Supergirl: 2.22 Nevertheless, She Persisted
So here it is, the final episode of Supergirl season 2 and its… okay?
Across this second season, especially the back half, I’ve felt as if the show has been straining; the Jimmy problem, Kara’s superiority complex, a lack of Cat Grant… While I did enjoy the episode, all this season's biggest problems are on show.
The episode opens with a genuinely impressive Supergirl v Superman fight. Its well shot and exciting and lasts a good length of time. As much as the Superman brainwashed to be bad is a bit of a boring choice artistically, it kind of works here as it helps explain why he wasn’t about when the invading armada first showed up. During this fight Superman, under the influence of silver Kryptonite, thinks Kara is Zod. In the flashes where we see how Superman sees her, I was disappointed that Zod is just some guy! He may never appear on the show fully and he's not necessarily one of Supergirl's villains but for the split moments we see him it would have been more effecting if he'd looked even vaguely Zod like.
After this initial, exciting battle, Superman is punched back to normal (classic technique), then things kind of slow down. With some help from Superman to research the ancient rites of Daxam, Kara challenges Mom-El to a one-on-one battle for the fate of Earth, a custom she cannot refuse. Its decided Supergirl should be the one to fight Rhea after Superman declares she is the true savior of earth because she beat him earlier – also, like, its her show. Once Mom-El excepts the battle they set a time and… wait. This is where the episodes falls down the most for me, it suffers from the small room problem. There is a big fight coming up, the world is at risk but they just sort of schedule the finale in, meaning the characters then sit around in small rooms waiting for the finale to happen. Sure, this allows for characters to talk and interact but its very artificial. It’s a trap this show has fallen into in the past and the narrative towards the finale lacks any organic tension.
I'm not entirely convinced Mom-El would accept the fight in the first place and it never quite rings true. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that she plans to double cross them but conversations are had along the lines that she might leave if beaten. Also, she doesn’t seem much of a risk. Daxamites aren’t as strong as Kryptonian’s and Mom-El is a 50 year old woman with no apparent fight training, Kara would wipe the floor with her. That fact alone should alert them to the possibility she’s probably up to something.
Mummy Luthor is the only person who knows that things might not go as planned and so turns up to Lena with a device that Lex created that can seed the atmosphere with lead, thus making it toxic to all Daxamites. She and Lena work on this, with Supergirl’s knowledge, as a back up plan. This is a last resort because it would mean Mon-El would have to leave Earth if it was used. I really like the emphasis on Lena as the woman who saved the world and the idea that this was how Lex used to see himself, a savior. The over all subplot of the Luthors has been uninspiring but there is some nice character stuff done here.
Oh man, this show misses Cat. Having her back for the finale is great. It doesn’t plaster over all the cracks in the episode but it helps move past them. We get a classic Cat gives advice to Kara scene where she tells Kara she’s on her hero’s journey and what we’ve all know all along is finally confirmed in a line of dialogue that really gives you a buzz! Watching the end Cat scene with Kara made me realise how much this show needs this character.
J’onn starts the ep still out of action but after a dream of M’gann he wakes up ready to go. There is a moment, as the final battle starts, that J’onn and Superman head off together to protects and save people and I got a real kick of emotion when they did! Eventually M’gan turns up too, with a few Good-White Martians she’s recruited with her.
The final battle is a mixed bag. For some reason, Kara and Mom-El choose to fight on a random city rooftop? Surely Kara would go for somewhere out in the desert, minimise possible civilian casualties? The fight between the two is pretty underwhelming and Kara does win quite quickly. Of course, Mom-El betrays the promise and launches her minions to take over the city, the scenes of Superman and co saving people are pretty good, let down slightly by the really bad costumes of Daxamite soldiers.
Inevitably Supergirl realises she needs to use the Luthor weapon, a choice made easier when Mon-El turns up to help in the fight against his mother. This leads to a very morally questionable moment; Kara gives the word to trigger the weapon that makes the atmosphere toxic, triggering what is a biological weapon. Mom-El, who is (physically) beaten on the ground begs her son for help, he refuses and she dies. She turns to lead and dies. Between the two of them, Kara and Mon-El have murdered this woman. The emotional impression given is that Mon-El chose not to save his mother but in actual fact he and Kara made the joint decision to trigger the biological weapon that Mom-El would not be able to survive. This doesn’t sit right for me at all and I wanted Kara to have a bigger reaction to causing a death.
With the atmosphere now toxic, all the Daxmite ships leave and Mon-El has to go as well – jumping into Kara’s pod that Alex is somehow able to get prepped and near by in… seconds? Mon-El has to leave and can never come back. I've really grown to like Mon-El but I've also found Kara a little irritating this season. I wanted to feel more of an emotional impact when they parted but it didn't get me as much as I would have liked – plus, it all goes a little Smallville with tragic, soft rock ballads and wistful silent shots of moping.
I found the finale over all very unsatisfying, even in a hokey comic book sci-fi show the science of the solution was a mess. It wasn’t convincing that such a tiny device, triggered indoors, could permeate the entire planet Earth with enough lead, that quickly, that no Daxamite could ever set foot on the planet again. Also, surely the ships have closed atmospheres? They’re space ships, they don’t need to leave because of the lead and they don’t need to fly home, even if they can’t live on Earth they could still hang about and destroy it out of revenge from orbit. If all it would take for them to leave was the death of their Queen and since Kara and Mon-El were so cool with murdering her, why not just snap her neck and have done with it? No attempted genocide with the biological weapon and no need for Mon-El to leave? Of course seeding the atmosphere with lead was done, in the narrative, to drive Mon-El away but it was sloppy, illogical and poorly realised. This episode requires the audience to accept too many messy plot contrivances and I’m not sure the show this year has earned the leaps of faith required.
There are some lovely, fun moments this week. The opening fight is epic and the final battle is a weird mix of cheap looking TV locations with some fun, high-end superheroing. Alex and Maggie getting engaged was nice, even if their relationship has been treading water a little. I really enjoy Cat’s googoo eyes over Clark, though that feels a little less pure now that we know Cat knows Kara is Supergirl, as she obviously knows Clark is Superman, so I guess she’s googoo eyed over Superman, not Clark? Winn has truly become the Cisco of the show and his interactions with Superman this week were great (of course he remembers you Winn, he’s Superman). I wish Mon-El would wear red and I still don’t like Superman’s costume but both characterisations have been a highlight of the season. Kara has grated on me and Melissa Benoist’s performance is wearing a bit thin – I blame the weekly material she’s working with as I think her acting ability is far better than some of her performances this year. Over all the emotional and character work this week was solid, it’s just a little cheaply earned.
I was pretty disappointed with this episode but I’ve been disappointed with the series as a whole in season 2. Too much resetting at the end of each episode, Kara acting unlikably without learning or growing from it and stagnating, predictable weekly plotlines have made the back half of the series in particular a bit of slog. I feel like Supergirl has taken the good will of its audience for granted a little and I really want to see it keep its optimistic, goofy quality but at the same time mature, just a little. I do still love it and this is the kind of hopeful superhero experience young audiences should be getting inspired by but something needs to change next season – lets hope they can come back stronger and more focused for season 2!
Oh, I almost forgot…
We managed 26 minutes before Jaaames pops up and he doesn’t even say anything, he isn’t shoehorned into the action and he doesn’t even mention Guardian. So I guess its a double thumbs up, five star review for this episode.