Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Supergirl, click here.
To what extent do we trust those whom we consider family? That’s the question Supergirl tackles in Episode 18 of its third season, one that balances the need to keep the plot moving towards the season’s end game with the need to continue developing its characters. Most of the time in this accomplished run, those have been one and the same, with each expanded emotional tie upping the stakes to match the show’s growing scale – and the result has been a breakneck pace that’s hurtled through plot twists and human drama with gripping urgency. Episode 18, though, sees that pace hit a stumbling block.
We pick up in the aftermath of Pestilence and Purity being bumped off last episode, something that leaves the Legionnaires to depart Earth, because Reign is now less of a threat – and because the Blight has been eradicated from the world’s future, making their mission a success. And so Brainiac bids goodbye to Winn, giving him a jar of future dirt (which Winn loves), in one of the season’s funniest exchanges to date. And Mon-El and Imra both bid farewell to Kara – until, inevitably, Mon-El discovers that Reign has inherited the power of both the other Worldkillers, placing Kara, J’onn and Alex in significant danger. And so he decides to return to Kara to help her, and save her from near-certain doom.
It’s a move that puts us firmly back in the romantic territory of the uneven second season, but also makes it clear just how much the show’s writers have improved the storyline and the characters since then: Mon-El is now kind, mature and honest, making him a much better partner for Supergirl, and the series proves it, once again, by showing us how well the duo now fight together (three words: Strong Cape Game). The series also tries (nobly, but less successfully) to give Imra some agency in this love triangle, as she tells Mon-El to go back to Kara – and only return to the Legion if he’s 100 per cent certain, because she deserves a man who’s fully committed.
The other relationship explored is that of Lena and James – or, more specifically, Lena and Supergirl. The two characters are the most interesting on the show, each one loyal and kind-hearted, but also with countless reasons not to behave that way towards each other; Lena is paranoid about people judging her by her surname, while Supergirl is paranoid about anyone else having Kryptonite. Lena lying about producing Kryptonite, then, is the ultimate extreme to test their alliance – bringing out both of their unhealthy traits, not least because it drags James into the whole thing. James suggests Lena be honest and admit that she can manufacture Kryptonite, in an effort to join forces against Reign, but by now, he’s already chosen to lie to Kara about the whole thing, which only makes thing the whole thing worse – and it’s hard to shake the feeling that this really isn’t the kind of decision that James would normally make, and has only been done to ramp up the drama.
Suspect character decisions also plague the main plot, as Alex asks Lena where Ruby is being hidden, and refuses to trust her to keep Sam’s daughter secret and safe. It turns out that she’s holed up in Lex’s old mansion, which is hidden from view by a nifty cloaking device. And so Alex naturally goes there to keep Ruby company, only to end up on a mobile phone to the DEO, thereby making it easy for Reign to track them both. She rocks up on the doorstep, which leads to a nice punch-up – and some cool weaponised Kryptonian machine gun fire from Mon-El – but also a confrontation between Ruby and Alex, as the young girl guessed that Alex was lying to her when she said she knew nothing about what was wrong with Sam.
The shaken trust between the pair is a genuinely intriguing cliffhanger; it’s just a shame that it only comes about from Alex making an unusually daft decision, particularly when it comes to one that would jeopardise Ruby’s safety. In the meantime, Sam’s other human relative – her mother – is paid a visit by Supergirl and J’onn, only for Reign to turn up there (effectively on her way to the mansion) and kill her. It’s a rare misstep from Supergirl, which strives for tragedy but doesn’t give us enough time to know or care about Sam’s mum for the death to really have an impact. With Reign eventually subdued once more in Lena’s lab, you end up with an episode where lots of people have done things that seem important on the surface, but really, little has changed. Fortunately, though, the show’s knack for relationships hasn’t gone away completely, with one gentle subplot involving J’onn and his dad, proving particularly sweet, as his father’s mind continues to deteriorate, but he still gets to play a crucial role in the battle against Reign (and drink a mochaccino). Here’s hoping we get more of that in the season’s final stretch.
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.