Week in and week out, “Supergirl” plays to its greatest strength: Supergirl herself. What makes “For the Girl Who Has Everything” so puzzling is that in a story tailor-made to offer insight to the most compelling character in the story, to showcase the abilities of its most winning performer, and to blur the boundaries of both reality and the emotional truths of the series, “Supergirl” squanders nearly all of those chances. “Supergirl” is an entertaining show on its worst day, and this is not its worst day, but it’s hard not to feel a little let down when so much seemed possible.
That’s getting ahead of things a bit, so backing up: “For the Girl Who Has Everything” is loosely adapted from the classic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons story “For the Man Who Has Everything,” in which the Man of Super, not the Girl, falls victim to a Black Mercy and ends up in a fantasy of his own making. Picking up a few hours after the last episode left off, we follow Winn, JimmyJames, and Alex as they bust into Kara’s apartment and discover her with the Black Mercy — a terrifyingly cool design — squeezing the life out of her. She’s quickly transported to the DEO, and no one seems to know what to do, but when Non tells Astra what he’s done to take Kara out of commission, she soars off to help her niece and give Alex the info she needs to help Kara fight for her life. And just like that, the whole band — Maxwell Lord included, after an “enemy of my enemy” pep talk from Alex gets him in line, at least for the moment — gets to work trying to save her.
The trouble is that Kara has to save herself. That’s a problem, both for Kara and for the episode, because Kara’s fantasy is clearly compelling for her, but for the audience? Maybe not so much. We spend a few minutes with Kara as she gets sucked into her fantasy world, little by little, though still resisting. Then, suddenly, she’s all-in (with a little help from a cute kiddo Kal-El). We don’t see much in the way of joy, or longing, or comfort. It doesn’t seem like a world that would be all that hard to leave, and that’s a problem. Kara’s our entry into this world. All season, her joys and heartbreaks have been ours. If we can’t connect with what we’re told is a blissful existence, then Kara’s choice to leave the fantasy behind doesn’t hurt all that much.
Luckily, there’s more than the fantasy with which to connect. When Kara doesn’t seem to be fighting off the Black Mercy, supergenius (and one-man one-liner factory, for this episode at least) Maxwell Lord tricks out some virtual reality equipment and makes it possible for Alex to go in after her sister. Chyler Leigh’s nearly as key to what works about “Supergirl” as her TV sister Melissa Benoist, and in an episode that promised to showcase Benoist, it’s Leigh who really steals the show. Terrified of losing the girl she once rejected, she charges into Kara’s fantasy and makes what seems like a tireless, terrified appeal, pleading with her to look at the world in which she finds herself with a careful eye and see that it isn’t real. It’s an affecting sequence of scenes, made more potent by the corresponding DEO storyline, which pits JimmyJames and H’annk against each other when the former, acting on Alex’s request, tries to stop the latter from pulling his agent out.
Still, “For the Girl Who Has Everything” isn’t called “For the Sister Who Doesn’t Want to Lose Everything,” and as remarkable as Leigh’s work is here, it doesn’t quite resonate as it should. Had we stayed on Alex’s journey the whole time, had it focused on her instead of splitting (and splitting again) its time, it would have packed a potent punch. Instead, we get too little and too much all at once, with fleeting moments of greatness peppered throughout a lukewarm episode. There’s just too much going on, and so very little actually has an impact.
It’s all the more frustrating because nearly all of the stories have a lot of potential. Throwing Winn and his underutilized computer skills into the DEO is fun (and he acquits himself very well — perhaps a job on the horizon?), as is having H’annk pose as K’araa for an acid-spitting Cat. Putting the DEO in Lord’s debt, however slightly? Also good. Connecting Alex and Astra? Smart choice. But most of those stories would work as either a main or sub-plot for one episode, and instead they’re all mixed in, with each undercutting the next and rendering them all far blander than they should.
If you have not watched tonight’s episode and wish to remain unspoiled, stop reading here.
No storyline gets as shorted as Astra’s. All the while insisting that she’s devoted to the war against humanity, Astra turns up to help Alex save her sister, but she’s back to fighting with Non by the episode’s end. This leads to a double confrontation — Kara taking on a comically overblown Non, and Alex and H’annk battling Astra — that ends with Non’s escape.
It also ends with Astra’s death at Alex’s hands, a death H’annk pins on himself when Kara arrives to say goodbye to her aunt.
Most of the lesser “Supergirl” episodes make up for their flaws with the tireless work of the cast, the unexpected moments of fun, and the occasional stunning visual effect. But most “Supergirl” episodes don’t end with the death of a major character. Laura Benanti and Melissa Benoist are excellent, as always, but some hurdles you just can’t leap in a single bound (or even several). And a follow-up monologue with soft indie-rock underscoring doesn’t help matters, either, While there’s one hell of a development left hanging — that being the new big secret between the Sisters Danvers — “For the Girl Who Has Everything” might lead one to wish they’d left some of that everything for future episodes. Perhaps then we’d have more time to have some feelings about it.
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