The CW’s Supergirl has developed a familiar pattern.
Each year, the show opens strong as introduces new characters and villains. It wavers going into the Arrowverse crossover, returns from it by losing its way entirely, and somehow manages to end with a fun conclusion to its meandering plot. Season 5 was no exception, with the season opener being one of its strongest episodes overall. But by jumping into the Leviathan mystery before even DC Comics had an (unsatisfying) answer, it once again lacked for a strong initial villain. Like Ben Lockwood (Sam Witwer) before him, Rama Khan (Mitch Pileggi) seemed a cartoon threat worthy of a single episode and not an ongoing plot. Seemingly sensing this, the show even teased Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo) as a compelling villain, but erased that notion with the Crisis.
In fact, one wonders why the show did not follow The Flash‘s example and design a self-contained 8-episode story before “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and then begin a new plot in January. Considering Supergirl‘s Earth was destroyed in the Crisis, the producers missed an amazing opportunity to develop something interesting: a time when Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) completely failed.
Instead, it returned to Leviathan after the Crisis with it never having revealed itself on Earth-Prime, Andrea never going full Acrata, and Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) a heroic figure in the new paradigm. These are all interesting ideas, but considering how much of it had already been spent in the first half of the season, a completely new threat would have energized the series when it needed it most.
And maybe exploring how different their new world was might’ve revealed a bit more about the characters. Consider the pretty successful revamp of Brainy (Jesse Rath) in terms of fidelity to his comic book look and a personality better equipped for drama. A similar examination of the Post-Crisis Kelly (Azie Tesfai) or J’onn (David Harewood) could’ve proved far more interesting than the odd piecemeal flow of the season’s latter half.
In previous years, the problems of the overall story were mitigated by the group interacting at the bar or having a pizza night at Kara’s apartment. But this year, the series went one step further in breaking the domestic happiness of the characters. Team scenes generally occurred in the Tower and concerned the problem of the day. J’onn began wearing a weird body harness that looked … well, odd considering how much better he looked in the full Martian Manhunter outfit in the last few episodes. But beyond aesthetics, the lack of bonding scenes left the characters feeling isolated and weird. It worked, perhaps, for Alex (Chyler Leigh) as she processed the death of her father — in fact, we’d love to see this side of Alex examined again someday — but it left Brainy, Nia (Nicole Maines) and even Kara feelings like guest characters.
Now, we’ll admit Brainy’s self-imposed exile is pretty much on-brand for the character in all of his manifestations, but it lacked something here as it kept Rath out of group scenes and made Brainy appear a bit dim as Lex talked circles around him. Then again, as the season ended an episode short due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he may have had one last hand to play against the villainous Luthor.
And now that we’re on the topic of Luthors, let’s discuss Lena (Katie McGrath). Her anger at Kara motivated so much of the season — and dominated many, many scenes — that it feels weird to say it dragged on far too long. Maybe we should have seen her fully break bad before the Crisis so Kara just to get this idea out of the show’s system. Or, maybe, Lena should’ve seen through Lex earlier; she is supposed to be smarter Luthor after all. That said, we’re glad to see Lena and Kara working toward a reconciliation and while we never felt the show was consciously queerbaiting its viewers, McGrath’s apparent habit of playing responses to Kara as though she’s in love with her needs to be addressed in text. At the same time, we need to see Lena actively recognize she wants a healthy familial bond and that she cannot find it with the Luthors. It adds a level of complexity to the character’s apparent attraction to Kara (she sees the support the Danvers sisters offer one another) and would be an interesting way to take on this topic in the series. Also, McGrath is such a good actor, they could throw this material at her and get something great out of it.
Meanwhile, it is time to say goodbye to Lex. Cryer is phenomenal in the part, but the problem with Lex outsmarting everyone every two episodes is that it gets old fast. The returns have diminished. It appear the true season finale would have seen him get some sort of comeuppance — at least until he ends up on Superman & Lois — and without those scenes, we sort of dread his return next year; even if it is for just one episode.
And speaking of next year, we hope the production staff reconsiders this mysterious person behind Leviathan. The threat needs to be completely new and disconnected from this year’s meandering plot. Also, like The Flash, it should consider more than one major antagonist next season. As always, Supergirl‘s great strength is its ersatz family. It needs plots which bring them together and allow them the chance to celebrate victories as often as they fight the never-ending battle.
Supergirl returns in 2021 on The CW.