Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 17
“I Believe In A Thing Called Love”
Supergirl deals with love in all its variety as the team and Nyxly scramble to add the Love Totem to their collection.
The return of Lex Luthor was an inevitability with the show coming to an end. His presence is always welcomed as he ups the ante due to the threat he represents. Him being an ally to Nyxly increases her threat level because of his ability to enhance what she has at her disposal. His relationship to Lena in particular maintains a personal connection to Team Supergirl that always makes his presence meaningful so his return adds a lot of weight to what is already a rich character driven setup for the final run of episodes.
Lex has returned a changed man which comes as something of a surprise. He reveals that he disappeared off to the future where he met and fell in love with a future version of Nyxly who he lost. His goal now is to convince the present day version of Nyxly to work with him and find those feelings the future version of her had -will have? Time travel is confusing with the terminology- as well as seize power in the way that’s familiar.
It’s an interesting and surprising direction to take Lex in. Initially I thought it was an elaborate trick as he previously hasn’t been above manipulating the feelings of others while selling a false narrative about his own in order to achieve his goals but as the episode progressed it became more likely that he was genuine. A lot has to be taken on faith because Lex’ time in the future isn’t depicted but his fixation on helping Nyxly and the open declarations of how much he loves her to Otis really stand out particularly when he points out how out of character it is for him to feel this way. This is backed up by him telling Nyxly how significant it is for him to fall in love with someone else because he hates everyone.
Nyxly is less than receptive to Lex’ declaration of love and offer of help because she is still so completely consumed by her desire for vengeance that she’s unable to consider anything else. She becomes resentful of Lex when realising he’s the same Lex that sent Kara to the Phantom Zone. It’s a major trigger for her as she hates men who send women to the Phantom Zone following her own experience. It creates a major barrier between them because she equates Lex with her father at that point. Even though Kara is currently standing in the way of her goals which makes them enemies she still feels that Lex is worse for dooming her to a potential eternity in the Phantom Zone. It’s another indication of the potential to redeem Nyxly as she still carries compassion within her albeit largely silenced at this point. Lex acts as a corrupting influence on her by indulging and enabling her vengeful tendencies.
Her resistance to his feelings works really well as a barrier to them truly connecting. Lex bombards her with his assistance despite his reluctance because he knows that she needs it. She does make use of the resources he gives her while openly rejecting what he offers which makes for a compelling hostile dynamic. In some ways it’s similar to Lex doing everything he can to ingratiate himself with Leviathan with his motivation being more emotional this time. It’s in keeping with Lex’ personality to be uncompromising in his pursuit of something while leaning on his intellect and resources to convince the other party to ally themselves with him. This makes his behaviour consistent with the added bonus of him being changed by feelings that appear to be genuine.
Nyxly can’t contemplate ever having feelings for someone like Lex but slowly comes round to the idea of accepting him as an ally. Following a setback when the Love Totem disappears she goes to Lex because she has no other options at that point which marks an admission of defeat for her to a certain extent. She sees no other way to continue so goes to Lex to see if he can help. Even though she detests him at that point he has done enough to secure himself as someone who can help her. The episode doesn’t do enough to suggest that she plans to try and exploit him which makes her seem weak though an admission of vulnerability was clearly the point of her going to Lex for help.
This allows for further fleshing out of the relationship they will reportedly have -or already had in Lex’ case- and how it managed to exist in the first place. Lex talks about her being unburdened by her desire for revenge as she achieves it in the future. Not being weighed down by vengeance gave her emotional bandwidth to fall for Lex and their relationship blossomed. Nyxly definitely likes the idea of achieving her goal even if she can’t imagine falling for someone like Lex so indulges his offer of help because she sees that as a way for her to get what she wants. Whether this will evolve into the romantic connection Lex seems to crave is anyone’s guess but the dynamic founded on differing perspectives of a connection that Lex wants to have again and Nyxly’s reluctance to accept the possibility is really compelling. Lex being resentful of his own emotions while not wanting to let go of them is fascinating as well as it adds vulnerability to him that has never been seen before with a distinct air of self loathing associated with his inability to break away from something he rejected for so much of life life. The relationship he discusses may not be shown but Jon Cryer sells the notion of it existing brilliantly.
Love is also to be found in the Alex/Kelly plot. Alex plans to propose on the anniversary of the moment she realised she was in love with Kelly. The turning point was her realising that they both think Hans Gruber is the greatest movie villain of all time. She makes big plans to book out the venue that realisation happened in and pop the question but suffers a setback when it turns out to be booked for a private event. This prompts her to abandon her plans and reflect on her previous failed engagement when William asks her about it. She talks about rushing into her engagement to Maggie and that it may not be the right time to be focusing on her future with Kelly with so many challenges surrounding them. William makes the point that she should embrace her love for Kelly no matter what external factors have to be dealt with because their relationship is worth prioritising. It’s curious to position William in this way especially when he has never been established as a relationship guru of any kind. He is reportedly seeing someone but they have never been shown or even referenced again since he told Kara he was seeing someone but William’s contribution does work as a sounding board for Alex’ insecurities and he generally functions well within Team Supergirl as an alternative perspective when characters need to vent about something.
The Alex/Kelly engagement plot has a couple of additional elements to it. One is that Kelly had exactly the same plan because she realised she was in love with Alex at the same moment so is revealed to be the one who booked the venue. Is it contrived, overly sentimental and convenient? Absolutely but does it work? Also absolutely. A lot of strong work has been done on the Alex/Kelly relationship over this season and last to make their connection equal parts believable and endearing. The prospect of them getting engaged is entirely earned at this point and Alex being in touch with the strong feelings she has for Kelly plays into this episode in a big way when the Love Totem ends up in her pocket. She talks about her love for every member of the team being powerful and that giving her hope that the Love Totem going dark doesn’t mean that the properties are lost because she still strongly feels that love that she’s holding onto. Once again it’s massively sentimental but incredibly earnest in the way it’s delivered by Chyler Leigh and this cast of characters have certainly earned a profound loving connection between them over the seasons so it very much rings true.
Alex proposing to Kelly was surprisingly low key which did a great job of emphasising the strength of the relationship. Neither of them needed the proposal to be complimented by a lavish occasion as it’s more than enough for feelings to be declared in the presence of those they care about the most. It was an appropriately heart-warming moment once again beautifully played by Chyler Leigh.
Love factors into other developments within the episode. J’Onn passes the gauntlet laid down by the Courage Totem. It taps into a really primal emotional problem for him around the fear of loss. He’s afraid he’ll lose his family on Earth the same way he lost his family on Mars and the totem forces him to confront that. He passes when he accepts that there was nothing he could have done to change what happened which allows him to put his ongoing guilt about that situation behind him. The visual of him passing the gauntlet was less than clear but fortunately there was a summary later in the episode. Showing would have been better but at least it was made clear.
Kara’s fear when facing the gauntlet laid down by the Humanity Totem is losing her own Humanity and turning out like the Phantoms that still haunt her following her ordeal in the Phantom Zone. Love helps her overcome that as she has faith that her family will always be there for her and protect her from it. This allows her to wield the totem even though there remains the possibility of her Humanity being lost when she does.
Lena doesn’t have a totem gauntlet to overcome but the reappearance of Lex reawakens feelings that she has been running from. She fears that being unable to control those emotions will cause her to lose control of her magic and go down the same dark path her mother did. Initially Kara is understanding and supports her desire to find another way but the situation escalates and Lena’s magic is required. She overcomes those strong feelings with the support of Kara who inspires her to use her magic from a place of love rather than giving into the powerful negative emotions that Lex has stirred up in her. It naturally succeeds and acts as a tether for Kara as well who retains her Humanity when wielding the totem. It’s a great use of character history and character relationships to create growth.
Brainy is having similar issues following the realisation that Lex is using technology from the 31st century. The natural next step is for him to contact the future and find out what Lex has been up to but he’s reluctant as the last time he took similar action he ended up allying himself with Lex and going down a dark path. A direct connection can be drawn between Brainy and Lena as they both scramble to find an alternative solution that doesn’t involve them confronting things about themselves they’re uncomfortable with. They may not be totem gauntlets but they are intense personal ones and the exploration is excellent. Nia’s point that the intent behind actions makes all the difference so if Brainy does things openly and honestly then it’s far different to being duplicitous as he was before.
The involved characters have very different experiences but the episode is driving at the same idea for all of them. A powerful point is being made about strength coming from the ability to face a part of yourself that you’re afraid of and drawing on the support of those around you to move past it. Each of the characters are encouraged to push themselves towards growth and they all embrace it in their own way after some heavy moments of self doubt. As always the show promotes the strength of the family unit; in this case a found family and expertly conveys why that makes this collection of individuals better.
One problem the episode has is that it’s very light on plot progression. This isn’t necessarily an issue when considering the quality of the character work but there are so few episodes left and it’s evident that events haven’t moved on a great deal. The destruction of the Hope Totem proved to be a pointless action because the properties imbue themselves onto another object. That does set up Esme becoming the Love Totem which follows nicely on from it gravitating towards Alex because of the love she feels for everyone around her. Of course that presents complications for Team Supergirl as now their enemies will be after Esme. It could transpire that this episode proves essential as it outlines the emotional stakes a this crucial point but the lack of progression does stand out.
A strong episode that outlines clear emotional barriers for many of the characters to overcome and uses them to encourage growth while reinforcing the core ideas the show always promotes. Love is very much the core emotion and it’s explores more clearly through Alex who plans to propose to Kelly on the anniversary of her first realising that she was in love with Kelly. Roadblocks get in the way of that initially as expected but she is prompted further when the Love Totem attaches itself to her and she concludes that it’s because of the love she feels for everyone around her. It’s a strong message and well earned thanks to the character history on the show. Her low key proposal to Kelly is really charming and beautifully delivered by Chyler Leigh. This highlights the core idea of the team being a family and making each other better because of that well cultivated connection. J’Onn, Kara, Lena and Brainy have their own personal issues to sort through related to fear. J’Onn has to face the fear of losing his Earth family just as he lost his family on Mars by accepting that there was nothing he could have done to prevent the loss of his family on Mars, Kara fears the loss of her Humanity while still being haunted by memories of the Phantom Zone, Lena fears going down a dark path with her magic as her mother did and Brainy fears going down the same path he did when he worked with Lex. Each of them overcomes their issue in their own way with support from those around them which once again reinforces the notion of the team being better as a combined unit.
The return of Lex is expected and having him work with Nyxly appropriately raises the stakes. Lex has been changed by his journey to the future as he fell in love with a future version of Nyxly only to lose her. He struggles with those feelings as he’s used to hating everyone while also having trouble with the idea that Nyxly has no interest in him. She does come around to the idea of working with him but remains too consumed by a desire for vengeance to consider anything else. It’s a great dynamic and the suggestion of Nyxly possibly being redeemed remains when she condemns Lex for sending Kara to the Phantom Zone. It’s an obvious trigger for her and creates a barrier between them. Jon Cryer does a lot of heavy lifting when the episode is light on showing the relationship that existed from his perspective. It’s believable that he has been forever altered by his experience of falling in love with her and his desire to rekindle that with her past self is evident. It adds a never before seen dimension to Lex that definitely works and it ties into the ideas the episode is playing with. This episode is definitely light on plot development though it may be essential to outline the emotional stakes before ramping up in anticipation of the finale. Developments are undone in some ways and the lack of progression does stand out.
- Lex being visibly changed by his feelings for Nyxly
- the Lex/Nyxly dynamic and how it evolves
- raising the stakes by having Lex return at this point
- Alex embodying the love idea in varied and complex ways
- Alex’ low key proposal to Kelly
- J’Onn accepting that there was nothing he could have done to save his Mars family
- Kara understanding that those she cares about will always be there for her and using that to overcome her fear of losing her Humanity
- Lena overcoming her fear of her magic taking her down a dark path
- Brainy similarly overcoming his fear of heading down the same dark path he did before
- reinforcing the message that the team dynamic makes all of them better
- an episode light on plot development
- the lack of visual clarity on how J’Onn passed the gauntlet
- not seeing Lex’ relationship with Nyxly and only being told about it
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