Welcome back all you Supergirl fans! The show returns to form this week with an episode that combines some of the best elements of scripting, directing and acting this show’s got. It’s not perfect nor is it the best episode of the series — “Schott through the Heart” may still be my favorite — but it does succeed at drawing to a close two chapters of the season while leaving others open and ready for the back-half to pick up. So, strap on your capes and get ready to dream an impossible dream!
And as always, spoilers ahead.
1. Dream Drop Distance
It’s been teased for a few episode, and rather heavily last week, but Nia’s full identity and powers have official been unveiled. I’m not very familiar with the Legion, having read a paltry amount of non-Batman, Superman, or event comics that pre-date the New 52. . .of which I’ve read 90% of (please don’t judge me too harshly.) However, from the hype that broke my “do not research show characters ahead of time” bubble, I was aware that Nia had more importance than just being a fantastic new addition to the show, was tied to the Legion in some way, and had dream powers.
They seem to have changed the Legion part, although Brainy’s outburst of space-time worry makes me believe there’s a little bit more to that connection than just her importance in the past. . .present. . .you know what I mean. Regardless, the way they portrayed her developing her powers, learning and growing throughout the episode, was great. It weaved her into the action while also providing her with an arc instead of dragging us through a haphazard series of coincidences.
I still feel like she was under-set up via previous episodes, at least with her home life, but as opposed to overdoing it, like with Reign, this was the right amount of mystery for those not in the know and unobtrusive enough that, until last week, we weren’t being beaten over the head with it.
I particularly loved the way they filmed the dream sequences. It was refreshingly different. I didn’t notice much else in the episode different, but I did learn that Kevin Smith directed the episode, so, that explains the dream sequence shots.
2. Chain of Memories
Manchester’s arc has been rushed and uneven, the writers more concerned with getting him to this episode than anything else, but what an episode it is. The most compelling parts of this Manchester Black is that he is an anti-hero but is positioned opposite Supergirl, the embodiment of optimism and hope. He’s hopeless, having had, as he describes it, his whole world ripped from him. He is operating from grief and pain.
And despite the show placing him in an adversarial role to our main cast, we are given reasons to sympathize with him. J’onn is the audience proxy, trying to appeal to the parts of Manchester that he’s buried deep beneath the hate, and not giving up on a man he knows isn’t lost to darkness and despair. Manchester also isn’t wrong, which makes him all the more compelling as an antagonist. As we see at the end, optimism is not enough on its own. The world is more complicated and difficult than Supergirl wants it to be. She knows it, deep down, but as a symbol of peace, she cannot operate with that mentality. It makes her strong while it makes Manchester weak.
I think the thing I most appreciate about Lockwood’s evil plan is that it’s not your typical DCW villain plan. He’s not The Thinker, who plays over every single thing as if it were orchestrated by him. This whole episode was him reacting to his plans going awry but utilizing it for his own gain. He tries to “give up” Agent Liberty, probably because the heat is too high, and can’t do that. Manchester exposes him as Agent Liberty to his wife, who is horrified.
Then, later, when he’s arrested, he’s not smug, he’s not composed, he’s angry. He lashes out but in a way that makes him appear to be a martyr in the eyes of his followers. However, Witwer’s acting conveys that this is not conscious, or at least not calculated; it’s the flailings of a drowning man trying to find anything to grasp.Continued below
This is also the perfect place to wrap up the midseason finale. The defeat of the “big bad” might, at first glance, seem early but this is not the kind of villain that should be defeated at the end of the season. Season finales, in Supergirl at least, end on a positive note, with a definitive end of the villain. That’s not the case with the defeat of Lockwood. As I said above, he has become a martyr for terrible ideologies. This is the perfect way to wrap up this half (well, half-ish) of the season. It caps them off nicely without feeling too forced and leaves us prepped and ready for the big, yearly crossover.
4. Kingdom Hearts
I want to talk a little about hate. That’s the central theme of this season. I’ve touched on it in previous episodes but this episode brought into relief the ways in which the show refuse to create false equivalences between the various kinds of hatred. Yes, there are many forms of hate. The ones that motivate the Children of Liberty and Lockwood are those born from intolerance and fear. Lockwood is a smart man. He is eloquent. He knew exactly what he was doing as Agent Liberty and that is the scariest part of him as a villain.
He used that to stoke the flames of fear to forge the knife of hate out of the furnace of intolerance.
The show, even though it humanized him back in episode three, does not, for one second, ask us to identify with or sympathize with him. His hatred is ugly but it is human, which is a scary thought.
Manchester, on the other hand, is also filled with hate. He weaponizes that hatred to compromise his morals and do great harm onto others. His hatred is born of grief and pain. It is a hatred we understand. It is a hatred that can be returned from because it is born of a frustration at the injustices in the world and our inability to stop them through regular means. It is a hatred that we are asked to sympathize with but not to embrace because causing pain as a response to pain does not end in lasting peace. Hatred breeds resentment, no matter than kind. That is the message of this episode.
Not that they are the same but that they are different and that matters.
5. 358/2 Days
There are only so many thoughts I can have per week but I thought I’d combine a few here. First off: gotta get that Brainy appreciation in here somewhere. He was on the ball this week, with great physical humor and fantastic facial acting. Every line was a gem. In fact, most of the acting was much better than usual this week. Performances felt more natural and the rhythm of the episode was impeccable. That entire final scene, with President Boxleitner and Supergirl, was tense in quiet way that Supergirl usually eschews. Also, every time Nia said hook, all I could think of was “man hook car hand door,” which just goes to show you the power of a funny phrase from the internet.
The lack of Lena’s plot and the Lena/Jimmy tension was a welcome relief only because I don’t think the writers have found a good way to integrate them into the rest of the story yet. The touchstone mention in the elevator was a nice touch, making the season feel more whole and moving forwards on plot-lines even though they aren’t actively happening on-screen. Also, I know I said I wanted the DEO to play a more adversarial role but I was hoping it’d be through corruption and a Director Bones-like figure, not a vain president but, still, it’s a good development and gives the DEO a reason to continue existing within the framework of the show.
Can I gush about that Nth metal scene because that was a cool use of Supergirl’s powers, a great way to show them in action, and a great way to show off Supergirl’s thought process.
Final thought: the scene at the jail actually got me to cry. Maybe I’m just highly stressed but seeing Lockwood’s wife start chanting “Liberty. Liberty” got to me. It’s horrifying in a way I’m having trouble expressing and it’s a tragic turn of events but not an unexpected one. Good move Supergirl but also damn you.Continued below
5.5. II.8 Final Chapter Prologue
OK, I lied. There’s a bit more to come because after the final logo, we got our first teaser for “Elseworlds!” We’ve also got an Earth number, which I’m presuming to be the designation of the 90s Flash series, and the return of JOHN WESLEY SHIPP! I’m way too excited for this crossover, especially because we get more Tyler Hoechlin Superman, and I hope they don’t mess up Batwoman.
Also, Nix Uotan is here? But he’s evil? It’s probably one of the other 52 monitors. Or Mandrakk. Maybe that book has Ultraa in it. Don’t ask. Please. “Final Crisis” is difficult enough to understand without also throwing in “The Multiversity.”
That about does it for now! Join us again next Sunday for part one of “Elseworlds,” the three night crossover between Arrow, Flash and our very own Supergirl, who’s been bumped to Tuesday night for the week. Then, come back for the January 20th return of the season! It’s gonna be something for sure. Until them, stay super y’all.
Best Line of the Night:
President Baker: “The US doesn’t want a war with Supergirl.”
Supergirl: “And I trust you won’t start one.”