Supergirl – Season 6 Episodes 19 and 20
“The Last Gauntlet” and “Kara”
Supergirl ends its six year run with heart, humour, spectacle, reflection and a look to the future for the found family.
I’ll reflect more on my personal connection to this show beneath the rating box but I’ll start by saying that I will miss this show for so many reasons. The finale acts as a celebration of everything Supergirl is and it couldn’t be a better showcase of its strengths. It ends on its own terms and it’s true to itself so who can ask any more?
Airing the final two episodes on a single night is always going to be a headache for an analytical reviewer like myself but after watching them it makes complete sense as the first episode is where the bulk of the action is with the second focusing more on the characters. It’s a good balance because it allows the urgency and high stakes to be largely relegated to “The Last Gauntlet” with “Kara” functioning as a kind of extended epilogue. This show absolutely deserves an extended epilogue so taking the time to immerse the viewer in the emotional storytelling for its final outing is definitely the right decision.
There are some issues with the Lex and Nyxly conclusion that drag the finale down some. Those issues have everything to do with the problematic plotting I’ve often discussed in my reviews. By itself the Totems and Allstone plot isn’t all that interesting and stakes are continually artificially raised by manufacturing capabilities that come from nowhere. It’s a common problem with magical props and this show falls into most of the traps associated with them. The saving grace is that the plot itself isn’t the most important thing because Supergirl is about the characters, their relationships and how those relationships help them deal with any problem that comes their way. As a viewer and fan of this show I’ve come to accept that I will never be dazzled by the plot that’s playing out. I’m fine with that because I’m invested in the characters and it often delivers on that level in very satisfying ways.
This is certainly the case here. The real story isn’t the hunt for the Totems; the actual story is that Esme has been kidnapped and everyone on Team Supergirl have to deal with that. Lex presents them with an ultimatum and a ticking clock to create a sense of urgency so the story becomes how the team go about handling this. Alex unsurprisingly reacts very passionately and can’t see beyond Esme. She is willing to whatever it takes to get her back including killing Lex. Interestingly Kara doesn’t remind Alex of how immoral killing is because she understands that Alex is venting at a difficult moment and likely isn’t actually serious. She never comes to that moment where her claim is tested but letting it breathe rather than stating a moral objection highlights how well Kara knows her sister.
The response to Lex’ ultimatum is twofold with Team Supergirl split between Alex and Kelly wanting to accept his demands and the others looking to find another way. That other way involves repurposing a satellite to supercharge Kara with solar energy in order to enhance her powers so that Fifth Dimensional magic has no effect on her. The drawback to this is that the sun will be dormant for six months. The only thing to say about this is that it’s utter nonsense even by Supergirl standards. It’s difficult to accept that a satellite exists that can drain the sun of so much energy that it isn’t able to perform all the functions it needs to for planet Earth. Added to that is that it’s unlikely Kara could absorb that much energy and hope to survive. The explanation is around her achieving godlike status by doing this which initially justifies the decision for her as she’ll be able to fix it when she commands that level of power.
On a character level it works better but not entirely. Kara is desperate to get her niece back in a way that doesn’t give Lex and Nyxly access to untold power. That makes sense as a motivating factor for her and her willingness to take the personal risk of taking in that much energy is in keeping with her character. If the drawback had been a more personal one such as it likely proving fatal for Kara then it would have been far more meaningful though the impact on the entire planet existed to set up the resolution to this.
When carrying out the plan, Kara takes in the energy and has her powers heightened to the point where she hears how afraid people are of what she’s doing and that they’re questioning these actions. Team Supergirl has been accepted as a force for good by a lot of people but her actions here call that into question which makes Kara reconsider this plan. Knowingly causing pain to the people she protects is never an acceptable solution for her so she changes her mind and stops the process. Stories about heroes being flawed and making ill advised decisions can be powerful when told correctly. Supergirl has consistently done well when presenting Kara as a flawed hero with good intentions so the theory behind this plot point was sound as it’s ultimately about Kara learning and growing as both a hero and a person but it’s far too messy and convoluted.
To some degree it ties into the theme of accountability that was peppered throughout the season. It was never fully developed but the idea of superheroes being akin to civil servants acting in the best interests of the people they protect while also being held accountable by them was a strong one but needed a lot more exploration than this season provided. This ties in because it’s a decision Kara made without consulting the people while failing to consider the impact it would have on them. She hovers above them and hears the fear that she is causing so she changes her mind which makes sense but there are no real consequences to it as the people rally behind Team Supergirl almost immediately after rather than being wary of them. It makes the civilian population less of a living fixture in the world of the show and more window dressing that are used to make a particular point at a given time. Reactions don’t make sense and aren’t earned so it’s hard to gel with the overall message. All of it is well intentioned and showing that Kara is at her best when compassion is her primary motivation is all well and good but it also comes across as shallow which does the whole point a disservice.
There are no personal consequences for Kara. The energy exchange was stopped seconds before it was completed so she still absorbed all that energy and there was no indication that it was returned. Thankfully this didn’t build to Kara being destroyed by it or having to give up her powers in order to rid herself of the surplus of energy but the lack of consequence stood out. The sun went from being massively dimmed to as bright as it was despite the majority of the energy transfer being completed so the entire thing was very confusing in execution.
Lex and Nyxly’s contributions come to a disappointing end. In particular Nyxly doesn’t receive a satisfying payoff as she -along with Lex- is unceremoniously dispatched into the Phantom Zone. With all the focus on her potential for redemption and her betrayal filled backstory it’s unsatisfying to have that ultimately mean nothing. The way she dealt with Esme reinforced that possibility and her decision to break away from Lex after seeing his disregard for Esme also pointed in that direction. Following that all she did was fight for a while before being dragged back to the Phantom Zone along with Lex so Nyxly received no character based resolution beyond the half baked mention of hubris being used to cover up fear.
The conclusion for Lex is equally disappointing as much of his recent development is completely undone. He falls back on old tricks which results in Nyxly rejecting him after having some extended conversations with Lillian who mocks him for how far he’s fallen. She reminds him that it shouldn’t be possible for him to love an alien given his passionate hatred for them previously and the situation develops to the point of him going after Esme in order to secure the love totem. There is the suggestion that the idea is Lex is ultimately incapable of true change as his desire for power will always overshadow everything else. It’s obvious by now that Lex will never be content with what he achieves as he will always want more; this was clearly shown by his actions once the Post-Crisis world came into being. Post-Crisis Lex had everything he could possibly want but he still wanted more and engineered his own downfall by pursuing it. Doing so resulted in him losing Nyxly -assuming he ever truly cared about her- and being banished to the Phantom Zone so he remains consistent. It’s likely he might reappear in Superman & Lois at some point but for the purposes of this show largely ignoring his growth achieved through his relationship with Nyxly was disappointing.
Lillian’s appearance resulted in a satisfying conclusion for her character. In her own twisted way it was usually apparent that she cared for both Lex and Lena which fuels her choices in her final appearance. She sacrifices herself to save Lex and her dying breaths are used to free Lena of the shackles of the Luthor name by admitting that she actively suppressed Lena’s magical abilities and pointed her towards science. Lena states that her final moments with Lillian were a gift but still grieves her passing. It’s a compelling end to a complex relationship that has developed over a long period of time. This gives Lena catharsis and fully empowers her to become her own person while acknowledging both aspects of her roots. She definitively has a family with Team Supergirl and that’s where her future lies though her past remains important.
Supergirl couldn’t end without Kara delivering an inspirational speech that gives people encouragement to take action. It was more subtle than some previous efforts though I’m grading on a different curve with the context this show provides. The setup comes when Lex and Nyxly are draining all of the traits associated with the totems in order to give themselves more power. This is accompanied by a simple yet effective visual of the colour being drained from the people as they lose love, courage, hope and the rest. Her speech is about embracing the power that lies within, not losing hope and not giving up. It’s nothing that hasn’t come up before but it ties in with the ongoing idea of Supergirl being a beacon of hope who makes people better and encourages them to be their best selves. Ideally she would want to create a world where she isn’t needed any more because people are the best they can be. This pays off in unexpected ways as evidenced by the response to a cat stuck up a tree that didn’t need the intervention of Supergirl to resolve. In its final hour Supergirl champions an optimistic outlook on the innate goodness of people and highlights that Kara has definitely helped people embrace it. Perhaps it’s unrealistic but it’s undeniably positive and in keeping with what this show has always tried to do.
The Lex and Nyxly plot is wrapped up early in the final episode which leaves around 2/3 of it devoted to wrapping up the character stories. It’s the right decision because the emotional resolutions are far more important than the plot. With this being a series finale there are plenty of returning faces to help see the show off. Notably Mon’El, Winn and James make a return with Cat Grant also appearing for two key scenes filmed at a distance. Mon’El’s appearance is very brief and seems to exist largely to confirm that there’s no chance of a romantic reunion with Kara. They part on great terms with Mon’El acknowledging that he has lots to do in the future and that Kara’s influence has spread through time to empower the Legion. It points out that her attitude and actions have made a difference and echo through the centuries. If there was ever going to be something that confirms you’re doing the right thing it would be that.
Winn and James have more substantive roles in that they stick around for Alex and Kelly’s wedding. They offer an opportunity to reflect on simpler times where Team Supergirl was just the three of them operating out of an unused space within CatCo. For the characters -and the audience- that feels like a very long time ago and things have definitely moved on since then. Winn thinks back on being Cat Grant’s IT guy followed by a DEO Agent prior to finding purpose with the Legion and James talks about figuring out what he wanted from life. He also has some strong scenes with Kelly where he points out their parents would be proud of her, offers his permanent unconditional support and wishes her well in the life she has built for himself. Another thing he does is share some adorable interactions with Esme who is gleeful that she has such a large family to connect with.
J’Onn’s parting moments have him be tasked with reimagining the DEO in however he sees fit. It’s an offer made to the entire team but it’s certainly J’Onn taking the lead on it and pledging to make it a beacon of peace for the world to rally behind. What form that will take is unknown but other Arrowverse shows exist to see it periodically crop up in some capacity. Winn also lets slip that he has a son with M’Gann so the man who carried the weight of being the last of his kind has a legacy to look forward to. It’s a poignant conclusion for such a wonderful character.
Brainy and Nia share a tearful goodbye as Brainy accepts his responsibility to return to the future and save his people. It’s a well delivered moment dripping in sadness that is somewhat cheapened by Brainy’s appearance at the wedding declaring that his love for Nia was more important than the expectations placed on him. It completely works and hits the right emotional beats but no attempt is made to explain whether Brainy has doomed his people to death because he decided to follow his heart. It amounts to a manipulative plot point to make it appear that they will be separated due to responsibility only for Brainy to choose to neglect it in favour of his relationship with Nia. It’s a good example of characterisation overpowering plotting to make moments land in the intended way but the lack of attention on the actual mechanical reason they would be forced to separate stands out.
Alex and Kelly’s wedding takes up a significant chunk of the episode and brings all the characters together to consider their futures. It’s also a heartfelt event that celebrates the strong connection between these characters. Kara and Winn duetting as they walk down the aisle was a great touch that allows these talented singers one last chance to show what they’re capable of and the vows exchanged were beautifully written as well as acted. Spending a lot of time allowing the natural chemistry that exists between the cast to carry the scenes was the right decision and it allows the show to go out on its own terms.
Kara’s conclusion is particularly interesting as it feeds into the less than conventional way this show handled the development of its lead character. In a lot of ways Kara has remained stagnant in terms of how her life is set up. She has grown, developed and matured immeasurably over the course of the series but broadly the setup has remained the same. She juggles being Supergirl with her civilian life with minor alterations here and there such as the DEO coming and going or her connection to CatCo fracturing periodically. On a basic level she has always struggled with balancing her two lives and never found a way to make it work for her consistently. Outside of that the only significant romantic relationship for her was with Mon’El with the rest being briefly featured or not actually going anywhere.
The final episode takes that constant struggle and turns it into a decision she has to make about how she lives her life. Cat Grant’s advice helps her work through that by offering her an opportunity to define her future by making her Editor in Chief at CatCo. Kara doesn’t want to accept it because she thinks the imbalance will remain but Cat challenges her to really ask herself if the way she lives her life actually works for her any more. She cuts right to the chase and tells Kara she knows the truth about her and points out that it’s easy to see the secret she keeps no longer serves her. It’s an interesting take because there’s no suggestion that the secret identity approach was a mistake; the narrative is that it once worked but now doesn’t. Cat advises her that there’s no need to continue to hold onto it and that she needs to make different choices as the circumstances of her life change. It was great to see Cat Grant back -however distanced- and for her to still be offering meaningful life advice after all this time.
Kara’s conversation with Lena further punctuates this struggle that Kara has been dealing with ever since she decided to adopt a dual identity. She theorises that failing the Courage Totem’s gauntlet might have something to do with deciding to hide herself. Supergirl was created after saving the plane that Alex was on in part because she was frightened of what it would mean to be truly open with the world about who she really is. She copied Clark’s approach of living two lives and faced many of the same trials he did while resolving them in different ways. Clark still hides his true self from the world by living a double life which currently seems to work for him but Kara isn’t able to perform the juggling act involved as expertly as he can. This means something has to change and that she can’t hide behind the glasses any more.
Her decision to take them off and reveal the truth to the world is monumental but goes unexplored which i found to be a very good decision as it leaves what comes next for her as an open question. It’s also interesting that the series ends without everything changing for her. A lot of background details have changed such as a new DEO, different paths for other character and the like but on a fundamental level Kara stays in National City, keeps her powers, remains active as Supergirl and still spends meaningful time with her found family. A lot has changed but a lot also remains the same which feels more real than every character experiencing a major paradigm shift due to the show ending. This of course leaves Kara on the board for future appearances should Melissa Benoist’s schedule allow for it and ends the show on a note of familiarity with the characters still finding a home within each other. To me that’s perfect for this show and I was left with a warm feeling. I’m really going to miss this show!
A strong finale that leans into and celebrates the strongest parts of the show to offer a meaningful and heartfelt send-off for the characters. As has become the norm for this show the plotting is problematic but the characterisation more than makes up for it. The first episode of the double feature finale focuses on wrapping up the villain/Totem story and certainly does this though in a less than satisfying way. Nyxly’s conclusion fails to capitalise on the potential of her character with her potential for redemption being all but ignored despite furthering it through her interactions with Esme and her decision to break away from Lex. Her ending involves her being unceremoniously dispatched to the Phantom Zone. Similarly, Lex loses a lot of the growth and change that was showcased over recent episodes though does have some strong scenes with Lillian that serve as reminders of his quest for power continually orchestrating his downfall. As with Nyxly he’s unceremoniously dispatched to the Phantom Zone. Lillian’s appearance resulted in a satisfying conclusion for her character that further confirmed that she genuinely cares for both Lex and Lena. She helps Lena to free herself from the shackles of the Luthor name which gives her catharsis and allows her to move forward while acknowledging both aspects of her roots. Kara delivering an inspirational speech that motivates people on a global scale is expected and works well here. Her messaging is about embracing the power that lies within, not losing hope and not giving up. This reinforces Supergirl as a beacon of hope able to inspire people to be better which pays off as shown by people coming together to help a cat out of a tree and Mon’El’s confirmation that her actions are remembered through the centuries.
The majority of the final episode is spent celebrating the characters, reflecting on their experiences and looking at their futures. J’Onn is tasked -along with the rest of the team- with setting up a new DEO in a way he sees fit while also learning that he has a legacy to look forward to which is an excellent conclusion for his character. Winn and James reflect on starting Team Supergirl under far simpler circumstances and finding their paths in life because they became involved in Kara’s heroics. James also shares heart-warming exchanges with Kelly and adorable moments with Esme who is gleeful about having such a large family to connect with. Brainy and Nia’s tearful goodbye along with their joyful reunion works on an emotional level but fails on a plotting level as the responsibility Brainy leaves to fulfil isn’t addressed which makes the goodbye seem manipulative. Kara’s conclusion is particularly interesting because it addresses the fact that the basic setup of her life hasn’t changed a great deal and turns it into a decision she has to make about how she lives her life. The secret identity is framed as something that once worked for her but no longer does rather than being a mistake from the outset. Cat Grant advises her that she needs to make changes in her life and adapt to changing circumstances; it’s a great use of Cat Grant as the provider of important life advice. This conflict is punctuated in Kara’s conversation with Lena where she talks about the reason Supergirl was created and how things have changed. Ultimately she decides to reveal the truth about herself to the public with the consequences going unexplored. This is a good decision as it leaves what comes next an open question. It’s interesting that the series ends without everything changing for her. She stays in National City, keeps her powers, remains active as Supergirl and still spends meaningful time with her found family. A lot changes but a lot remains the same which feels more real than a massive paradigm shift because the show is ending. To me that’s perfect for this show and I was left with a warm feeling. I’m really going to miss this show!
- highlighting that Kara’s actions, attitude and example resonates through the centuries
- spending the bulk of the final episode celebrating the characters
- bringing Winn and James back for substantive roles to show how far the characters have come
- James and Kelly’s interactions
- James and Esme’s adorable moments together
- the heartfelt wedding that celebrates the connection between Alex and Kelly
- J’Onn learning that he has a legacy to look forward to
- Kara being forced to consider the direction her life will take
- framing the secret identity as something that no longer works for her rather than a mistake from the outset
- Cat Grant doling out excellent life advice
- Kara punctuating this struggle in her conversation with Lena
- taking that step forward and revealing her true self to the world
- a lot changing but a lot remaining the same
- a disappointing conclusion for Nyxly that doesn’t take advantage of the work put into her redemptive potential
- walking back the growth attributed to Lex in recent episodes
- the plotting around Kara absorbing the solar energy making no sense
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User Review( votes)
I’ve reviewed almost every episode of this show and been with it since day one. I won’t pretend that it was the best show on television but I have a very strong to it. Right from the off I was drawn to Melissa Benoist’s engaging and earnest take on the Girl of Steel, the innocence perfectly complimented and contrasted by the strength she has, the struggles her character faced and how she weathered them among and so many other things. The hopeful tone and positive messaging about self belief, external belief, seeing the good in others and working to build a better world was consistently inspiring and often handled well. My emotional connection to this show as strong with it being one of the few TV shows I can think of that have brought me to tears on more than one occasion both for reasons of sadness and happiness.
As a male reviewer I’m limited on what I can say about this show’s contribution to feminism but I do recognise that it was an important show in terms of delivering complex female characters with virtues, flaws, uncertainties, vulnerabilities and everything else that makes for fully rounded characters. The characters grew and changed, their relationships evolved, their circumstances altered, they felt overwhelmed, they were happy, they were sad, they experienced loss, they adapted to change, they shaped the world around them and were shaped by it in return. Gender inequality was covered frequently but Supergirl also went after others equality based issues and was defined by its commitment to inclusivity in all its forms. On Supergirl everyone was welcome and would be judged on their own merits. It also didn’t deny that struggles existed for groups within society and delivered excellent stories about characters coming to terms with their true selves. Alex coming out as gay in season 2 is a particularly strong example as was Nia’s gender identity. From my perspective it was done well and very eye opening.
As a part of the Arrowverse, Kara enjoyed participation in the annual crossovers which allowed her to interact with Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, Kate Kane and a wide collection of others. One of the great things about the Arrowverse is seeing the characters from different shows getting together and develop a connection. Kara gelled brilliantly with every character she shared screen time with and those crossovers are definite highlights. Special mention has to be given to the musical adventure she shared with Barry as well. Crossovers are fun while also making Kara a part of a much larger universe -or multiverse- that she helped shape which only adds to her importance.
I’m going to miss this show. Plotting wasn’t always the best, odd decisions were often made in terms of where to take characters and it lacked a truly memorable villain but it most definitely delivered with the characters more often than not which is where it counts for me. The commitment to hope and optimism was always appreciated and Kara always being able to muster a smile that can light a room even in the darkest moments will be remembered. Farewell Supergirl, you were important to me!
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