This SUPERGIRL article contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 3, “Phantom Menaces.”
Supergirl Season 6 Episode 3
On Supergirl Phantoms are on the loose, literally spreading misery and despair like a metaphor for unchecked grief. After a vampiric phantom slowly drains your soul, it will eventually cost you your life force. Meanwhile the Super Friends took on their own grief in varying ways, and not a moment too soon.
Alex is barely keeping her head above water with her sister in the Phantom Zone, J’onn is burying himself in the work of getting her back, and Lena’s hiding from it by worrying about what to do about Lex, while Brainy doesn’t know what to do with his uninhibited feelings. It all makes for a good way to explore how the team is handling a heady mix of emotions coming off of Lex’s latest plan to take over the world, and set their emotional trajectories for the next set of episodes.
The supernatural manifestation of grief zooming around National City is much quicker than the usual kind, but make no mistake, both can turn you grey and chip away at your soul. It’s hard to see Alex in a miserable little pile on the couch, watching her sister’s holo-record of her life. Alex Danvers is one of the strongest characters on the show, and she’s also probably the main character who has most visibly struggled with mental health on Supergirl, whether that’s turning too quickly to alcohol, escaping grief over her father’s death into Obsidian Platinum, or what appear to be depressive episodes at various points like after her breakup from Maggie Sawyer. In the past when she has finally let herself feel her negative emotions, it tends to be because she’s at a breaking point and things go sideways, fast.
It’s good to see Kelly holding space for Alex’s grief in a positive way, letting her be upset but not letting her disappear into it completely. Once again, it’s incredibly useful to have a therapist in the group, and it’s good to see a character like Alex progress from her previous extremes of either powering through her feelings or succumbing to them entirely. Alex asking Kelly to move in with her was a sweet moment, and a nice way to acknowledge the seriousness of the relationship. It almost makes up for us missing out on seeing Alex tell Kelly that Kara is Supergirl, but not quite. After all, it seems unlikely anything will change now that they live together, whereas Kelly is now in the Tower and actively involved in all missions.
We’re finally getting to see Brainy without his personality inhibitors – or the deception necessary to work with Lex. Given the disturbing level of detail to his murder plan, it’s not a moment too soon. It seems that Jesse Rath is sticking with this voice for the character moving forward, and after several seasons, it’s nice to hear Brainy using a more natural voice with less of an affect. Rath’s work as Brainy has been a high point of the last two seasons, and this might be the first time it feels like it went a bit into melodramatic overacting, though I’m inclined to give him a pass as he settles into this new iteration of the character.
Brainy’s post-Lex penance provides an opportunity to get closer to Lena, like the incredibly vulnerable moment when he screams, “I hate him, I hate him, and I miss her,” and Lena replies, “Me too.” It’s hard not to feel like Brainy may hate himself even more than Lex. Watching the two of them console each other over Kara’s, it feels like we’re watching two people mourn the heart and soul of this group, one of their nearest and dearest. Brainy clearly has a long road ahead, since burying himself in working with Lex last season allowed him to emotionally punt on processing what it means to remove his inhibitors, but the time has come for him to work through it.
For her part, Lena seems to have reached a place of clarity, at least when it comes to the strange sense of grief and trauma that comes with killing her resurrected brother, accidentally being an accessory to his plan to brainwash half the planet and kill the rest, and the failure to bring him to justice. While it’s hard to imagine a world in which Lena is able to simply opt-out of Lex-related intrigue, it truly seems to be the healthiest choice she could have made. That said – girl, sell those shares! Make yourself some capital so you can fund your next venture! Hopefully choosing to bet on herself means exciting new things for Lena.
At first the friction between J’onn and Alex seemed like it might be a lesson in the different ways people grieve, but they both had to get out of their own way, and for J’onn, that meant a lesson on letting M’Gann in rather than “just soldiering on.” Seeing how everyone in the group struggles in different ways to handle Kara’s absence is a good reminder that she’s not just the most physically powerful, or even some kind of tactician like Oliver Queen on Arrow. Kara is the social and emotional glue of her team, perhaps even more than Barry Allen. For J’onn, missing Kara requires him to continue doing what he was so afraid of in the season premiere and opening himself up to M’Gann, especially his most vulnerable parts.
Meanwhile in the Phantom Zone, Kara gets separated from her father and meets an imp princess. Apparently all those years of sending people to the Phantom Zone mean the area is at least somewhat populated. In the most on-brand move possible, she helps her believe in herself, restoring her magic. There’s something funky afoot with memories that don’t belong, and that imp and Kara’s dad shared a look that seemed…off. But for now, there’s hope, as Kara continues to work the problem and spread optimism wherever she goes.