Supergirl: Inside Kara and Zor-El’s Return to National City

The return episode of Supergirl sees Zor-El try and help Earth avoid Krypton's fate.

Supergirl Jason Behr on Kara and Zor-Els return to National City climate change
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

This SUPERGIRL article contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 8, “Welcome Back, Kara!”

Supergirl Season 6 Episode 8

Supergirl is back! But it’s not all ice cream cones and pizza parties just yet. She’s finally reunited with her sister and her team, and she got that long-awaited hug with Lena – without whom she would still be in the Phantom Zone, as she pointed out. But from the first time we see Kara in this episode under the sun lamps, it’s clear that the events of the first half of the season will stay with her for a while.

Guest star/CW legacy player Jason Behr (Roswell, Roswell, NM) caps off his time on Supergirl as Kara’s biological father, Zor-El, by getting to know the Girl of Steel’s life in National City before he heads to Argo City to reunite with his wife and the surviving Kryptonians. Posing as Kara’s Uncle Archie, Zor-El stops by Catco, lifts a big ol’ copy machine, flies to the rescue alongside Supergirl, tries to solve climate change, and apparently even found time to catch up on Sesame Street. We spoke with Behr about the episode, who called it “a real honor” to be asked to be part of the beloved show’s final chapter. “It was a lot of fun to be able to put that ‘S’ on my chest and to play like I was eight years old again.”

Nia and Lena’s bond continues to grow, and it’s a welcome highlight of this great episode, a return to form after the lackluster midseason finale. The pair are both smart, observant people who tend to keep struggles to themselves, who have been missing Kara each in their own way. They’re also uniquely capable of understanding what the other is going through, regarding their strained (strange?) relationships with their mothers. Hopefully they will continue to look out for each other as they set off on the very different journeys this episode sets up: Nia presumably taking on Nyxly and Lena looking for her biological mother.

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Throughout the episode, everyone struggles with Kara and Zor-El’s time in the Phantom Zone. Kara tries to manage triggering reminders of the phantoms with friends, family, and at work, which is only compounded by the realization that the team’s efforts to save her unleashed phantoms on innocent people in National City and an assignment to cover how “Supergirl” took on the phantoms in her absence. It’s the kind of emotional fallout that makes sense for someone like Kara, who tries to always be the one shouldering the burden – which is probably why she’s also trying to hide the fact that she’s struggling now that she’s finally back.

Viewers know that Alex is experiencing something similar, but of course both Danvers sisters try to grit through it. She was so afraid for Kara’s safety that she can’t simply go back to normal. Hopefully these two will be able to lean on each other, because Alex is right – the only way out is through, and they can only get through it together. Seeing Kara take inspiration from fellow journalist Iris West-Allen was a nice touch – more of these little moments of connectivity and more acknowledgment of Iris’s journalism career, please!

For his part, Zor-El spent roughly 40 years in a world not only without hope, but thinking he was to blame for the destruction of his planet and the deaths of everyone he knew and loved. It turns out he saved his daughter as well as Argo City, but Zor-El had no idea until Kara came to the Phantom Zone. Behr says that this bleak time was filled with guilt, self-hatred, and sadness for Zor-El, and that the phantoms, “broke him down and sucked the life out of him.”

One thing the episode did especially well was balancing out the heavier elements with lighthearted banter from the team and the sheer joy of seeing the gang back together and Supergirl flying through the air again.

“I feel like after being seven episodes in the Phantom Zone, I think everyone deserved a little levity,” Behr says. And Zor-El deserved to get to know his daughter again, as an adult. “I think he wants to experience the life that Kara has created for herself on Earth, along with some of the other new Kryptonian perks. He wanted to experience some joy.”

Speaking of that joy: Behr got to fly with Supergirl!

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“I found myself feeling like my eight-year-old self, running around the front yard with a red towel wrapped around my neck. I felt like all my childhood dreams had come true,” Behr says. “Both [Melissa and I] were grinning ear to ear, but I could definitely feel my face hurting after a little while. It was just a lot of fun.”

There have been many different versions of Zor-El over the years, but the one we’ve come to know on Supergirl is first and foremost a scientist. This episode brings that fact front and center as Zor-El takes on the alien equivalent of real life garbage patches in our oceans, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In brutal 2021 irony, Zor-El delivers to Kara what he thinks is going to be shocking, heartbreaking information about the state of Earth’s environment, to which she must respond that everyone already knows. For Zor-El, this is history repeating itself. so he steamrolls anyone and everyone as he leaps into action – solo.

“What he did on Krypton to try to solve that environmental problem didn’t work,” Behr says. “His hubris and his ego drove him past what could have been a different outcome. When he saw on Earth, that he was heading down the same path as Krypton, he saw it as his destiny to make things right to correct these past mistakes. To, to be given a second chance at this magnitude, it’s the second chance of a lifetime.”

Unfortunately, Zor-El falls prey to the same hubris again on Earth, assuming he understands the situation and can solve it on his own, rather than working together with fellow scientists Lena and Brainy. His attempt to right the wrongs of the past, while noble, is, as Behr puts it, “Kind of a tragic thing.” Even six seasons in, it’s remarkable to watch a superhero show that prioritizes teamwork, thoughtfulness, kindness, and slowing down to make sure you have all the necessary information before acting to the extent that Supergirl does.

While that was a hard lesson for Zor-El, it’s good to see Supergirl resisting the temptation to offer up quick fixes by way of alien technology. Frankly, problems like climate change might be more interesting to watch supers tackle than traditional all-powerful villains or disasters, since they’re not mere matters of brawn, brain, speed or flight.

Behr sees a clear connection between his character’s past and our planet’s future. “When I think about what we are experiencing here on our own planet, it’s the same thing on Krypton. It’s not a simple solution. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not one way, it’s got to be a collective. It’s got to be everyone working together to try to fix this problem, because it is a problem and because the time is running out.”

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