Have you ever read Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town? There’s a pretty decent chance you’ve seen it, as it’s been a staple of high school theatres for decades. Wilder’s play has nothing whatsoever to do with superheroes or aliens or mind control or villains, be they blue or bland. What it does have in common with “Better Angels” is a heroine saying goodbye to the world in a manner so unabashedly sentimental and sad that, in the wrong hands, it can be frankly unbearable.
But Kara’s goodbyes in the first season finale of “Supergirl” do what a really good production of Our Town can do — like Emily’s wistful farewells, they’re performed by a woman who once didn’t get a chance to say goodbye at all, and they come from the same bittersweet place. A person who has already lost a world knows the value of a chance to smile one last time on the things and people they love. And like a good production of Our Town, the big “Supergirl” moments only work because the right people are sitting right at the center.
There are things to dislike about “Better Angels,” and things that only work because the show has worked really hard to earn some goodwill. But like nearly every episode of “Supergirl” to date, the things that work best soar because the show was smart enough to put two really remarkable, earnest performers at the center of its heart. From that first plane crash right through the centerpiece scene of this episode, “Supergirl” has been a story of two superhero sisters. It just so happens that only one of them has powers. That doesn’t make Alex any less a hero, particularly given her importance in helping Kara to become the woman she is today. But the act of putting a female relationship at the center of a superhero series is significant in and of itself (not to mention two, as the Kara-Cat relationship is also very significant), and there’s no denying that “Supergirl” lives and dies by Alex and Kara’s connection.
That’s a long way of saying that Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh killed it, yet again, in this episode. As always, the lion’s share of the work goes to Benoist, and that’s as it should be. The show’s called “Supergirl,” after all. The bulk of the episode focuses on Kara saying goodbye to her earth friends and family before going to take down Myriad (something she thinks she’ll need to do alone), and it would probably be a little silly if it were almost anyone but Benoist. No goodbye is sadder or sweeter than her goodbye to Alex, which is one of the most affecting television moments of the year — which, given how rocky “Supergirl” has sometimes been, is really saying something.
Before Kara takes her farewell tour, however, she has to fight that exact same sister in a scene that epitomizes the rockiest things about “Supergirl.” It looks cool as hell. It’s occasionally thrilling. And it’s over in a second, because love.
Now, “Supergirl” has made it very clear that the greatest superpower of all is empathy, which is a big part of love/hope/etc. So, thematically, right on the money. But it’s also incredibly anticlimactic and very, very convenient. Fight with Alex! Whoops, solved by love. The whole city’s brainwashed! Whoops, solved by a heady combination of hope and branding. It almost works (and again, Benoist works wonders — that monologue was actually pretty terrific) but doesn’t quite get there.
Then come the many goodbyes, which include thanking Winn for his friendship, Cat for her mentorship, and James for not dating her (sort of). She confides the truth, that she might not survive her takedown of Myriad (which, of course, goes from defeated to global threat because Non and Indigo pushed a button or something) in H’annk, in another terrific scene, and before long (without a goodbye to Alex), she and the guy we’ll now be calling J’onn head off to take down the bad guys.
So here’s another “Supergirl” problem — Non and Indigo are just not interesting. “Supergirl” doesn’t seem super interested in compelling villains (though it sets up two for next year in the episode’s final scenes) and that’s never a bigger issue than in the fight sequence that’s both kind of dull to watch and not emotionally compelling. True, watching J’onn rip Indigo in half is pretty wild, but otherwise, it just feels like filler before we get to the episode’s biggest moment. Bye, Non. You were a pretty lame big bad.
But it’s OK, because what really matters is Supergirl taking what she believes is her last flight. What a beautiful sequence. Leaving her life behind, she flies Fort Rozz through the atmosphere and into space, where she prepares to die. But, as Alex puts it, “you’re not the only bad-ass in the damily.” That other Danvers sister flies Kara’s pod into space and saves her in the nick of time, leading to a standing ovation from the DEO, a thank you from the (female!) President, J’onn’s full pardon and reinstatement, and a pledge that J’onn and Lucy will be working together from then on.
Kara’s happy ending doesn’t stop there, however. She gets a lovely little internet chat with Clark. She gets promoted, and to the job of her choice, in a manner of speaking. More importantly, she gets an honest admission of affection and pride from Cat, who does all that even without the knowledge that Kara just saved the world. She gets the ending of “Working Girl,” which always makes her cry, as it does Cat (and me). And has a person correctly pronouncing someone else’s name ever been so satisfying?
Wrapping things up, she gets another kiss from James, a chance to set the table with her family, a cool photo, and a minute to do the classic “Superman” champagne trick. But (and we’d better hope the show gets renewed), she also gets a Kryptonian pod crashing through the sky, the contents of which she finds shocking. More ominous still, General Lane and Maxwell Lord are up to something tech-ish and scary. But really, that’s good news. We wouldn’t want out girl to get bored, would we?
Thanks for reading this season! Let me know your thoughts, and we’ll (hopefully) see you in the fall.
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