This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 5 Episode 13
Supergirl celebrates its 100th episode this week with “It’s a Super Life,” a charmingly entertaining hour that’s part character retrospective and part recalibration, which celebrates exactly how far Kara Zor-El has come even as it charts a future for her in this new post-Crisis on Infinite Earths universe.
One hundred episodes is a remarkably milestone for The CW’s first female-led superhero series —a show that I’m not sure many of us ever expected to see on our screens in general, let alone for five years and a hundred episodes (with more to come!). The series’ longevity is a testament to the strong appeal of its lead character, as well as the show’s dedication to telling a story of hope and kindness in a landscape populated primarily by dark and gritty male-focused fare. Supergirl has certainly had its share of ups and downs, narratively speaking, over the past five seasons, but the show provides a distinct and necessary perspective that cannot be matched by any of its CW brethren.
Anniversary installments are almost always dicey propositions, simply because they have to do so much. These celebratory episodes need to acknowledge all that’s come before for our favorite characters, while telling a story that’s relevant to the show as it is today. And maybe throw in a few special guest returns while we’re at it. For the most part, “It’s a Super Life” succeeds at these tasks, bringing back Mr. Mxyzptlk to help show Kara different versions of what her life might have been like, had she chosen to reveal her secret to Lena before Lex managed to do so at the end of Season 4.
The Arrowverse in general has always reveled in the concept of concepts like parallel Earths, doppelgängers and alternate realities, using them to explore intriguing what-ifs and roads not taken. “It’s a Super Life” is that concept writ large, as Mxy and Kara continue to journey back in time, to try and find a moment that fixes the Supercorp friendship. That they can’t is an obvious ending, but one that nevertheless is handled in such a way that still shows us how important an influence Kara has been on Lena’s life.
There are several realities where the revelation of Kara’s secret leads Lena to abandon her quest to help others due to her feelings of betrayal, resulting in a variety of shocking deaths, including Supergirl’s and Lena’s own at one point. Another features Kara telling Lena her secret as soon as the two women meet. This results in an intriguing El-Luther partnership that helps the city and strengthens their friendship, but ultimately puts all of Kara’s friends and family at risk when she’s forced to reveal her secret identity to save Lena. And there’s a particularly terrifying alternate world in which Kara and Lena never meet, and the latter sets herself up as something of a dangerous global dictator.
Each reality includes fun Easter eggs and cameos—Chris Wood is back as Mon-El, who looks every inch the hero even as the show quietly pokes fun at his relationship with Kara; Odette Annable returns as both Sam and Reign; and Sam Witwer’s Agent Liberty appears destined to turn terrorist in any and all realities. The gang faces off against an evil Brainy; Kelly’s suddenly wielding Guardian’s shield; Nia’s suddenly displaying a pin point control over her dream abilities that’s both lovely to look at and fun to watch; and Evil Lena has built Sentinel-like “Hope robots” to keep National City on lockdown.
It’s all a ton of fun to watch, particularly Kara and Mxy’s Greek Chorus-esque commentary in the real world. Thomas Lennon’s guest turn as Mxyzptlk is particularly fabulous, as he imbues the Fifth Dimensional imp with a likable, goofy charm that makes him a fun BFF for Kara even as the pair trips through increasingly bleak alternate realities. Bring him back sometime soon, show.
Some fans will inevitably be upset at the general lack of Alex and J’Onn in an episode that’s meant to celebrate a rather substantial Supergirl milestone. This is a fair criticism, particularly in regards to Kara’s relationship with Alex, which gets almost zero recognition here. The sisters’ bond has been such a rock of Kara’s life that to see it virtually ignored here is…well, it’s frustrating. Particularly when Chyler Leigh is given so little to do elsewhere in the story, save one brief emotional scene at a graveside in a world in which Kara dies.
Look: The focus on the Kara/Lena relationship in Season 5 is extremely necessary and long overdue. I just wish the show could figure out a way to balance these two major relationships in Kara’s life in a way that honors the importance of both women to her, and didn’t feel as though it was giving one attention that’s all. It’s definitely not there yet.
Yet the ending of “It’s a Super Life” promises a more complex Supergirl to come. Kara’s insistence that Lena’s responsible for her own choices is maybe difficult to hear for those of us who want these women to just go ahead and make up already, but it represents the natural next step of this conflict between them. Lena, up until this point, has been basing her choices on the actions of someone else, and using her anger at Kara to excuse some truly shady decisions.
Her declaration back in the season’s first episode that she was never a villain and Kara shouldn’t have treated her like one was so devastating precisely because, at that moment, it was true. Is that still the case? At what point does Lena’s behavior become less about her reaction to Kara’s betrayal and more about the distinct choices she’s making now? If she can’t forgive her former friend for lying to her, that’s actually an understandable decision. Kara’s decision to lie to her for so long was a big, deliberate choice, and should come with big, deliberate consequences. But so, in turn, should Lena’s involvement with Lex, and whatever decisions come out of that partnership. Her anger over Kara’s lies is only an excuse for so long. This is not to say, of course, that Lena’s behavior isn’t understandable as a reaction to everything going on with Kara. But that’s not the same thing as her behavior being Kara’s fault.
One of the best things about Supergirl is that it provides female characters with space to be emotionally messy and complicated. The fallout from Kara and Lena’s BFF break-up is still going, precisely because both women are coming from perspectives that are grounded and realistic—and thanks to continued vulnerable performances from Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath. The reason this rift is so difficult is precisely because these women still obviously care for one another so much and are doing the best they can in their own eyes, even as they appear to have reached the sort of impasse which there will be no way around.
Kara can try to change the very fabric of reality and it won’t make a difference, and Lena still doesn’t know how to be open enough with herself to forgive her friend for a bad choice that was made out of love. But where do they go from here? It seems as though Season 5 might finally be ready to force the issue and figure it out.