This will be shocking for some, but you can have an engaging, thoughtful, and compelling villainess without a third-act heel turn that gives the audience whiplash. So while Game of Thrones horrified some (in a good way) and appalled others (in a bad way), Supergirl—the other genre show screening on Sunday nights—was just damn fun.
As with Game of Thrones, this was the penultimate episode of Supergirl’s season, which meant everything came to a head. But because this is Supergirl—an unapologetically campy show that means to put a big grin on your face with the audacity of its silliness—the episode was full of wild accents, incredible wigs, and at least one unicorn.
Last week Kara and Lena learned that Lex Luthor planned to invade America with a clone of Supergirl and the entire armed forces of Kasnia (a fictional former nation of the USSR that cloned Supergirl has been living in for months). Kara, making a poor choice, went directly to President Bruce Boxleitner with what she learned “as a journalist” and was promptly renditioned right out of the White House. Hopefully, Kara has now learned that the duty of reporters is to report the truth and not try to gain access from press-shy presidents who may or may not be in cahoots with supervillains.
Kara breaks out of her renditioning pretty easy (because Supergirl), and the whole fight, where she hides her identity while also taking out Secret Service agents, is precisely what you want from a Super-show. As is Clone Kara showing up in a fabulous black wig and taking Kara out with Kryptonite. Then they talk about their ideals and…Clone Kara calls Kara out for being to indoctrinated by capitalism and American individualism.
Kara has to defend herself, ignoring the fact that both Supergirl and Superman are very much enduring symbols of American individualism (for better or worse) to focus on the fact that they’re also, technically, not aligned with any one government and instead are meant to stand for more universal ideas like hope.
While the show has certainly ignored that point whenever it needs a DEO-centric storyline, it almost rings true here, and the speeches and pontificating give Kara the time she needs to overcome Kryptonite poisoning and escape.
But while all that is going down we have three — three! — other plotlines.
Alex is sleeping on her couch with definitely not future girlfriend Kelly Olsen and dreaming of a life where Kara has superpowers (you might recall, she had her memories of Kara’s Kryptonian origins wiped earlier this season). Dreamer, Brainy, and J’onn are trying to save all the aliens that American soldiers have rounded up and are forcibly removing from the country while Brainy wrestles with telling Dreamer he loves her.
Meanwhile Lena, truly the most extra person on a show where people don costumes to fight the illegal rendition of immigrants, has purchased the for-profit prison where her mother is held so she can have her mother relocated to a lab, where she sticks a truth serum alien on her to find out 1) what happened to her middle school boyfriend, 2) what is Lex up to, and 3) can a Luthor mum truly love her daughter.
Don’t worry, we quickly get answers to all three questions, but we still don’t know why Lex appears to be the exact same age as his mother.
The episode blazes through all the plotlines, but less in that “this is moving too fast slow down” kind of way and more in that “oh man it’s almost the season finale and we have to crank the tension up a thousand times” kind of way that some of the best and silliest CW/WB shows have done in the past. Remember your favourite “so much is happening” episodes of The Vampire Diaries or Buffy or Smallville? This episode of Supergirl is like that.
The episode did manage to make time for a little heart, anchored by two characters who have kind of taken a back seat this season, but are played by such capable actors it doesn’t matter. Jesse Rath is very good as Brainiac-5, so good you can almost forgive the unforgivable makeup job the show gives him when he’s in full alien mode. When he’s captured he’s got that big stiff wig and flat foundation and has to act his little heart out, fighting between the emotions Brainy has developed over the years as a Legion hero, and friend to Supergirl, and the callous creature most Brainiacs tend to be. When the callous villain side of Brainiac wins out Rath modulates his voice wonderfully and makes an already robotic character sound somehow more so.
Chyler Leigh is the other actor doing a big heavy lift to get a languishing storyline over the finish line and make it feel true. And Leigh does it perfectly, because she’s very good at taking Alex from hardass too “my sister is part of my heart and my heart is out there being stalked by a supervillain and that is scary, you guys.”
Is it silly that Alex would see Clone Supergirl is stalking her sister and not immediately realise it is because her sister is Supergirl? Yes. Is it silly she’d learn Clone Supergirl has kidnapped her mother and not immediately realise it is because her sister is actually Supergirl? YES. Did I find myself being taken out of the moment? Nope!
The show might not have done a whole lot with the fact that Alex doesn’t know Kara’s secret arc, but when it’s time to bring it to a close, Leigh does so with aplomb. After she sees Clone Supergirl beat Supergirl to death, she realises that Supergirl and her sister are the exact same person, and then decides that because Supergirl absorbs energy from the sun she can take that energy from anything else that absorbs energy from the sun — including plants. So, instead of trying to revive her dead sister with CPR as your or I might, she just...shoves some grass in Kara’s hand and tells her to live.
It’s fucking stupid.
And by golly, when the energy of the surrounding forest forms into beams of light drawn to Kara it was a delight. A stupid, ridiculous, wonderful delight. Should I (again) have been taken out of the moment by the silliness? Probably! Was I? Oh, heavens no. Supergirl was a princess! Being woken up by photosynthesis’s kiss! Why would I ever condemn that?
In fact, the only moment of silliness that didn’t quite ring true was one of the final ones, when President Bruce Boxleitner declares the Kasnian invasion over and that Lex Luthor is now an American hero who has killed Clone Supergirl off-screen. Really? An entire season of Clone Supergirl and she dies off screen?! One can only hope that ain’t so because the wig-wearing villainess has hardly worn out her welcome.
I’ve written over a 1,000 words about this episode and there is still so much to discuss.
Clone Kara’s diary full of Alex fan art!
James briefly going blind!
Brainy betraying his friends so he can save all the aliens!
The return of Lex’s super suit!
The return of young Alex and Kara who I still hope get a prequel spin-off!