
As the only canon (and also gay) couple on Supergirl right now, you’d think that more effort would be put into developing this relationship, especially since they’ve known each other for about a year now and we’ve barely seen anything come out of their relationship. I mean, on Supergirl season 4 we saw more of Kelly, in general, but she was also there for Alex when the adoption almost went through, which was such a pivotal moment in Alex’s life.
Alex’s dream to be a mom, though I don’t think it should be fulfilled any time soon (not a fan, at all, of baby stories), is such an important step in Alex’s life, but as her partner, it’s also big for Kelly. What are her thoughts on it? Why isn’t this relationship being developed on-screen to, inevitably, get them to that point?
Kelly has proven herself to be quite capable and very emotionally together, but she has her moments, and such a big deal was made about her trauma over losing her last love due to violence and how Alex is risking her life every day, just for nothing to come of it. Like Alex, Kelly only gets the beginning of stories, never any follow-through.
There’s also the fact that this entire season has revolved around Kara keeping her secret from Lena, though from our interview with Tesfai back around episode 3 this season, Kelly also isn’t aware of Kara’s secret identity… and she’s in a romantic relationship with Alex, who is keeping this huge part of her life a secret.
What a way to connect Kara and Alex more this season, which isn’t being used or even acknowledged. What a way it would be to connect Lena to Kelly, the one person (besides Sam) who didn’t betray her and knowingly befriend her with a secret. Imagine the potential of this story!
There are so many avenues to take with Alex and Kelly’s relationship, but the simple fact is we aren’t seeing anything. Almost all of their development has come off-screen, and that’s exactly what is happening now because Kelly doesn’t say more than one line per episode (if she’s even in it). Even Alex isn’t getting decent stories recently, and her relationship with Kara no longer feels like it’s being treated as the heart of the show. Supergirl is failing their two canon lesbian characters, and especially their relationship. Just having a lesbian couple on the show doesn’t mean anything if you won’t actually write for them.
And aside from just developing her relationship with Alex, we also need to see Kelly’s relationships with Kara and J’onn — the two people closest to Alex — developed and, I mean, just seeing that they exist, really.
Like I said before, there’s a number of stories that could be done about Kelly learning Kara’s identity, but following this path could also give Kara an interesting change of perspective after talking with Kelly, whose background in mental health could be very helpful with Kara’s understanding of Lena’s situation (and vice versa).
Supergirl briefly showed Kelly and Nia growing closer earlier this season, and then cut scenes of the two in following episodes, so outside of Alex, Kelly isn’t really treated like she exists. There’s potential for Kelly to have a relationship with almost every single person on this show (and all of our characters must absolutely adore her), so why is nothing happening?
As we briefly saw on the Supergirl 100th episode, in the darkest alternate reality, Kelly took up James’ Guardian mantle to use her skills to help save National City (and fight alongside her boo in quite a badass scene). Even though this was an alternate reality, it’s still entirely possible we could see this go down in our reality.
James gave Kelly his shield when he left town (as we saw when Earth-38 was being destroyed during “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” and Kelly definitely has the skills (and can learn from Alex and friends) to help the super friends protect National City. Plus, as I wrote above, Kelly needs to build and the writing needs to develop her relationships with the other super friends. What better way than to make her one of them?
Honestly, what I don’t understand the most is how Kelly has fallen to the wayside when the writers went out of the way to involve her, with her new job, with the season’s villain. Obsidian North is the front for Leviathan, and Kelly plays an instrumental role in their technology (the VR lenses, specifically) working, which is how Leviathan plans to unleash themselves upon the world and how Lena plans to use Project Non Nocere.
Kelly’s skills, particularly as a mental health professional, helped include her in the Malefic story, so now let’s actually see her tied into the Leviathan story, with Alex concerned about her girlfriend being at risk and Kelly determined to help save the day like the hero we already know she is.
There was such potential for Kelly to have a breakout role this season, and to be a huge part of the story (along with Andrea Rojas), but she’s all but disappeared as the season has really dropped the ball on the Leviathan story. It’s so disappointing.
Just having Kelly Olsen around isn’t enough
Yes, Supergirl wins some brownie points for having Kelly Olsen — a black, lesbian woman — on their show. But just having her around isn’t enough (and the same goes for the first transgender superhero on TV). What is representation if the characters aren’t actually being explored, written for, or even developed in the slightest? Alex and Kelly are the only romantic relationship on the show currently, yet instead of focusing on them, the writers have taken time to show Kara and William stare “longingly” at one another for absolutely no reason.
TV shows don’t get credit anymore for just having characters on their shows for representation. While many would have applauded Supergirl just a couple of years ago for even writing Kelly and Nia in the first place, that’s not a thing anymore. We want to see these characters become more than just two-dimensional figures in the background while others (namely straight men) are focused on instead.
As I’ve pointed out above, there are dozens of options for exploring Kelly and including her in the season’s two major arcs. Not doing so isn’t because there are “too many characters” (which is the case with their ridiculous number of series regulars), but is clearly because the writers don’t want to focus on her and write stories for her.
Kelly Olsen has too much potential to be wasted like this.
Supergirl continues Sunday, March 8 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW!