Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 2
“A Few Good Women”
Supergirl deals with Lex Luthor’s trial as the team work tirelessly to free Kara from the Phantom Zone.
Kara being stuck in the Phantom Zone is a severe problem for a lot of reasons. For one it’s a prison housing some of the worst criminals the galaxy has to offer and many of them have reason to harbour a very personal grudge against Kara’s family for putting them there. It’s also a hopeless hellscape with no redeeming features and it’s impossible to get out without some help from the outside. The background to this plot existing is to limit Melissa Benoist’s filming time early in the season due to maternity leave so she is in a controlled environment with actors that can presumably work around her schedule rather than trying to meet the demands of the overall schedule of the show. In universe it’s a test of her ability to hope and her determination in an environment designed to tear all that down.
She isn’t alone in the Phantom Zone as she runs into her father Zor’El (Jason Behr). Apparently he put himself into the Phantom Zone to give himself a chance to survive as Krypton exploded around him and the consequence of that is that he has almost completely lost his mind. Years in the Phantom Zone have broken his resolve to the point that he resents his own existence and has lost all hope. I’m reserving judgement on Kara finding out her other parent is alive because it’s likely that Zor’El is a manifestation of the Phantom Zone looking to break Kara’s spirit and reduce her to a hopeless existence. There are clues that point towards that such as the continued insistence that there’s nothing they can do because there’s no way out. He keeps saying the best they can do is survive and accept the situation they’re in. Kara remains as hopeful as ever and pledges to never give up even if she only gains an inch closer to freedom. It’s a good speech that is well delivered by Melissa Benoist who always nails it when she projects Kara as a hopeful presence. Even though she’s separated from the rest of the cast the show is still doubling down on her stronger traits to affirm who she is and what she stands for in the final season.
Outside of the Phantom Zone, Team Supergirl work tirelessly to find a way to rescue her. This leads them to Silas (Claude Knowiton); an alien who is the root of the Vampire myth. It’s a completely unnecessary yet fun detail that the episode makes great use of. The action sequence introducing him makes great use of Vampire iconography and introducing him through his efforts to steal blood from a blood bank rather than prey on innocent people quickly establishes that his morality is in the right place. It would have been so easy to have Silas be the needed resource to get them into the Phantom Zone and leave it at that but taking the time to dig into his backstory to highlight his loss and connect him to the Phantom Zone through dealing with that was a really strong touch as it allowed Silas to have a personal stake in the plot while adding depth to his character. He is motivated to ensure that Team Supergirl don’t have to deal with the same trauma that infects his daily life. There’s nothing he can do for himself but he can give others hope and is willing to do so.
Time is taken to establish how each of the characters handle not having Kara around and the urgency of needing to rescue her. Alex and J’Onn are initially fuelled by their desperation to save Kara as if emphatically stating the need to get her back immediately will help them achieve the goal quickly. It’s a strong contrast to their usual calm and experienced approach when dealing with problems which highlights their connection to Kara as well as how significantly her presence influences them. The initial attempt fails and they have very different reactions to that reality. Alex sinks into depression and resigns herself to the feeling that the situation is a hopeless one considering the overwhelming odds against them. She is deeply concerned that she will never see Kara again or that they’ll get a permanently emotionally scarred version of her back if they ever do. Kelly tries to calm her down but she is so consumed by her grief that she’s unwilling to accept any reassurance at that point. J’Onn’s reaction is to shut down emotionally and adopt a more practical viewpoint. Both are believable coping mechanisms while being equally unhealthy as their energies are negatively focused. This sets up defined arcs for them to follow as they work to get Kara back from the Phantom Zone and highlights how strong their connection to Kara is as well as how meaningful her presence is to both of them.
Nia starts to lose faith in her own abilities when she becomes overwhelmed by a simulation of the Phantom Zone. Without Kara around her negative thoughts are beginning to grow stronger and she starts to realise that with her mother gone there’s nobody around who can help her interpret her dreams which makes her less effective in the search for Kara. It’s an understandable stance for her to take and once again shows how positive an influence Kara is in her life but it does serve as a reminder that the depiction of dreams in this show has been almost entirely surface level before this point so the interpretation is typically not far from what Nia actually sees. A more abstract approach to the dreams she experiences would be interesting to see and this is perhaps setting up an attempted reconciliation with her sister who has done extensive study into the interpretation of dreams. It’s a dangling thread for Nia that would make sense to explore in this final season. For now having her lose faith in herself without having her mentor around to give her guidance is a strong starting point and sets up a problem she can work through as the efforts to free Kara continue.
Brainy is the most hopeful member of the team as evidenced in his attempt to make Nia feel better in the wake of her failure in the simulation. He talks about how the Legion of Super-Heroes was founded in Kara’s honour and based on the values that Supergirl represented. By definition they are strong values that form a code that is worth following but Brainy is in the unique position of knowing the person behind those values and has taken them very much to heart. He reminds Nia that the important thing about Kara isn’t that she always wins, it’s that she never stops trying and that’s what she should keep in mind. Failure is undoubtedly a setback but according to Brainy -and Kara- it’s no reason to give up entirely because it’s the ability to keep going despite the odds that matters. As Brainy says Kara’s humanity is what makes her an inspiring figure worth rallying behind rather than the specific actions she takes. Nia needs to understand that and find her own way to keep moving forward in spite of the odds. In general it’s a strong showing from Team Supergirl in this episode with Kara’s absence setting up excellent character arcs for each of them. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over however long it takes for Kara to make her return from the Phantom Zone. Having the initial attempt culminate in a clumsy action sequence involving Phantoms leaving the Phantom Zone was less than ideal even if it did showcase teamwork but the characterisation was very strong.
As all of this is going on, Lex is put on trial for his crimes and there are a number of complications that surround it. Everything hinges on Eve’s testimony because she had the most direct access to the reality of his plans which would seem to make his conviction an inevitability considering how overwhelming the evidence is but Lex remains determined to walk away from this a free man. His arrogance and frustration underpin his early scenes as he has no desire to rot in prison once again. Of course he feels like it’s beneath him to be tried in a court of law and he’s eager to engineer the situation in his favour. The fact that he represents himself is an interesting detail as it shows his lack of faith in anyone around him because he thinks himself so far above them. It’s an obvious yet meaningful contrast to Team Supergirl working together, supporting one another and embracing the fact that their greatest strength is their connection to each other. Lex feels that his greatest strength is isolating himself and pulling strings.
His intelligence allows him to understand the power of emotion and how it can be a vulnerability that can be exploited. He uses this to destroy Eve’s testimony by forcing her to admit that she was in love with him therefore recontextualising her as an emotionally unstable person who tried to frame him for the crimes that he’s accused of. Eve does herself no favours by becoming hysterical when admitting her feelings for Lex and falls completely into his trap as he takes advantage of her emotional reaction. In effect she does the work of proving his point even though it’s not entirely true. There is enough truth in what he’s saying to get under Eve’s skin and the fact then become less important because of how it comes across.
This forces Lena’s hand as up until that point she had been content to sit on the sidelines and watch the whole thing unfold. Andrea tries to pressure her into telling her story which provokes a strong reaction from Lena while setting up that she has no desire to talk about that time in her life. The episode takes time to set up options that Lena has. One thing she initially counts on is Eve’s testimony being enough to put Lex away for life and another is Lillian’s offer to sell her shares to Lena therefore giving her a controlling interest in the company that would lock Lex out of having any influence. The second option is unpalatable as it means playing into Lillian’s hands where there is usually an underlying agenda that Lena would be enabling but in the short term it would prevent Lex from having any influence in the company so it’s certainly worth considering.
When Lena sees the trial going badly she puts herself on the witness stand and tells her story which includes the truth about her intent to forcibly pacify the Human race through her Non Nocere project. She expertly sets a trap for Lex in her testimony that he falls into by proudly declaring his villainous intent to the Jury. He tells the whole truth and highlights his arrogant belief that he was right to pursue the goals that he pursued. Considering his defence up until that point was built around convincing the Jury that he wasn’t the man he was painted out to be it’s a definite moral victory for Lena who successfully outsmarted him and forced him to let the world see who he really is. It was incredibly satisfying to see Lex defeated in such a way and justified Lena compromising herself to make it happen.
Lena admitting the truth under oath to bring down her brother feeds into her overall arc that started with making amends with Kara for her actions. First she sought the forgiveness of her friend after realising the error of her ways and now she’s seeking the forgiveness of the public by holding herself accountable for the part she played in Lex’ plan as well as her own wrong-headed goals. Coming forward places her under scrutiny in the court of public opinion and could end up having legal consequences for her as well especially with Lex pursuing having her charged but that doesn’t alter the fact that she beat him by making him admit who he really is to everyone watching.
Unfortunately for Lena it doesn’t go as intended and Lex is found not guilty. The Juror interviewed points out that there was a lot of reasonable doubt and it was considered dangerous to set a precedent for bringing down powerful men. As with any message this show drives at there is no subtlety here but that’s not a bad thing as the clarity of the messaging has its own power. What is being said here is that rich and powerful white men can get away with anything regardless of how publicly deplorable they are. Lex literally admits he’s a villain to the Jury as well as everyone watching the trial and is found not guilty. Even he is shocked that being himself produced that result and now feels more invincible than ever since the public seem to be behind him as an amoral presence. It’s likely no accident that the main driving forces behind proving Lex’ guilt was the testimony of two women. Lex manoeuvrers the narrative around Eve to frame her as a jilted lover and a spiteful woman and Lena’s testimony ends up securing his innocence so the show is clearly driving at the idea of the women having far less credibility than a rich and powerful white man. It’s a maddening twist that resonates clearly with the world outside the show and makes the result all the more believable.
Lena now has new obstacles to overcome. She put herself forward and held herself accountable for her actions in the court of public opinion. Whether this leads to legal challenges for her is up in the air at this point but it will certainly lead to credibility challenges. Much of what she has done on this show has been in service of redeeming the Luthor name and ensuring that she doesn’t get tarred with the same brush her brother did. Much of that was in the Pre-Crisis reality where Lex was publicly hated as a villain but her desire to not be seen as a bad person remains valid in the Post-Crisis reality. Her testimony and public opinion gravitating to Lex now risks her being painted as the villainous Luthor in the public consciousness which is very much counter to the image she has been trying to cultivate for herself. She does resolve to work together with Andrea to help people see the truth about Lex but it’s very much an uphill battle especially now that the credibility of women in this world has been brought into question.
The previous episode introduced Andrea’s renewed focus on morally upright journalism represented through CatCo’s output. As predicted she has her own stance on what that means as she drives at Lex’ guilt before the verdict has been rendered betraying a bias on her part to report the story she wants to tell rather than the story that actually exists. It’s understandable in this instance as the viewer knows exactly what Lex has done but from the point of view of unbiased reporting it’s the wrong approach. Even after the verdict has been delivered she makes it clear CatCo will be the outlet to bring him down which is again understandable considering what Lex has actually done but she risks compromising the integrity of the publication. It’s an interesting dilemma though considering how this show has previously handled journalism this will likely be all over the place. Once Kara returns it’ll be a good forum for ethical debate though in the meantime Nia and William could be used really well in this setting.
A strong episode that makes great use of Kara’s absence as a starting point for the arcs of the other characters while the trial of Lex Luthor allows for some biting and relevant social commentary. Kara encountering her father in the Phantom Zone is another example of a believed dead parent turning out to be alive though there are clues suggesting he isn’t what he seems. So far he exists as a clear attempt to break her spirit through his hopelessness which allows Kara the opportunity to affirm that she his a hopeful presence with a strong speech about never giving up. The introduction of Silas works really well because he has a strong emotional connection that helps him rise above him being there for plot reasons. His background details are fun and are used well so his presence is generally engaging. The attempt to rescue Kara ends up being a strong setup for various character arcs. Once the first attempt fails Alex sinks into depression without the hopeful presence of her sister around to encourage her and J’Onn closes himself off from his emotions. Both are understandable yet unhealthy coping mechanisms that give these characters a lot to work with as they work to rescue Kara. Nia’s self doubt and realisation that she lacks the knowledge to use her powers as effectively as she otherwise could sets up a potential reconciliation with her sister while prompting the realisation that Kara is who she is because she never gives up. It’s a lesson Nia needs to learn and having Brainy be the hopeful one who points out Kara’s humanity is what makes her the inspiring presence provided that balance.
Lex Luthor’s trial has a lot of interesting content and invites some strong social commentary. Having him defend himself because he doesn’t believe any lawyer to be up to the challenge reinforces his arrogance, Manipulating Eve to make herself come across as a hysterical jilted lover carrying out crimes in order to implicate Lex following his rejection of her is a very deliberate move on his part that Eve completely falls for. This forces Lena to step forward and tell her story which puts her under scrutiny while furthering her arc around being held accountable that started with seeking Kara’s forgiveness. It leads to a satisfying moral victory where she manages to trap Lex into being completely honest about who he is even though it compromises her. Unfortunately for her it doesn’t work and Lex gets away from it despite being honest about the sort of man he is. It’s an obvious commentary on rich and powerful white men being able to get away with anything while driving at the idea of women having far less credibility in this context. It’s a maddening twist that resonates clearly and sets up an interesting situation for Lena in the coming episodes. Andrea’s focus on morally upright journalism is shown to have attached bias shown by her fixation on framing Lex as a villain even though the facts currently run counter to that. This show hasn’t historically handled journalism all that well but there’s a lot of potential for meaningful ethical debate that could use Nia and William well in this setting.
- Kara’s speech affirming her hopeful nature
- Zor’El acting as a strong counter to her hopeful tendencies
- Silas making for a meaningful presence
- Alex and J’Onn’s understandable yet unhealthy coping mechanisms
- Nia doubting her own abilities and coming to realise why Kara is heroic
- Brainy’s hopeful attitude being founded on getting to know Kara
- Lex expertly manipulating Eve in a hysterical emotional context
- Lena furthering her arc towards being held accountable by putting herself under public scrutiny
- biting social commentary around Lex admitting he’s a villain but getting away with it because he’s a rich and powerful white man
- the realistic showcase of the diminished credibility of women
- setting up potentially compelling ethical debate in the CatCo setting
- the unnecessary and clumsy action sequence
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