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It’s Lady Willpower Hour on ‘Supergirl’

Supergirl Season 3, Episode 11: “Fort Rozz”

It’s all about the ladies tonight on “Fort Rozz.” Well, at least the A plot is. See, after the shellacking Reign gave the Legion and Kara, and after they worked together to at least stab Reign in the jugular with some kryptonite, they realize they need more intel. Luckily, there’s a prisoner on the big season one catalyst, Fort Rozz. Her name is Jindah Kol Rozz (played by Superman II alumnus Sarah Douglas), and she was a high priestess back on ol’ Krypton before it went kablooey. Only, there are complications, naturally. Let’s dive in with Kori on recaps and Elizabeth on analysis, shall we?

Recap

As mentioned, Supergirl and the Super-Friends need some intel on Reign, like, yesterday. So naturally, they remember someone on Fort Rozz might be able to provide it. I am totally not going to ask why we never heard about her when Astra and Non were planning their world takeover, I can theorize why; every culture has its heretics. Anyways, back to Jindah. Kara wants to talk to her, but to do so they need to go to Fort Rozz, and there’s a tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny problem with that.

See, when Kara flew it into space in the season one finale, it kept on drifting. And somehow defying the laws of physics and travel, it wound up orbiting a blue star. Couple of issues there! It’s a blue star which means Kara is going to be essentially powerless, and it’s a blue star which somehow means it’s lethal to anyone with a Y chromosome. I am not going to make commentary on that idea…I am not going to make commentary on that idea.

Anyways, you might see the problem. Kara is powerless, Alex has a fractured leg, so we lose our best chance to see a live-action Commander Shepard on a space romp, and with all of the guys unable to go, that kind of only leaves Kara and Imra. So basically Imra as any sort of protection.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Kara sucks it up and decides the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Basically, we get my favorite nemesis, Livewire (Brit Morgan) working with Supergirl, and Psi (Yael Grobglas) has agreed to help them as well. “She wants to kill me; I don’t want to die when I escape.” And so the lady power hour flies to Fort Rozz.

Not kidding when we said Kara’s kinda powerless…

Look, there’s a side plot with the guys looking into getting the Legion ship back home, and it’s okay. It’s serviceable. I love Querl (Jesse Rath), so I won’t complain about seeing him on my screen. Winn is naturally feeling a little threatened, but the crux of this arc is that J’onn needs his own episode again. He’s one of the more powerful characters in DC League canon, and the writers keep finding reasons to tamp his power down or sideline him. Kinda like how they did Wally on The Flash. I get why they’ve nerfed him, hell; they had to nerf Kara for the show as well. But Kara’s powers are leveling up, and J’onn seems to keep being sidelined.

Gimme another episode with M’yrnn and let father and son have their own adventure. David Harewood is a tremendous actor, and it’s starting to feel a bit like he’s being squandered with all of the other plots spinning around this season.

Before we get back to the A plot, let’s also take a look at Alex! Who still has a broken leg and can’t Commander Shepard it up in space, so she offers to babysit Ruby while Sam has to “go out of town on a meeting.” Alex and Ruby bond instantly, and Elizabeth and I have speculated for a while, not that it’s hard to spot, that if Sam/Reign has to leave, Alex might wind up taking Ruby in. This episode lays some groundwork for that, while also giving us a Maggie callback. Ouch. It’s only fair since Kara has had to deal with her ex, Mon-El, in front of her every day. You don’t just break up with someone and then never think of them again. So when Maggie texts Alex in the middle of the babysitting adventure, well, it hurts.

Luckily Ruby is a very understanding pre-teen and lets Alex talk about it while also commiserating with her on her own issues with a girl cyberbullying her. This sets up one of the most delightful points of the episode, Mama Bear Alex. Alex can’t fix the Maggie-sads, those just need time and space. But she can sure as shit shut down a girl from bullying her adopted niece. Which she does by pretending to be the FBI and it’s hilarious.

Back to the A-plot. Look, they have some space adventures, and they find out there are MORE worldkillers and get their names, Power, Purity, and Pestilence. Old Kryptonian religion apparently didn’t need subtlety. So now Super-Friends knows to be on the lookout, but the cost of getting that intel is what we’re here to look at. Livewire has been Kara’s first real nemesis since season one. Last season, Kara let her go free after a mad scientist had kidnapped Livewire and was going to kill her. And Kara let her do that because one of her greatest strengths is her compassion and her belief that people can be redeemed.

Livewire at her best. We’ll miss you.

For the first time in the series, that compassion and that belief are rewarded. Supergirl’s life is saved, and it’s by Livewire. Leslie finally confesses that she sees Kara as a friend, and Livewire gets her redemption and goes out a hero, by sacrificing herself to save Kara. Ironically because Kara still thinks there’s something in Reign that can be redeemed. After Psi blasted her, we know she has a weakness, and we, the audience know it’s her humanity. Kara doesn’t quite know Sam is Reign, but she sees there’s someone there worth saving. It’s just not going to happen tonight.

I’ll admit, I was pissed as hell when we lost Livewire. I think the character had tremendous return potential, and Brit Morgan is a delight to watch. But at the same time, Livewire proved Kara right. You can be redeemed if you want it and someone is willing to offer you that hand. Kara did, and Livewire accepted. And she died a damned hero, freaking fight me on that.

Also pictured, a confused Sam pupper who does not deserve any of this.

Anyways, at the end of the episode, Sam comes to pick up Ruby and finally twigs onto the fact that something is really wrong with her and her missing time periods, and tells Alex as much. That’ll lead us to the inevitable discovery that Sam is Reign, finally, but in the meantime, we’ll have Purity and Pestilence lurking around the corner!

Analysis

Remember last week when I said that the Guardians of the Galaxy thing was not the right tone for Supergirl? If you’re wondering what I think is the correct tone for this show, it’s this episode.

There are eight—EIGHT—major female characters in this episode: Supergirl, Livewire, Psi, Saturn Girl, Rozz, Reign, Alex, and Ruby.

Featured: Half of the main ladies of “Fort Rozz.”

I occasionally feel like people don’t give this show credit where credit’s due for how many female characters dominate the screen time this season. This episode is an extreme example, but many before it have featured intertwining storylines with no less than four female characters, and they are often all on screen together. This isn’t so much an outlier as it is a particularly strong example of what the creative team is trying to accomplish here.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest criticisms of last season was that some felt that Mon-El dominated too much of the plot and that they wanted more female protagonists to feel like they were dominating the plot. Well, this season has been eleven episodes of exactly that so far. It has also elevated its writing far beyond what season one could have hoped to accomplish; it’s actually kind of hard for me to go back and watch the first season and have it hold my interest. There’s just nothing in the previous seasons that even scratches the surface of how complex the character relationships are in season three, and that’s exactly what I always knew the show had the potential to be.

The best thing about Supergirl’s approach to serious topics is it manages to mitigate how dark it feels by being very careful about how characters react to things, and how they support each other through them. Even though this episode featured a lot of bickering between Livewire and Psi, Livewire is a well-established snarky asshole and is the exception, not the rule.

It feels fundamentally different than most bickering between female characters on television, and I think the secret lies in having them bicker while working together instead of having them bicker as a barrier for them working together. In my experience, the approach the show takes is much closer to how women who don’t like each other work together in real life than how most shows handle it.

The plot doesn’t grind to a halt every few episodes so the heroes can argue among themselves about something you know they have to agree on eventually because the plot demands it. There isn’t catty tension between Kara and Imra. Don’t get me wrong, there IS tension, but it’s more of the “this is still kind of awkward, but I’m trying my best” variety, which is far more in character for Kara anyway than petty jealousy.

The way in which the female characters communicate with each other in general this season feels very authentic, and while it’s kind of depressing that this is such a novelty, I’m glad this show exists as something I can just genuinely enjoy watching without having to edit it to death in my head.

The show also introduces dynamics that we don’t see a lot in this genre, mainly family and relationship dynamics that don’t exclusively revolve around people dying. Maggie texting Alex for her passport was a scene that came out of literally nowhere, and it affected me more than I expected it to. I had something very similar happen to me last summer, and let me tell you if you don’t have a good support network around you it can really eff you up for a while. I always used to joke that the best gift you can give your ex is staying the hell out of their life, but there’s some truth in that.

Now, I’m not saying this was any malicious act on Maggie’s behalf; she does need that passport, after all. They’re a royal pain to replace. But I love the way the show acknowledged how awful that feeling is to get a text like that, something so utilitarian, from someone you used to know everything about. It’s a reminder of what was lost, and I’m glad Alex had someone to talk her through that.

I also loved that Alex rolled up on that girl’s house with an FBI badge to scare the crap out of her for bullying Ruby. I feel like a lot more bullies could use a reminder like that, which what they’re doing isn’t just ‘stuff that kids do.’ Hell, there are plenty of parents who don’t grasp this concept (usually the parents of the bullies, not the kids who are targeted.)

Don’t mess with Alex Danvers, cyberbullying squad.

The scene was just the right amount of light-hearted to break the tension in an otherwise quite serious episode, and it’s making me feel a little bit better about Sam possibly dying at the end of the season, because Ruby will have somewhere to go that isn’t her grandmother who kicked her mother out all those years ago.

My current working theory is that Alex will end up as Ruby’s legal guardian at the end of the season if Reign has to be killed, though I will admit the ship of Sam and Alex intrigues me, assuming Sam survives the season. I’m not super into ships with this show anymore, because I feel like there’s so much else going on to sink my teeth into,  and because we did a romance focus last year: I want something new.

The final thing I want to talk about is that while I’m sad to see Livewire go, as one of my favorite foils for Supergirl and an all-around cool chaotic evil character, I like how her death was set up and framed. It’s a hard character death to swallow since Livewire had shown some signs of improvement, but on the other hand, I think it’s pretty apparent she intended to go right back to her villain ways the second Reign wasn’t an issue.

I love that the thing that got through to her was Supergirl’s sincerity and determination to not give up on her, which sparked just enough humanity in her to do the right things when it counted. This has been a consistent strength of the series since season one, and I’m glad it’s carried over into season three alongside the more serious tone, instead of the serious tone replacing this element of Supergirl’s character building.

I’m glad that the general attitude towards the show is improving because the show deserves that. Season two was really wibbly wobbly, as second seasons tend to be, but season three knows what it’s trying to do and how it’s going to do it. I don’t usually like watching shows in syndication because I think a small part of me never got over being blindsided by Code 3.07. But Supergirl always was, and I hope always will be, an exception because the show hasn’t let me down yet. It’s had some plots I didn’t care for, some I even strongly disliked, but like I’ve said many times before, the overwhelming majority of the show is one of the best things on television right now. If you left the show after season two, now would be a good time to make a comeback.

That’s it for us this week kids, don’t forget that Black Lightning is on tonight, and don’t miss Shahar’s review of it tomorrow! See you next Tuesday with the next exciting installment of Supergirl!

PS: According to Kori, the line of the evening goes to the late and always great Livewire.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have gone all Lucy Goosey with your powers on poor Matilda over there!”


Images courtesy of the CW

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    Part time gamer, full time complainer. Gotta go fast cuz I’ve got ADHD! Nonbinary, they/them. El serves as a Managing Editor for The Fandomentals. You can find them on Twitter.

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