UK TV review: Supergirl Season 3, Episodes 16 and 17
Ivan Radford | On 21, May 2018
Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Supergirl, click here.
Supergirl continues its strong third season with Episodes 16 and 17, a double-bill that takes us into Sam’s mind and through Kara’s head to deliver some big revelations and some even bigger punches.
Episode 16 sees Pestilence arrive – and arrive in style. If, by style, you mean a flock of dead birds crashing to the ground and people breaking out into what seems to be flu. Inevitably, the disease spreads to people we care about, as Winn and Alex join the infected hordes – but that’s what helps lead our heroes to find out the person behind the attacks. It’s none other than Dr. Grace Parker, whom Alex and Winn both encounter when investigating the outbreak. She’s sharp, witty, doesn’t take nonsense from Winn and shares a spark with Alex – full credit to Angela Zhou, who certainly knows how to make an impression.
She’s just as impressive when finally unveiled, and that’s not just because she has strong powers – it’s also because, unlike Sam, she has fully given in to the idea of being a Worldkiller. Nonetheless, Kara, Mon-El and Imra give her a good seeing to, as they trade blows in the climatic punch-up. If that sounds like a rushed summation of the plot, it’s because the more interesting stuff is going on below the surface, and that’s what has made Supergirl’s third run so consistently excellent: it’s managed to balance the action and emotion without slowing its breakneck pace, using fights to spur character dilemmas and character dilemmas to spark fights.
In this case, it’s Imra and Kara disagreeing over whether Grace can be saved – Kara believes in second chances, but Imra’s mission from the future is clear: stop Pestilence and save millions of lives. Imra has already shown that she is willing to go behind Kara’s back, something that has driven a wedge between Imra and Mon-El – the writers deserve huge bonus points for managing to cause a rift in their marriage without it solely being down to a love triangle. It only takes a few seconds of Chris Wood’s Mon-El and Melissa Benoist’s Kara on-screen together, though, to feel the swooning chemistry still between them. (In Episode 17, as Mon-El watches over Kara’s flinching body, when she’s hooked up to a mind-broadcasting machine to fight the Worldkillers, his wounded expression genuinely speaks volumes.)
Yes, that’s right: Pestilence survives. She’s almost defeated, thanks to some Strong Cape Game by Mon-El and Kara (we’re always here for Strong Cape Game), is almost defeated, but then Purity arrives and rescues her – not before Imra nabs a blood sample, though, so Brainiac can manufacture a cure to save Alex and Winn (and everyone else).
While all this is going on, Supergirl is doubling down on the internal conflict going on within Sam, as Lena’s tests prod and push her friend until Reign appears – and actually, on a cellular level, sparks a transformation into the Worldkiller. In Sam’s head, Reign warns she’s coming for her, asking her to give in, like Grace – and Odette Annable does brilliant work of conveying both Sam’s terror and Reign’s ruthless cruelty, often within the same breath.
Katie McGrath, meanwhile, has never had more to do, as Lena tries to do the right thing – and, in doing so, does all of the wrong things. Because not only does she not tell the DEO that she has Sam at the L-Corp lab, or that she has worked out Sam and Reign are the same person, she has also been using Kryptonite to keep Reign subdued. So when Kara, Mon-El, Imra and J’onn rock up to warn Lena about the impending danger, only to discover all of these things – and for Purity and Pestilence to follow swiftly behind and break Reign out – the sense of doom is twice as ominous: the Big Bad’s free again, and the good guys have never seemed further apart.
Just to cement the apocalyptic mood, the Worldkillers head to the Fortress of Sanctuary and begin a ritual to cause a total eclipse – because nothing says Things Are About To Get Bad like a blood red eclipse overshadowing the whole planet. Things escalate quickly, as we soon realise that Grace may be dead, but Sam and Julia are still somewhere inside Reign and Purity trying to fight back to their human selves. That’s courtesy of a vision of Kara’s, which sees Sam and Julia in the Kryptonian Valley of Juru, which is essentially an alternate dimension. And so Kara and Brainiac team up to use her mind to broadcast herself, Alex and Lena into this Uncanny Valley (ahem), and try to reconnect with both Sam and Julia.
The result gets messy, with Sam awakening after Kara uses Ruby to remind her of who she really is. Sam triggers a homing beacon that allows the Legion ship to bring the noise, and then triggers a fight between our three Worldkillers. In the ensuing carnage, Pestilence and Purity both kill each other – which seems like a fortunate happenstance, until Reign absorbs both of their powers, which, if anything, only makes her scarier. She vows to go after Ruby, thereby erasing Sam’s one weakness and allowing her to take full control.
But while all of that is exciting, Supergirl once again impresses by focusing on the moral and emotional implications of all of this action. Lena and Kara’s bickering is as much a source of suspense as anything else, as they try to work on the same team – and Kara’s decision to get James to break into L-Corp while Lena’s away on the mission only ramps up the character development. James, of course, likes Lena a lot, and so while he betrays her to break into her lab, he also chooses not to open the super-secret vault inside, instead telling Kara that he did open it and there was no more kryptonite inside. Two lies to two women in one episode? Mr. Olsen should be ashamed.
This, however, is just a sign of how much he has grown since Season 1, which pitched him as a boring romantic interest, and Season 2, which tried to position him as a superhero sidekick. Season 3 has turned him into a supporting friend to Kara, a love interest for Lena, rather than Supergirl, and – best of all – a good mate to Winn. Their friendship is one of the joys of watching the show now, with Episode 16 seeing them have a sincere heart-to-heart while Winn was in a hospital bed nearing death. Winn, too, has never been so well served by this programme – Episode 17 sees him give Alex (Chyler Leigh) a new outfit, which combines a cool new weapon with the even cooler addition of magnets. (The fact that all of Supergirl’s costumes manage to be both stylish and practical at the same time deserves endless praise.)
The episode closes with James revealing to Lena that he broke into her lab – and with Lena revealing that she made the kryptonite herself. James then tells her he’s the Guardian, just for good measure. By this point, it’s somewhat ridiculous that the smartest Luthor still hasn’t worked out that Kara is Supergirl, but they politely agree to respect each other’s secrets in Episode 17’s final act. With James stepping up the secret machine several gears, though, the fact that there are still so many more trust lines to cross makes the final stretch of this exciting season all the more thrilling.
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.