This SUPERGIRL article contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 13, “The Gauntlet.”
Supergirl Season 6 Episode 13
Supergirl thankfully gives the totem quest some structure (seven total, in a specific order) and rules (they must be activated before use and a person has to pass a test in order to control them) and gives the audience the quick and dirty exposition, courtesy of Brainy. Meanwhile, Kara welcomes Lena back with open arms and they pretty much immediately become a totem-chasing, emotionally supportive, crime-fighting duo.
A premise like this one, which makes characters we know and love go a bit wonky but along some specific rule, is at its most effective when it illuminates character. Unleashing a fifth dimensional-level of courage on everyone who was nearby when Kara split the totem before Nyxly split from her heist is a way to shake things up while mostly focusing on the Super Friends. While Kara later states most of what the courage totem is up to outright, there’s still at least some subtext for fans to play with and enjoy. J’onn J’onzz becomes an even prouder surrogate dad, and Alex is ready to take on dragons. It is by knowing this team so well that the writers were able to come up fun riffs on their personalities.
Lena and Kara are finally back together in a meaningful way, and their arcs are inherently intertwined. Lena has always played her cards close to her vest, so not being ready to share about her magical bloodline makes a lot of sense, especially considering how deeply she needs there to be science grounding witchcraft. On one level, the first totem functions as an episode-length proof for Lena that magic is real and beyond scientific understanding. Bringing another witch into the picture, whether through her preserved memory in the Fortress of Solitude or with her fun possession of Brainy was a great move for both Lena’s arc and the overall driving force of the episode.
Whether you see them as best friends or potential/secret girlfriends, this show was overdue for Lena and Kara to catch up with one another. Their hang out at the end of the episode was satisfying because we saw Lena coming to grips with her lineage and birthright in small moments throughout. There’s also something compelling about the fact that Lena was forced to believe in magic because she needs it to help Supergirl, and she doesn’t want to let her down. One could say Kara made the most courageous choice of all by giving up the totem in order to save everyone. And if anybody sees Kara it’s Lena, who then decided she needed to do everything she could to help Kara. Or as Kara put it: “Do you really not believe in magic?” “I believe in you.”
The trial to earn the totem has the benefit of letting the audience re-live Supergirl’s past, something we’re all too happy to do during a series’ final season. It’s a neat little narrative trick that makes them feel a bit more worth it, so long as we don’t have to spend quite so much time on their rapid-fire, overwrought mythology. It’s also a more interesting obstacle than having Supergirl and Nyxly battle each week. Instead, Kara has to relive her past and look inward. If she’s going to succeed, she’ll need more support like she got from Lena this week, helping her talk through the trials to figure out what they mean and how she’s being tested.
It’s worth noting that Alex and Kelly had some lovely moments, including the fact that they’re clearly continuing to talk about racial injustice, with Kelly processes everything that’s happening and Alex supporting her and holding space for her. It’s good to see that Supergirl isn’t treating the issue like a one-off Very Special Episode, but rather an ongoing issue in both of their lives.
William’s presence here feels…fine. It’s unclear where the show is going with the CatCo/Andrea/William angle, and why they’re devoting precious scenes to it during the show’s final season. It’s often the least connected to the rest of the story, and doesn’t necessarily seem to be going somewhere overall. William suffering from the trauma of being shot by Eve Tessmacher was an interesting take on the megadose of courage, but again, it’s unclear why we should care about him every three or four episodes when we see him. Maybe being embedded with the Super Friends will help with that?
This episode more than others this season has planted seeds that feel like they will grow meaningfully over the course of the remaining episodes. The fifth dimensional witch mentions that the artifacts have an effect on the cultures that grow up around them, a small detail that didn’t come up in this episode, but could be interesting at some point during one of the next six totems. Nia’s extremely deep dream state hopefully taught her more about navigating her gifts. The fact that Kara failed but is hopeful, possibly due to the tough choice she made outside of the test itself or the support of the Super Friends. Finally, we still don’t know what Lena’s full magical capability looks like, especially once she starts believing in herself.