This review contains spoilers.
2.22 Nevertheless, She Persisted
If Supergirl season two’s penultimate episode was a rallying call to resistance, then the season finale was the cost of that resistance. Because, sometimes, doing what’s right can break your heart, but it’s the choice you can live with.
When Supergirl is asked to choose between saving her world and keeping a person she loves in her life, she chooses to save Earth. And did anyone ever have any doubt that this is the choice our heroine would make? Some shows would have milked this dilemma for contrived angst, but this show knows its protagonist. She will not fail another homeworld.
No, Supergirl makes the smarter decision. The drama is not in a will-she-or-won’t-she discussion, but rather in what happens after she does? This is where Nevertheless, She Persisted really stuck its landing, after a somewhat uneven and slowly-paced first half. Here’s eveything that went down in the Supergirl season finale…
Nevertheless, She Persisted picks up where last week’s episode left off: with Superman punching Kara in the face. The explanation? Rhea has infected him with silver kryptonite that makes him see his worst enemy (aka Zod) in Kara’s place. (Why Rhea doesn’t also use the silver kryptonite on Kara is unclear.)
It was cool to see Superman and Supergirl fighting and the show did an amazing job of bringing this to life on a CW budget, but the punching went on a little longer than it should have. After all, Supergirl will never be able to compete with the big-budget superhero spectacle of the film world. Its strength lies elsewhere.
This Superman v. Supergirl showdown felt a bit unnecessary, distracting from the larger themes of this story in favour of showing something cool that didn’t have the stakes a season finale opening scene deserves. (Did anyone truly think that Kara or Kal-El would actually hurt one another? No.) The plot choice was slightly saved by its thematic tie-in to Kara and Kal-El’s later conversation about who is the better hero. Again, however, this convo felt slightly forced, another example of the show trying too hard to prove its feminism as it did all the time in season one. I thought Supergirl had mostly grown out of the habit, but it reared its ugly head in the season finale.
In general, it was hard to justify Superman’s role in the finale. As much as I love seeing Tyler Hoechlin as the Man of Steel and, even more delightfully, Clark Kent, I would much rather the show save him for storylines when his presence makes the most sense. Sure, it makes sense that he would show up when the planet was threatened, but there could have been a throwaway line that explained his absence.
Instead, it felt like he showed up because it was the season finale, taking up the narrative space as Kara’s mentor that could have been given to one of the many underutilised other characters already present on the show. I’m always happy to see Kal-El — and the scenes between the two still made me feel things — I’m just not sure they were the right choice for this episode.
After knocking Superman out and getting the silver kryptonite out of Kal-El’s system, Kara, Alex, and Kal-El return to a National City about to be destroyed by Rhea’s army. Armed with new information about ancient Daxamite law from the Fortress of Solitude, Kara challenges Rhea to a duel… for the planet. If Rhea wins, Earth is hers. If Kara wins, Rhea and her forces must leave.
While Kara works on Plan A, Lena sets to work on Plan B: a device that will distribute lead throughout the Earth’s atmosphere, making the planet toxic to Daxamites (and probably not so great for humans, either, but I digress). Kara prays that she doesn’t have to use it, for it will make Earth unsafe for Mon-El, as well as the Daxamite invaders. But Supergirl has introduced a Chekov’s device in a season finale. I think we all knew how this was going to end…
Knowing that the season finale would probably end in Mon-El’s forced departure didn’t make watching it happen any easier. However you might have felt about the Mon-El plot, seeing Kara and Mon-El say their teary goodbyes was not only heartbreaking, but kind of the perfect thematic end for his character arc. He came to Earth as a selfish, self-absorbed prince. Even though he has to leave his home and the woman he loves, he vows to be the man Kara always thought he could be: a hero.
It’s not fair that Kara shouldn’t have all of the nice things in the world. After all, she is made of sunshine and rainbows and fluffy animated birds. However, sometimes the world breaks your heart. Not even superheroes are immune to that. And watching Kara pick endure that heartbreak is where the season finale really shines (not in any of the too-long fist fights that this episode is populated with).
“The thing that makes women strong is that we have the guts to be vulnerable,” Cat tells Kara in the best scene of this episode. “We have the ability to feel the depths of our emotions and we know that we will walk through it to the other side.” I don’t always like Cat Grant’s Feminist Speeches. Sometimes, they are a little over-the-top, (again) try too hard, or are kind of off-the-mark.
This speech makes a point that doesn’t get nearly enough focus in pop culture or in real life. Feminist culture can’t just be about women who are strong in traditionally masculine strengths (stoicism, physical strength, unilateral decision-making), but about women (and men) who are strong in traditionally feminine traits (communication, empathy, and emtional intelligence).
Supergirl‘s best feminism has generally been in its female relationships and in the way that it doesn’t ask its Strong Female Character to have traditionally masculine strengths. For season two to end its story on this note makes the unevenness of this episode easy to forgive. Alex and Cat reminds Kara (and us) that she is more than her love life. She is her other many, loving relationships. She is her role as a superhero. She is a journalist. She is infinitely complex. She will survive this.
Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, Resist, here.