One of the more enjoyable parts of Supergirl’s inaugural season is the refreshing and bold decision to place this National City hero squarely in the present as a Millennial. The bright and optimistic (and inclusionary!) perspective is drawn clearly in Kara’s idealistic worldview and personified by the bright and hopeful characters she has chosen to surround herself with (more on that in a minute). If Arrow is about the fight against a cold cynicism with The Flash about overcoming tragedy via the love of family, then Supergirl is about staring down the challenges of life with hope and optimism.
The strength of Supergirl the show, however, is in its ability to weave the moments that threaten its idealism with the technicolor moments of triumph its fans have come to savor. In that way, “Better Angels” does well in representing the thesis of Supergirl as it closes out its first year.
The action picks up right where “Myriad” left off — National City under the control of Non and Indigo, with brainwashed Alex locked in battle against Kara. Wait… that’s not quite accurate: brainwashed Alex IN A FREAKING EXO SUIT was locked in battle against Kara. That and her awesome kryptonite sword round out what is sure to be the coolest if most obscure cosplay outfit of the summer.
Just as Alex gains the upper hand, J’onn J’onzz and [Hamilton voice] Eliza happen upon the scene. Eliza, being protected from the effects of Myriad by J’onn, gives an impassioned speech that helps to reach Alex’s core and free her from the mind control. Much of the season has focused on the terrific bond between Kara and Alex as sisters and this added flair of their mother being a touchstone is a terrific flourish. Once more: where most shows fail at pushing forward more than one strong female lead (looking at you, Arrow and Flash), Supergirl drops another one in the viewer’s lap. More, between Cat, Kara, Alex, Lucy, and Eliza, this universe throws out a variegated representation of strong women in terms of personality.
Afterwards, the Danvers Sisters (WORK!), SuperMom, and J’onn head to the TV station where Max Lord and Cat Grant have readied the station to broadcast a message of — wait for it — hope to counteract the effects of Myriad — an appeal to the goodness of the residents in National City delivered by their great symbol of hope, Supergirl.
It works as the message slowly wakes National City out of their stupor. In this sequence, I think it’s telling that Winn wakes first — even before James does. Winn was, after all, the first person that Kara revealed her superpowers to and her first major advocate.
With the threat neutralized, for now, the drama did moves back to the DEO where Maj. Lane moves to have J’onn J’onnz imprisoned despite helping to beat back Myriad. Also, we learn that Superman is still down from the effects of the attack and that, as yet, no one knows anything of Non or Indigo.
That changes quickly as we learn that in response to the failure of Myriad, our two baddies plan to boost the signal and kill all of National City before taking their death and pony show across the globe, leaving Supergirl and Martian Manhunter as the last survivors once more. Once the team at the DEO are able to locate the site where Non and Indigo are hosting the Myriad signal (the defunct Fort Rozz), Supergirl and the self-released Martian Manhunter (in an understated moment of comedy) fly out to confront them.
The battle itself is pretty intense, especially considering how MM dispatches of Indigo. Non and Supergirl’s fight ends with Supergirl beating him in an eye blast-off that’s pretty perfect as a stand-in for a battle of wills — all season long, Supergirl has been questioned over how much she wants/desires certain things in her personal, professional, and even superhero life. The safety of her family and the city she loves? She wants that — even, as we will learn, at the cost of her own life.
After Non is defeated, Indigo tells Supergirl and Martian Manhunter that the only way to stop the signal is to find a way to take Fort Rozz away from Earth — and with the Fort being largely destroyed, it would be impossible unless Supergirl where to fly it out into space. This, of course, is a problem because unlike previous renderings of Kryptonians, Supergirl cannot create thrust in the zero gravity confines of space. The stakes, then, are stark and with the signal steadily increasing, they are being ratcheted even higher up. Kara decides to make her sacrifice and has a short heart-to-heart with Alex. Typically, these types of moments make me wince. However, the chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh as well as the narrative investment in the relationship between Alex and Kara have both been top quality this season, earning them this earnest and sincere moment.
And with ne’er a dry eye in the area, grabs Fort Rozz and flies it into space, saving her family and effectively sentencing her to death.
BUT WAIT — here comes Alex piloting Kara’s pod to rescue her! And with that, the tears are flowing as Kara wakes in the DEO safe and sound, surrounded by her family.
The epilogue is brief — Maj. Lane announces that the President (a woman!) has pardoned J’onn J’onzz as thanks for his help in stopping Myriad and has also reinstated him as Director of the DEO. J’onn, however, asks to keep Lucy as a co-director which is great because I’ve enjoyed her arcs this past season. Kara, also, is promoted by Cat in another warm and vulnerable performance by Calista Flockhart, who clearly relishes this role. The tenderness in their own “end of Working Girl moment” was another beautifully done, and well-earned, scene.
The Supergirl friends and family, then, retire to Kara’s apartment to celebrate this great moment. Eliza shares her hope that they will one day find Jeremiah, with Alex assuring her that it will be a priority. Kara and James steal off to a private corner where they FINALLY share a kiss that allows that “will they or won’t they” to end in cheers and unicorns! However, the celebration is cut short as they notice what looks like a meteor hurtling towards National City.
Supergirl and Martian Manhunter immediately fly to the crash site where they find a pod that looks just like Kara’s. She opens the pod and as the perspective shifts to inside the pod looking up at Kara, we register shock on her face. It looks like Season 2’s mystery is first going to figure out who is in that pod.
Some closing thoughts:
- WHAT. A. SEASON. There’s so much quality in the DC TV-verse, but I’ve been surprised not just at how well Supergirl as a show is put together, but by how quickly it’s surpassed even Flash at the top of this group. The cast, character development, and bold statements on feminism and immigration are all terrifically done.
- It’s going to be very interesting to see how long they drag out the “Where is Jeremiah?” angle. Is this going to be the greater arc for next season? Or is it going to be one of those “life of the series” questions?
- Speaking of grappling with great societal questions, the question on J’onn’s legality as an immigrant was handled quickly, but well. I’d throw kudos out for the show simply asking the question, but placing it centrally to the plot is once more proof of how boldly the Supergirl writers’ room likes to tackle these types of circumstances. It’s not the deep, involved investigation that this topic deserves, but that it was handled gracefully is certainly something to applaud.
- Lastly, the cast of characters in Supergirl should be applauded. Much in the same way that the Arrowverse properties (Flash, especially) have built and developed generally full ensembles, Supergirl has done a terrific job of creating roles of depth all the way across the series. Cat Grant, for example, could have been just a thin and cheap rendering of Miranda Priestly. And yet, the writers and Calista Flockhart imbued her not just as a stock prototype, but a real, flesh and blood, character. The development arc of J’onn J’onzz is also incredibly to have watched as he goes from closed-off manager, to trusting and compassionate father-figure.
Winn has been my favorite character mostly because Jeremy Jordan plays the whip-smart, Felicity Smoak-esque type so well. As such, the rating system will be based on How Much Winn we got in that episode. For “Better Angels,” the Winn Quotient was 9/10.
And with that, we’re off until the fall (on The CW). See you then, folks!