‘Supergirl’ 3×09 Review: ‘Reign’



A symbol of hope. A symbol of courage. A symbol of protection. A symbol of strength.

When you think of Supergirl, you think of an invincible warrior dedicated to protecting the innocent and the not-so-innocent. You think of a superhero who cannot be outmatched; of a superhero that isn’t so easy to take down. Well, Supergirl just met her match.

In Supergirl’s epic midseason finale, appropriately titled “Reign,” it was all about setting up this season-long battle between two of Krypton’s daughters, which presents Kara with her most evenly-matched opponent of the series in World Killer, Reign.

This midseason finale had it all: heart, action, a surprise romance, Christmas, delicious brown water with marshmallows, and an epic cliffhanger that left us cursing whoever thought a winter hiatus was a good idea. But usually when you end a midseason finale cursing the fact that you have to wait a month for new episodes, it usually means the writers did their job.

A midseason finale should set the stage for the remainder of the season. It’s the episode where you usually get a good idea of the troubles that our hero will face moving forward, be it action or personal or all of the above. “Reign” did everything that it needed to do as a midseason finale. It previewed Kara’s personal struggles in terms of her relationship with Mon-El. But it also previewed the tall task ahead of her in terms of facing Reign, who has now made it a mission to take out the one person standing between her and world destruction.

Supergirl was defeated. Not only was she defeated, she was devastated. Beat into a literal coma, it looks like. But this needed to happen. Much like writers will try to make an endgame romance appear as impossible as it can, it has to attempt to sell the notion that at the end of the day, the hero might not be able to win. Even though we know she’ll eventually find a way.

Kara needed to fail. She needed to lose this round. She needed to see what she’s going up against. To see how she can’t approach this fight. To see how she ultimately needs to not only approach round 2 with Reign, but how to defeat her.

Kara failed in the first go-around. Perhaps it’s how Kara went into the fight. She went in angry. She didn’t go in with a purpose other than taking Reign out. That’s not who Kara or Supergirl is. She doesn’t operate successfully on fear or anger. She embraces hope and love and uses them as weapons against her opponents. It’s what sets her apart from the villains.

Once Kara gets back into the game — which looks like it might be at least an episode — she’ll be looking at what she did wrong. Much like a quarterback looks at film, identifies the issues, and uses those as teaching moments so as to not commit the same mistake twice. That’s the position Kara will be in. She’ll have to examine her beatdown by Reign and find a way to defeat her. It’s obviously not something that’s going to be immediate, but it’ll serve her in the long run as she looks to defeat this World Killer. Perhaps later this season Kara will realize that she must fight for the ones she loves. Having people worth fighting for? It makes it better.

We’re supposed to believe that there’s no way Supergirl can defeat Reign. To assume that, when these two meet again, the result will be the same if not worse. We’re supposed to doubt our hero even when we don’t want to. Because, eventually, we’re going to see our hero rise to the occasion and prove that good triumphs over evil.

Let’s talk more about this midseason finale, including Reign’s salvation, Karamel’s angsty journey, and a surprising new romance:

Can Reign Be Saved?

Supergirl — “Reign” — SPG309a_0161 — Pictured (L-R): Odette Annable as Samantha and Emma Tremblay as Ruby — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

While the beginning of this midseason finale might’ve attempted to lure us into this fall sense of security in terms of Sam going full-on Reign, all hopes were dashed as Reign was unleashed on National City in a very unsettling way.

We saw Reign destroy Supergirl in hand-to-hand combat with National City with a front row seat. The villain defeated the hero. There’s so much that comes with that notion. In how it’ll affect the city moving forward. Isn’t the hero supposed to always win? Well, not always.

And who says that the villain can’t be saved? Why is it only the hero that gets that luxury?

I’ve always wanted to see one of these Arrowverse shows take that approach — try to redeem the villain. I thought The Flash was headed in that direction with Savitar, only to be disappointed. Villains aren’t villains for the sake of being villains. They believe they’re the hero of their own story. They believe that they’re fighting the bad guys — the ones that threaten to get in the way of what they believe to be right and just.

But can Reign be saved? More importantly, can Sam be saved?

And the latter is the key ingredient in this entire thing. Reign was never going to be saved. If anyone’s going to be saved, it’s Sam. Sam is the one with the heart; with the soul; with the reason to fight to keep on living. And that reason, her daughter Ruby, is going to be the reason that I believe Sam will ultimately be able to overcome this.

Ruby is Sam’s beating heart. She’s the reason she gets up every day and takes on the world. She’s the reason why she works herself to the bone. She’s the reason why everything is worth it. And, eventually, she’ll be the reason Sam starts fighting Reign, and, ultimately wins.

Obviously we’re already thinking ahead to the next battle between these girls of steel, but perhaps the most important fight when the season is all said and done will be the internal battle between Sam and the World Killer that occupies her.

In this Arrowverse, anyone is capable of redemption. But you have to want to be redeemed. Our villains define themselves by their willingness, or unwillingness in this matter, to try to do better; to be better.

I honestly believe that while Supergirl will get her rematch with Reign — and eventual defeat — this will ultimately come down to Sam’s inner battle with Reign. Sam’s desire to live; her love for her daughter will be enough to overcome the hate and anger and destruction that is Reign. At this point, it’s more hoping (praying) rather than belief.

Selling the Hopelessness, But Not Convincing Us

Supergirl — “Reign” — SPG309a_0313 — Pictured: Melissa Benoist as Kara — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

If you thought things were going to get better for Karamel before they got worse, then I’m sorry to say you’re living in a fictional realm not occupied by television writers. But that’s just the entertainment world we live in. It’s basically a requirement that television writers make you experience a predetermined amount of pain before you’re allowed any sort of happiness. It’s like we’re paying them in our tears.

That’s the price of endgame.

In the wake of Supergirl’s previous solo adventure, “Wake Up,” Kara — and us, quite frankly — are still dealing with the shocking conditions of Mon-El’s return to the show. He’s had to deal with seven years of believing Kara was gone to him forever only to finally decide to move on with Imra, who is now his wife.

A Karamel reunion seems impossible right? That’s how it’s supposed to feel.

The writers have to try and sell it. Sell the impossibility of it all. That Karamel doesn’t stand a chance. They’re doing their best to twist the knife, to give us a sense of hopelessness and desperation. Things are certainly only going to get harder before they get easier with this journey.

With lines like this:

“This is worse than the worst thing I can imagine,” Kara says. “With you looking at me with no love in your eyes.”

That’s right, Supergirl writers, twist that knife.

Kara is blinded by her own anger, grief, and jealousy that she can’t see that Mon-El is putting on the performance of a lifetime. This is a man that created the Legion of Superheroes as a way to honor Kaa. This is a man that wouldn’t so much as look at another woman for years. This is a man that has worn her necklace for the past seven years since he thought he lost her forever. This is a man that is still so obviously in love with her

But, for whatever reason, Mon-El is choosing to mask his true emotions. It’s clear that he’s keeping something from her — something important and perhaps game-changing. I’ve seen a few theories centered around the possibility that Mon-El witnessed Kara’s death in the future and has traveled back to try and save her. At this point, it’s so unclear as to what Mon-El continues to try to protect Kara from. But that’s going to make for some damn good television — complete with those epic emotional moments — along the way.

Speaking of emotional moments, that conversation between Kara and Imra where Imra left it all out on the table — about how much Mon-El loved — sorry, hon, loves — Kara; how he didn’t “move on lightly;” how we wouldn’t look at another woman for years; how it wasn’t until — years later — when he realized he wasn’t going to find his way back to Kara did he finally try to move on. Tell me again how Mon-El cheated on Kara?

But perhaps one of the most prevalent aspects of their dynamic in these past two episodes have been those brief moments where they’ve recaptured the innocence of their relationship before things went wrong. Where they reminisce about all-you-can-eat-ribs and getting alien wasted. It’s as if as suddenly as they’re caught in the past, their walls are down. The pent up anger, fear, grief, and tension just seem to slip away. They’re just being them. Kara and Mon-El. The girl from Krypton. The boy from Daxam.

And just as quickly as they’ve let their guard down, the reality of their present circumstances come crashing down. A reminder that, while they were happy in the past, that’s not their present. Their future, sure. But their present, not right now.

Kara and Mon-El can easily resemble their season 2 selves. But things have changed. Things aren’t the way they used to be. And they never will be. That’s the point. Relationships are always evolving. The Kara and Mon-El we find at the end of season 3 won’t resemble their season 2 selves. They won’t resemble their present selves. That, my friends, is the basic foundations of character and relationship evolution.

These scenes between Kara and Mon-El — ranging from those angst-filled moments of longing and regret to those laid back memories of an easier past — really serve to highlight the different dimensions of their dynamic. It’s a testament to Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood’s rapport, as well as Kara and Mon-El’s ease that really serves to compliment each other.

In last year’s midseason finale, Kara and Mon-El were sharing their first kiss. The moment where I was all-in. I couldn’t explain it, not yet. But I was all-in.

In this year’s midseason finale, Kara and Mon-El are sharing a present filled with angst-filled looks and tense conversations. Facing an uncertain future that promises more heartache around the corner. Promises more moment aimed to make me feel hopeless and doubting whether Kara and Mon-El can survive this. And I’m still all-in.

A Surprising New Romance

Supergirl — “Reign” — SPG309a_0024 — Pictured (L-R): Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen and Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Well, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming given the not-so-subtle nods alluding to that chemistry everyone’s talking about. Don’t look now, but I might actually give this relationship a chance. But what happens next will make or break things.

Since the season premiere, Lena and James have been making all sorts of eyes at each other. It was something that caught me off guard, as it wasn’t previously alluded to. But then again, we’d never seen Lena and James in a shared environment.

The Lena/James romance is your classic enemies to lovers trope. Where our two lovers begin their relationship set against each other — in a work environment, in this case — only to grow past that enemies stage to partners stage. Where they start working together, seeing that there’s more than meets the eye. It’s a classic.

Supergirl has been clear in an intended path for Lena and James this season. It might not have been entirely clear from the beginning, but this midseason finale made it all sorts of clear. They made it clear with the sexual tension that you could cut with a knife at the holiday party. They made it clear with their partnership. They made it clear with the first kiss followed by a more passionate kiss. Lena and James are officially a thing.

Honestly, I feel like Katie McGrath and Mehcad Brooks have more chemistry than he and Melissa, which might get me excited about the potential of this relationship.

We’ve made it clear that Lena and James have all kinds of sexual tension. We’ve made it clear they’re romantically interested in her. But what needs to be made clear is the emotional extent of their dynamic moving forward.

If Supergirl can somehow manage to appeal to me with Lena and James’ personal connection — how they confide in each other, how they strengthen each other, how they inspire each other — then I have no problem settling in for this romance. But if they can’t find a way to deliver on that emotional aspect, then all hope is lost.

14 Things About “Reign”

Supergirl — “Reign” — SPG309b_1271 — Pictured (L-R): Odette Annable as Samantha/Reign and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl — Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

  1. That Supergirl-Reign, round 1, showdown was all sorts of WOW. The sequence at the Christmas party was sensational. The brutal beatdown of our hero. The helplessness that seemed to come with Kara’s defeat. It was everything a midseason finale fight should be!
  2. Damn these writers for making me love Sam & Ruby so much. It’s making me feel all kinds of things — for the villain!
  3. Ruby is going to save Sam. Sam is going to defeat Reign. Calling it.
  4. The Supergirl writers are doing such a good job with the Karamel angst. If I hadn’t done this several times before, then I might actually believe there might not be hope for Karamel.
  5. Honestly, the ease at which Kara and Mon-El can just let their walls down for each other is so beautiful. A glimpse at what we used to have. A glimpse at something that is attainable but far off this season.
  6. Lena & James — saw that coming. Let’s see how the writers handle this moving forward. They might surprise us.
  7. Imra is totally evil, right? So predictable.
  8. I needed so much more Alex in this episode.
  9. God, I love the Danvers sisters so much. I love how they’re leaning on each other in this time of need.
  10. I love how Kara is handling everything with Mon-El and Imra like an adult. She might not like it, but she’s doing her best to try and handle it in a respectful way.
  11. Mon-El literally formed the Legion of Superheroes because Kara inspired him. MY HEART.
  12. Mon-El’s face as Kara was being carted into the DEO, unconscious, after that beatdown by Reign has my heart aching for the eventual moment when Kara wakes up — preferably to the sound of Mon-El’s voice.
  13. I want more of J’Onn’s father. And I want to drink brown water with marshmallows with him!
  14. What the hell do you mean I have to wait a month for the next episode? Screw you. And by that I mean, Happy Holidays!

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on the CW.

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