Supergirl: 5.13 It's a Super Life
You don’t have to be a genius to work out what movie this week's episode, It’s a Super Life, is riffing on but the show delivers a really rather effective variation in the life not lived trope.
Mxyzptlk is back! This time played by Thomas Lennon and looking to atone for his previous wrongdoings. A little narrative hand waving explains that when he visited Kara before he looked different in order to try and impress her. He’s not in trouble with the 5th dimension overlords and has been court ordered to make amends for his mischief. Lennon is a far better Mxyzptlk than the show had before, even in this benevolent guise he’s instantly more in line with the comics. I feel like he’s not really visited enough (one previous episode) to be visiting looking for forgiveness, but we’ll let that pass.
Mxyzptlk wants to offer to change Kara’s reality, permanently, to one she likes better. Obviously she instantly starts thinking abut Lena and not wanting her to be angry anymore. I am very bored with this thread now. So much has happened to Supergirl/Kara over the past five years, so many people hurt and dead or damaged, so much pain for her and others yet not having Lena mad is such a motivator for her. To be fair to the episode, they do kind of address this at the end (more on that later).
This is the 100th episode of the show and what we get here is a fun trip back in time with Kara getting to revisit key moments in her (the show’s) history to try and fix everything by telling Lena earlier. Of course, in every reality it all goes wrong and Lena turns bad or dies or things just generally get worse the more Kara tries to fix it. The show has proven very good at these key events from a different perspective episodes, first really leaning into it with the Agent Liberty origin episode. We actually get a fantastic Agent Liberty strand here where, after picking a good time to tell her, Lena and Supergirl make the word a better place as a team – unfortunately this leads to a cult forming to worship Supergirl, Agent Liberty’s family are all members and jump off a roof (believing Supergirl will save them) to their deaths. So once again he turns bad and goes after Supergirl. It was a nice twist on how and why he would turn bad in a good timeline. I’d almost forgotten how good Sam Witwer is as Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty.
We get to see some more alternate version of reality, with Kara telling Lena at different times and it having different, usually catastrophic, outcomes.
The episode is stuffed with great guests stars and call-backs; Winn is here again in a couple of alt versions of reality, even Sam and Mon-El pop back up. The alternative versions of things are fun and interesting and it’s really good to see some old characters; as a celebration of the shows this is a great episode and its also a pretty effective fast tracking of the current narrative, which is a little choppy post-Crisis. The framing device of Mxyzptlk and Kara watching the scenes play out (at one point on old video tapes with Friends style episode labels) is great fun and allows for Kara to think about her previous actions, with her final realisation being that she made the right choice and told Lena at the right time. Kara finally realises that Lena’s reaction to her secret is Lena’s issue.
Of course, this narrative device lacks any real threat, as it’s all being controlled by Mr Mxyzptlk so everything is very safe, until Kara makes a decision that thrusts them both into a hellscape future where Lena has gone super bad and controls the whole world like a crazy dictator – there was always going to be one version of reality like that. In this version, Lena has tapped into 5th dimensional energy meaning Mxyzptlk isn’t able to harness his usual power source and is powerless. I wasn’t realy convinced by this idea and it’s a bit of a cheat but it allows for a short period of real threat while Mxyzptlk goes to find The Hat’s hat, which contains residual 5th dimensional energy he can use. He does, and everything goes back to normal.
This is a really fun and well performed episode and a celebration of the best bits of the show, Melissa Benoist is front and centre having fun with her role and Lennon is a great addition to the Arrowverse. It was always clear that Kara would stick with the current timeline but it was an enjoyable ride watching her get to this decision. Most importantly, she’s finally let go of her guilt over hurting Lena. In the closing scenes, she visits Lena. She apologises again - STOP DOING THAT KARA - then tells Lena that, while she hopes they can still be friends, if Lena acts like a villain Supergirl will treat her like a villain. Hopefully we can now shift past Lena’s perpetual pity party or at the very least, Kara will stop acting like its really her fault. This plot thread has been dragging the show down for ages and damaging the Lena character who is not only being cruel and selfish and lacking all empathy for the nature of Kara’s secret but has very blatantly been manipulated by Lex. You’re better than this, Lena!
This is one of the best episodes the show has done for a while. Mxyzptlk is great and well utilised here and the rest of the cast and guest stars are on top form. In the bigger picture, I’m slightly aware of the fact that the shows seems to excel when it does episodes outside the normal episode structure and can falter when sticking to their own format. But an episode like this a few times each season helps keep the balance.
Supergirl’s wigs in the previous/alt timelines though are absolutely awful...