This Supergirl review contains spoilers.
Supergirl Season 5, Episode 6
Supergirl may be an ensemble show, but it has one character at its center: Kara Danvers. So what does it look like when, instead of centering the character of Supergirl, the narrative makes her a supporting character in someone else’s story—or, in this case, two other characters’ stories? We get “Confidence Women,” which is great news for us viewers. This episode got ridiculous at some points, as it tried to put decades of backstory into two acts of a TV episode, but it was never anything less than wildly entertaining.
“Confidence Women” looks back on how Lena Luthor and Andrea Rojas—two billionaire best friends (or maybe more? There is a lot of subtext on this show)—who have gone through some shit. They’re both from, um, complicated families who don’t always give them the love and support they need, so when Lena is the new girl at boarding school and Andrea reaches out to her, they bond over their familial neglect.
Fast forward to years later, when they are just two crazy kids trying to stay sane and keep their families alive and from not killing any beloved superheroes. For Andrea, this looks like trying to protect her suicidal father from himself when Obsidian Tech is poised to lose millions of dollars. For Lena, this means stopping Lex Luthor from trying to kill Superman. Just another day in the life, amirite?
The plot-driven solution to both of their problems for some reason involves them traveling to Costa Rica to look for the Medallion of Acrata, which Lena has been obsessed with since she was a child and her mother first told her stories about it. Rather than send some of their minions to do the dirty work, Lena and Andrea go full-on Lara Croft (inspired by their mutual love for Titantic‘s Rose Dawson).
When Andrea finds the medallion first, she is instructed by a Leviathan stooge who looks like Anthony Hopkins Lite to keep it on her forever, speaking of it to no one. In exchange, Leviathan will keep Andrea’s Papa safe and his company profitable, but Leviathan will appear to Andrea at some point and ask something of her, and she must do it. Or else. (Seriously. Leviathan does not bluff about consequences.)
Andrea goes with it, out of love for her father (and maybe also an interest in keeping the company profitable?), and it eventually costs Andrea her relationship with Lena when, not long after, Lena runs into Andrea at a fancy party, wearing the medallion. (This is one of the most egregious examples of plot prioritized over character, as it seems highly unlikely that Andrea would flaunt the medallion, or even have it visible at all, as Leviathan told her to “be discreet.”)
As you may know, Lena has serious trust issues, and Andrea’s betrayal regarding the medallion does not help in this regard. By the time Lena makes it to National City, she is not looking to make friends. In what feels like a bit of a retcon of what we’ve seen of Lena and Kara’s friendship origin story before (but I’ll go with it because it is so angsty and wonderful), Lena initially deflects Kara’s attempts to be friends. Of course, Kara’s adorableness and sincerity quickly wears her down.
While Lena’s self-narrative that she has always been the victim of loved one’s neglect and betrayal and therefore she must avoid intimacy with anyone is flawed, it also is helpful to see it lined up so clearly in this episode. This is how Lena sees her life: as one heart break after another. Kara’s “betrayal” was the final nail in the coffin.
Flashback episodes like this don’t always work—they can feel clunky and somewhat pointless—but this trip down memory lane works not only on a character level (giving us more insight into Andrea Rojas, Lena Luthor, and their relationship with one another), but also on a plot level. These flashbacks are part of a frame tale narrative that sees Andrea coming to Lena in present-day to finally tell her the truth about the medallion (or as much as she can), and to ask for her help with rescuing Russell Rogers (aka Rip Roar), a man she seems to truly love.
Lena helps her, but it is all a con, something that we viewers may have been able to see coming if not Andrea. Andrea has been a con women herself, of course, but only under duress (which does not totally absolve her of choices like killing a governor when Leviathan asks her to, even if we understand why she does), whereas Lena has become a con women by choice.
After rescuing Russell from the DEO, Lena gets Andrea to give her the medallion by incepted Russell into holding a scalpel to his carotid artery. She isn’t here to make friends, you guys. Andrea may have apologized, but Lena is way past that point. Is there anything that can stop her at this point?
Lena may have the medallion, but, as far as we know so far, it won’t give her any power. Leviathan tell Andrea that the Arcata powers she got after stealing the medallion were already inside of her. When they drop that truth bomb, Andrea doesn’t seem too excited at the news that she still has super cool powers, but I’ll let it slide because she is holding Russell’s gun-shot body in her arms. Damn Leviathan.
Meanwhile, Team Supergirl has literally only just heard the word “Leviathan.” It is the only thing they got out of Russell before Andrea nabbed him. The viewer was already ahead of them on the Leviathan front, but, after this episode, we know even more about the maybe magical powers of this organization entitity. (The words written on the medallion translated to Leviathan!), not to mention what Lena has going on. Not to mention the headache that is Andrea Rojas’ life.
This isn’t a criticism. Knowing all of the dangers, most especially the massive, omniscient threat that is Leviathan, Supergirl will have to face only works to raise the stakes of this world.
This episode leaned a lot on Katie McGrath and Julie Gonzalo’s performances, and they were both up for the job. Stellar performances from both in an episode that asked a lot from them while, sometimes, giving them little narrative support. (Most of these flashback scenes had a lot of work to do with very little time to do it.)
OMG, the lightning in the Andrea/Lena confession scene? So good.
Oh, hey, Rahul Kohli. Miss you and iZombie!
I love that Andrea and Lena bond over Titanic, and Rose Dawson specificially.
I watched this episode with my sister, who described it as “a flashback episode about all of Lena’s exes,” which doesn’t feel totally inaccurate.