Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Supergirl, click here.
One of Supergirl’s more impressive qualities has been its willingness to tackle the subject of aggression in a serious, nuanced way, encouraging the healthy expression of anger rather than bottling it up. But it also knows when to drag those feelings out in the open on behalf of its characters.
In Season 3, Kara has more than an understandable amount of stuff to be annoyed about, with the return of Mon-El, who, while he has clearly matured, has never really addressed his old behaviour in Season 2 explicitly. While it’s been nice to see that tension simmer between the duo, and to see them work together in a positive way, Episode 15 (In Search of Lost Time) doesn’t give those feelings anywhere to hide, as J’onn’s father, M’yrnn tries to preserve his memory using a special Martian ritual – but that chant only sends the DEO into chaos, as everyone in the building finds their aggressive side triggered.
It’s a deftly conceived plot device that is typical of this accomplished third run, which combines character and action in the same way that it balances humour and serious drama – Supergirl is currently juggling topics such as dementia, parent-child separation, grief at family loss and the actual end of the world, but it’s doing so with a lightness of touch and a pace that keeps things bright and breezy at all times. Mon-El and Kara’s sparring sessions, as he trains her to become better at fighting, swiftly spike into painful territory, as she lands a full-on blow at her ex – but that awkwardness is quickly dispelled by Winn’s excitement at having repaired Mon-El’s suit, and him therefore being able to say “Suit up!” at them both. Later, Kara is stopping an alien from decimating a bar with a seriously violent encounter – only for things to pause, after their fisticuffs take them flying into a photobooth, so Kara can check out the snaps with a smirk.
There’s also the huge satisfaction in seeing the action step up a gear, as Mon-El introduces Kara to all the things her “Smart Cloth” cape can do – after a training montage, she’s whipping, grabbing and pulling items with her cloak, an effect that’s visually gorgeous, thanks to some slick CGI and wonderful slow-mo.
That satisfaction is doubled by the way that Mon-El and Kara have an open heart-to-heart about the fact that he was such a douche when they were together – a heart-to-heart triggered by Kara shouting out a long list of his offences at him. By the time Mon-El admits he was wrong and apologises, and by the time they’re in action trying to stop a mass-breakout of all the DEO’s prisoners, it’s a joy to see Kara wield her cape to save the day – and catch Mon-El’s eye across the carnage with a mutual grin. (The only thing better is the moment where Mon-El Literally Stops A Missile By Catching It In His Cape, which is the most bad-ass thing Supergirl has shown us to date.)
The most poignant strand of the episode comes from J’onn and his dad, as he has to explain to his father that he can’t continue with the Martian ritual, because it’s putting everyone’s lives at risk. It’s a tough thing to do, ask a loved one to voluntarily lose their dignity, and it’s set up beautifully by an opening scene that sees the group play charades – only for J’onn to reprimand his father for using his powers unfairly to cheat, even if he doesn’t realise it. (The unexpected sight of M’yrnn in a spacesuit is laugh-out-loud funny.)
The theme of emotional pain breaking through the surface is smartly dovetailed into the ongoing storyline involving Reign and Sam, with Lena continuing to treat her friend. Sam may have asked for help, but she’s alarmed at the degree to which the nicest Luthor has gone, locking her up and scanning her constantly. The conclusion? Sam transforms on a cellular level when she becomes Reign – it’s not just a personality change, but an entire physical metamorphosis.
Sam responds with denial, until Lena can prove it to her with recorded footage – footage of her transforming that’s prompted (you guessed it) by the threat of Lena taking Ruby away from her. Sam begs Lena not to let Ruby near her again until she’s better. The episode ends with birds falling out of the sky, a sign that Pestilence (the penultimate World-Killer) is upon us. Now Sam knows that she’s Reign, though, the question is how she’ll react to having a new friend in the neighbourhood.
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 14-day free trial is available for new subscribers.