Warning: This contains spoilers.
Nevertheless, She Persisted. It’s hard to think of a better way to sum up Season 2 of Supergirl, which had more than its fair share of weak episodes. But the two-part finale flies in the face of that uneven quality to deliver a thrilling, moving and surprisingly action-packed climax.
We pick up directly where the antepenultimate episode left off: with the invasion of Earth by Rhea and her fleet of Daxam spaceships. It’s huge, even for a small screen superhero series – easily bigger than the Season 1 finale and without a doubt the biggest thing Supergirl has attempted to date. There’s a genuinely epic feel to what’s on show, one that makes it easy to forget that The CW’s budgets aren’t really that high. Just in case a bunch of ships flying through the skies of National City aren’t enough to impress you (complete with Teri Hatcher’s face beamed into the air, proclaiming herself Earth’s new queen), the second part steps things up a notch: with the introduction of Superman (Tyle Hoechlin, still awesome), who is brainwashed by Rhea (courtesy of Silver Kryptonite) into thinking that Kara is General Zod. A punch-up ensues.
A brawl between Superman and Supergirl? The series doesn’t skimp on the concept or execution, its two Kryptonians throwing each other through buildings and into cars. It’s a superb sequence, one that manages to replicate the kind of showdown we’re used to seeing on the big screen, but getting it right where DC’s blockbusters have got it wrong: the emotional stakes are high, because it’s two cousins in a face-off, and the action constantly takes care to pause and make sure that innocent bystanders aren’t turned into collateral damage.
Do we think either Superman or Supergirl are really going to kill each other? Of course not, but that’s where Supergirl’s strength always lies: in understanding the inner consequences of such actions. This is a show about resilience and fortitude, not punching harder than someone else, and all the better for it.
And who better to remind us of that than Cat Grant? Yes, Callista Flockhart is back – finally – and she’s as fierce as ever, immediately standing up to Rhea and telling her that not only is her plan stupid, but that her tiara is serious overkill. Cat, rather brilliantly, does all this while on Air Force One alongside President Marsdin, who turns out to be an alien refugee – in case you wondered why she was so pro-ET in earlier episodes.
It’s about time Cat returned, and her presence is a reminder of what Supergirl’s sophomore run has been missing – and a significant part of what makes these two episodes such great fun. All the most memorable characters, in fact, get a chance to pop up, including Sharon Leal’s M’gann. That means we get a shot of James Olsen, too – although Cat Grant hilariously sees straight through his whole Guardian alter-ego, immediately mocking him for it. Here’s hoping the series’ writers adopt her stance for Season 3.
Rhea’s plan is simple: force Mon-El and Lena to marry, something that they reluctantly agree to do, until Kara teams up with Lillian (yes, the evil Luthor matriarch of Cadmus fame) to beam aboard Rhea’s ship with a Phantom Zone projector. There, she not only has a punch-up with Superman – a smart cliffhanger to keep the two hours going – but also challenges Rhea to Dakkam Ur, the ancient rite that sees two leaders battle to the death, with the loser having to concede the war.
Two super-powered women duelling to decide the fate of the Earth against the National City skyline? Supergirl delivers everything comic book fans could want, including fleets of spaceships and some White Martian action to boot. Even better, it gives us something more: a proposal of marriage between Alex and Maggie. The couple have been the strongest part of this sophomore season almost constantly, so it’s a treat to see that relationship really blossom – especially because the show does it in such a casual, genuine way, without labouring a point.
The emotional delight of that union is contrasted poignantly with the break-up of another: Mon-El and Kara. While Dakkam Ur is going down, Lillian works with Lena to build a device that can disperse lead through the Earth’s atmosphere, a substance that is poisonous for Daxamites. With no other choice, as Rhea continues to invade and refuses to start no matter what (even as M’gann brings White Martians to fight alongside J’onn and the humans), Kara agrees to activate the device – a decision that means Mon-El will be killed too. And so she flees with him to a pod and sends him away to safety.
Sacrificing the one she loves for the planet? We never had a doubt that Kara would choose the painful, noble option – this second season has focused, time and time again, on Kara being dealt cruel blows by life. It’s a subtle character journey that’s been overshadowed somewhat by Mon-El’s own arc. Chris Woods deserves lots of credit for his sheer charm, which has made an often annoying and self-centered character far more likeable than he might have been on the page, although the finale episodes of Season 2 has seen Mon-El become far more aware of his many shortcomings. It’s just in time, really, because, combined with Melissa Benoist’s performance, we can feel the heartbreak caused by her tough, selfless decision: nevertheless, she persisted. And that persistence has been the driving force of Kara’s growth over the season, allowing her to become mature and confident in her identity – it’s telling, perhaps, how much time she spent being angsty about her personal and heroic life in Season 1, because things happened so easily that she wasn’t always challenged by everything else around her.
The result is a promising conclusion, then, which holds lots of potential for Season 3 – if Mon-El can perhaps stay away, if Guardian can be phased out, and if Cat can play a more central role. Speaking of pods and Season 3, let’s spend a moment to reflect upon the show’s surprising cliffhanger epilogue: a being (with no apparent gender) evacuated from Krypton hot on the heels of Kara and Kal-El, a departure that also involves some kind of creepy blood ritual. What is it? The comic books don’t really give us any kind of touchpoint to guess, but as Supergirl has succeeded due to its willingness to break fresh ground, having a brand new villain in store is no bad thing…
Supergirl Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
Where can I watch Supergirl Season 2 on pay-per-view VOD?