Well, that’s a wrap on the second season of Supergirl, a show that’s sometimes infuriating and occasionally silly, but one that’s also rarely boring and — more importantly — has its heart firmly planted in the right place. While “Nevertheless, She Persisted” doesn’t fly quite as high as “Resist,” it’s a solid finale, checking the action box and the emotional box and the inspirational box with equal fervor. Hell, it even makes time for a few Winn quips and a Cat-hits-on-Clark moment. If some of it feels a little overly familiar, it’s (mostly) easily forgiven. After all, with a long dry spell ahead of us, even a slightly shaky episode of Supergirl shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Speaking of taking things for granted: neither, in good times and bad, should the people you love — and that’s a big part of the story Supergirl spins in its second finale. The action picks up pretty much where “Resist” left off, with Kara suddenly facing down a seriously formidable and also kind of adorable foe. Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman was a big part of what made the early installments of this season so much fun, and his return in Zod-fighting, rage-funneling form is nearly as good as the charm offensive he delivers later. Director Glen Winter handles this fight very well, letting us see every haymaker in slow-motion and making it clear that even though Supergirl takes the win eventually, this is a close battle.
How does Superman come to think he’s fighting a hate-spewing Zod? Turns out Rhea has access to some silver Kryptonite, which makes the Man of Steel see his cousin as his enemy. It’s not the last time Kryptonite pops up in the episode, nor is it the only instance in which someone who normally sits on one side of the hero/baddie divide winds up on the other. Case in point: Lillian Luthor, who once again decides to use those evil powers for good (sort of). In this case, it’s encouraging Lena to MacGyver the hell out of a device Lex built to take down Superman. After Lena does her thing, the device has the power to drive the Daxamites out of the earth’s atmosphere — they could stay, of course, but the lead it disperses into the atmosphere makes it lethal to their Daxamite lungs. That goes for Mon-El too, of course.
Kara hopes that device won’t ever be anything more than a backup, however. With the help of her cousin (and the sweet archives in the Fortress of Solitude), she finds a solution that may stop the Daxamite attack and get rid of Rhea and her troops for good. Invoking an ancient Daxamite ritual, she challenges Rhea to a battle for the earth, a decision made in single combat. Mon-El is opposed, naturally, but Kal backs his cousin — she’s the best champion for the earth, with a great second in Mon-El and a whole team behind her.
That team, at long last, includes J’onn once again. After getting a mind-meld visit from M’Gann, J’onn bursts to life and teams up with Superman to try to keep the citizens of National City safe. As they’re doing battle, who shows up but M’Gann with a team of good-guy White Martians. They kick ass, and it’s awesome. As Kara’s fight with Rhea gets into gear and it becomes obvious that she’s not going to call off the troops, Mon-El springs into action too, proving that he’s become a hero after all. Even Cat plays her part, agreeing to dampen the rah-rah Supergirl rhetoric in exchange for an exclusive with the Maiden of Might. All the while, Kara fights Rhea, and as with Superman earlier, they seem evenly matched.
They aren’t, though, and in more ways than one. As Kara takes control (in another terrific fight scene), Rhea taunts her, eventually goading Kara into punching her so hard that she bleeds… and her blood is imbued with Kryptonite. Teri Hatcher hasn’t always felt at home in this series, but she hit her stride last week, and that’s a streak that continues here. Maniacal glee looks good on her, and Rhea is nothing but not maniacal.
Nevertheless, Supergirl persists. She’s winning, until the episode makes it overwhelmingly clear that she can’t.
With all the convoluted plotting this season, it’s surprising that such a pivotal moment should be so simple. It doesn’t matter if Kara wins. Even if Rhea dies, the Daxamite troops will just keep coming. There’s no choice, and if Kara hesitates, it’s for no more than a moment, She does what characters on Supergirl have had difficulty doing all season, over and over again. She places the safety of the world above her own heart. Rhea dies, crumbling into a pile of dust, and Kara has to find Mon-El a way off the planet, and fast.
As heartbreaking scenes go, Kara and Mon-El’s final moments together (probably not actually the last time we’ll see them together, but the characters certainly believe this is the end) are fine. The writing’s a little easy, a little on-the-nose, but odds are it’s a finale that will leave most puffy-eyed and sniffling all the same. The credit here goes to Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood, who make the most of their terrific chemistry, natural charm, and relaxed performances to deliver a series of very gentle punches to the gut. Kara sends Mon-El off with a trinket, and they’re now each sporting a matching broken heart.
What’s left are pep talks and a few little teasers of things to come. While the latter are fine — Mon-El seems to get sucked into the Phantom Zone; yet another mysterious pod seems to be earth-bound — it’s the former category that really makes the end of this installment so hard hitting. Kara first gets a brief visit from Clark, who tells her he couldn’t have made the choice she did, and that she’s the stronger of the two by far. Next she gets a chat from Alex, who clearly just wants to help, her heart breaking for her sister even as she swells with pride. All Kara wants is for Alex to keep the woman she loves close. Kara flies off, and Alex proposes.
As solid as those scenes are — and are they ever, particularly the latter, as Chyler Leigh remains excellent in this role — it’s the final pep talk that really leaves a mark. Kara pays a visit to her old boss, who, as always, knows just what to say. Calista Flockhart was always a valuable presence on this show, but her return has made abundantly clear just how much goes missing when she’s not around, and this simple interaction is inspiring and gut-wrenching, all at once. Women are strong, Cat tells us, because they’re brave enough to be vulnerable, knowing all the pain ahead but also knowing the power vulnerability can bring. She bucks Kara up, and when a crime in progress pops up on television, Kara heads out the door. Then Cat says something that’s every bit as fun as it is moving.
It’s no great surprise that Cat knows that Kara is Supergirl. The show has been dropping hints pretty much since the pilot, but last week’s episode was the clearest indicator yet (given that she recognized James). Dropped casually at it is here, it makes obvious that Cat has known for at least a while, and chooses not to reveal that knowledge. Why isn’t made explicit, but one imagines it’s in hopes of making sure Kara still feels free to talk about her feelings and fears with her mentor. The quiet pride with which Cat bids Supergirl farewell is one of the best, simplest moments of television this year, and as nice as the flying montage that follows may be, it’s that farewell that will stick with this writer over the summer.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted” isn’t perfect. It might, however, be the perfect ending to this particular season, wonderful and tiring by turns. It’s been a pleasure to write about this year, and it’s my sincere hope that you’ll pop back to CBR next fall when Kara and company return. Thanks for reading, and own your power!
Airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel, David Harewood as Martian Manhunter, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott, with appearances by Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant and Tyler Hoechlin as Superman.
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