Friday, April 16, 2021

Supergirl Show 603: Phantom Menaces

'Phantom Menaces', the second episode in this last season of Supergirl, aired earlier this week. If the first two episodes are any indication, things are going to happen fast. Some of those things might have explanations. Some may not. But whatever you do, don't blink.  But will the pace detract?

Like last week's, this episode has basically four plots. One is the heroes dealing with the new threat of phantoms on Earth. There is a lot of quick exposition about the phantoms. What they are. How they conquer. How they replicate. And there is a lot of talk about the soul. If you thought the phantoms were curt rate Dementors last week, you'll think their actual Dementors now.

Then there is the Lena and Lex subplot which brings Brainy along for the ride. I have to say, this plot had the best acting of the three. In particular, Katie McGrath really crushes it this week. She brings it. She holds her own against Jon Cryer's Lex and that is no easy thing.

Then there is the characters continued response to Supergirl's absence. Whether they are grieving or burying their emotions or just missing her, Supergirl being gone is impacting our heroes.

But let's not forget whose show this is. The last plot is Supergirl in the Phantom Zone, finding a friend and continuing her struggle to get free.  Melissa Benoist just sparkles.

Last thoughts before digging into the show itself. One, the Phantoms in the Zone remind me a little bit too much of the phony Phantoms Zor-El claimed haunted the Els in the dreaded Joe Kelly run of the Supergirl comic. Also, given last week's 'A Few Good Women' and this week's 'Phantom Menaces', looks like our episode titles will all be riffs on movie titles.

On to the show! 

Last week ended with a Phantom coming out of Silas. He called J'onn for help.

We pick up right where we left. The heroes come inside to find Silas beaten and slashed. The Phantom attacked him. They felt like living death. 

It is clear, one of the Phantoms got out.

Then we are in the Phantom Zone. Last week Kara saw how the Phantoms in the Zone could create portals for themselves. She figured that would be a quick way for her and Zor to move through the Zone. They'd need to capture one.

I thought it might take some time and planning for this to happen. But nope, she just runs up to one with her father in tow and grabs the collar of one of the Phantoms. It dumps them out somewhere else in the Zone.

Breaking her leg when she falls to ground from the portal, Kara can only see some of the other denizens grab her father and drag him away. 

Kara is saved from a similar fate when a young woman tells them all the Phantoms are approaching after having slaughtered white Martians and Az-Rel.  This scares the ruffians way from Supergirl.

The woman mentioning Az-Rel while flicking his cigarette lighter is a deep cut. Az-Rel was a pyrotic in the comics.

I do like how Supergirl's banishment and Lex's freedom truly impacts the heroes. As I said last week, it reminds me of Funeral For A Friend in the comics after Supergirl died where we saw just how Superman being gone effected everyone. 

Brainy is furious at Lex, distracted. It is enough to even pull him away from mapping the Phantom Zone and trying to find Supergirl. 

J'onn has decided to bury his emotions, becoming an unfeeling soldier hoping that his emotions made him weak.

Neither of these responses to Supergirl being missing is healthy.

At least the team is able to mobilize and gather itself when Silas is brought in. I like Brainy being the medic. But I miss Alex the physician and bioengineer. Instead she has simply become another fighter.

And Alex is wallowing in her grieving. 

We see her crying as she listens to Kara's last testament. She even asks what is the purpose of life without her sister.

It is then that Kelly reminds her that when everything seems dark, that is when people need to show up for those who need them the most.

I like how Kelly is actually being a therapist here, trying to help Alex overcome her sorrow. Grief is a personal experience. But Alex knows Kara isn't dead. This feels a bit extreme.

The last two seasons, I have been extremely impressed with Jon Cryer's pitch perfect Lex.

Freed and empowered, he wanders back into LCorp looking to restart his job. Unfortunately, he finds that all his accounts have been locked by Lena. In fact, she says he has no future there.

But know family knows how to knock each other down better than the Luthors. Lena locked him out. He doesn't care. He has the new District Attorney in his pocket. 

And the DA not only has a motion for Lena to reinstate Lex, he also has made investigating Lena and her role in Non Nocere his top priority.

These Luthor scenes truly crackle. Katie McGrath and Jon Cryer have an energy between them that just sizzles. It is delicious to watch.

Now you need to settle in.

It turns out the Phantoms are actually Zulian Maletarians. Their entire race was put in the Zone by Kryptonians because of their evil ways. They invade planets and take them over completely. The Maletarians first psychically attack their prey, then scratch them with venomous talons. Ultimately, this infects the victim until they literally lose their soul, a small ball of white energy which leaves the mouth. At that point, the victim becomes a Phantom themselves and joins the Maletarian cause. 

This is exactly what happens to Silas. He becomes a Phantom.

Now that is a lot of exposition about these things, some of it silly. I always find it odd when shows somehow make the soul a physical thing.

And seriously, the idea that the Phantom robs the person of their soul which leaves the body as a ball of energy from their mouths is actually exactly how Dementors kill in Harry Potter. 
Zulian Maletarian

Luckily Brainy can trap the Phantom in a containment cell. And he also can make 'kinetic inhibitors' which will make it impossible for the Phantoms to touch the heroes. 

In the fight with the Silas demon, Alex was paralyzed with fear. Out on the balcony (a show staple), J'onn tells her that she has to lean into her training and squelch her emotions. It is only by submerging those feelings can they accomplish their goals. 

In the Zone, the woman who saved Kara says she knows that the prisoners who dragged away Zor-El will most likely sacrifice him to a demon in the Shadow Lake in the Zone. But that won't happen for a bit, so they have time to let Kara rest her broken leg. 

This woman gets a crash course in Supergirl's origin including the death of Krypton. 

If the creature in the Shadow Lake is called Aethyr, I will lose it.

That rage that Brainy has over Lex is shared by Lena. 

Together, the two have formed Operation Revenge where they hope to strip Lex of all his power.

So if he wants to sick the DA onto her, she will rob him of all his money. She and Brainy shunt all his money in his Lex Fund, a fraudulent entity used to funnel money to Kaznia, as a donation to the Luthor wing of the Childrens Hospital. 

Operation Revenge! Now that is spectacular. 

And I know he is with Nia. And he should be with Kara. But I would love to see a Brainy/Lena romance. Their scenes together this season have really been powerful.

While J'onn and the others stay in the base trying to gather intel, M'Gann knew that the longer they wait, the more people that the Prime Phantom could turn into Phantoms. And that turns out to be true! The heroes pick up more Phantom like signals and when they investigate they find 4 new Phantoms and a scratched Ms. Martian. Thankfully, they capture the Phantoms pretty easily.

Seriously, this Phantom is like patient zero of a plague. You think the group would be scouring the city for this thing. 

In the zone, we learn that this woman helping Kara is Nxylygsptlnz, a 5th Dimension Imp and a princess of that realm. She was sent to the Zone by her father, mad King Brpxz who was paranoid of her taking the throne. He blunted her powers with a wrist dampener and sent her into the zone. 

Thankfully, Kara is there to be the voice of hope. Our hero tells Nxyly that she has the power to believe in herself.

Lex discovers that his LexFund has been drained. 

At first we see Lena and Brainy gloating. But then they get the news that the Childrens Hospital wing ablaze. Lex set it on fire and has the news claim that it was Lena's recent faulty improvements.

Burning down a childrens hospital? That's cold. I mean cold.

So much for Operation Revenge.

In the Zone, spurred on by Kara's belief in her, Nyxly is able to break her father's bond and get her magic back. She heals Supergirl's leg.

She had always heard her father's voice inside her saying she was useless. But this night, she heard Kara's voice of encouragement instead. 

I guess Hope really is the answer on this show.

And then the best scene in the episode.

Lena and Brainy fume about Lex getting away with everything. 

Lena says she hates her brother and that the two should kill Lex.

Brainy goes even further, laying out a plan to paralyze Lex so he can still feel what is being done to him, then dismember him, and send the parts to different places in the universe. 

When Lena says they can't, Brainy reminds her that she already has killed Lex once. So why not again.

Lena then breaks down crying, saying that killing Lex turned her into the darkest version of herself. Brainy explodes with rage, saying how it is consuming him. 

It is then that Lena says they both need to let out their rage and then let it go.

The emotions are raw and palpable in this scene. The acting impeccable. This was great television.

But the crew need to get their act together. M'Gann has been infected and will turn into a Phantom.

J'onn realizes that his shutting down his emotions didn't accomplish anything and instead might lose him M'gann.

Alex then realizes that J'onn's feelings for M'Gann mirror her grief for Kara. But J'onn and M'Gann are linked. He has her soul in him from their binding during the Myriad attack. 

And now, a deus ex machina. 

J'onn says he can use a Martian spiritual urn, a U'ra'er'run to take M'Gann's binded soul piece out of him and put it into M'Gann as a 'soul transfusion'. But it can only happen after her own soul has left. Only then will she be saved.

Now that is a lot to swallow. But in this season, you just have to roll with it.

As J'onn is doing this ceremony, the Prime Phantom and some newly turned acolytes attack the headquarters. Luckily, Lena configures her portal watch to send the Phantoms into the containment cell. 

And thankfully M'Gann is saved.

Good effects here; the jar and swirling energy reminded me of Dragon Ball Z's Evil Containment Wave attack.  And this bit with the phantoms jumping into the portal was also slick.

There is nothing left but the wrap-up.

Lena decides that she needs to get away from the toxic relationship she has with Lex. She loves herself more than she hates Lex. And so she leave LCorp completely.

Again, McGrath kills it here. Seriously, she shines as brightly as Cryer. That means something.

J'onn and M'Gann restate their love for each other.

Alex asks Kelly to move in with her. Life is too short. She needs Kelly with her. She wants to share the small moments. Alex deserves some happiness.

And Kara and Nyxly save Zor-El.

Now the three can head to the Fort Rozz anchor and free themselves.


Once more a lot happens quickly. The Phantom plot is insane. The whole concept of soul-draining aliens who create clones of themselves and act as a hive mind is a bit nutty. The idea that the heroes wouldn't be trying to stop that planetary threat immediately seems off. But here we are.

That said, the character scenes on Earth are very strong, especially the Lena-centric ones.

And Supergirl inspiring people and working her way out of the Zone has been pretty cool so far.

I don't know if I am going to love this season. But I know I will miss this show when it is over.


Anonymous said...

As always, thankx much for your review! I always get a lot of things that I somehow miss.
Interesting that the Zone can hold a 5th-dimensional being. And how did you get the spelling of 'Nxylygsptlnz', assuming it's correct? ;)

KET said...

"Also, given last week's 'A Few Good Women' and this week's 'Phantom Menaces', looks like our episode titles will all be riffs on movie titles."

For the most part, seems that way...until we get to the episode Chyler Leigh directs, that is.

Enjoyed the introduction of Peta Sergeant as Nyxly, although the highlight scene for me was undoubtedly the intense interaction between Brainy and Lena this episode. Lots of moving emotional bits throughout the ensemble pairings.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

Lena leaves LCorp to no longer play Lex's games, i didn't see it coming. It really is the last season.

Anonymous said...

This is Supergirl's "Ride or Die" Season. I've given up cataloguing the plot holes entirely, I only marvel at the ability of a dedicated ensemble cast to out act the sometimes blatant sketchiness of the scripts. Super girl shows up and in ten short minutes inspires an alien imp to re-empower herself? By bashing her power dampener with a crystal ball?
Flaws and all, I'm gonna miss this show, I regard this as a premature conclusion, but with 120 or eps in the can you can hardly dismiss it as a "one season wonder".
I still badly wanna see Supergirl exit the Phantom Zone under her own efforts...and I very very badly wanna see her tell her Father that while he was suffering in the Phantom Zone she was enthusiastically dating a Daxamite Princeling. Oh That is an Introduction Devoutly to be Wished!!!