Thursday, March 12, 2020

Supergirl episode 513: It's A Super Life


I continue to catch up on my Supergirl show reviews and that brings me to the 100th episode of the show, a magical number which means we will soon be seeing the show in syndication! I can't wait to revisit some of the earlier seasons, especially to remind myself where we were and where this show is now.

But outside of the magical number, I also have to say this is my favorite episode of Supergirl to date. The episode is titled 'It's a Super Life', a riff on Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' and following that movie's plot of seeing where the world would be if the main character made different decisions (or didn't exist).

As such, this episode leans heavily into the history of the show looking back several seasons and recreating the looks of those particular episodes to a tee. All along this season, I have been cheering the fact that the writers are looking at the show's history as ... well ... history and playing the past events up. Here the double down and it is wonderful.

And this episode answers the question we all have probably screamed at one point or another in past seasons. 'Why didn't Kara tell Lena her secret identity [then]!' when the [then] is the moment you felt it would best be done. For me, it was the plane rescue last season when Lena and Kara were flying out to find Red Daughter. The show even gave me that moment as a possibility!

One thing this episode shows is that whatever decision we make in life, there are consequences, some of them unforeseen.

I really loved this episode. I hope you all did too!


 The episode starts with Mr. Mxyzptlk  (played with some panache by Thomas Lennon) arriving at Kara's doorstep.

The show uses a nice technique of Mxy showing past events on either Kara's television or a movie screen and so we immediately are shown clips of the episode from season two with Mxy, (at that point played by Peter Gadiot) tried to woo Kara.

When she tricked him into spelling his name backwards, he was sent back to the 5th dimension and has been forced to help those he has wronged. Kara is last on his list.

I like that the show actually explains why Mxy looks different. He put on airs last time to impress Kara. And, in this #metoo world, he realizes he was wrong to try to force himself on her.


He can offer a do over to Kara, a way to change history and stop this wrong.

She has regretted not telling Lena her identity earlier in life. She regrets driving this wedge between her and her friend. So why not change things.

Kara discusses the options with Alex and J'onn. This is more than changing a universe to save a friendship. It is changing a universe to save history. Lena and Lex are teaming up. It can't be good! Maybe there is a better way.


But not before Mxy uses his powers to send J'onn and Alex to a happy place.

How awesome is it that the place these two would go first is a paintball tournament in the woods. Alex is giddy as she screams 'magic rules'!

I always like a happy Alex!


Mxy sets up an old school theater set up for Kara to view the past three years of her life with Lena and find the right moment to divulge.

It includes that time when Kara rescued the falling Lena plane as they winged their way to Kaznia!


Instead we go back further in time, from the the beginning of season 4 when Mercy attacked LuthorCorp and Supergirl, as Kara, had to save everyone.

Same outfits! Old haircuts! Amazing!

Before the attack, Kara says she is Supergirl to Lena. She says 'the world has made you cynical' with its betrayals and she won't be part of it. She whisks off and stops the attack before it starts.


But now we are in a new timeline.

Lena finds Sam to discuss the reveal.

How can she ever trust Kara again, especially when Supergirl acted like Lena was a villain. Which identity of Kara's, which view is the truth.

Kara realizes the Lena may never trust her.

But the point becomes moot.


 Because at that point in the timeline the Graves set off a Kryptonite bomb. With Lena away with Sam, she can't get back in time to save Supergirl like she did.

Supergirl dies!

Incredible.

Okay, so we can't have that timeline be real.

So Mxy goes back further.


So we go back further into Season three when Kara gets angry at Lena for creating and using Kryptonite.

This was the first weakening of the friendship between Supergirl and Lena.


So maybe this was the time.

Again, recreating outfits and sets (including Benoist wearing a semi-ridiculous wig), Supergirl spills the beans. She was keeping this secret to protect Lena.

But Lena doesn't see it that way. She has been keeping Reign, a homicidal Kryptonian, at bay by herself. She could have used Kara's help. Instead, she went through that terror alone. How could Kara ever expect them to be partners.

But we get the Reign eclipse and we need to move forward in the new timeline to see the fallout. (I love how Mxy just keeps the fast forward button down claiming there is too much exposition.)


 They push forward to the end of that season, the confrontation at Reign's childhood home.

Kara wants to hear Mon-El's take on the situation and so we drop in. (Again, I love how Mxy does these metatextual comments like 'I never see what you saw in him' echoing many fans.)

But when Kara says that Lena might never come around, Mon-El says something profound. Kara lied to protect Lena, not hurt her. She has forgiven everyone around her. And she deserves the same compassion.

Wow! Mon-El said something worthwhile!!

And the loving look Kara gives Mon-El after that moment is perfect.


But we still need to end the Reign situation.

It seems all is lost when Lena arrives with a Harun-El weapon, seemingly defeating Reign without Kryptonite. Perhaps this is the best timeline.

But it isn't. The weapon doesn't stop Reign. She kills her mother (nice to see Betty Buckley again), kills Lena, and kills Mon-El. Meanwhile, Mon-El kills Reign.

Everyone but Kara is dead in that timeline.

So we need a new one.
Reign fight in the house! Brawl! Lena saves her. Or does she … Sam, Mon both die.
Go back even farther.


Now working of 'BetaMyx' tapes, we see all the episodes that Mxy can choose from.


So we go back to the earliest of episodes in season two when Kara first met.

Why not reveal it right away?

So she does.

And Lena is so thrilled that Kara trusted her that they form an immediate alliance.


Through a nice montage of headlines (and Mxy acting like a Newsie), we hear how the two came together and became a World's Finest, stopping major threats like the Medusa Virus and even changing pop culture by bringing back bangs as a haircut.

Even when brought to court to testify against Lena and asked to reveal Supergirl's secret identity, Lena refuses. The two seem unstoppable!


Because of all that good, Thomas Coville's Church of Rao is thriving. (Good to see Chad Lowe again!)

And  it even affected Thomas Lockwood's family (nice to see Sam Witmer again). Now instead of rejecting aliens, Lockwood's father and family embraced the Rao church and jumped off a building hoping Supergirl would save them ... which she didn't.

Lockwood kidnaps Lena to force Supergirl to reveal her secret identity hoping that when people see she is a working grunt like everyone else the worship will stop.


Garbed in Agent Liberty gear, helped by Otis, and presumably funded by Lex, Liberty tries to suffocate Lena and Coville.

Supergirl has one hour.


On the balcony of Zen, Kara has a moment with Winn (who in this timeline doesn't go to the future).

Kara has always feared that her friendship would hurt those she loves.

But he tells her that she has influenced everyone. She has taught them how to take care of themselves.


She reveals herself to the world.


And everyone gets targeted and is killed.

Hmmm ... maybe Brian Michael Bendis should watch this episode.

The secret identity reveal is fraught with danger.


And then we see one last timeline, one I can't link back to.

What if they were never friends.

In a dystopian, rather post-apocalyptic appearing world, Lena was attacked by Lex, experimented on by her mother, and became warped by loneliness. She know rules this world like a tyrant with Reign and Brainiac 5 as her hit squad.

Worst of all, Mxy can't bring them back to the present because Lena is draining 5th dimensional energy to fuel her LexBot sentries (ironically called Hope soldiers).

The last font of 5th Dimensional energy is The Hat's hat. So the rebel squad of Alex, Winn, Dreamer, J'onn, and Kara split up to topple the regime and get the hat back.

We see Dreamer, scarred and sad, fight Brainy.

We see J'onn fight Reign.

Kara confronts the evil Lena.

This Lena is violently angry.

Kara tries to talk her down saying they both want the same thing, to do no harm (the translation of Non Nocere).

And Kara apologizes for never being there when it mattered. That felt like Kara-tharsis.
Lena – Catco all red. We bot hwant same thing – do no harm!


But this is an ugly world.

Lena is a Metallo and seems to kill Kara.
J'onn kills Reign.
The world is devastated.

But Mxy gets the hat and we are back to the present!


And seeing what all those worlds were, Supergirl realizes ever time she says Lena there are consequences.

She can't feel guilty any more for not saying it earlier.


Freed from his duty, Mxy takes off.

But he leaves Kara a tape showing how Lena is probably working with Lex now.

 And then we get a major scene, one overdue, and one done with the usual power that Benoist and McGrath give to meaty Kara/Lena scenes.

Kara flies to LCorp.

She is done feeling guilty about hiding her identity. She can't blame herself for Lena's bad decisions anymore. Lena will be held accountable for her own decisions. And Kara will stop her like any other villain if she has to.

BOOM!

About time!


But this is the 100th episode and deserves to go out with a bang.

We get the three stars who have been there all along ... the three characters who have lived through it all ... back in Kara's apartment.

Alex, J'onn, and Kara. Stronger together.

Whew!

If you like continuity, this episode was for you!

But moreover, it ends Kara's moping about Lena. Time to realize Lena is misguided and doing things that are evil.

Truly, I feel like this is the strongest season yet.

Sorry for delay in reviewing!

10 comments:

Bostondreams said...

One of my favorite episodes!

Anonymous said...

Given my criticism of the last episode, not that anyone cares much about what I think, I feel I should say here: I loved this one! Given the premise that Mxy can do what he does, everything worked.

Thanks for the review. I saved this one waiting for your review, and will be rewatching it right away.

T.N.

KET said...

Responses:

"Now working of 'BetaMyx' tapes, we see all the episodes that Mxy can choose from."

Thought that was a fun in-joke of naming all the tapes like the titles of "Friends" episodes.

Another bit I got a kick out of was when Mxy drops a box-full of popcorn into Kara's lap, which reminded me of a similar sequence from Landry Walker and Eric Jones' "Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade" mini-series. Lennon was so endearing as a surprisingly sympathetic 5th dimensional imp.

KET

Scrimmage said...

Not bad for an episode that had the look and feel of a “clip show,” but really wasn't, since the alternative timeline “flashbacks” were newly shot scenes. While I can watch Reign kick butt all day long, I didn't care for this Mxy's over the top performance, but at least he's a bit closer to the original concept of the character as an “imp from the fifth dimension.” The previous version looked like a reject from a Boy Band.

In the final “fair warning” scene between Lena and Supergirl, I was happy to see that for once, both women acted like mature adults who are in control of their emotions. Up until now, it seemed like lately, every one of their scenes ended with one, or both of them crying their eyes out, like a couple of grade school girls! You sure don't see Clark and Lex bawling over what could've been “a beautiful friendship” do ya?

Enough of this phony, boring détente between them. Now let's see Kara and Lena square off like a Super and a Luthor should! Do I want to see Lena as Metallo?? No! Do I want to see Supergirl vs Lena in her own, souped up version of a Lex Suit? Absolutely!

KET said...

"Enough of this phony, boring détente between them. Now let's see Kara and Lena square off like a Super and a Luthor should!"

Highly suspect that the series is going to throw a more thoughtful curve ball or two into the pair's resolution, now that Kara has shaken off her guilt complex, and has given Lena a choice that she has to make on her own.
Kara still has her circle of influence, while Lena clearly does not.

KET

Anonymous said...

Geez Alex Danvers really cheaped out on his Super-Sister's Grave Marker?! A frugal little faux bronze plaque set in the ground...I guess the DEO doesn't pay that much after all. I literally laughed during this scene, "Alex Danver's Supergirl's Skinflint Sister"...
This was a delight to watch, MB consistently just pulled every tool out of her kit to play every scene to the hilt, its a excellent demonstration of the good things that happen when the Show "Supergirl" is all about a Character named "Supergirl". But therein lies a trap like Patrick Stewart's Jean Luc Picard, MB has so much talent, the producers have come to over-rely on her sheer charisma to redress patently mediocre scripts. Perversely this also empowers them to tarry too long on the supporting cast, which only makes me think that David Harewood doesn't have much to do on this show anymore, while Alex seems to be there to rescue her sister thus somehow reaffirming Kara's Humanity or some damn thing. They can get away with this dreck because Ms Benoist has that certain intangible mojo that obscures bad writing and improves boilerplate scripts. If they weren't so reliant on the talent, maybe Supergirl could take center stage again?
My only real complaint about this ep is that Supergirl should NEVER be reconciled with Mxyie, he is way too much fun to ever truly learn his lesson or grow as a character.

JF

KET said...

"...makes me think that David Harewood doesn't have much to do on this show anymore, while Alex seems to be there to rescue her sister..."

Well, don't count either of them out too soon. There's some new character developments coming for both J'onn and Alex soon, PLUS David directed two episodes this season, including what will be the penultimate chapter.


KET

Anonymous said...

Scrimmage said: "I didn't care for this Mxy's over the top performance"

Thomas Lennon is frequently hired specifically to do over-the-top performances like this. He's one of the best scenery chewers around. And shows like this can definitely benefit from that sort of performance.

Think of Wentworth Miller's Leonard Snart/Captain Cold on the Flash (or Legends, or nowhere now?). Total scene chewer, and stole every scene he was in.

It's really a great way to play certain types of implausible characters. But it would be boring if every character was acted that way. Some, you just want pure menace.

These kinds of performances can indeed go too far into camp. You can end up with everyone doing Batman '66. Actors have to be expert at calibrating the tone.

T.N.

Scrimmage said...

TN wrote: "Thomas Lennon is frequently hired specifically to do over-the-top performances like this. He's one of the best scenery chewers around."

The same thing could've been said about Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty who played cartoonish versions of Lex Luthor and Otis in "Superman: The Movie" (1978), two excellent actors who almost single-handedly ruined that film, and the sequels they appeared in. Unfortunately, that was what Mr Lennon's performance reminded me of.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. Glad people loved this episode as much as I did.

Agreed that Benoist is the star here. Loved the way she emoted this issue. And again, that last scene with McGrath was just fantastic.