Tuesday, May 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Supergirl Battles Rhea for the Future of the Earth in 'Nevertheless, She Persisted'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 2.22 "Nevertheless, She Persisted"

Supergirl challenges Rhea to battle to save National City. Meanwhile, Superman returns and Cat Grant offers Supergirl some sage advice.

The second season of Supergirl was a remarkable improvement on the first. I've mentioned that a ton over the course of this year. So, it shouldn't be that necessary to say why the show is now much better than it was before. It should just be enough to be happy by what the show currently is. It still has mistakes and flaws. James and Mon-El are very frustrating characters who didn't always have a ton of purpose. But that's besides the point. This year was great because it was fun and emotion to watch Kara fight for everything she wanted. This season had a powerful message that took the turbulent times of the real world and channeled it into meaningful action. It spoke out on the ideal of being welcoming to different ideologies and standing up for what's morally right in the face of true, hateful oppression. It did all of this with a female hero at the center. The visuals and message this year were inspiring to watch and made the show essential viewing because of that uplifting tone in the face of incredible odds.

Now, the season may have peaked with last week's episode. That hour was a phenomenal culmination of every single story thread and idea the show had this season. It seemed impossible to bring everything together in a way that genuinely raised the stakes and was compelling to watch. And yet, the show did it while still delivering its strong female empowerment message. The finale is a bit more of a conventional superhero ending. Supergirl's attempts to stop Rhea in last week's episode didn't work. She tried reasoning with her only for it to fail. Alex took too long to fire the DEO weapon and it was destroyed by the Daxomite army. This episode is centered around the last effort to save the Earth from this alien threat. It's up to Kara to protect the entire planet. All of that pressure is placed on her because she's the superhero who runs into danger. As such, her actions save millions of lives but come at a great personal cost to her. It's not a completely surprising conclusion to this story. But the execution makes it work incredibly well too.

Of course, things get off to an intense and thrilling start. Expectations were for the fight between Supergirl and Rhea to be the big draw of the finale. The pinnacle moment everything else revolves around. And yet, the fight between Supergirl and Superman is much more climatic and devastating to watch. The show did a smart thing in introducing Superman this season. He wasn't used a lot. He showed up at the beginning of the year in order to flesh out this universe. The show could no longer just reference him at random moments and always have an expositional line saying why he couldn't help with the big battles that have the fate of the entire planet in question. He could be onscreen. He wasn't full of angst either. He's a successful hero who has already fought some of his greatest enemies and won over the love of his life. He's an experienced hero and loyal friend to Kara. And now, the two of them are fighting. Earth's greatest heroes are fighting with each other. It's not a sensational moment that becomes the talk of the town. It's a fight that happens in the spur of the moment and has consequences for both of them. It's a battle that wears them down. It's not surprising that Supergirl wins since this is her show. But it still sends a powerful message about the strength of women in this world.

Plus, the battle doesn't completely incapacitate Superman either. That would be the easy storytelling decision. Kara wins the fight and saves her cousin. But he is too broken to help her defeat Rhea and her army. That would have been lame and formulaic. Instead, the show has Superman as a champion of Supergirl. He's there encouraging her every step of the way. In fact, all of her friends are there doing that for her. Kara relies on the support of her friends in order to be the hero National City needs. They give her strength when she needs it the most. When she is busy fighting Rhea in a trial by combat, she has to count on her friends to protect the city from the invaders who have started attacking again. Because that trust is there, she knows she can focus solely on Rhea and stopping this invasion of Earth. She knows that Mon-El, J'onn and Superman can protect the people of the city. She knows how heroic they are. They are all honorable. Rhea isn't. She's full of dirty tricks. She doesn't follow the rules of this fight. Plus, she even has Kara at a disadvantage because her blood is actually kryptonite. That's an interesting reveal. It does weaken Kara but she is still able to land that final knockout blow. It's a clear and decisive victory for her.

But again, Rhea doesn't just leave because she loses. She's determined to rule over this planet and win her son back. The only way to make her leave is to make this a toxic planet for all Daxomites. That includes Mon-El. And thus, it provides the finale with its sense of tragedy. Kara needs to put protecting the planet above her own happiness. She infects the atmosphere with lead to send the aliens away. Mon-El has to flee as well. Rhea dies having failed in this endeavor. Mon-El is able to escape. But he survives knowing he'll never be able to return to Earth and Kara. Their romance was just getting started and it's being taken away. It's so bittersweet for Kara. She loved Mon-El but he had to leave. She's devastated. She so desperately wants everything to be happy and perfect in her life. It isn't. It's messy and complicated. Her friends are there for her. That's probably the best quality of this finale. The big battle happens but then the action spends a lot of time focusing on the aftermath and how Kara is dealing with all of it. She wants others to be happy. They are and she loves that. She has plenty to be proud of as well. Her talk with Cat is so great because it brings everything into perspective about how meaningful the fight and the perseverance actually is. This is a loss but Supergirl must keep fighting and protecting the world. That's how she can honor this love. She'll continue to do good in this world - even as a new threat is coming. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Nevertheless, She Persisted" was directed by Glen Winter with story by Andrew Kreisberg & Jessica Queller and teleplay by Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish.
  • It seems unlikely that this is the last we've seen of Mon-El though. He gets this big, sweeping and emotional goodbye with Kara. But the action deliberately shows his ship entering some kind of breech in space which could take him anywhere in the multi-verse. That wouldn't have been seen if he wasn't going to pop up again. 
  • Alex and Maggie get engaged. It's something that Alex does very spontaneously because Kara wants her to be in love and happy. I'm assuming Maggie says yes. Those two have been such a fantastic couple this season. Their bond is so strong that they could seemingly face any obstacle.
  • M'Gann returns as well. It's her psychic link with J'onn that pulls him out of the trap he was in. She is joined by several White Martians too. So, it would seem she's made quite the difference in her return to Mars. Plus, she's still willing to return to Earth and help J'onn when he needs it. 
  • Cat Grant knows that Kara is Supergirl. At least, that's what the show seems to be suggesting. They've faked the audience out with that before. But the encouragement Cat gives Kara in the end is great. It just continues to prove how necessary that dynamic is for the overall show. I hope Calista Flockhart is in more of the third season.
  • The show casts General Zod in this finale. He's the enemy Superman thinks he's fighting with instead of Kara. It's not a notable casting. Though I hope the inevitable casting of Lois Lane will be. She's referenced too much to never show up eventually.
  • The finale ends with the story once again returning to Krypton's destruction. It once again reveals that someone else was able to flee the planet. It's another baby bound for Earth. It should be fascinating to see what kind of villain it'll be next season.