After a season of logistical headaches on the production side and big emotional swings on screen, it’s satisfying to say Supergirl stuck the landing in its final two episodes.
In hindsight, the season had a lot going against it. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the show had a plan to pre-film a lot of Melissa Benoist‘s scenes going into the summer 2020 hiatus to accommodate her family leave. The shutdown, which occurred while they were filming the Season 5 finale, put the kibosh on that plan. Instead, filming resumed late in the summer without her as the Phantom Zone storyline still covered her extended leave. As it happens, she would not return to Vancouver until January 2021.
That initial storyline, which saw Kara stuck in the Phantom Zone, left the heavy lifting to the supporting cast, who all succeeded in various ways — from Jesse Rath and Nicole Maines stealing the show for their two-part trip to the past, to Alex (Chyler Leigh) needing to process the temporary loss of her sister. All the while, they fought an escaped phantom from the zone … which we freely admit was not the most interesting of antagonists for the Super Friends, but it at least kept their story moving as Kara made occasionally appearances from within the zone to help her father (Jason Behr) and the seemingly good 5th Dimensional imp Nxly (Peta Sergeant). Of course, it soon became clear she would be the big bad once Kara made it back to Earth.
And, we have to admit, the show lost a lot of its moment following Supergirl’s return to conventional space. It’s tempting to blame this on the bifurcated way Supergirl and Superman & Lois shared a timeslot to cover various productions delays, but something within the story — a quest to unite a number of stones with infinite power — just felt tired. Sure, it lead to some great interpersonal moments and the show’s most prolonged exploration of systemic racism, but the fantasy part of it never created any energy or excitement.
Indeed, even Supergirl herself felt tired. In a plot point the show never really examined, Kara gave up her job at CatCo and pretty much stopped wearing civilian clothes. She was hands-on-hips Supergirl more often than not. The genuine fatigue Benoist felt in the costume started to translate on screen even as the show ignored that weariness. Well, at least until the final hour, when it became clear leaving civilian Kara behind was making Supergirl miserable and boxed in.
We think that feels like a metaphor for the series overall. At some point, Kara became inflexible as a character. Her moral certainty made it difficult to tell certain stories or to explore them as fully as possible — again, see the social justice story with Orlando (Jhaleil Swaby), which at least teased the idea of Kara seeing how limited her work can be before it moved back into the Nxly plot. So, we’re glad she acknowledge how diminished her life felt in that final phone call with Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart); a scene which reminded us just how vital their dynamic was to the series one upon a time. We’re also glad the show saw the proper exit was for Kara to stop hiding behind Supergirl and to redefine her role.
In fact, it’s such a potent stop point that we wish it was a little more embedded in the season. Sure, the Courage Gauntlet’s rejection of her offered a hint or two that things might work out this way, but it only received a callback or two in subsequent episodes. A few scenes suggesting Supergirl was headed for burnout might also have been powerful, but as we suggested earlier, the boxed-in nature of the character made it difficult to give her the room to admit fatigue. Supergirl admitting she was running on empty might have been a bigger cliffhanger for any episode this season than any of the various times Nxly or Lex (Jon Cryer) threatened the group.
Oh, and as for the resolution of the villains’ plot? We’re glad it was more or less perfunctory. As a whole, Supergirl isn’t about those schemes or even how the Super Friends defeat them. It’s about the parties, be they informal dinners or a wedding. And seeing Alex get a ceremony even she never imaged possible is the right overall note to go out on. Add to that the almost vow-like final conversation between Kara and Lena (Katie McGrath) and you get the best ending of all: they all got to live their most authentic lives. And after a season filled with hiatuses, stories impacted by COVID, and a perfunctory quest, we’re glad the emotions of Supergirl were the focus in its final hour. That’s why we stuck with it to the end, after all.