Supergirl – Season 3 Episode 10
“Legion of Super-Heroes”
Supergirl returns after the winter hiatus to deal with the fallout of Kara’s brutal beating at the hands of Reign and introduce a team of superheroes.
The previous episode ended with Kara in bad shape. This episode reveals that her injuries were so extensive that she is now in a coma. Her physical well being is quickly established as not being a problem thanks to 31st century technology so the focus is on her mental and emotional health. Kara’s contribution to the episode takes the form of a revelatory inward journey symbolised by her being stuck inside her own mind for the majority of it. It’s nothing new for genre -and even non genre- media but it can be an effective way to deal with issues that characters are having.
Helping her on her journey is the Legion’s Brainiac-5 (Jesse Rath) -also known affectionately as Brainy by his team-mates- who enters Kara’s mind and tries to help her wake up. I like this character even though he can be a bit full on at times. Jesse Rath is playing him much like many eccentric geniuses you might have seen elsewhere and it really works for this character. The make-up makes him look not unlike an Andorian from Star Trek -seen on the most recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery– but it all works to make the character stand out. There’s a distinct alien quality to him and the crush he seems to have on Kara is quite endearing to watch.
Naturally this plot comes with a great deal of soul searching that uses Alex’s advice to Kara in the previous episode as a jumping on point. Alex told Kara to embrace the cold Kryptonian Warrior rather than her humanity because she would need that detachment to be a match for Reign. Obviously that didn’t work as intended which leads to her current situation. In order to escape her self imposed mental prison she has to reclaim her humanity and realise that she is most effective when the different aspects to her personality find some form of balance. She tries to force her way back into the waking world using brute force in a really effective scene involving heat vision and it doesn’t work so the answer comes from something far more abstract.
Brainy sees the situation as being more simple than it is which makes sense considering his artificial background. All she has to do is find out what the exit is and go through it but for Kara it’s far more difficult than that. She is being held prisoner by herself and no amount of brute force will solve that. Moments of compassion and humanity crop up throughout the episode such as Kara telling Brainy about a stray Cat she befriended when coming to Earth. This Cat was important to her because she could relate to it being a stray herself. It also represented the fragility of Earth that she was unprepared for and taught her how to control her strength so that she could pet the Cat that she named Streaky for the DC Comics reference spotters. She points out that Streaky taught her how to be Human as she had to practice extensively before feeling confident in touching such a fragile creature. Her humanity and compassion would only grow from there and came to define her just as much as her Kryptonian powers if not more.
The escape itself comes from a throwaway line by Brainy where he points out that Supergirl had a lot of cool stuff prompting Kara to correct him and point out that everything her mind has conjured belongs to Kara Danvers. She keeps the two sides of herself separate in her mind because their function in her life are different and she appreciates that they can’t easily overlap or be ignored. That’s basically the point of the lesson she learns in this episode and this echoes the realisation had by Alex where she understands that her advice was wrong.
It’s very deep and interesting psychological stuff that takes full advantage of Kara’s backstory which I find to be more fascinating than Clark Kent’s. Clark is an orphan who has no memory of actually living on Krypton so his sense of loss will be far less than Kara who remembers the planet, her family, her friends and so much more. Kara is more of a child of two worlds than Clark is which means those aspects of her will forever be in conflict. Finding that balance and learning more about herself in the process keeps coming up because it is a continuing journey Kara is on.
The simplicity of the escape sequence was excellent. Contrasting the brute force attempt with simply finding a key, unlocking the door and walking through it was a really nice touch and a clear symbol of Kara accepting that her abilities will only take her so far as her intelligence is just as powerful an asset. Ultimately it’s her courage and intelligence that lets her get the best of Reign in this episode rather than her powers so it’s clear that trying to match her in strength and ability isn’t the answer to defeating her.
Outside of the coma the Reign problem continues to escalate. We see her in her own Fortress being encouraged to dispense justice in a very specific way. I like that she has a mission rather randomly lashing out with her powers just for the sake of senseless destruction. I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that she is very much a dark mirror for Kara in both setup and motivation so it’s great to see that continued. There is also a morality based subtext to her motivations since she is going after those who arguably deserve punishment for what they’ve done. The severity of that punishment and who delivers it is entirely debatable but pretty much everyone she goes after has committed a crime of some sort. This doesn’t include those who are caught in the crossfire who she clearly doesn’t care about but extremists often believe that the ends justify the means and Reign definitely qualifies as an extremist.
The religious foundation to the character also greatly interests me as it gives Reign a defined sense of identity as well as a motivation that can -and does- include others in her cause. She believes that she is the destroyer of Kryptonian folklore so is fully committed to the idea that what she’s doing is necessary. It’s hard to fight against that level of commitment and that’s what makes her such a huge threat.
Thomas Coville makes his return and becomes one of her disciples which suggests that he has shifted his worship of Supergirl onto Reign though it’s unclear why that is or what he stands to get out of it. Though she does save his life which was enough for him to worship Supergirl so it might be as simple as that. Whatever the motivation is I really like the idea of Reign having supporters and the mention of there being others like her is really intriguing. I’m unsure whether that means there are other super powered beings that can ally themselves with her or whether the similarities are more in terms of belief. It could also be a combination of both so it’s interesting to see what way this will go. I’m really pleased that the religious story introduced in “The Faithful” wasn’t just a one off and appears to be a major theme of the season.
This episode doesn’t cover Reign’s humanity in great detail but it is referenced as something that will be picked up at a later date. Sam is shown to be hunting down Ruby with a Nerf Gun which reminds the audience of their strong mother/daughter bond while keeping the personal stakes associated with Sam’s transformation into Reign in the mix. The scene is played ambiguously at first with Ruby looking slightly distressed as Sam wanders through the house looking for her before revealing that it’s just a game and that they’re both having fun. It’s clear that Sam’s relationship with Ruby will become important but it’s unclear at this time how that will play out.
Good use is made of the DEO characters for the most part except from Winn who continues to languish in the background. J’Onn and Alex really rise to the challenge and work tirelessly to make sure that Reign doesn’t cause any more destruction. They are clearly no match for her but the attempt says a lot about them as characters as well as the variety of their plans. Like Kara they try a brute force approach which fails though results in a really impressive action sequences. The fact that Alex and J’Onn are no match for Reign is always evident and the tension created by that really carries the sequence. She’s also shown to be not completely indestructible as the weapons used against her are somewhat effective.
One burning question I had from this episode is around Superman’s lack of involvement. It’s well established that he respects Kara’s need to handle problems in National City on her own and gives it a wide berth as a result. This situation is very different though as a Kryptonian killing machine is on the loose and Kara is completely out of action. It should at least be mentioned why Superman is nowhere to be found as bringing him in to help with this problem should have been considered. I’m all for the characters dealing with a situation themselves but the show has built up enough good faith to get away with a Superman guest appearance at this point.
The title of the episode is what many fans will be looking for. Mon’El’s reappearance has teased the Legion of Super-Heroes as something that the show would later introduce. Later is now and we get the first appearance of a small Legion of Super-Heroes team. The episode builds to this nicely by having Mon’El and Imra appear reluctant to get involved because they have a mission that they need to survive in order to accomplish and they have a vested interest in not changing the timeline.
Steps are taken to address the potential for future knowledge that exists by virtue of these characters being around. The explanation that an extinction level event destroyed most of Human culture and wiped out a lot of historical records does seem like something of a cop out though it’s a necessary one that neatly answers the problem of Mon’El and Imra knowing the future. They know that Reign is dealt with at least to some degree but don’t really know much else beyond that which means that their actions don’t necessarily alter the future as there is no way of knowing whether they were part of the events in the first place. Good or bad it puts the issue to bed and allows stories to be told featuring those characters.
The Legion as established are a bit of a mixed bag mainly because there are only three of them and the costumes they wear are less than impressive. There’s more room for this to develop over time along with bringing in 4 members.
Despite the small membership and the underwhelming costumes the introduction of the Legion was excellent. Having them appear in a well executed action sequence with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” as their entrance music is sure to be a fan favourite moment and the battle itself was a good showcase for Imra’s powers as well as the natural teamwork the team display. I look forward to seeing more and certainly number this among the better introductions.
All in all it was quite a downbeat episode until the hopeful finish but moments of levity were sprinkled throughout thanks to the budding James/Lena romance. I’m still not especially engaged by it but Katie McGrath and Mehcad Brooks have decent chemistry and the idea of Lena assuming that James would be reluctant to pursue a relationship with her because she happens to be a Luthor is reasonable enough. The funniest scene in the episode was when J’Onn had to pose as Kara and pretend to be ill while dispensing much needed advice to Lena. It’s a great moment with superb acting from Melissa Benoist who successfully channels David Harewood being awkward. Thankfully these lighter moments don’t create an imbalance with the more serious tone elsewhere in the episode.
An excellent return for Supergirl with some fascinating soul searching and a crowd pleasing introduction for the Legion of Super-Heroes. Brainiac-5 is a good character so far though can be a bit full on in places. His back and forth with Kara as he helps her find a way to wake up was entertaining to watch and it was great to see Kara talk about the beginnings of her humanity thanks to Streaky the Cat. It all amounts to a great lesson for Kara and excellent characterisation overall. The DEO characters working to stop Reign was well played as well and managed to keep Reign as a significant threat who also isn’t invincible.
Reign having a purpose and continuing to be a dark mirror for Supergirl is working really well. The religious foundation to her motivations is interesting as well and there is a lot of potential for these elements to grow and develop. There is even a reminder of Sam’s connection to Ruby as something to be built on later. The introduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes was mixed as there are very few members so far and the costumes are less than interesting but the action sequence that punctuated their leap into action and the general execution of the sequence was excellent. I personally don’t find the Lena/James romance to be all that interesting but these scenes did pepper some levity throughout the episode and allows a hilarious scene where Melissa Benoist channels an awkward David Harewood.
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