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If Supergirl could sum itself up in one word, it would be empathy. It’s a pleasure, then, that in the middle of Season 3 – its darkest, most violent yet – that the show should still take the time out for an episode devoted to reminding us of that.
That mission is dovetailed superbly with the discovery of Julia Freeman, our World-Killer from last episode, whose Big Bad Name turns out to be Purity. Supergirl and the DEO infiltrate her home, ready to arrest her in her normal state, but Purity is awoken by the fear and surprise she feels – and the result is a quick dust-up in a living room that, while still ends in her arrest, does at least get to show us J’onn being thrown through the kitchen wall.
Purity’s powers, we discover, mostly involving sonic screams and waves – a nice way to mix up the usual kind of fights we get on the show, as well as a chance for the show to flex its FX muscles. That really comes into its own in a busy Subway station (Supergirl’s choice of locations to match its action has been excellent this season), as Purity uses her super-shrieks to shatter a concrete pillar, almost bringing down the whole concourse. Fortunately, Mon-El, J’onn and Alex are on hand to help Supergirl keep the station standing and evacuate the passengers, while still finding time to trade blows with our new villain.
But the real battle, both in terms of stakes and screen-time, occurs between those two bouts, as Purity sits in her DEO cell and Alex and Supergirl try to get information out of her. It’s a classic scenario for Supergirl to draw a line between the Danvers sisters, but where they normally disagree only slightly on protocol, this interrogation sees them further apart than ever: Kara is keen to communicate with Julia and bring her back to the surface, believing firmly that the good half of her is still in there somewhere; Alex, on the other hand, is deeply cynical and thinks that the timid Julia they found in her living room was all an act. We, of course, know from Reign that the two halves of each World-Killer’s personality are separate and unaware of each other, which only highlights just how much Alex has been changed by her break-up with Maggie; she’s past one phase of grief, but is now quick to anger, eager to protect those she does have in her life (Kara) and automatically guarded and sceptical, whether that’s of strangers or even her own sister.
Purity, meanwhile, can read all of that and has fun toying with both Kara and Alex, ultimately fanning the flames of Alex’s anger until it helps her to get free (and get out of giving up any useful information to the DEO).
That, in itself, would make for an effective episode, but Supergirl is on fire this season, finding time for everyone to have a moment or two. And so it is that we also get an hour devoted to male bonding. That comes in the form of Mon-El and J’onn, as the former has a spat with Imra – and J’onn, ever the dad of the group, steps in to suggest he talks about it. Younger Mon-El would have brushed that off, but this is mature, bearded Mon-El, and he actually opens up. They break open some bottles of Martian moonshine and Mon-El explains that he married Imra to unite his people, then learned to love her – the opposite of the way he felt about Kara, which was unpredictable, natural and still has part of his heart. He also acknowledges how much of an immature prick he was in the past, a nice atonement to compensate for Mon-El’s more irritating episodes in Season 2. The writers really are doing all the right things here.
In between them is Winn, whose role as the supportive, encouraging, listening friend has become exceptionally well honed, as he slots in and out of scenes with J’onn and Mon-El seamlessly – and with a lot of laughs along the way. He’s geeky, a fan of learning (in this case, how to repair the Legion’s spaceship) and, like James Olsen, is finally being put to just the right use.
And what of Reign? She swoops in to sweep away Julia, taking her to her evil fortress ready to complete her training – so all they need to do then is find their third and last World-Killer. But all that training and swooping means being away from Ruby, and Supergirl again focuses on what that means for their mother-daughter relationship, with Ruby suddenly abandoned at an ice rink, prompting her to call Aunty Lena. Lena’s role, too, continues to be impeccably well balanced, as she uses smarts and kindness to make a positive difference in the lives around her (and subtly advance the plot). Here, that means providing a comforting shoulder to Sam, even as she takes back some of Sam’s duties to alleviate the stress and pressure of the role. But that also extended to letting slip to Ruby that nobody knows yet what’s going on with her mother – an admission that sends Sam into a rage, bringing Reign briefly out in front of Lena.
Has the brightest member of the Luthor family finally worked it out? It’d be nice for that discovery to come from her, rather than Kara, and she certainly tells Sam that she knows what’s wrong with her and how to cure her. But with the latter part probably wrong, you suspect that Lena’s well-meaning efforts are likely to lead only to more bad things. Empathy, it turns out, might not always be the best policy after all…
Supergirl Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Monday at 8pm. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.