Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 7
Supergirl takes the team to the Phantom Zone on a rescue mission where they have to face their deepest fears.
The opening arc of this season where Kara has been trapped in the Phantom Zone has been a mixed bag as any arc on this show is but one thing it has done well is affirm Kara’s influence on those close to her along with highlight the core values that make her a hero. Her actions in the Phantom Zone provide ample coverage of what she stands for as well as her ability to inspire those around her while those trying to rescue her demonstrate how they have been made better people through proximity to her.
This episode brings an end to Kara’s exile in the Phantom Zone with the rest of Team Supergirl embarking on a rescue mission now that they have all the necessary pieces to track her down. It’s a very Kara light episode with the focus on the other characters and the deep-seated fears that they all wrestle with. It is established early on that they can expect to be confronted by those fears and that they need to take steps in order to control them. As a therapist Kelly is well suited to teaching them practical techniques that they can use to push aside those fears and embrace reality though it initially comes across as a magical fix where the reality is that the techniques being referenced are far from easy or quick. It’s no the first time Kelly’s therapist role has been misapplied and it likely won’t be the last even with so few episodes left.
On a structural level this episode is really striking with it being split into character centric fantasy scenarios where they are confronted by their worst fears. None of it is actually happening and the episode employs a clever device of reversing the clock by ten minutes every time the focus shifts to another character. This means that only the first scenario has a chance of fooling the audience but even after the reveal the structural trick never became repetitive. It neatly segments the episode to allow for detailed exploration of a given character’s trepidation while offering constant reminders of what the objective is.
Alex’ worst fear is revealed to be that she will become a liability to the team and the mission. It’s framed through her obsession with rescuing Kara causing problems that put the whole team at risk and concerns that she will make reckless decisions to the detriment of the mission. In effect she worries that she will be the reason they fail to rescue Kara and it ends with her sacrificing herself so that the others can continue without her holding them back. This suggests a number of things about Alex’ current state of mind. She has been shown to be particularly obsessed with rescuing Kara which makes sense given their relationship but her fear driven fantasy points to her being concerned about where that obsession might lead. At an earlier time in her life, Alex defined her connection to Kara through what she felt that she had sacrificed so it makes sense that on some level she would be concerned that in order to save Kara she may have to make further sacrifices. In this case it’s the most extreme possible sacrifice of her ejecting herself from the ship which makes the point with a complete lack of subtlety but it does highlight that her feelings never fully went away. I don’t expect it’ll manifest as resentment in the coming episodes but it is a good use of that particular callback.
Lena’s fear fantasy is connected to the loss of her birth mother who drowned. In her fantasy she is plagued by a Kelpie because it literally turns the water that took her mother’s life into a monster that can threaten her and -more importantly- be defeated. She talks about having nightmares about the Kelpie when she was a child. She is able to quickly identify that this is her nightmare and this gives her the power to take control of it because she understands what it is and that it isn’t real. It contrasts the way Alex handles hers as she allows the fantasy to run to its conclusion where Lena actively takes control of hers and finds a way to beat it. This speaks to their current state of mind and the way they go about coping with situations though the episode doesn’t actually take the time to explore what drives certain characters to live their entire nightmare while others actively fight against it.
Similar to Lena, Kelly is able to take control of her nightmare fantasy. This fits with her being the one who understands the necessary techniques to keep a hold on reality so it’s a good use of her background. Having her fear be her perception of the value she brings to Team Supergirl. In her fantasy she is confronted by the team being possessed with Alex directly calling her weak and useless as opposed to the intelligent, skilled and/or powered people around her. It makes sense as a stance as she has only recently been properly inducted into Team Supergirl but she looks inward and takes ownership of the fact that she can be a supportive presence in Alex’ life as well as bring her own knowledge and skills to the table when needed. She also demonstrates courage in the face of mortal danger when she throws herself into combat with the Phantom without thinking. In essence she proves to herself that she has value to the team which is the most important realisation she could have around that particular anxiety.
Nia is similar to Alex in that she allows her nightmare to play out. It’s particularly interesting where she’s concerned as her powers are dream based so her inability to take control of what she is faced with stands out. It does further the general anxieties she has been dealing with around her ability to use her powers effectively. She sees dream interpretation as a massive weakness on her part so she imagines a scenario where failing to interpret a dream properly leads to Brainy’s death. Put simply she thinks that her lack of knowledge puts those she loves in danger and she is unable to resolve that conflict within herself because she still can’t get past not having access to what she believes to be the only resource that could fix the problem. Nothing extra is revealed about Nia through this but it’s good to see that her conflict is ongoing and not easily solved.
J’Onn and Brainy are unaffected by these nightmare scenarios which means there is no opportunity to explore their anxieties in the same way. Brainy mentions being afraid of the strength of his emotions though has a positive attitude towards that problem due to what he learned in his trip to the past and coping techniques that he learned from Kelly. It’s definite progress on his part and it weaves nicely into what other characters learn about themselves.
A general concern for J’Onn is that he isn’t strong enough to do what it takes to defeat the Phantom though quickly gets over that when he becomes sure of what he is fighting for and finds the inner strength to combat it. It’s an obvious moment of realisation that works well enough but also doesn’t say anything about J’Onn that isn’t already well established.
The general setup of the episode was a lot of fun. Team Supergirl taking on the roles of crew members on a starship like in Star Trek was really endearing and there were some unexpected character interactions. Nia and Lena bonding over losing their mothers was a really genuine moment. Brainy and Kelly’s brief interaction with Brainy complimenting her on what value she brings to the team was another unexpected and nice touch. There are untapped dynamics within the core cast so hopefully there will be opportunities in the remaining episodes to develop the connections that haven’t received much attention before this point.
Kara was barely featured in the episode and her time was decidedly mixed. She completely loses hope only for Zor’El to pick her back up again by talking about everything she did to let him hope again. It’s far too quickly resolved but it was interesting to see the situation break her resolve after spending so much time focusing on how strong she is and how she inspires strength in others. The influence she had on Zor’El by helping him find the capacity to hope again is paid back when he reminds her of what she taught him which resolves that conflict. This comes right before she is drenched in yellow sun energy and rescued which makes the beat feel clumsy and rushed overall. Perhaps if there had been more time devoted to Kara giving up either in this episode or in an earlier one then it could have been fleshed out as a major emotional issue for Kara to deal with and created an arc around her finding a way to hope again. It worked in the context of this because Melissa Benoist was able to sell it but narratively it was rushed and clumsy. Similarly the moment she was reunited with Alex and the others was so quick it was nearly impossible for it to have the necessary impact. The proper reunion will have to wait until August when the show returns for its final run of episodes.
An engaging character driven episode that explores the deep-seated fears of the characters in ways that either reveal a lot about them or support existing arcs. Alex’ greatest fear being around her obsession with rescuing Kara making her a liability to the team and that culminating in her sacrificing herself to assure the mission could succeed was interesting. It ties into the sacrifices she made in order to support Kara earlier in life while also reinforcing her fixation on doing everything necessary to make sure Kara is rescued. Lena’s fear literally turns the water that drowned her mother into a monster that can plague her as well as be defeated. Unlike Alex she is able to take control of her fear and defeat it where Alex allows the scenario to play out. Similarly Kelly takes control of hers by addressing her perception of the lack of value she brings to the team and proving to herself that she does have something to offer. Nia is similar to Alex in that she allows her scenario to play out. It ties into her ongoing anxieties around her ability to interpret dreams and worries that her knowledge gaps will get those she cares about killed. Nothing new is learned but it reinforces an ongoing arc.
J’Onn and Brainy are unaffected but their fears are addressed. Brainy being uncertain about his emotions is brought up but he has a positive attitude about it given what he has recently learned. A general concern for J’Onn is that he lacks the strength to defeat the Phantom though quickly realises that he is. It’s an obvious moment of realisation that works well enough but doesn’t say anything about J’Onn that isn’t already well established. The episode provided opportunities to explore some untapped dynamics such as Nia and Lena bonding over the loss of their mothers or Brainy complimenting Kelly on her value to the team. Kara is briefly featured and her time is mixed. She completely loses hope and Zor’El gives her a pep talk on how she managed to make him hope again. It’s satisfying enough to see Kara’s influence paid back but it happens too quickly to be impactful. Melissa Benoist manages to sell it but the impact is diminished. Similarly her reunion with Alex and the others is far too quick for it to register in the way it needed to. The true reunion will have to wait until August.
- exploring the deep-seated fears of the characters
- calling back to the sacrifices Alex made for Kara early in life through her sacrifice in the nightmare scenario
- Lena taking ownership of her fear and defeating it
- Nia giving into her fear and letting it play out furthering her anxiety around her inability to interpret dreams
- the exploration of Kelly’s perception of her value to the team
- making great use of untapped character dynamics
- a fun set-up and a good use of structure within the episode
- some characters suffering from very little new being learned about them
- Kara’s loss of hope coming and going too quickly
- her reunion with Alex and the others being too rushed
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.