Supergirl – Season 6 Episode 6
Supegirl continues with Brainy and Nia’s time travel adventure with complications that risk threatening the timeline.
I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that there was clear padding in order to make this story spill over onto a second episode. This is further evident through how little really happens over the course of this one. The strength of this show has never been in delivering a cohesive plot but it’s painfully clear there wasn’t enough story here to fill two episodes
One of the main issues was creating meaningful jeopardy for the characters to deal with. The two alien zookeepers and Cat Grant act as the antagonists throughout but neither of them are significant enough by themselves. As I previously mentioned the zookeepers were excessively corny even by this show’s standards and failed to be memorable antagonists in their own right. This is worsened by them being defeated so easily in the opening minutes of the episode only to be carelessly redeployed later on to create another difficult situation to be resolved. Neither of them are realised characters and are largely defined by their lack of overall competence so it’s impossible to accept that they could be a threat worthy of carrying the episode.
Cat Grant fares better though a lot of that has to do with using knowledge of the character as she was when she was a regular on the show and combining it with her as she is presented here. It’s easy to connect the two because Eliza Helm’s performance is so good but it also means a lot of the work is being done by the audience to connect the two. Reminders are peppered throughout such as her using the wrong names for people and the pep talk she gives Kenny about self confidence. The latter is heavily reminiscent of one of the go to tactics for Cat when she was a regular on the show.
None of this is bad but it does lean heavily on the familiarity which is fine by itself but when trying to paint Cat in a broadly antagonistic light it falls somewhat flat. The most meaningful moment is when Nia talks to her about her potential and encourages her to pursue her own career path because she’s more than capable of achieving greatness. Nia knows that because she’s from a time where Cat built her own media empire, the audience knows it because she was on the show demonstrating her ability for a full season and Cat knows it because she’s brimming with self confidence. Her issue was finding the proper outlet for that self confidence out of a misguided belief that she needed to work her way up which meant being subordinate to people like Perry White. Nia’s advice allows her to consider her own future and she chooses to quit in pursuit of her own path.
Whether this is a necessary time loop and Nia always inspired Cat is impossible to say because the time travel rules remain poorly established but it’s a strong character moment for both Nia and Cat so the existence of it is certainly justified. It’s also easy to accept that Cat would have reached that conclusion on her own at some point given what is known about her personality. In general the time travel element of this episode is problematic with the reset being poorly handled. There was a clear intent to homage Back to the Future Part II but it’s a very half baked reference as the episode fails to take advantage of the characters sneaking around trying to avoid earlier versions of themselves. It’s incredibly clumsy and painfully limited in its execution.
There is a loose theme of making choices about the future threaded through this episode. Many of the characters connect to it in different ways though it’s most obviously explored through Kara who spends the entire episode uncertain about her own future in different ways. Before the trip back through time that resets the dire situation she is faced with the prospect of being outed to the world against her will, treated like a dangerous alien and experimented on because of what she is. That is a future she was unwilling to accept and she makes that point eloquently through pointing out that she is very much at the beginning of her life and doesn’t really know how to do anything. To have everything decided for her isn’t something she can handle so breaking out to follow Nia and Brainy back through time is a clear indicator that she wants to take control of her destiny rather than have it decided for her.
That situation is an extreme one because of what is at stake but it spills out into the rest of her life. In the previous episode she wasn’t sure how she was going to tell Kenny that she wanted to leave Midvale in order to learn more about the world and she finds the words here. She tells him that there’s so little in life that she has experienced and she wants to fix that by leaving Midvale to see what else the world can offer her. It’s a choice she makes for herself and it means leaving behind the life of a superhero. She doesn’t approach this conversation with regret or resentment because she loves what she and Kenny have been doing but also wants to see what else there is rather than resigning herself to a particular direction in life. It’s a well thought out and mature approach to making a decision about the future that plays out wonderfully.
Kenny has entirely valid reasons for why he feels he can’t leave Midvale and they have an open conversation about their lives going in different directions. It’s a very sombre and realistic portrayal of a teenage couple who have strong feelings for one another coming to realise that what they want out of life after high school isn’t compatible with their relationship. Life after high school often becomes more complicated as people have to make choices that affect the rest of their lives and that isn’t always compatible with an otherwise functional high school relationship. People grow up and sometimes they grow apart. That’s part of life and it’s a lesson well learned by Kara and Kenny who have to deal with that. It’s also very interesting to see him openly discuss how positive an influence Kara has been on him which highlights how she will similarly inspire others in the future while also linking into Cat’s future as an inspirational woman. Kenny being characterised as a man secure enough to admit that he’s vulnerable and finding his greatest source of inspiration in a woman is perfectly in line with the ongoing messaging of this show. Given his importance in these two episodes I’m left wondering if he will appear as an adult before the season ends. It’s not necessary for that to happen and it doesn’t take away from the difficult choice they both make if he ends up being a part of the final run of episodes.
The focus on Kara and Kenny’s relationship is to the detriment of the Kara/Alex relationship. It does see resolution here in that there’s a shared acceptance of the alternate point of view and a mutual apology that puts them back on the same page while acknowledging that there are things they aren’t able to agree on but it’s quick and fleeting. So much attention was given to that conflict in the previous episode that something more definitive was required in this one but the interactions they do have remain engaging to watch and the two actors inhabit the younger versions of these characters perfectly.
Making choices as a theme is also explored through Nia and Brainy. You have to dig to get to it but it’s definitely there. Nia remains insecure about her powers because she lacks the ability to interpret her dreams. She continues to cite never being taught by her mother as the reason but the fact that she hasn’t learned how to do it is driven by insecurity. The pink Cougar image keeps showing up despite feeling like the threat had been stopped but she lacked the knowledge to realise it was actually connected to Cat Grant. This is actually one of the few instances of dreams being symbolic rather than literal. The pink Cougar is Cat and the cage represents Perry White keeping her true potential locked away. It’s not the deepest of symbolic connections but it’s far more than is usually featured which suggests there could be a focus on Nia digging into the deeper meaning of her dreams over the rest of the season.
Being able to interpret this dream doesn’t make her feel better about her ability because it happens so late and she is only able to when something external prompts her but Brainy tries to put her mind at ease by pointing out that manifesting an image from her dream in the waking world is an incredibly advanced ability that shows her growth. He assures her the rest will come in time which shows a lean towards optimism and hope for him rather than the nihilism he was previously consumed by. The idea of choice comes into play where Nia is concerned because she chooses not to call her mother which I found to be a surprising decision on her part. Not calling her has to do with polluting the timeline and could reasonably be seen as an unsatisfying payoff to something that was being heavily set up but the alternate -and for me preferred- reading of it is that Nia has accepted that part of life means accepting that resources aren’t available to you even when you feel like you need them. Nia’s mother died without imparting all of her knowledge to Nia and that’s something she has to accept while not using it as an excuse that hinders her own growth. It’s a very uncomfortable yet real lesson that Nia has to learn.
Brainy has learned a lot in the past and has chosen to apply it to promote his own emotional growth. His exposure to a variety of coping mechanisms helps him realise that it’s not healthy to suppress emotions and that part of growing up is learning to deal with them. This gives him hope and they are able to return to the present with all of their core missions accomplished as well as learning important lessons about themselves in the process. Despite the shortcomings from a plotting point of view these two episodes were bursting with heart and routinely nailed the characterisation.
An engaging episode that offers meaningful commentary on growing up and making choices while showcasing important yet uncomfortable life lessons. The theme of making choices is loosely threaded throughout the episode with it being touched on by many of the characters. Cat Grant is given advice that points her in a particular direction which means quitting the Daily Planet and pursuing her own path. Nia knows she’s capable because she’s from the future, the audience knows it from when Cat was a main character and Cat knows it because she’s brimming with self confidence though lacked the proper outlet for it. Kara connects to this theme when she has an open conversation with Kenny about the choices she has made for her own future. She talks about having so much more to experience in life and not wanting to be stuck in Midvale so she has chosen to leave to see what else the world can offer her. Kenny has to stay for his own reasons so this amounts to a very real scenario where a high school romance has to end because of incompatible future goals. It’s a hard lesson well learned by both of the characters and depicted as a necessary part of life. The Kara/Alex relationship suffers somewhat due to the focus on Kara’s relationship with Kenny though there is a quick shared realisation that resolves what was set up. More was required based on the previous coverage but it was still engaging.
Nia links into this theme far more loosely but it all comes from her insecurities about her ability to use her powers. She is unable to interpret her dreams effectively and even continues to doubt herself after interpreting the pink Cougar image because she feels that it was too late. Brainy tries to reassure her by pointing out how much she has grown and tells her that the rest will come in time. This is one of the few examples of dreams being more symbolic than literal so hopefully this points to more creative uses of dreams in the coming episodes. Nia’s decision not to call her mother was surprising but really effective as it shows she has learned that sometimes resources become unavailable to you and that’s something that needs to be dealt with while not using it as an excuse to hinder growth. Brainy learning about coping mechanisms and properly dealing with emotions helps him choose to be more hopeful as they return to the present. The episode really suffers in how it handles the plotting. A big problem is the lack of a credible threat. The alien zookeepers are corny even by this show’s standards and are so easily dealt with that they fail to register. Cat is also antagonistic but the episode fails to fully commit to it . The time travel element is clumsily used without taking advantage of the potential but this is an episode that excels in the way it uses the characters which has always been this show’s strength.
- Cat Grant deciding to take control of her own future
- the sombre and real conversation where Kara admits to Kenny that she has to follow her own path
- an important lesson learned by Kara and Kenny around real life meaning that people grow up and grow apart
- Nia accepting that an unfortunate fact of life is that resources become unavailable to you when you feel you need them
- her insecurities affecting her ability to use her powers effectively
- Brainy reassuring her that it will take time for her to learn
- the exposure to coping mechanisms teaching Brainy important lessons about emotional well-being
- the lack of an appropriate antagonist
- wasting the potential of the time travel element
- the Kara/Alex relationship taking a back seat to the Kara/Kenny relationship
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