Supergirl – Season 4 Episode 21
Supergirl finally brings Kara face to face with her evil twin as Ben Lockwood begins to realise that he is yet another pawn in Lex’ master plan.
This season of Supergirl has certainly been eventful, perhaps too eventful. Anti-alien tensions have dominated the storytelling but within that there existed a confusingly problematic Manchester Black arc, a half baked governmental oversight narrative, the Children of Liberty, the duplicate Kara and Lex Luthor’s convoluted plan. There were other things happening but that gives a few examples of the plates Supergirl was spinning as a show this season. On their own they were interesting plots with a great deal of potential and very little of it was outright bad but much of it was somewhat underdeveloped due to everything that was being juggled.
Kara finally meets her duplicate in this episode in what has been a very long delayed confrontation. Earlier in the season it seemed as if she was being thrown in as an afterthought to end certain episodes until Lex’ involvement came to light. Even at that she hasn’t been featured heavily so them meeting so late in the season was always going to feel rushed.
Despite that what we get here is great. Melissa Benoist pulls double duty in playing both roles and does an excellent job making them distinct. Kara is as we’ve always known her and the duplicate is confused, angry, naive yet appropriately threatening. Her loyalty may be misguided and based on lies fed to her by a very skilled con man but it’s also unwavering which is one thing that certainly connects Kara and Red Daughter as Kara’s loyalty to those she cares about is undeniable. Kara sees that similarity and tries to exploit it by appealing to the inner goodness she believes is there. Red Daughter mocks this as you might expect but there are hints that she isn’t entirely happy with her role in Lex’ plan. Kara’s suggestion that she’s a loose end in Lex’ scheme clearly makes her think and consider how invaluable to him she really is.
Once again, Red Daughter’s perspective on America remains one of the more interesting aspects of her character. She sees it as a land of decadence and waste, calling it a “fatted heifer” with supreme disgust in her voice. It has been mentioned before that she hates to see the unchecked decadence and she sees Kara as a part of that broken system; someone who defends the corrupt yet claims to be morally upright. It’s certainly an argument worth exploring and having Red Daughter have a warped version of Kara’s ethical makeup with her position being equally valid is a really strong touch. This makes her far more interesting than if she was a darkened mirror image of Kara.
Unfortunately the episode doesn’t really have time to explore this in great detail because it’s too busy juggling other stories. There is an expansion of their differing ideologies as they fight. Kara desperately tries to get through to her double by constantly reminding her that Lex only fights for himself and will inevitably betray Kaznia for his own interests. Melissa Benoist’s sincere and forceful delivery of the declaration that Kara stands for “hope, help and compassion for all” is brilliant and offers a stark contrast to her enraged Red Daughter performance. The main difference between the two in this fight is that Kara is fighting defensively because she still believes that there is good to be nurtured in Red Daughter where Red Daughter is fighting to kill as per her training. Going through the brutal and rigorous training at the hands of Lex and the Kaznian’s has made Red Daughter far stronger than Kara which naturally makes her a significant threat especially if Kara is unwilling to do what needs to be done in order to defeat her. It’s a great action sequence that is dripping with emotional weight though it would have benefited with Red Daughter not hiding behind a costume that hides her face. It’s easy to see why that was done considering both roles are played by Melissa Benoist but it depersonalises it somewhat. Despite that it’s very clear that they are both fighting for what they believe in which makes the stakes both high and personal.
Alex feeds into this plot as she joins Kara’s investigation into Red Daughter and starts seeing things that don’t add up. For one thing Red Daughter lives in an apartment that is laid out a lot like Kara’s, poses as Kara to kidnap Eliza and is generally obsessed with her. For Alex this doesn’t make sense as she has no memory of Kara being Supergirl so a chunk of this episode becomes about Alex reclaiming what she lost and repairing the relationship that was fractured by the choice she made to have her mind wiped. J’Onn establishes early on that Alex reclaiming her memories was unlikely as her mind has constructed a new narrative that doesn’t match the old one so there’s apparently no way for her memories to resurface. He does qualify this with the possibility of fixing it if she happens to find out the truth on her own and has her mind resolve it that way but there are no guarantees. The emotional core of this scene is that Kara is finding it very difficult to deal with everything that’s going on without the support of Alex which has been consistently explored since the decision was made to wipe her memory. The impact this has on Alex hasn’t been handled quite so well as her difficulty resolving the changes to her memory has been inconsistent.
The return of those memories is handled with elegant simplicity. It takes seeing Kara brutally beaten by Red Daughter to shock her into remembering and intercutting this with childhood memories of Kara using her powers in various ways is really effective as it adds to the emotional heft of the moment. Alex can’t stand to see Kara in such a vulnerable position and it’s almost as if every attack brings back a new memory until she fully comprehends that her sister is near death. There is a symmetry to Alex getting Kara back in her mind just as it looks as if she will physically lose her. Chyler Leigh’s performance as Alex cradles the dying Kara desperately clutching at straws -or grass- to save her life. Unfortunately the battle ends at night so there’s no access to the curative properties of the yellow sun for Kara but Alex never loses hope and is proven right when Kara somehow manages to extract the sunlight from the plants and grass around her so that she can come back. I suppose this counts as a brand new Kryptonian ability but it makes some sense as an extension of the pre-existing abilities while acting as a possible mirror to Red Daughter’s enhanced offensive ability.
As this is going on Brainy, Nia and J’Onn have their own problems when it comes to investigating kidnapped aliens. Amusingly Nia wants to pretend to be captured ala Chewbacca in Star Wars which causes J’Onn to raise an eyebrow at how abundantly that plan is used which makes for a strong meta gag poking fun at genre fiction leaning on this obvious tactic. Ultimately they decide to go with it because Brainy concludes that the odds of ending up actually captured are pretty good by their standards which makes for another impressive gag poking fun at the frequent high stakes situation. Ultimately the entire setup of this plot is humorous with Brainy blurting out that one of his objectives is to tell Nia he loves her. The absolute highlight is Brainy using his image inducer to make himself look and sound like Ben Lockwood. This gives Sam Witwer the opportunity to do his best Brainy impression and it’s delightful to watch; he absolutely nails the mannerisms and speech pattern as well as the body language. Naturally it doesn’t work which credits the government forces with enough intelligence to be threatening and the failure of the plan changes the tone whole increasing the stakes.
Even though the tone changes to being more immediate the torture scene is somewhere between cheesy and distressing. It’s rare to see Brainy pushed outside of his usual deadpan stoicism so it’s great to see Jesse Rath able to cut loose with his performance. It’s a little over the top but the strain he’s under is clear and the terror in his voice as he worries about tapping into the more villainous traits associated with his ancestors is chilling. Jesse Rath’s acting after Brainy is reset to factory settings is best described as unnerving. His coldness is unsettling and the lack of compassion in the way he conducts himself is a jarring shift. Whether this will be resolved before the next episode ends or not remains to be seen but for now it’s a surprising change that makes the situation a little more unpredictable.
With this being near the end of the season we are of course on track for some Luthor family drama. Lena enlists Lillian to help figure out a way to extract the Harun-El from both James and Lex. The reason for this is that Lillian and Lex’ brains apparently function similarly and Lena hasn’t quite figured out what’s required. She allows a Truth-Seeker to attach itself to Lillian and poisons her as an incentive to work quickly. This is a great use of the mother/daughter dynamic as it shows Lena has managed to come to terms with the relationship she has with her mother to the point that she knows the right way to manipulate her in order to take charge of a given situation. It’s a very brief interaction but Lena even manages to get Lillian to confess that she loves her while under the influence of the Truth-Seeker so there’s some closure for Lena.
As Lillian is working against the ticking clock Lena helps Ben Lockwood realise that he has been Lex’ pawn all along. At first he’s reluctant to admit as he believes in his own agency and thinks that everything he has achieved has been through hard work and determination but Lena points out some obvious facts that he had blinded himself to in favour of furthering his agenda. It’s understandable that Ben would struggle to accept the truth as he has been fiercely committed to his mission so may not have noticed that the right help he needed simply fell into his lap at the right time. He confronts Otis about this and kills him as if that will make a difference to what Lex has planned. It’s a strong realisation for Ben as he starts to see how easily he was manipulated and perhaps has doubts about the validity of his mission considering it was used as a stepping stone for Lex Luthor to further his plans. This goes a long way towards reclaiming some of his lost nuance and it’s great to see him match wits with Lena. He’s also an unpredictable element going into the finale as he may feel that everything he has done has been for nothing.
An excellent episode juggles a large number of stories impressively while never forgetting what the emotional core of the show is. Kara’s confrontation with her duplicate is long overdue and doesn’t disappoint in its execution. Characterising Red Daughter as being more than a simple opposite of Kara was definitely a good decision as it allows for exploration of her perspective on how Kara lives her life as well as the United States as a whole. She makes points that are hard to deny and could have shaken Kara’s belief system to its core had there been more time to develop it. Their physical confrontation highlights their differences as well as their similarities through Red Daughter’s brutal attack being tempered by Kara’s adherence to her principles. It’s not something the episode can really dig into which makes for a problem overall but what is depicted is interesting. Alex regaining her memories works really well. Intercutting the battle with Alex’ childhood memories makes for a great contrast between brutality and serenity which highlights what is being fought for. It’s more than welcomed for Alex to have her memories back as it restores the emotional core of the show and restores a significant resource for Kara.
Lena’s handling of her mother with the truth-seeker and poison is wonderfully ruthless as is the way she appeals to Ben Lockwood to actually look at his success and question how it came to him. Eventually he realises what should have been obvious and isn’t best pleased by it. This puts him on an unpredictable path going into the last episode as he may now be in a position to question his own preconceptions. Brainy being tortured and reset to factory settings is somewhere between cheesy and distressing in terms of how the torture scene plays out. Jesse Rath’s performance as Brainy is being tortured and later as he is reset to factory setting is excellent and well outwith his usual comfort zone.
- the continued nuanced characterisation of Red Daughter
- having Kara and Red Daughter clash on an ideological level
- the brutal fight between Kara and Red Daughter
- the sequence depicting the restoration of Alex’ memories
- Lena handling her mother
- Ben Lockwood realising that he has been Lex’ pawn all along
- Brainy’s unsettling factory reset
- Jesse Rath’s performance as “factory settings Brainy”
- the torture scene not quite finding the right balance
- Kara and Red Daughter’s interactions feeling rushed
- too much going on in the episode to fully dig into the content
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 Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.