Supergirl – Season 5 Episode 11
“Back From the Future – Part 1”
Supergirl welcomes back an old friend as a psycho killer threatens National City using very familiar means.
It’s often the case that I don’t realise how much a character is missed until they come back. Winn was part of the core cast for three seasons and was a welcome fixture after a very shaky start in the first season. He was unfortunately a character that the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with so he eventually left to live in the future in exchange for Brainy who is definitely used a lot better for the most part. That doesn’t mean that Winn wasn’t a good character or that he wasn’t well performed, His relationships with the other characters were strong and Jeremy Jordan’s portrayal was always charming. His return in this episode was definitely welcomed
His return coincides with the appearance of a new Toyman in National City. The new Toyman is a version of Winn from another Earth and his actions create a ripple effect that negatively impacts Winn’s life in the future so he comes back in time to fix it and is able to catch up with some old friends along the way. Winn’s return also ties into the ongoing season arc in a small way as the whole thing was orchestrated by Lex so that he could gain access to the Legion ship and learn about Leviathan by accessing its database. It’s not a massively significant plot development but it does serve as a reminder that Lex is a master of scheming in the background and manipulating others to do exactly what he wants. The information from the future also gives Lena information that will help her achieve her goals so things are ticking along in the background. As an aside, I’ll refer to the alternate Winn as Toyman throughout the rest of this review to make it easier to differentiate.
Having Winn back allows plenty of opportunities for meaningful interactions between him and much of the cast. Some of them are small such as a comforting hug with J’Onn or general banter with Alex but others are much larger like his conversation with Nia. Winn recognises her as the ancestor of one of his best friends, Nura Nal. The end of her relationship with Brainy has resulted in a knock to Nia’s confidence which means she is unable to function as effectively as she otherwise could. Her attempt to track down Toyman nearly overwhelms her until Winn gives her a pep talk that helps her get back on track. He gives her simple yet important advice about not letting anyone make her question her own worth. Winn’s very presence represents her legacy because he is able to tell her that she has one and is regarded as a very powerful person historically.
This is further reinforced when he demonstrates things about her powers that she hasn’t yet tapped into. It’s a clear example of her potential and where her own personal growth could take her which gives her the jolt of confidence she needs to restore her belief in herself. She was making the mistake of attaching her identity and self worth to her relationship with Brainy but Winn helps her realise that her real strength comes from within which is an important lesson she needs to learn. Nia hasn’t had a lot to do this season so far but her dynamic with Winn definitely brings out the best in her and allows the writers to find a natural use for her.
Kara gets some important advice from him as well. She isn’t sure what to do after Lex threatens to kill William if she can’t make him back down from his investigation but Winn points out that he was constantly in danger just by knowing her. He makes it clear that it wasn’t something that mattered to him because he never lost faith in her and always knew that she would protect him. This is also surrounded by brief mentions of how well regarded she is in the future and a personal account of how inspiring he finds being around her. Ultimately the lesson here is that William is free to make his own choices and Kara shouldn’t doubt her ability to keep those close to her safe because it’s something she has always been good at. Winn’s advice encourages her to feel less burdened by the responsibility she forces on herself because others have to make their own choices and she can only try to adapt to that.
Winn has certainly gained wisdom during his time living in the future which seems to come hand in hand with him becoming a parent. This has altered his world view and his priorities in a really positive way with Jeremy Jordan’s performance brilliantly showing the longing he feels to return to his family. Thankfully he hasn’t lost his charming sense of fun that make him so likeable before; he effortlessly blends into the cast as if he had never left with his return to Kara’s regular game night being a notable highlight. It’s always great to see the characters having fun together as it’s a reminder of the bond they share outside of saving the world.
Toyman is an above average villain as weekly antagonists go. There’s not much to him beyond the fact that he has Winn’s face so represents extra threat value because of what he can to to Winn’s life in the future. Jeremy Jordan clearly has a blast playing a theatrically over the top villain and there’s some attempt to draw comparisons between them with Winn being the one to get out from the shadow of his father’s dark legacy while Toyman embraced it. Winn does try to convince him that he can be better but it falls on deaf ears because Toyman is too far gone and would rather die than be captured. It’s something but it’s not hugely interesting or memorable. The quality of the villain largely rests on Jeremy Jordan’s performance. His toy/robot gimmick does allow for a really cool action sequence featuring some impressively rendered robot Tigers and the perfect “Eye of the Tiger” musical accompaniment. This show should really lean into using musical cues during action sequences more often as they are always really strongly deployed.
The current Brainy arc is more confusing than anything else. His decision to take the advice of his female counterpart and cut himself off from Nia and keep his partnership with Lex a secret from everyone else has the potential to be interesting depending on how it develops but it isn’t being handled especially well at the moment. Every character in this show is at their worst when separated from the others because the bond that has been created between them is so well done that anyone removed from it suffers as a result. It’s unclear if his claim that he runs solely on logic is a lie to get Lex to trust him or if it’s genuine and has been caused by the removal of his personality inhibitors and it’s distracting that nobody seems to have noticed that he’s acting very differently to his usual self. His scene with Winn where he confesses to his involvement in letting Toyman loose on National City was well done because it serves as a reminder of the friendship they shared when they were both on the show though it’s confusing that Winn loops around to forgiveness so quickly considering the potential dire consequences of Brainy’s actions. It was great to see Brainy given the opportunity to voice his internal conflict to someone but at the same time the whole thing resolves itself too quickly so there are issues there. I’m not sure what Brainy will end up becoming but at the moment it’s less than compelling.
Another issue the show has is William. He is clearly being positioned as a love interest for Kara which isn’t a bad idea in itself as she hasn’t had one for a while but the execution of this is so dull. Melissa Benoist has an ability to create chemistry with anyone she comes into contact with but there’s something very stilted about her interactions with William. I just don’t see them being an interesting couple and the standard uninteresting barriers to them being together are being created such as the secrecy and potential danger. So far there’s nothing to suggest that them getting together would be in any way a good thing for Kara so I’m less than invested in the build-up to their inevitable relationship.
I’ve mentioned that Winn’s return ties to the season arc in a small way. There are other ways the episode develops this such as Lena’s visit to Andrea to find out how much she knows about Leviathan. It turns out she was never activated in the Post-Crisis universe with the rest of her history being more or less the same. Lena appeals to the part of Andrea that wants to be friends and manages to re-establish the trust between them so that Lena can be the first to know about anything Leviathan related that Andrea might encounter. It’s a great scene between Katie McGrath and Julie Gonzalo that makes excellent use of the complex friendship that exists between their characters. It’s also another example of Lena going down the wrong path and how toxic her personality with Lex is for her.
This episode marks the debut of a headquarters for Team Supergirl outside of the D.E.O. J’Onn establishes it as a place where they can go to be away from the prying eyes of Lex and formulate their own plans. It’s a cool looking place that has its own sense of identity making it similar to The Bunker in Arrow or The S.T.A.R. Labs cortex on The Flash. If it is to be a standing set for the show then it’s definitely a good one and it even has a balcony as every major Supergirl location needs a balcony for the characters to retreat to when feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
A good episode that makes great use of the returning Winn, has a memorable action sequence and offers some strong character beats. Winn’s presence on the show has certainly been missed and he’s used really well here in a welcome return. Jeremy Jordan settles back into the dynamic of the cast really naturally and strikes up a really strong bond with Nia who is able to use his advice to reaffirm her self worth following the doubts that have crept in after breaking up with Brainy. Winn helps her see her potential and shows her how important her individual legacy is. He also helps Kara recognise that it’s not her responsibility to protect absolutely everyone and that others are free to make their own choices. Winn’s advice is around not letting herself doubt her ability to protect those close to her and it’s something she really needs to hear. Toyman is above average as antagonists go though that’s largely because of Jeremy Jordan’s performance in that role. There is some attempt to make him more significant with the comparisons drawn between him and Winn in terms of the choices they’ve made but it doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. Toyman does allow for a fun action sequence with impressively rendered robot Tigers and a great musical cue which certainly stands out.
The current Brainy arc is confusing and causes the character to suffer because he has become separated from the group which is always a disadvantage on this show. It’s unclear at this point whether he’s pretending to run solely on logic to get Lex to trust him or if that is actually the case. Either way it’s odd that nobody notices his massive shift in personality. The scene where he opens up to Winn is also confusing as Winn quickly loops round to forgiving him despite what Brainy has done. It’s an off exchange though it is a nice reminder of the friendship they shared. William is another problem because he isn’t really all that interesting. He is clearly being positioned as a love interest for Kara and Melissa Benoist does plenty of heavy lifting to create chemistry but the secrecy and protection aspects of their interactions are dull well worn ground. The debut of the new headquarters for Team Supergirl is handled really well and it looks great. It even comes with a balcony for characters to retreat to when they feel emotionally overwhelmed; a necessity in this show.
- a welcome return for Winn
- Jeremy Jordan settling naturally back into the dynamic of the cast
- Winn’s strong advice to both Nia and Kara
- Nia reaffirming her own self worth
- a fun action scene with a great musical cue
- the Lena and Andrea scene
- Team Supergirl’s new headquarters
- the current Brainy arc being more confusing than anything else
- William being less than interesting
- very little to latch onto with the inevitable Kara/William relationship
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