This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 5 Episode 19
“Immortal Kombat” wasn’t supposed to be the finale of Supergirl Season 5. Yet, much like both The Flash and Batwoman’s similarly early season enders, it really ends up working as one almost in spite of itself. It doesn’t hurt that this is the show’s best and most complete episode in a while, moving the overall plot forward and giving several major – and sadly neglected – characters a scene or two to shine.
The biggest reason that this episode feels like such a breath of fresh air is that Supergirl finally allows the emotional standoff between Kara and Lena to thaw, through the simple act of letting the two of them have an honest conversation free of ulterior motives. We’ve been waiting for months for any real development on the Supercorp front, because far too much of this season has been dedicated to keeping them at odds with one another for plot-based reasons rather than character ones.
It’s incredibly refreshing to watch the two women simply talk, acknowledge that they both had made mistakes, hurt one another and reacted poorly. Lena has every right to be hurt over the things Kara kept from her, but her self-awareness over the mistakes that hurt drove her to? That’s growth. Supergirl displays the faith in Lena’s character – and in the Supercorp friendship – that it should have had all season, finally allowing us to see the two women try to work through their differences in action as well as in word.
Obviously, that’s difficult – and it should be. Things ought to be a little rocky between them, for a time. But they should be allowed to struggled toward something that looks like progress, and not be stuck on an endless wheel of secrets and the same constantly repeated argument. Do I 100% think that Supergirl understands precisely how poorly this storyline was handled? Probably not. Do I think it’s on a better path now? Yes, and I’m willing to follow and see where their story goes next.
The intercutting of Kara’s standard hero speech about hope and the power of real connection to the folks refusing to exit the Obsidian Tech virtual world with Lena’s plea to Andrea to choose her better angels was masterfully done, and honestly something that gives me a lot of hope for where the show will take this character in future. Lena isn’t a villain. She’s maybe not a hero the way Kara is, and maybe her path will, of necessity be one that’s a shade or two darker than her friend’s But, she can both choose and do good. We’ve seen it, and by all rights, we should see more of it.
And, honestly? As a final image for the season, I can’t ask for a lot more than Kara and Lena joining hands on the promise of taking down Lex.
“Immortal Kombat” also does a fairly serviceable job of wrapping up a lot of Season 5’s messiest storylines. Since the promised “dangers of technology” plot basically turned out to be “technology gods can literally kill you inside virtual reality” in the end, I don’t think anyone will weep over the story of Obsidian Tech and its VR contact lenses (hopefully?) coming to an end. The members of Leviathan are all imprisoned in what appears to be an air tube from a banking drive thru, Alex gets a supersuit of sorts, and Eve Tessmacher gets a fresh start, thanks to a literal character reboot.
Unfortunately, despite the defeat of both Leviathan and Obsidian Tech, Lex Luthor is neither captured nor imprisoned, and will be back to attempt to kill Supergirl another day with a new and improved weapon. When this same situation – a Big Bad ending the season triumphant – happened on The Flash, the unexpected twist felt fresh and exciting. Here, it feels like a threat. The prospect of Lex potentially dominating Supergirl Season 6 as he has this one is the sort of punishment that literally none of us have asked for, but now may well be getting whether we like it or not.
(Thanks a lot, coronavirus.)
In a post Crisis on Infinite Earths world, Supergirl has really struggled to tell an interesting and coherent overall story. The Leviathan plot is cumbersome to the point of incoherency – I’m honestly not sure I could explain it to a casual fan – and the forced insertion of Lex Luthor into what feels like every aspect of the show has pushed many of Supergirl’s central characters into the background.
Lena’s arc has been the most obvious casualty of Supergirl’s unnecessary Lex mania, but Brainy, Nia and J’onn have all suffered this season, getting stuck with nonsensical or nonexistent character arcs. The Brainy is a secret double agent, betraying his friends to save the world (??) subplot has never been compelling, or even terribly clear.
Perhaps if it had, the idea of Brainy accessing the worst of his ancestors – Krypton says hello! – to bottle the Leviathan immortals and save his friends would have been moving. It wasn’t, because we’ve spent most of the season unsure about Brainy’s true motives and with little understanding of his perspective. (Spoiler alert: Watching him just be mean to Nia as a means of “pushing her away” is so tired, show.) I’m also not entirely sure I ever really understood what his inside man act was meant to be protecting humanity from, but that may be because I stopped 100% paying attention to this subplot a while ago.
All told, “Immortal Kombat” is not a bad place for us to leave Supergirl for what may well be a year or more. (The show is not currently part of the slate of Arrowverse shows announced to return to The CW in January, and will likely air as a midseason replacement.) But if hope is Supergirl’s watchword – at least I have it again after this installment. This is perhaps the most upbeat I’ve felt about the direction of the show in several months, and that’s got to count for something. See you in 2021.