Supergirl – Season 1 Episode 20
Supergirl closes off its first season by having Kara tested to prove she has what it takes to save the world.
The previous episode was certainly uneven and problematic but it did play to the main strength of this show by having Kara put in a situation she was unprepared for to test what she has learned. This allowed Melissa Benoist to take the spotlight and deliver the great performance that is expected from her by this point.
“Better Angels” tries a similar tactic in a very different way. The episode is focused on Kara and how she reacts to the changing situation as well as how she prepares for the seemingly inevitable sacrifice she will have to make.
I’ll come back to that in a bit and quickly talk about the resolution of the story from last week. It is quickly identified that people can overcome the influence of Myriad through the power of positivity since Myriad apparently blocks the part of the brain that recognises that. Alex shakes it off once her father is mentioned because apparently trying to kill her sister isn’t enough to snap her out of it. It turns out that all Kara has to do to free the entire city is give an impassioned speech about having hope.
As a scene it worked fairly well as Melissa Benoist played the speech with a level of heartfelt sincerity that would come across as inspiring as those who hear it and it ties into the overall theme of hope and optimism being more powerful than brute strength but as a plot point it is far too convenient. Having everyone exposed to her speech strains credibility as it would involve everyone in the city being near a screen at the same time which just wouldn’t be the case. It also raises a question around why Winn and James were unaffected by a similar plea in person last week. If she had freed them by this method last week then at least it would have given the idea to do the same on a much larger scale more merit.
After the attempt to control the population fails, Non changes things up and amplifies the signal so that it will kill humans instead of control them. All this nonsensical change in his plan does is prove how underdeveloped a villain he is. Myriad was Astra’s idea and moving forward with it was his way of honouring her so immediately shifting gears to killing all of the humans affected makes no sense. What happened to the idea of humanity all working together to save the planet before it’s too late? There’s a definite element of Non making things up as he goes along which I think more applies to the writers. Indigo also didn’t seem to have a clear idea of what she was doing so in terms of villains this episode completely fails.
Despite this the episode had an overriding sense of dread throughout. Kara made peace with the fact that she might not come back from her attempt to stop Non and Indigo’s plan and takes the time she has left to say goodbye to all of the characters. She thanks Winn for his friendship and support, tells James to move on without her, makes sure J’Onn is aware of how deep their connection is and makes sure Cat knows how valuable her input as a mentor has been for her. It’s all well acted but a bit on the nose with sentimentality. I felt that much of it was a little forced with the only natural “goodbye” being the one with Cat who immediately saw it as either her eulogy or Kara’s suicide note. It basically was the second one but Cat still manages to return the sentiment and appears genuinely moved that she has had this effect on Kara. Alex is the only one she can’t bring herself to say goodbye to but manages to before she lifts Fort Rozz into space. Again, it’s overly sentimental yet well acted from Benoist. I always feel like Chyler Leigh overacts in most of her scenes and that has never been truer than the emotional goodbye to Kara.
I was really surprised that the sense of dread wasn’t actually building to anything. Kara and J’Onn’s team up to bring down Non and Indigo didn’t seem to be all that big a deal considering how quickly they were both dispatched. It was a cool sequence but I didn’t really feel that stopping them was all that difficult. J’Onn was stabbed again but it wasn’t a fatal wound and Kara had to let herself get angry in order to match Non in combat but beyond that the situation was easily handled. Having Non’s army put in stasis pods for some reason was really convenient but also necessary for making the odds more even. J’Onn accompanying Kara ties into the overall theme of teamwork that has filled the season.
Highlights of this sequence include J’Onn ripping Indigo in two and Kara’s heat vision duel with Non. I was reminded a bit of Harry Potter with this but it was still visually impressive. One thing Supergirl has always delivered on has been impressive visuals but the writing still leaves a lot to be desired.
Having the Kryptonian base be in Fort Rozz makes a lot of sense as it will have the necessary advanced alien tech but I’m shocked that nobody in the DEO or the military might have thought that Non would be hiding in there. It should have been the first place they looked so having this play like a big reveal was laughable. On a thematic note it allows Kara’s struggle to balance her human and alien upbringings to come full circle. In the end she chooses her humanity as symbolised by her lifting Fort Rozz into space in order to save the world. Seeing her lift the giant prison ship looked amazing and it was followed by an equally excellent visual of Kara floating in space. Alex’s rescue of Kara using her ship was a little bit silly but it does underpin their relationship that has them looking out for one another.
I like the idea that Kryptonians in this show can’t function in space due to an inability to breathe and generate thrust to move. It does make me wonder how Superman manages to do things off world though. Does he have a ship he can fly around in? If so then fair enough.
Speaking of Superman; having him remain incapacitated throughout the episode made no sense. If his brain was as human as Maxwell Lord said last week then he should have been returned to normal along with everyone else. It came across as a transparent excuse to explain why he wasn’t helping as well as give Kara a chance to prove herself without the help of her cousin. It works in showing how Kara can rise to the challenge and prove her worth as a hero able to help people on a global scale. It’s a trial by fire for her and she proves that she is capable. Her instant message conversation with Clark goes some way towards showing how proud he is of her while also showing that the Man of Steel has some vulnerabilities and needs help sometimes.
The wrap up of the episode and the season was really hit or miss. Having J’Onn be pardoned by the president for his help is fair enough but putting him back in charge of the DEO feels far too convenient as a way to restore the show to the status quo that it enjoyed for most of the season. Lucy in this role had a lot of potential that we were only just starting to see explored. I would have liked to see this continue and J’Onn take on some other role in the show. Lucy looking disappointed as she was instantly demoted made sense though and I share her feelings. Maybe if there is a second season there will be conflict between Lucy and J’Onn because of this.
Kara being promoted to some other position that hasn’t been decided yet was well deserved. She has been Cat’s faithful assistant for a while and proven herself in that area so it feels appropriate to move her to the next stage. It’s baffling that Cat doesn’t have a position in mind but her promotion in her civilian identity compliments her move as a hero. Cat finally calling Kara by her actual name was a nice moment that felt earned. Kara has earned Cat’s respect and that is something that means a lot to her.
Beyond that the wrap up doesn’t have much else to offer other than the potential beginning of a relationship between Kara and James as well as the promise of finding Jeremiah which puts Cadmus in the crosshairs for next season should there be one.
I haven’t really mentioned Maxwell Lord as his presence in this episode was largely passive. He does seem to be on Team Supergirl now but whether this is a temporary measure or not remains to be seen. I wouldn’t mind if they got rid of him entirely to be honest as his removal would cut off all of the dead weight in the villain stakes with Non being dealt with too.
As I said above there was a distinct lack of consequences to anything that went on here. Kara’s suicide mission turned out to be an easy and quick fight, everyone survived and pretty much continues in the roles we are used to them being in so ultimately the whole thing felt pretty disposable despite the level of threat we were constantly told was looming just over the horizon. The season very much ends on a whimper.
I really wasn’t enthusiastic about the cliffhanger as it was so clumsily handled. Kara opening the Kryptonian ship to see something familiar to her while leaving the occupant a mystery to the audience did little to make me excited about what that could be. It’s such an old tactic on TV shows and I’m positive that the reveal will be underwhelming if and when it does come.
Despite all the negative things I have said about this episode there were parts of it I really liked such as the representation of Cat and Kara’s relationship and how Kara’s role in Cat’s organisation moves on. There was some impressive action and the idea that Supergirl is now a global symbol rather than a local one comes across really well. Melissa Benoist’s performance was great as always in all of her scenes. The episode is heavily marred by nonsensical villain motivations and a lack of consequence to any of the apparent danger the episode reminded us exists.
Supergirl has stumbled through its first season but it has gotten progressively better as it went on. Melissa Benoist was always great in the role and definitely improved as time went on. Other characters like Cat and J’Onn were well handled throughout and there were many ambitious episodes that attempted to mine Superman lore to create stories. Some worked better than others but the attempt was appreciated nonetheless. If I were to sum up the season in a few words I would call it an ambitious partial success and I am fully confident that the production team would be able to elevate the show to a consistent level of good in the next season. I hope the show gets renewed but we shall see.
- Melissa Benoist’s performance
- the impressive action and visuals
- a sense of dread that fills much of the episode
- strong reinforcement of the major themes of the season
- Nonsensical villain motivations
- the lack of consequences
- a clumsy cliffhanger