Supergirl – Season 5 Episode 8
“The Wrath of Rama Khan”
Supergirl closes out the first half of season 5 with a battle for Lena’s soul and dangers coming from multiple fronts at once.
This season has been really strange so far. It started with slow and deliberate mystery based plotting that has now shifted to rapid fired narrative movement bereft of sense. Some of it is entertaining but it’s hard to discern what the show is trying to say about certain issues and a lot of the depth is lost in the midst of everything that’s going on.
Whether the writers choose to focus on it or not the core plot is the rift that now exists between Kara and Lena. The previous episode provided really powerful interactions that changed the nature of their relationship in a way that may be permanent. I’m not prepared to accept that the rift is irreparable but it’s clear that whatever their relationship is after the dust settles it won’t be the same as what they had before. This is good because relationships change, evolve, encounter problems and alter to suit how people are shaped by their life experiences so the current situation shows that actions have consequences that might not be easy to come back from.
Lena is operating under a false assumption at the moment as she thinks that her actions are intellectually driven when they are actually emotionally driven. Her plan to incept everyone on Earth to ensure that people stop hurting one another is a direct reaction to her perception of the way Kara treated her when hiding fundamental things about herself. In many ways Kara becomes her case study and she has been working towards fixing what she sees as a fatal Human flaw. If she were truly thinking with her head rather than her heart then she would be able to understand that people act in different ways for different reasons and she might start to understand Kara’s motivations for keeping her identity as Supergirl a secret from her as well as see how regretful Kara is for having done that. Lena is very hurt, very intelligent and very resourceful so the end result is that she tries to apply her view of how people should behave to the entire race whether they want to be altered or not.
The way Lena interacts with Hope is telling as to how emotionally driven she is at this point. She isn’t someone I paid a great deal of attention to until this episode because previously she was little more than the perfect version of a sidekick combining Lena’s revolutionary Artificial Intelligence with a Human host to make what essentially amounts to the perfect assistant for her. Hope is a being that will do whatever she says, always be completely honest and is incapable of betrayal of any kind so it’s exactly what Lena thought she needed when creating her. This episode shows that she sees her purpose as serving whatever Lena’s goals happen to be and that directive goes beyond a sense of self preservation. As a contrast to that, Lena sees Hope as her friend so comes up with an excuse that means she doesn’t risk her life even if it is the logical solution to the problem. Lena’s perception of Hope offers fascinating insight into Lena’s mental state at this point. She talks a lot about Kara’s betrayal and how that inspired her to never rely on anyone but herself. She asks the open question “Who needs friends when you can save the world?” which is something that she thinks to be the truth but the reality is that she craves friendship and companionship. Her interactions with Hope prove that and Katie McGrath injects the right amount of doubt into her performance to suggest that Lena doesn’t fully subscribe to what she has convinced herself that she believes.
Something that hasn’t been addressed so far is Lena taking it upon herself to force a fundamental change on everyone on Earth without their consent. She believes that it’s the right thing to do for the Human race as a whole which makes sense from her perspective but to actually go through it would be breach of consent on a global scale. Hope in Eve’s body is that idea in a much more intimate way that was rife for acting as a case study for what Lena is doing. It may be something she is ignoring because she believes what she’s doing is right but another voice was required to point this out to her and challenge her to further justify why her way is automatically the right one. This oversight makes it more difficult to fully invest in Lena’s plan because there is this significant issue that continues to go unaddressed. Perhaps it will come up if and when she’s more willing to see other points of view. Her conversation with Kara proves that she’s a long way away from being open to hearing anyone else out.
Kara is unwavering in her belief that Lena is a good person who can be reasoned with as evidenced by her emotional appeal to Lena’s better nature via hologram. She urges Lena to not let her mistake turn her into something she isn’t and not to become her brother but Lena doesn’t listen because she sees herself as a good person with the responsibility to make the rest of Humanity better. Lena doesn’t see herself as being anything like Lex and thinks that her actions are for the greater good after being shown the ugliness of Humanity through Kara’s actions. She’s in a very dark place and is unreachable at this point but waivers slightly when Kara appeals to her better nature. This can be interpreted as finding it very difficult to face Kara after the betrayal though it’s also possible her resolve is starting to crack and she has to will herself not to let Kara in. Either way she is misguided and unwilling to accept the help of others which makes for a large scale problem.
It could be said that Kara is really naive when it comes to how she sees Lena as she believes that she isn’t herself. Offering up a counter argument is Alex who points out the questionable ethical decisions made by her in the past such as keeping the fact that Lex was out of prison from everyone else or locking Sam away after finding out that she was Reign without telling anyone else. Alex sees this as evidence of Lena living her own version of Kara’s double life which would make her something of a hypocrite for passing judgement on Kara for hiding information. Kara wants to believe that Lena will do the right thing in the end because she is an optimistic person who innately sees the good in others. Alex is a little more pragmatic and sees mounting evidence that Lena isn’t predisposed to do the right thing because of how duplicitous she has been in the past. This doesn’t mean that Alex doesn’t like or trust Lena but it does mean that she has a wider view of who she is as a person and what she’s capable of. At this particular point in time Lena represents a global threat and Alex can’t proceed on the assumption that she will have a change of heart because there is so much at stake.
This conversation highlights the strength of the Kara/Alex relationship because of what they represent in the event of a problem with this level of stakes. If left to her own devices Kara would likely doom the Human race because she’s unwilling to be prepared for a negative outcome. Alex thinks differently and understands the need to prepare for the worst in such situations. Kara isn’t wired that way which means that Alex has to shoulder that responsibility and she’s equipped to do so in order to spare Kara from having to take on such a burden. Arguably this is a massive blind spot for Kara as a hero but this is also why she works with others because they can bring things to a situation that she can’t which leaves her hopeful and optimistic outlook from being untarnished. Deep down she knows that she needs to let Alex prepare for this even though she condemns it because she understands how devastating it will be if she’s wrong. She also trusts that Alex is preparing for the worst case scenario and will only use her most dangerous weapons if she has no other choice. It’s another example of the unspoken trust that exists between them and Alex’ ability to school Kara on how things really are while she’s assuming the best case scenario. Putting them on opposite sides of the same issue is often an effective way of delivering information and grounding the plot in tangible emotional stakes with this being a particularly strong example.
Malefic’s shift from villain to ally is directly connected to the Lena plot as he represents the best chance of stopping her without bloodshed. The main difficulty here is that Team Supergirl have to find it within themselves to trust him after fighting against him for so long. All they have to go on is J’Onn’s word that his brother has changed but the possibility of this change of heart being a trick has to be considered. J’Onn is prepared to fully vouch for him but Alex doesn’t want to take that at face value because to do so would be potentially fatal. It’s an expected display of competence and leadership from Alex who continues to take every possible precaution in a rapidly deteriorating situation and wrestles with the choices in front of her. Malefic seems completely different in this episode with his willingness to help stop Lena’s plan. There are some really poignant brotherly moments that help sell the rapid shift in his allegiance and Phil LaMarr plays the changed Malefic brilliantly.
Ultimately the solution to the problem at hand comes from a gesture of trust on Alex’ part. She has to take a risk and have everyone deactivate their psychic inhibitors in order to increase Malefic’s power. Doing so risks the entire DEO being incepted but not doing so guarantees Lena’s success so it’s a very risky choice that has Alex take a leap of faith in trusting a former enemy. Despite her pragmatic attitude evidenced in her conversation with Kara there is a desire to believe the best in people which ends up fuelling her decision to trust that Malefic is on their side. Unfortunately the sequence fails to be exciting as it plays out on a computer monitor but there is some tension attached to Alex’ brief moment of indecision before she runs out of time.
Malefic’s next objective seems to be finding redemption for himself which involves returning to Mars to help M’Gann fight the War that he helped fuel. The message here is that redemption isn’t easily achieved which is consistent with the approach taken to this in the past. Malefic has a real opportunity to positively influence the War and help bring it to a swifter end which would go a long way towards making up for his past misdeeds. He’s certainly willing to put in the work and the scene where he leaves is really well done with a palpable sense of comfort now existing between the two brothers. It’s good to see a troubled relationship healed in such a way.
I’ve mentioned in prior reviews that I was unsure why The Monitor brought Malefic to Earth. It can be stacked up alongside the other seemingly random actions that he takes in the other shows but the purpose is revealed after Malefic leaves. He brought Malefic to Earth as a test for J’Onn because he sees him as a great warrior distracted by his past. Resolving his conflict with Malefic gives him the necessary clarity to focus on being the warrior that The Monitor believes him to be. Basically this was a test and passing it shows that he’s ready for the upcoming Crisis. This makes a lot of sense given The Monitor’s behaviour in the other shows; he frequently offers characters the opportunity to achieve closure on issues that they’re having in order to refine their focus so that they have a chance of facing what’s coming. This suggests that victory will be achieved through internal strength as well as external strength which is a common theme in the Arrowverse so it’ll be interesting to see if this is applied on a grander scale.
Contrary to the lack of clarity in the previous episode, Rama Khan is still very much alive and is perceived as toothless by his colleagues who list his recent failures to do any lasting damage. It’s good that his attacks are laughable in universe as well as he has so far been a terrible villain with little to no threat level. His plan for this episode is to cause an extinction-level event in the form of a Supervolcano. Conveniently there’s a dormant one located right under National City that can be exploited which keeps the action nicely localised. Narratively this plays out much the same as the last extinction-level event in that it doesn’t seem like all that big a deal. It’s basically all in a day’s work for Kara who handles Rama Khan as the timer counts down on Lena’s plan. Part of the problem is that there’s too much going on with little focus on what the most dangerous threat is. Common sense dictates that the Supervolcano is the most significant threat as it could wipe out all life on Earth but the episode treats Lena’s plan as the more urgent of the two which makes little sense considering Lena won’t have any minds to alter should Rama Khan succeed. The two problems don’t naturally connect and the end result is very muddled. The action sequence involving Rama Khan also fails to be interesting as it amounts to Kara being pinned under concrete with Rama Khan gloating.
The one saving grace is that Rama Khan has to step aside for other members of Leviathan to try their hand at achieving their goals. I’m not convinced the other members will be any better but Rama Khan has more than run his course so it’s a good thing that he won’t be the focus from now on. Leviathan still feel entirely at odds with everything else going on but there may still be a way to dial up their threat level in a way that compliments the other stories playing out. Time will certainly tell on that one.
A busy episode means that a lot of compelling content doesn’t have the chance to breathe. Andrea’s contribution could have been something really special as all the ingredients were present to make this happen. Her decision to warn Team Supergirl and reject the influence Leviathan have over her makes sense as a desperate act and her immediate punishment for non-compliance is appropriately violent if quickly glossed over. She goes from issuing a warning to being used as a power source for Rama Khan’s staff with very little in-between to explore Leviathan’s views on betrayal and how severe the consequences will be for anyone who turns against them. We’ve seen characters hooked up to machines and come away from it relatively unscathed before so there’s very little of interest here. It’s just another example of that though the sense of clarity on Andrea’s part is an encouraging development for her character and Julie Gonzalo does a great job with the material given to her. With a bit of work Andrea could be a really compelling and nuanced character. Her final scene where she reviews her memories of Russell as a reminder of what her choices cost her is a really moving and beautifully acted depiction of loss.
The Monitor’s presence in this episode also leads to the reveal that he has been keeping Lex in his cosmic waiting room. There isn’t much to go on here but it’s clear Lex is bored and The Monitor needs him for his mind and appeals to his inner desire to become the Hero he always wanted to be. Lex does counter that by pointing out that he already sees himself that way but he also offers his help as long as The Monitor helps him out with something regarding Lena. It makes sense that Lex would choose to help as the multiverse is at stake and he lives in the multiverse so it suits him to play a part in saving it. The Monitor’s mention of Lex becoming the Hero he has always wanted to be hints at the gift he will give to Lex so I suspect his involvement will come with the realisation of his full potential and move him away from the resentment he has for Superman. Crisis is nearly here so all of those questions will soon be answered.
A busy episode that struggles to juggle conflicting plots but manages to deliver meaningful character moments connected to them. The core plot at the moment is the Kara/Lena conflict. Lena is operating under the false assumption that her actions are intellectually driven when they are actually emotionally driven. Her plan is a direct reaction to her perception of the way Kara has treated her but she is unable to see it. Her interactions with Hope also show how emotionally driven she is at this point. Hope sees herself as a tool created to serve Lena even if that means putting herself in danger in order to achieve her goals where Lena clearly sees Hope as a friend which causes her to override the more logical action. Lena is characterised as someone who craves friendship and companionship no matter how much she tries to deny it. There are issues with her plan such as the fundamental break of consent it represents which is weirdly not being addressed nor is the lack of consent associated with forcing Hope into Eve’s body but perhaps that will come later. Kara continues to be unwavering in her belief that Lena is a good person who can be redeemed. Alex holds the opposite view and lists the many examples of Lena being less than honest with them to suit her own agenda. It’s good to bring this up as it highlights how difficult the situation is and how naive Kara can be. It’s a great showcase of the Alex/Kara relationship with Alex taking on the role of the pragmatist when Kara is unequipped to do so. There are strong hints that Lena can be redeemed in Kara’s attempt to get through to her.
Malefic’s shift from villain to ally plays out well with the appropriate amount of caution from Alex before taking a chance and choosing to believe J’Onn’s assertion that he has changed. The result is that Lena’s plan is stopped and Malefic proves himself to be on the road to redemption. His interactions with J’Onn are really well done and the decision to send him to Mars in order to help repair the damage he had a hand in causing feels like the next logical step for him. J’Onn learning that The Monitor brought Malefic to Earth as a test for J’Onn and an opportunity to become unburdened by his past in order to be the sort of warrior that will be needed during the coming Crisis is an interesting development consistent with The Monitor’s behaviour in other shows. Rama Khan continues to be an ineffective villain though this is recognised by his colleagues. His plan to cause an extinction-level event should receive a lot more importance than it does. It comes across as all in a day’s work for Kara which does nothing for the overall threat level. It doesn’t help that Rama Khan’s plan feels completely disconnected from Lena’s plan with the lack of focus making it unclear which is the most significant. The one saving grace is that Rama Khan is standing aside in favour of one of his colleagues which could make for a more natural fit. Andrea was used really well in this episode though suffers from not having quite enough time to make use of what she brings. Her betrayal of Leviathan being quickly met with a violent response seems oddly consequence free for her as she comes out of it relatively unscathed. There’s also no sense of how Leviathan regards betrayal and how severe the consequences would be for those who betray them. Andrea’s final scene where she replays her memories of Russell is a moving and beautifully acted depiction of loss that serves as a reminder of what Andrea’s choices have cost her.
- Lena deluding herself into believing her actions are intellectually driven
- her interactions with Hope showing her to be someone who craves friendship and companionship
- Kara’s unwavering belief that she can get through to Lena being counted by Alex’ pragmatic approach
- a strong showcase of the Kara/Alex relationship and what they bring to one another
- Alex displaying the appropriate level of caution when dealing with Malefic
- the J’Onn/Malefic dynamic
- Malefic’s next move being the next natural step on the road to redemption
- the reveal of The Monitor’s purpose for bringing Malefic to Earth
- strong material around Andrea
- Julie Gonzalo’s wonderfully acted depiction of loss
- the Rama Khan plot being completely at odds with the Lena plot
- Rama Khan continuing to be an ineffective villain
- the Supervolcano feeling like all in a day’s work
- too many plots vying for attention
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