Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 3
Supergirl continues to deal with the impact of Kara’s absence from the team as an escaped Phantom terrorises National City.
In many ways it’s unfortunate that the final season of this show begins with what looks to be an extended absence for Kara in terms of her ability to interact with the rest of the cast. She is still in the episodes with her own plot thread but she is absent from National City and separated from the other characters. The biggest strength this show has is the natural dynamic that exists within the core cast so spending time in the final season not having that is less than ideal.
Fortunately the real world circumstances that prevented Melissa Benoist having the necessary availability to work with the rest of the cast are being used really well in the context of what the show is doing. For those in National City the show is very much about her absence and the impact it has on all of them. For Kara it’s about reaffirming who she is by highlighting her constant hopeful attitude in what seems like a hopeless situation. It’s very fitting to have the final season begin with a binary exploration of what Supergirl represents even if it robs us of engaging character interactions.
In National City, the heavy hitters on Team Supergirl are coming apart at the seams. The threat represented by the Phantom acts as the catalyst to force the exploration of these emotional issues rather than being a major focus by itself. This is absolutely the right balance as the episode becomes more character driven than plot driven. It does lead to the standard action sequence with technobabble solutions to problems but it works because it is understood what it took for the characters to get to that point in the midst of their own struggles.
Alex is continuing to surrender to melancholy following the reveal in the previous episode that finding Kara is currently next to impossible. Her reaction to that is to give into that sense of hopelessness and question her purpose in the world without Kara in it. She succumbs to the idea that Kara is lost and is completely unable to process what that means. Kelly is there to comfort her by doing nothing more than telling Alex that she’s there for her. When someone is grieving sometimes all they need is for someone to listen to them and let them work their way through the emotions themselves. That is exactly what Kelly offers and it pays off by the end of the episode when Alex comes to realise that Kelly has consistently been her rock. I’ve criticised the use of Kelly in previous episodes because of her forceful approach to trying to help people but this was perfect and made the connection she has with Alex feel believable as well as strong while also cementing Kelly’s therapist credentials.
J’Onn takes the opposite approach by walling off his emotions and choosing to remain on task at all times while actively pushing aside the fact that he’s hurting. It’s a different extreme but equally as damaging and creates a compelling shared arc with Alex as both have to realise that allowing themselves to surrender to their distinct coping mechanisms is far from healthy. J’Onn’s approach ends up indirectly leading to M’Gann almost dying where Alex’ approach prevents her from being where she is needed so there’s a clear need for middle ground to be achieved for both of them.
Naturally this happens when they have a meaningful moment where they discuss what they’re dealing with which allows their minds to clear some and come up with a solution that can help M’Gann. Appropriately the solution involves J’Onn embracing his emotional connection to her and Alex helps him get there through her intelligence showing that it’s more healthy for her to keep working. It may be an abrupt conclusion but it plays to the strengths of the two characters to have them help each other get to the point where they can both function more effectively despite what they’re dealing with. The message being presented is that being solely cold and detached is as unproductive as giving into strong emotions.
This is also reflected through Lena and Brainy’s interactions. Brainy is still dealing with what it means to be uninhibited and continues to find himself drawn to more extreme tendencies in particular when it comes to Lex. Both Lena and Brainy are on a crusade to ruin him through attacking the things he has set up to hide his criminal activities. One thing they do is drain an account masquerading as a charity but is actually being used to finance weapons. The funds are sent to a children’s hospital which really irks Lex as he is beyond the point of appearing saintly to the general public considering they now accept him for exactly who he is. Of course he still has to cover his tracks but he no longer needs to pretend he cares which is liberating for him. Being seen as a charitable figure isn’t something that pleases him and all it does his fuel his intense rivalry with Lena.
His retaliation involves burning down the Luthor wing of the children’s hospital and blaming it on corner cutting that Lena was responsible for. His core tactic is to drag Lena’s reputation through the mud and have her known as the villainous Luthor which runs counter of everything she has tried to avoid. Lex mentions her attempts to bring him down in the context of chess moves which feels appropriate as Luthor machinations in this show have often been positioned through comparisons to chess with different members of the Luthor family planning moves to outsmart others. Ultimately they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of one-upmanship that can’t be broken unless one of them dies.
Lena realises that and vents to Brainy about wishing that they could kill him which prompts Brainy to strongly agree with that and listing all the ways he could facilitate doing so in a way that means he can never come back. Brainy’s hostility towards Lex is due to his experiences working with him in the previous season and he’s struggling to reconcile those strong feelings. Lena and Brainy had an interesting dynamic founded on Lena teaching him unhealthy coping skills founded on repressing emotions in small boxes rather than actually dealing with them. She has since realised how unhealthy that is and has changed her view to it being far healthier to acknowledge them, express them and move on. She encourages Brainy to do just that and he does which helps him clear his mind some. It’s a great moment and showcases Brainy’s changes in a really interesting way while giving Jesse Rath plenty of opportunity to expand his performance as Brainy in the wake of his emotional awakening.
It’s a valuable conversation for Lena as well as she realises how endless the cycle she’s in with Lex is and makes a conscious decision to break it by leaving Luthorcorp therefore ending their endless battle for control over it. Lena’s view is that if Lex is left in complete control then he’ll end up engineering his own undoing through his own hubris; something he proves almost immediately by blatantly stating that now he has everything he will pursue gaining more. Characterising Lex’ ambition as being a major weakness that routinely leads to his own ruination is a great touch that this show makes particularly good use of. Connecting this to Lena’s self worth through her realisation that loving herself is far more important than hating Lex was a great touch that proves to be a game changer for Lena.
Kara’s journey through the Phantom Zone leads her to Nyxlgsptinz (Peta Sargeant); a fifth dimensional being like Mxyzptlk who was banished to the Phantom Zone by her father because he believed that she was weak and useless. When she’s introduced her self worth is tied to her father’s perception of her and she is at the point where she feels that there’s no hope of escape. She has no powers and no way to get out of her current predicament but Kara’s influence allows her to overcome that. She helps Nyxl see that there is hope and Kara is able to help her by listening to her open up about why she feels things are so hopeless before offering her encouragement which allows her to put those feelings into context and see a solution that allows her to get her powers back. The explanation is very heavy handed and unnecessary as it’s more than clear through context what she has done but it does help to highlight how inspiring Kara can be when people need it the most. Nyxl is a very fun presence as well who already has a great dynamic with Kara and her emotional baggage creates a lot of potential.
Where Kara is concerned, her strength of character is constantly highlighted by the way she reacts to the situation of being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. She’s powerless, lost, practically alone and spends a significant portion of this episode unable to walk without support but she never loses hope. As always she believes there is a solution that can be found as long as she doesn’t give up and remains focused on finding a way out. That attitude is shown to be infections through her interactions with Nyxl and fuels her journey through the Phantom Zone. It’s unknown how much longer this plot will continue but constantly using it to reaffirm what Kara stands for through her demonstrating those values works really well and plays to Melissa Benoist’s strengths as a performer in this particular role.
A strong episode that leans into the emotional impact of the current situation on each of the characters and showcases their distinct reactions brilliantly. Alex succumbing to melancholy as she struggles to process the loss of Kara puts her in an extreme position that mirrors J’Onn walling off his emotions with his focus being on the work at hand. Both are identified as unhealthy and there’s an arc between them that leads to a healthier middle ground through each of them embracing what they have closed themselves off from. It’s a rapid development but feels earned and makes use of the strong character dynamics at play. Kelly is at her strongest here by taking on the role of a supportive listener to Alex which makes a case for the strength of their connection. Lena and Brainy also work to find a way to process their emotions in a more healthy way through their shared campaign against Lex. Brainy is still getting used to having full access to his emotions and finds himself drawn to extreme tendencies where Lena helps bring him back from that by telling him that he can’t suppress his emotions because it’s healthier to acknowledge, express and then moves on. He does that and it certainly helps while Lena comes to realise that she is stuck in an endless cycle of one-upmanship with Lex that can only be broken by her stepping away. She’s confident that once he has total control then he will engineer his own doing; something that he begins to prove almost immediately. Lena’s realisation that loving herself is more important than hating him is game changing for her and creates a massive shift in her own life.
Kara meeting Nyxlgsptinz allows for further demonstration of her ability to inspire people through just being herself and living her values. She listens to Nyxl vent about her father believing her to be useless and offers encouragement that leads to Nyxl being able to see a solution that allows her to regain her powers. Her own explanation is heavy handed as what happened is clear through context but she is a fun presence and has a great dynamic with Kara. The way Kara reacts to being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone along with all of the individual setbacks she has already experienced highlights her strength of character. She never loses hope and always believes that there is a solution that will result in her escape. It’s unclear how long this plot will last but using it to reaffirm what Kara stands for through demonstrating her values works really well and plays to Melissa Benoist’s strengths as a performer.
- Alex and J’Onn being at two extremes in their coping mechanisms
- the arc that leads to them finding that much needed middle ground
- Brainy and Lena’s connection being wonderfully used
- Brainy’s continued struggles with having full access to his emotions
- Lena advising Brainy on a healthier emotional outlet
- Lena realising that she needs to break the endless cycle of one-upmanship with Lex
- Lex almost immediately starting to prove Lena’s point about engineering his own downfall
- Lena’s important realisation about loving herself being stronger than her hatred of Lex
- Kara’s ability to inspire being exemplified through how she helps Nyxlgsptinz recognise her own worth
- Nyxl and Kara’s fun dynamic
- Kara constantly demonstrating her core values even in the face of all the setbacks she experiences
- using this plot to reaffirm what she stands for through demonstration of that attitude
- quick resolutions to major emotional issues
- Nyxl’s heavy handed explanation of how she overcame her insecurities
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