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Supergirl Sidesteps a Luthor Problem

 

Supergirl Season 3, Episode 12: “For Good”

After we lost Livewire last week (RIP), Supergirl took things down a notch (depending on which character you root for) and swung its focal lens back around to Lena Luthor and Morgan Edge. And a few other things happen. Not all of them are winners. Let’s jump into Kori’s recap followed by Elizabeth’s analysis.

Recap

I’m gonna say this. I didn’t care for this episode. I know, shocking: I’m probably the biggest Supergirl fan you’ve met online. And it’s a Lena-focused episode! With Kara and Lena interaction!

Sorry, still barely whelmed.

Lena is about as done with this episode as I am.

The opening shot was pretty awesome with Reign flanked by the newly revealed Purity and Pestilence. Pestilence is still a shadowy figure in the background, since her identity has yet to be revealed.  I really like how they’re building up the stakes with Reign and her “sisters” this season. While I lament the lost snark opportunities with Livewire, last week gave us some real stakes that this kind of plot really needs. Reign’s beaten the crap out of Supergirl, she can take out the Legion of Super-Heroes with ease, and she doesn’t need a star to power her. Now she’s got a death count consisting of someone we knew and liked, and it did its job and hit home, hard.

The problem is, they’ve been building this story so well that the main Lena/Morgan/bonus!Lillian plot this week was always going to feel like a filler episode no matter how good it was, even if the show somehow managed to land a Viola Davis/Meryl Streep guest star combo. It also raises some long-standing quibbles I’ve had about Lena that are starting to become more than just quibbles.

Let’s do a breakdown. In a positive for “For Good,” we get an opening with J’onn, Winn, and Mon-El discussing the Worldkillers with Kara. This scene, I think, more than any other scene with him this season truly drove home that Mon-El is not the person Kara knew anymore. He strategizes with them, and shares his theories based on villains the Legion has fought. It’s subtle, but it’s clear that this isn’t the playboy-Prince-turned-hero-in-training that Kara fell in love with. This Mon-El is a hero who has led a team, fallen in love again, fought battles as a leader, and he’s just… he’s not that guy anymore. Even if he weren’t married, he’s not Kara’s Mon-El.

Also, bonus points for the Easter Egg with the Legion battling Zod and the nod to the infamous comic book tradition of “nobody actually stays dead.”

The other part of the episode that works well is Sam and Alex. Sam, my poor pupper who doesn’t deserve any of this, has finally realized that something isn’t right and has asked Alex to do some medical tests on her. In the LCorp labs. I’m pretty sure that’s a gross mishandling of company resources, but sure. Odette Annable does a wonderful job in this scene as Sam reveals she’s done what we all do in looking up her symptoms online and determining BRAIN CANCER. Although for her, with her symptoms, it very well could be, or the early onset of ALS. She’s worried because she’s got Ruby to think about.

I enjoyed Alex’s speech to Sam about letting people in to help when you’re going through a hard time. The Maggie breakup is hard, and I appreciate it’s not just being swept under the rug. Both sisters are dealing with heartbreak this season, and I love that they’re leaning on each other. Alex doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary on the MRI scan, but she’s not an expert on neurobiology so she’s sending out Sam’s scans to the experts for further analysis, along with some bloodwork. All there is to do now is wait.

But back to Lena. Look, I like Morgan Edge. I love how Adrian Pasdar plays him, and how I want to punch him in the throat every time he’s on screen. He’s what I deserved out of season one’s Maxwell Lord. I appreciate that they want to give a real-life villain some space in a season about otherworldly titans, but there’s the problem. Edge is too good of a villain to be a second fiddle to Reign. Ideally, you’d get an entire season facing off against a human threat that can’t be dealt with via punching. A few modified Lord stories from comic canon written for Edge and he’s an absolutely terrifying figure. Lena and James should be central stalwarts against him in this ideal season. And yet because this story is going on in a season with the Worldkillers, we’re only getting bits and pieces of it.

It’s like you’re getting a large pizza placed in front of you, but you can only eat half a slice. This problem has now plagued Supergirl for two seasons running; too many plates spinning at once.

Then, of course, there’s the whole will they/won’t they go bad with Lena. It’s getting old. So far, all we’ve seen is that she’s a dyed-in-the-wool good. She has darker impulses, but we all do. Anyone remember Kara on red kryptonite? Don’t forget Lena STILL doesn’t know Kara is Supergirl. We’re so past the point of reason for not telling her that now I’m honestly getting angry about how little sense it’s making. Plus, you know, James has a temper when people he cares about are threatened. Though at least we got a good use of Guardian in this episode that made sense for the character.

Also, Lillian. As involved as she was last season, I’m surprised we never heard from her again until episode 12, and nothing is truly resolved with her. Once again, Lillian doesn’t understand why her adopted daughter makes the choices she makes, and even when Lena says she won’t act on her worst impulses, Lillian tries to Mommy Dearest her way in. Double also, why hasn’t Lillian told Lena that Kara is Supergirl?

On the plus side, we have a much better use of J’onn this episode. He’s best when he’s still in a leadership role, and can be a sounding board for Kara to help her put her circumstances in perspective. Him reminding Kara of what Supergirl truly stands for hearkens back to Kara’s speech in the season one finale, and I love all of it.

But we still come back to the fact that no matter how much the show teases that Lena will go dark eventually, that’s not what they’re showing us. Sure, we see Lena be tempted, but she invariably runs right back to Kara and more or less confesses everything to her. So. Future big bad? Yay? At best with her, I’m getting a future Black Queen to maybe counter Amanda Waller’s White Queen in Checkmate, but that’s a damned deep cut beyond that scope of this recap.

Elizabeth trying to parse out what Kori is talking about in this paragraph.

Overall, it’s just an episode that deals in frustration as there is so much more that could be done with these characters, and the Lena can’t know line is getting very old.

PS: How many resolution talks do Kara and Mon-El need? At least next week we’ll be back on the Worldkiller train full speed.

Analysis

I mean. It was an episode?

So it seems we’ve found this season’s “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk,” which is unexpected because usually Lena-heavy episodes are some of the highest watermarks of a season. I actually liked the first two thirds of the episode immensely, despite certain parts of the dialogue sounding like they were snippets from rejected season one scripts. I even messaged Kori asking if something ridiculous happens in the last ten minutes, because up until that point I couldn’t see what people were complaining about.

Can secondhand embarrassment kill?

Okay. This isn’t the dumbest thing Supergirl has ever done, but it’s up there. It’s not that I have an issue with Lillian using some of Lex’s old tech, it’s that the suit just looks so stupid and out of place in Supergirl’s universe. You know what it reminds me of? The Dragon Age promotional armor in Mass Effect 2. Something that is just so hilariously out of place it almost ruins your ability to enjoy the thing it’s in because it’s just that embarrassing that it exists.

Let’s never speak of this again, Supergirl. I’m willing to forget this ever happened if you are.

So, second point of critique: man, some of that dialogue was awful. Season one had a serious exposition problem, and parts of this episode felt a lot like the worst parts of the first season, especially the first conversation with Winn, J’onn and Kara. J’onn’s speech to Kara started very roughly but finished alright, and Lena had some awkward lines despite Mcgrath’s excellent delivery. Everything about the dialogue just felt sub-par or unfinished.

This is unfortunate, because there’s actually a lot of good stuff in here otherwise. Lena verbalizing her way of balancing her good and bad traits was excellent, and this is exactly the kind of grey hero I want Lena Luthor to be. I want her to be morally ambiguous, but not quite so angsty about it. I’m glad that Lena has finally had enough, because while I do enjoy a good angst fest once in a while, we’ve been back to that well a few times too many with Lena.

I have a confession guys, in the scene with Alex and Sam doing the MRI, I felt that all-too-familiar swelling sensation in my chest. I ship this. I ship it hard. There is something about Alex and Sam’s sincerity that is just exactly my jam. Obviously this can only end in tears, but I could make an argument for Sam not only surviving the season but staying a series regular. Not just for Alex, of course. But you know, it makes a lot of sense. When you think about it.

Quietly but with a lot of feeling: Oh no.

Finally, the friendship between Kara, Lena, Alex, and Sam continues to be a treasure to behold. I love how consistent the show is with this, and how much it likes to double down on these women supporting each other. This dynamic is exactly why this is still my favorite show on television.

That’s about all the positive things I have to say about the episode, however.

My biggest problem with it was that the show still doesn’t know what to do with Guardian, and won’t commit to James doing one job or the other rather than being bad at both. My other major problem is that this episode is pure, 100%, cotton candy filler. Which is fine, I like cotton candy filler, but this episode makes the mistake of being transparently filler. Since the issue at hand is fixed in five seconds by a Deus Ex Mach-Winn-a solution, and it was solved without relation to the main plot of this episode, you kind of have to ask what the purpose of this episode was in the first place.

Like “Mr.& Mrs. Mxyzptlk,” this episode is fun but ultimately irrelevant to the plot at large, and is only worth watching more than once for some individual character moments. Fortunately it appears the actual plot resumes next week! See you then!


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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