Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Supergirl Episode 20: "Better Angels", the Finale

Supergirl Season One ended this week with an episode aptly called "Better Angels". I advise you settle in because this review is long. It is as much a look at this one episode as it is the whole series. And I couldn't be happier.

How do I put into words how happy this show has made me? Apparently by writing a lot. Because this show has understood Supergirl and what she represents from the beginning. Like many television shows, it grew stronger as the season progressed. The characters became more fleshed out. The plots became tighter. The themes and direction became more polished. And the stars simply shined.

I have tried over time here to showcase what I love about Supergirl. Her optimism. Her hope. Her sense of justice. Her fierce determination to do what's right. Her fears of not being good enough. It all comes together in a young hero striving to do what's right and occasionally failing. It is that 'never give up' that defines Supergirl as much as her array of powers. From Supergirl's difficult first appearances to her contemplating a darker justice to inspiring others, this show has captured it all.

It isn't perfect.

But what is.

What I have got this year has been 20 episodes which respect my favorite character in a new and fresh way. It is a show I can watch with my daughters without hesitation. It has super-heroics and brightness and hope. And it has character growth. The characters in this finale are very different from the ones we met in the premiere.

Right now we don't know if we are getting a Supergirl Season Two. I sincerely hope we do. But even if we don't, I have this season. It is a gem.

On to the show ...

We pick up right where we left off. Powered by a Kryptonite exo-skeleton, Alex pretty much mops the floor with Supergirl. (We do get a classic comic book shot of Kara trying to wrap an iron construction I-beam around Alex. That's right off the page. Love it.)

Alex is about to skewer Supergirl with that K-atana when J'onn arrives with Eliza in tow. Shielded from Myriad by J'onn, Eliza reminds Alex of who she really is. Jeremiah always said Alex was the strongest of the family. She is Alex Danvers. And she is better than this. They are stronger together. She needs to shake off Myriad.

And it works.

How much of that is Eliza? How much is the memory of Jeremiah? How much is just the sheer  intestinal fortitude of Alex? Who knows, although my money is mostly on the latter. I love Alex. I want a solo episode. I want a one-shot comic. I want more.

Safe, Kara can enact her plan to defeat Myriad with hope. Sure, Max gives some neuroanatomical blather to rationalize the plan. But it is all on Supergirl.

Sitting behind a desk that looks like it is straight from 1970s nightly news or the set of Network, Kara delivers a dramatic and amazing speech hammering home the point that people need hope. She came to this world after losing everything. She could have felt powerless. Instead she was floored by the love she saw. Now everyone needs lean on that hope. She reminds them that there is a light inside them that can't be extinguished. Her plan works. People wake up. In fact, in a perfect flourish, we see a montage of scenes with Kara play in the heads of Winn and James, rousting them from Non's control.

When Alex tells Supergirl that her message of hope worked, Kara gives a smile that lights up the room. Let me say it again, Melissa Benoist is amazing.

Defeated by the 'bleeding heart' Supergirl, Non is equally both enraged and deflated.

But there is "Lady Macbeth" Indigo to push him further into darkness. Why not leave Earth and conquer other worlds. But as a parting shot to Supergirl, kill all of humanity on the way out the door. Then she will have to deal with the anguish of being alone on a dead planet.

I love Laura Vandervoort's performance. She wallows in such wickedness, smiling demonically, seducing Non, and devouring every scene she is in. She clearly was having a blast on this show. It is so different than the reserved calculating Elena she plays on Bitten.

In another nice moment, General Lane arrives at the DEO to take Hank/J'onn into custody. For once we see Lucy stand up to her father. He sees things only as black and white. He doesn't see that Hank has just saved the world.

In one of the most cutting lines, she tells him that he is pushing her away, just as he did with Lois. For once Lois is mentioned and not as the butt of a joke. But it again show growth in Lucy. She really has been a three dimensional character here, something I wasn't sure would be true.

There isn't much time to revel in the win.

Maxwell Lord arrives at the DEO and says that the Myriad wave is still active but now with the intent of killing not controlling. In four hours, people's head will explode from building pressure. Grisly!

I have to say, Maxwell Lord's arc is one of the most fascinating on the show. He is the Vegeta of the show. Both good and bad, depending on the moment, he ends up skewing more towards the light than the dark as the show goes on. He is an ally. But can he be completely trusted?

With a fatal mission ahead of her, Kara begins a farewell tour, telling all the people she loves what they mean to her.

At CatCo, she tells Winn how important his friendship has been for her, both as Supergirl and as Kara. She tells Cat how honored she is to have been her assistant and learn from the Queen of all Media. She awkwardly tells James they missed their chance at a romance and he should find happiness elsewhere. This is here trying to make sure he is okay should she be gone. And she says goodbye to J'onn.

In that speech, she tells J'onn she never jad the chance to say goodbye on Krypton. She won't miss that chance here. She says was sent to Earth to protect Kal. Now she is protecting Earth. If she dies, she'll die happy. She will have done what she needed to do and will be with her family.

Throughout these scenes, I had a pit in my stomach. I have seen Supergirl killed before in comics. This felt foreboding. She was saying goodbye. It was like I was reading Crisis #7 all over again.

That feeling was broken a little when I saw Superman's boots in the background. I understand why Superman couldn't be part of this story. But having him wiped out my Myriad while average Earth people recovered was weird.

Lord is able to track down to the signal to Nevada, the site of the Fort Rozz crash. It turns out the US government cloaked it. It has been there all along, the perfect headquarters for Astra and Non.

Supergirl and J'onn head into battle. Non and Indigo confront them. The rest of the prisoners are in 'sleep pods' preparing for their journey into space to conquer other worlds. It is something of an easy out by the writers. An army of Kryptonians would be unstoppable. But a two on two battle is more manageable.

The four brawl with excellent effects. In the end, J'onn rips Indigo in half, killing her. (I don't know why this works. We have seen her blown up only to regather her pixels later.)  And Supergirl and Non have a heat vision battle where Supergirl overwhelms him. He collapses, his eyes scorched by her power. After seeing her fight Red Tornado and try to blast the Alura AI, I think she was simply more prepared. In a nice effect, the sand around them turns to glass as they blast away.

This has to have lobotomized him, just like all the Nons we know.

Inside Fort Rozz, it is clear that Kara can't turn off the power. The only way to stop the Myriad wave is to remove the problem. Supergirl will have to hoist the prison into space. But this is that suicide mission she feared. Once in space, there is no coming back.

Supergirl stops to say goodbye to Alex, something she didn't have the strength to do earlier. It is an emotional speech which summed up the sisters' relationship elegantly. First she tells that when Jeremiah is found she wants Alex to thank him for his love (she 'never took off his glasses'). Then, Kara tells Alex that she has had a great life on Earth and that everything good she has done came from being Alex's little sister. We have heard that Alex is Kara's hero from others on this show. Here she says it herself. And then she asks Alex to find love and be happy. She won't be Supergirl's sister anymore. She'll be free. Oh my god, all the feels.

Near death, we see Lord reach for Alex's hand. We see General Lane cheer on Supergirl and hug Lucy. Nice small touches for these characters.

Then, in a great moment, we see Supergirl lift all of Rozz and release it into space. It reminded me, in a very good way, of Brandon Routh tossing the growing Kryptonian land mass into space in Superman Returns. It is sacrificial and utterly heroic. She has apparently died saving the world.

But all those Crisis #7 feels turn out to be wrong. Alex arrives in Kara's pod to save her. As Alex says, she isn't the only badass in the family.

There is nothing left but the roundup.

Hank is pardoned by the President. He is reinstated as head of the DEO but he defers, saying he and Lucy will run it together, co-directors. That is a solid ending to both of their stories, especially Lucy's. And Maxwell Lord? He isn't all good. We see General Lane giving Lord the Omegahedron. Who knows what devilish things he'll be able to do with that.

At CatCo, Kara sets up at her desk when she gets some congratulatory IMs from cousin Clark. He says he couldn't be prouder. She is made of tougher stuff. Sure, Superman was kept out of the story in an odd way. But this is Supergirl's story. And long time fans know that this sort of recognition by Supes is a big part of Supergirl's hopes and dreams in the Silver Age. So I loved this moment, as I have loved all of Clark's IM's on the show.

Then the ka-pow moment. Cat gets Kara an 'end of Working Girl moment.' (Do people remember Working Girl? I love that movie!) Kara is promoted to ... some sort of position at CatCo. Kara has earned this. Cat will continue to mentor. But Kara gets her own office, her own position, and maybe a window. But most importantly, 'Kira' is gone. Cat called her Kara. That is a satisfactory ending to this arc in the show. These two have grown to have a relationship that is more than controlling boss and pestered assistant.

The only thing left to do is have a celebratory dinner. Friends and family get together at Kara's apartment. It is a fun scene where the stars get to let there guard down a little. Alex shows she doesn't know table etiquette. Eliza tells her she was raised by wolves. J'onn works the stove. They share champagne toast led by Kara for 'family' because 'love binds them all.' Family and love have been recurring themes so why not end there.

Before the toast, James pulls Kara aside and gives her a picture of 'Supergirl' which turns out to be her in her Kara Danvers bespectacled identity. Kara is as much a hero as the caped superhero. And then he gives her a kiss. Maybe the potential romance isn't dead?

But then we get an insane cliffhanger which already has people guessing.

The party in Kara's apartment is interrupted by a flaming object cometing across the skyline. It is, alas, a never-ending battle so J'onn and Kara switching I their costumes and head to investigate.

At the crash site, the find a Kryptonian pod exactly like Kara's. Too curious to stop herself, Kara rips off the pod door and is shocked by what she sees. Unfortunately, we don't see who is is in it, just Kara's shocked look.

My guess? It is a young Kara, played by Malina Weissman. It will set up a 'who is the real Supergirl?'  plot next season. Kara will befriend her, I'm sure. And I hope she'll fly out of the pod and Kara will say the line Superman says on Action #252. That will also dovetail into a Cadmus Project, clone story. (A back up guess could be a young Kal, this universe's Kon, also a Cadmus plot.)

But what can I say about this show that I haven't said week in and week out. This is my Supergirl. This is all I love about the character. And I have 20 episodes that showcased that, in prime time, to more eyes than I could have hoped.

This episode was the culmination of the hero's journey we have seen Kara travel this season. She is strong and confident to save the world. She is ready to sacrifice herself to do what's right. She has been inspired by the human heroes around her and she has inspired them. And always ... always ... love and hope will carry you on. Melissa Benoist has shown us all the emotions, all the fear and anger, pain and happiness, that Kara has experienced.

But just as important has been the journeys of all the characters, all of whom have a back story worth seeing. Alex going from bitter older adoptive sister to driven human to partner is fantastic. This show wouldn't be the same without Alex and Kara's relationship. And Chyler Leigh is just as amazing as Benoist. Winn goes from tech geek to troubled soul to emotionally adult in his relationship with Kara.   Lucy isn't a shrill foil to Kara's light; Lucy isn't just a romantic rival. Lucy is accomplished and smart and someone you can root for. I love her journey.

And Cat Grant might be the biggest revelation, a smart, biting, occasionally nasty, occasionally narcissistic, but always wise mentor to Kara. Calista Flockhart was brilliant.

Thanks to show runners Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg. Thanks to the writers and directors. Thanks to CBS. This show was all a Supergirl fan could have asked for and more.


Dr. Thinker said...


We are getting a second season! No joke here!!

Paul said...

I was very dissapointed in the middle of the episode because Kara was saying good bye to her friends and I felt it was letting the viewer saying good bye because there isn't going to be a second season.

Is Non alive? The first time I watched it I thought he was dead but then I rewatched it and it sounded like he was moaning? I didn't hear any mention that the DEO had captured him.

Anonymous said...

A pleasure to read your always thorough reviews, Anj. And glad you're always inspired by Supergirl to put
your thoughts to bits and bytes for her. I heartily echo your sentiments that whether CBS does OFFICIALLY
do S2 or not... well having been privy to not one but TWO live action renditions of Supergirl in my lifetime,
I'm happy at that.

...still waiting for your official review of the 1984 Supergirl movie, by the way... :)

Not much more to say to your already thorough review, but I will add :

- the battle of wills / egos between General Lane and J'onn / Henshaw prior to the final battle was a bit
underused, but brilliantly portrayed by the two actors. I for one wish there were a few more lines of these
two puffing chests prior to the battle. Like watching an irresistable force meet an immovable object.

- Alex's line "you can't breath or generate thrust (in space)" was kinda off for me, especially from a comics
perspective, but I guess that's TPTB's way to keep as much of this show earth-bound plot-wise, and setting
limits to Supergirl's abilities.

- Maxwell Lord : No matter how they try to make this guy sympathetic, he STILL manages to stick a knife in
deep and twist it, especially with his "I'm not trying to be an ass, but you have no backup... and no chance"
spiel at the DEO. The final scene of him, General Lane, and the Omegahedron still convinces me he's one you
never trust and have to ALWAYS watch.

- Speaking of the Omegahedron, it's mentioned BY NAME in the dialog, along with the fact that it's "used as a
power source" on Krypton -- SWEET!!

- The scenes of Supergirl lifting Fort Rozz into space, and doing the shirt rip was a nice bookend to the season,
given how in the pilot we see Supergirl handle a plane (no mean physical feat), and the shirtrip scene when she
goes to fight Vartox. LOVED IT!!

As to where things go in S2, if we'll even get an S2... can only see.

Regards and Best To All Supergirl Fans Everywhere

Anonymous said...

Well...I liked it but I didn't love it. But that tracks with the fact that Myriad couldn't have met my expectations to begin with....on the other hand I am frankly getting a little sick and tired of Supergirl getting jobbed out to her damn sister. Expl: Kara get contaminated with Red-K and becomes all anti social, her sister has to zetz the heroine to make her right, but when Myriad controls Alex's mind somehow with a little prodding she can throw off the effects all by herself.
And suddenly Kal and Kara kan't kavort in space because somehow Alex has to look like the heroine at the climax of this ep...again Kara gets jobbed out to Alex. No offense guys but the show is Supergirl's story not Alex Danvers...
BTW I had to read some reviews on line for it to be made clear that Non had been effectively lobotomized in his heat vision throw down with Kara, thats a plot point (if true) that needed to be clarified and geez while we are on the topic the DEO needs to do a better job securing whangdoodles like the Omegahedron and Non's mentally subnormal self. (imagine what kind of a mark he'll be for Indigo now....hope both actors are available next year).
And what about the still un-numbered "other kryptonians" in hibernation per Non but did the DEO take them into custody given their record to date I have my doubts.
But as always MB came thru with flying colors she is "The Compleat Asset", I'm not sure her acting technique has faltered once this year no matter how clunky the scene may be.
This is "My Supergirl" as well, a nigh perfect distillation of the Silver-Bronze Age Archetype and at the core as to why I love this show so much, The Producers Get It, MB Gets It, the Cast Gets It, the Writer's Get It.....this is such a singular unique occurence.
If I complain about ruinous pacing and clunky writing & questionable scenario choices....its because I know those things can be easily fixed and thus make the show even greater, so my criticism (I think) comes from an aspirational place.
When this show premiered I wrote here "That the Adventure Is Beginning Again", and it Has..... I Hope it continues; the Job is "Half Done Because It Is Well Begun".


Supertorresmo said...

i think the "there's not coming back from space" thing was too forced, she can fly!

And I'll leave my guess (or hope) that the person in the pod is Power Girl.

Gene said...

I'm with Supertorresmo, I think its Power Girl in the pod.

Overall a good first season as it finds it footing. MB is great, but the real foundation of the show is her supporting cast. Alex is one of the unexpected gems of the show and I doubt it would have been as popular and successful without her. Overall the show emphasized compassion over strength, and that was not a bad thing.

No word yet on the release date for the Season 1 DVD (September best guess) but we should come up with a fan driven wish list of special features we want to see on it.

Also, when Season 2 is announced we should have a wish list of things we would like to see like President Lynda Carter...


PS that wasn't Superman on the show, but SUPERBOOTS! I think DC is going to do a spin off comic about them... :P

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Alex has been such a huge part of the show , she had to be somehow involved in the end. But flying the pod? A but odd.

Lord outright not murdered 7 girls trying to make Bizarro. Hard to just forget that. But he is an interesting character, unpredictable.

We heard Suoerman was off world at the beginning of Myriad. But Supergirl can't breathe or fly in space? Maybe Supes was in the Suoer-mobile?

And Power Girl is a wild guess. I love it.

As I said, the show isn't perfect. But it's heart is in the right place and it improved every week. I sincerely hope we get Season 2.

Dr. Thinker said...


Didn't you read my comment. We ARE getting a SEASON 2!

Anonymous said...

AFAIK nothing official has been stated confirming a season 2. It would be stupid not to do it though.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I was moved by the good-bye's, excited for Helen Slater's screen time, and I thought it might be Power Girl as well - Kreisberg (?) said if there was a version of Kara on Earth-Flash she'd have to be alien also. I also thought with Cadmus that it'd be a clone of Superman, giving us a Superboy.

I loved the whole "hope" speech, and it made me recall Kara's line in Crisis, and how much the character really is an incarnation of that.

I was disappointed in it though. While happy Alex lived, I expected the fight to at least be longer. While I know this had to be Supergirl's story, having Superman be so conveniently out of picture, even at the end after everyone was all right was quite bad, I thought. Everyone welcomes her back but no mention of what happened to Superman. She didn't even ask how he was. Yes, we had the chat later, but was there no way that WB/DC couldn't have at least had them together?

I didn't think anything of the writing with regard to the space talk. I just figured it was Alex reminding her of her limits (forgetting that nod to the movie with Superman being off-world), but I have read comments about how that showcases how weak the writing is and why it should be cancelled. (Although I think a lot of the naysayers are those who will find anything to rip into the show.)

I'm so sad to learn that this was apparently the series' lowest rated episode. Even Leigh herself tweeted Monday night wondering why the finale wasn't trending. I wonder if that's why.

I totally pray that it gets renewed, even with all my dislikes of it, I need it to be renewed. While we have a wonderful addition to our Supergirl collection, it would be another case where Supergirl would be deemed a failure. It would go on to serve as an additional reminder of the failure of the movie.

Now that DC has invested in a new book modeled after the TV series, if it isn't renewed, how long before the comic is also cancelled and Kara Zor-El, if not the total character of Supergirl, is killed off for good. "We've given the character every chance now, and always Supergirl is a constant fail. Every comic book series has been cancelled, the movie was a disaster, as was the TV series."

I'm sorry for my negativity and my paranoia, I just love Supergirl so much and I can't stand thinking that my favourite character of all time is constantly seen as a dud.

I've read a review of the show by a woman whose family has adopted girls and how this show has really shown the reality of adoption and how it has actually helped the family. I read reviews by both moms and dads who say that it is a television show that is "good" for the family. I've read a grandmother say that it's something she and her granddaughters watch together. I've read a couple in their 60's who love the show. I find this so inspiring, and makes me so happy to think that the character who I have loved since I was a child decades ago is now inspiring others and bringing a lot of love in. I read a mother's comment on how she wouldn't know how to tell her children that it wasn't renewed. I'm going on as always, but I just HOPE that a show that is so positive and uplifting can carry on.

Oh, Super Hero Girls Season 2, with Supergirl! debuts today!

Anonymous said...

SUPERBOOTS! EPIC! Thanks for the chuckle for the day on that!

@Dr Thinker
Agree with previous anon, we don't have an OFFICIAL announcement stating "CBS is renewing Supergirl for S2." The closest
they've come to that is Les Moonves comment “We have about five new shows on this year. Of those five, I believe all five
of them will be renewed, and we own four of them.” Based on the math, Supergirl seems to be counted on that list, but
a) given the lack of EXPLICIT mention of it, and b) given the world of difference between "I believe" and "All are confirmed,"
Idunno, call me cautiously optimistic/pessimistic.

...Unless you have news / a link stating otherwise? If you do, please share :)

@Uncle Screensaver
Totally share your fears about what cancellation of this series would mean / do. "Supergirl doesn't make us money, let's
ditch it!" And that's the saddest and most disheartening thing about the lack of a specific renewal announcement. I'm
hoping TPTB can see beyond the simple viewership numbers and/or dollar signs.

TOTALLY agree with Anj's comment of "the show isn't perfect, but it's heart is in the right place."

Thanks for the news of a new ep of DCSHG today... will keep an eye out for it!

Go Team Supergirl and Go All Fans Of Supergirl!


KET said...

"I'm so sad to learn that this was apparently the series' lowest rated episode."

It wasn't. As usual, the armchair ratings click-bait sites got their estimates wrong, and the numbers in the endgame were adjusted upwards on Supergirl...not to mention that the after Live stats always show a huge jump for the show. Besides, it's springtime, and overall ratings numbers were down all across the board Monday night.

CBS hasn't announced a renewal for ANY of their freshman shows, but that's pretty much a standard procedure for the Eye Network. They've also still got plenty of time to do so, since their Upfronts presentation is on May 18th. Supergirl has been a safe bet for renewal all along.


Anonymous said...

I just wanna clarify my remarks, all sci fi fantasy shows are acutely vulnerable to generating their own cliches and self limiting tropes.
In Supergirl's case having Alex act as Deux et Machina saving Kara's bacon puts the elder sister into the position of becoming a facto Mary Sue which in turn makes Supergirl look less ...."Super".
I mean the show's relentless female focus is tres cool but I don't want it to undercut Kara's centrality or her self-rescuing bona fides.
Some of this comes from a twenty show season order which imparted a breakneck pace to the whole season....some it clearly comes from the writers who may find it easier to "Write to Alex" than figure out a way for Kara to succeed on her own.
Hopefully next year they can get away from this trope a bit....