This SUPERGIRL article contains spoilers for Season 6, Episode 7, “Fear Knot.”
Supergirl Season 6 Episode 7
Supergirl’s mid-season finale goes for a high concept, Star Trek-feel, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Instead of being emotional, revelatory, or action-packed, the mid-season finale feels like a filler episode.
While it technically manages to check all the boxes – Kara is rescued, Nyxly is coming back to National City to cause trouble, Zor-El is coming back for presumably positive shenanigans – much of the episode is a played out drag. Not even starting en media res with the promise of doom for all the Super Friends could jump-start this one, considering how quickly it became clear it simply wasn’t true.
If at first Alex’s segment seemed action-packed in the extreme, a plot with big “That Escalated Quickly” energy, it was short-lived. By the end of Lena’s portion of the plot, it was clear most of the ship’s crew were trapped by phantoms from the Phantom Zone. Much like the dementor-like phantoms themselves, this realization zaps what had been frenetic energy in the extreme and replaces it with the feeling that only the world’s lowest stakes can bring. The problem with all the fights and danger being in the characters’ heads is that it doesn’t matter how any of these adventures actually play out, leaving the audience to check out during what should be one of the most exciting episodes of the season.
In a beloved show’s final season, spending so much of an episode on what the audience quickly deduces is imaginary and, frankly, offers only the most obvious insight into the characters, feels like a waste of time. Any episode that winds back the clock repeatedly needs to find creative ways to keep things interesting: dropping clues, condensing repetitive sections and offering up deeper insights. This episode does precious little to none.
While the phantoms dig into the character’s fears, almost nothing new was gained. Kara was predictably afraid her team would die trying to save her. For Alex, it was that she would endanger the mission. Lena’s fear ties into her trauma and guilt surrounding her mother’s death. And of course for Brainy, it’s balloons. Ok but seriously, Brainy’s balloons are a thinly veiled metaphor for his inability to compartmentalize his emotions and how he never knows when he might just pop. True to form, Lena figured out what was going on, Alex sacrificed herself in both her vision and Kelly’s, and Brainy is more in control than he thinks. That’s all well and good, but nothing gained.
Kelly is one of the only characters with forward motion. She is afraid that she couldn’t save Alex and everyone else. While that’s predictable, combining it with her highly effective deployment of grounding techniques and her use of what looks suspiciously like Guardian’s shield, and the character has inched one step closer to taking up the mantle. Unfortunately, since the (amazing!) image of Kelly in her Guardian costume was released this week, this development feels paltry in comparison to, say, actually seeing her in action as Guardian during the episode.
Continuing her theme for the season, Nia’s vision preyed on her fear that her inability to interpret her dreams fast enough would cost others their lives. However, it’s concerning that in Nia’s vision, Brainy was condescending and hurtful to her when talking about how she hasn’t completed her training and can’t be trusted to interpret her dreams. Is Nia afraid that Brainy doesn’t actually believe in her skills either?
It’s hard not to imagine what this front half of the season could have been like if Supergirl had invested in the cast and characters it had, rather than minimizing Melissa Benoist’s absence and trying so hard to distract the audience from noticing. Perhaps if we had just a couple of episodes with Kara, Zor-El and Nyxly, rather than stretching them out across all seven, their plots wouldn’t feel so thin and tacked on. Lena started the season strong with an episode about working through her own guilt for working with Lex and pain at missing Kara, but then any of Lena’s interiority was put aside in favor of mission-based science. It would have been worthwhile to explore how losing Kara right after they made up, and right when she was reeling from her brother’s latest nefarious acts, affected Lena.
Nicole Maines and Jesse Rath have proven that they’re more than capable of carrying the show for a few episodes and could have done so for longer. Supergirl has invested so much time in developing Nia and Brainy both on their own as heroes and individuals, and together in their evolving relationship, that they could have taken the lead for more episodes than they did.
Chyler Leigh has certainly earned the right to be part of carrying the show in Melissa’s absence, and moving Alex into more A-plots could have worked well, especially as Nia is in search of a mentor and Alex continues to find meaning in life outside the DEO. If anything, fans wanted more of Alex and Kelly’s relationship, especially in the case of logical steps like Alex telling Kelly that her sister is Supergirl, which Alex had previously wondered aloud how to do! As Kelly, Azie Tesfai has done a lot with relatively little screen time, especially on a show where other characters have such long history. Considering she’s gearing up to be the new Guardian, investing more time in her during the first half of this season would have been wise.
Writing about the season premiere, I lamented that Melissa Benoist was seemingly going before she was gone, missing episodes before the show left us forever. That turned out not to be the case, but in truth, it might have been better. If the writers hadn’t used Kara’s largely narratively unproductive appearances as a crutch, and had instead written real, fleshed out story arcs for these first seven episodes, perhaps it wouldn’t all feel quite so much like treading water, and this mid-season finale wouldn’t feel stretched as thin as a balloon about to pop.