Supergirl Season 3 Episode 23 Review: Battles Lost and won

Supergirl's enormous beating heart does its best to distract from a rocky season, capped off with a rocky finale

This Supergirl review contains spoilers.

Supergirl Season 3 Episode 23

In spite of a rocky episode to end an increasingly rocky season, Supergirl mostly pulls through when it matters, due to its enormous beating heart. The season has certainly had highlights, like fantastic episodes “Midvale” and “Schott Through the Heart,” as well as story lines following J’onn reuniting with his father My’rnn, and the exciting (unfulfilled) potential of the Legion of Superheroes.

Much of the finale feels like an attempt to hit the reset button after a season that started out strong but lost its footing, and often felt like it was being retooled in real time. We can never know what the original plan was for this season, but it certainly felt like the attempts to rehabilitate it brought about their own disappointing shortcomings. Characters and storylines were seemingly all-important in one episode and then vanquished or forgotten in the next, leading to no satisfying pay-off in the back half after what felt like a strategic long-con in the beginning of the season.

One of the better moments was Alex and Winn’s wordless goodbye. It is fitting that saying goodbye to Winn bore the brunt of the emotional weight of this episode, as opposed to saying goodbye to Mon-El. Mon-El and Imra’s conclusion was perfunctory, as most of the relationship has been. Mon-El has certainly been redeemed, but shipping him and Winn off seems like an acknowledgment that there were too many characters and too little screen time.

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While Coville redeemed himself by hitting the distress beacon in J’onn’s ship (a less charitable interpretation is that he simply wanted to be rescued), it didn’t feel satisfying after the way his character was teased throughout the season. There was no follow-up on even that specific moment – was he still there when Supergirl and the Legion arrived? The concept of the world killers themselves

Supergirl has been vague at best about the dynamic between Reign and Sam – how aware was Sam, and how much agency did she have to fight back? Making things even murkier, Sam and Reign split into two literal physical different people. And apparently, so did Supergirl. Having a better understanding of the mechanics of the powered and the mystical forces at play makes it easier for the audience to follow along and enjoy the emotional payoff of understanding what, exactly, it means to have two of them running around, or for Sam to kill Reign.

Speaking of killing Reign, another slapdash arc is the question of whether to kill Reign. While it’s true that Supergirl and Green Martians have always valued peace and nonlethal force, this renewed focus felt tacked on and rush. And from a moral standpoint, what exactly is the difference between killing Reign and de-powering her so that wraiths can make her part of the Lilith Fountain? This idea feels like it was included as a way to re-introduce a time-travel element and Kara using Mon-El’s ring, so that both can be used next season.

The time travel itself was well done, with evocative moments from throughout the season playing in the background. However the over-packed, under-nourished episode meant that the show didn’t take a beat to mourn Mon-El’s loss, or even consider whether Kara’s mother and sister survived their own blasts.

Another plot that has been haphazardly included is the concept of heroes unmasking. Had this been more strongly incorporated throughout, it could have been a strong theme, especially based on the parallel with Supergirl’s fight with Lena. Their ethical disagreement, couched in a very real personal connection and Kara/Supergirl’s insistence on deceiving her best friend, has been a high point. It’s a thoughtful way to call Supergirl to account for the way the underlying premise of her character impacts those around her. Instead, the parallel to Supergirl was dropped and James quickly came around to the idea of unmasking, with little opportunity for that decision to carry any real emotional heft.

Many of these half-baked ideas, including Guardian’s unmasking and the ongoing conflict between Lena and Supergirl, will clearly be fodder for next season. It seems the writers chose to use the season finale to clear out some of the troubling elements of the season and do their best to set up more interesting stories next season. While that is most likely what the show ultimately needs, it makes for an uneven workhorse of an episode, instead of a fun show pony like finales are meant to be. Here’s hoping that we’ll see the payoff in season 4.

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2 out of 5