This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 5, Episode 1
The Supergirl Season 5 premiere has an incredibly high-stakes task: to depict a scene four seasons in the making. I’m talking, of course, about Kara telling Lena that she is, in fact, Supergirl, and has been lying to her best friend for all of these years. Kara’s guilt comes on a little strong and suddenly, considering she’s happily kept this secret from Lena for years. What changed to make her think about telling her? The plot necessitated it.
That being said, Supergirl still totally pulls this much-anticipated moment off, in no small part because of the vunerable, intense performances offered by Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath. They know how important these scene is, both for their characters and their fans, and they are not going to phone it in.
How does the showdown go down? In clever writing fashion, it is less of a showdown and more of a surprise—both for Kara, who blurts out that she is Supergirl moments before Lena is meant to take the stage to present her with a Pulitzer (and expose her secret via CatCo), and for Lena, who has accepted the fact that Kara is never going to tell the truth and is already plotting her revenge.
Does the confession change anything? At first, it seems like that might be the case. Kara breaks down to Lena, audibly and visibly distraught that she has lied to someone she loves for so long. For her part, Lena tears up and, even knowing what comes after, it doesn’t seem like any of Lena’s reaction is a ruse. She might feel other things—anger, bitterness, a desire to lash out—but that doesn’t mean Lena’s other emotions—shock, heartbreak, and a desire to keep on loving Kara—are no less real.
In this moment, Kara gives herself the courage to be brave, and what a gift that is. Unfortunately, Lena is unable to give herself that same gift and that, at least for now, is what separates them. Kara’s secret was tearing her apart. Lena’s secret—that Kara broke her heart and she’s not ready to forgive her for it—is still tearing her apart, and that in itself is heartbreaking. It’s sad that Lena is unable to be fully vulnerable, is unable to let Kara truly see her; she didn’t grow up with the same kinds of examples as Kara, and that makes it so much harder for Lena to tell the truth. (Not to diminish the bravery of what Kara does.)
Of course Lena’s repressed feelings gives the show an excuse to tie in its main big bad of the season: the terrors of technology. The introduction of the main theme in this episode, especially in the coffee shop scene featuring the main cast of not-so-old characters complaining about The Kids Today With Their Smart Phones is all incredibly heavy-handed (this show’s specialty). Moving forward, I hope Supergirl doesn’t simply cast new tech as the bad guy without exploring both sides of the issue, or showing how technology has meant more democratic access to information and communication in ways that were not possible before.
In the premiere, Kelly seems to be the one voice of balanced reason (although, the show is perhaps setting it up so that she will be solely pro-tech, with Kara landing on the anti-tech side). She just started a new job at Obsidian, the tech company run by new character Andrea Rojaz, one of Lena’s wealthy contemporaries who just swept in to buy CatCo Media and to turn it into a click-driven news site rather than a beacon of journalistic integrity. The change obviously does not sit well with Kara or James, the latter of whom quits, even though his non-compete clause will keep him from working at any other journalistic outlet for the next three years.
Yeah, Andrea is kind of a monster, and an intriguing antagonist for this season, which will no doubt include many an antagonist. Right now, Andrea is positioned as an analog of sorts for Lena. Both are powerful, wealthy businesswoman who use that as an excuse to act unethically in all sorts of situation. Both, it seems, also may have the potential for good, should they choose it. (And with Andrea positioned to have a mystical secret, there is much more to her than initially meets the eye.)
Andrea’s appearance on the scene is accompanied by UK reporter William Dey. At first, Kara is excited to work with the journalist, whose investigative work she admires. However, it soon becomes clear that Dey is more of a mercenary journalist than one who follows any kind of stable, ethical guidelines—he will be whatever kind of journalist his bank account needs him to be, and is not the ally Kara was hoping him to be, at least at this point in the narrative.
In subplot land, Alex and Kelly are going strong, and Brainy and Nia are having a DTF talk regarding physical intimacy. It’s sweet and a good example of how to nurture healthy communication in a blossoming relationship. If only J’onn and his brother, Ma’alefa’ak/Malefic—newly appeared on the scene to wreak havoc—had the same open communication style. After sending Midnight (or, as I call her, Tornado Hands) after the Supergirl gang, Malefic reveals himself to his brother and, friends? He does not look poised for a night of dumplings and binge-watching.
Overall, SupergirlSeason 5 is off to a strong start. The premiere episode has more plot than it knows what to do with—especially when it comes to the final showdown with Midnight, which, while featuring a visually-stunning theater setting, is a blink-and-you-miss-it fight that fails to set the stakes—and continues with some heavy-handed thematic introduction that hopefully works better for kid viewers than it does adult ones. However, the premiere is greatly helped by both the addition of some strong new cast members, most especially Julie Gonzalo as Andrea Rojas, and most especially by that emotional Lena/Kara showdown.
What’s next for these two? That is the major question driving Season 5. What is Lena’s plan for revenge? Is there hope for SuperCorp? With Lena using VR tech to work through her emotions (Tony Stark-style), is Lena giving her new AI best friend too much power? (Yes.) Even if Lena decides to grant Kara some measure of forgiveness, she has shared an awful lot with Siri. As we know, the major theme of Season 5 is the dark side of technology. Now that the information regarding Kara’s superhero alter ego identity is somewhere on Lena’s servers, it feels like a matter of time before the truth comes out…
Oh, and Supergirl has pants now and the joy with which Melissa Benoist delivers the line “Pants!” is everything. Whatever this actress is being paid, it’s not enough.