Martin Carr reviews the ninth episode of Supergirl season 3…
Prostrate under searchlights, beaten, battered, bleeding and bruised, this week Supergirl delivers a leftfield sucker punch to the gut which creeps up on you. Rarely does a television show let alone a comic book one reach the authentic emotional heights of Greek tragedy. Weighed down with formulaic convention, hamstrung by plotline necessity and lacking suitable amounts of dramatic meat to finish the job, few reach the mark.
Thankfully Supergirl throws you with the Christmas theme, distracts with relationship progressions and family gatherings, while in the background something dark is gathering strength. Odette Annable still plays things straight and close to the chest, while Benoist brings emotional resonance to her conflicted feelings as Kara. There are moments of POV camerawork, burning Kryptonian sigils and forewarnings from incarcerated prophets about the Devil being among us. This feels like comic book hokum and scaremongering until you see the full force of the Reign unleashed.
More powerful than the Bryan Singer Superman Returns smack down when Brandon Routh is physically drowning, episode nine exposes a nerve, exploits a human weakness and shows us that even our heroes can bleed. This is the most honest emotional response this reviewer has had to Supergirl since inception. Everything else has the volume turned down in those final ten minutes when it finally delivers on that cliff hanger. Defeated, defensive and with a new adversary clad appropriately in black, those things we felt were infallible come unstuck.
You get the impression that anything is now up for grabs in a new National City which looks like it’s about to descend into the third level of Hell. Similar to the arrival of Thanos in ‘that’ Infinity War trailer there is a deep sense of foreboding hanging in the air. Berlanti has managed to turn this from light and fluffy entertainment with moments of darkness, into a series with portentous overtones by subverting our expectations. The breaking of Batman in Nolan’s third film carried as much weight and I use that comparison with measured care and consideration.
Those final minutes are delivering on the promise which comic book serials have been touting for a good few years. Some have come close, Daredevil being one, but on terrestrial television such accomplishments remain few and far between. This carefully concocted biblical image puts Benoist into a different league amongst her colleagues on Supergirl, as she never over plays it, but is careful to retain what makes people really like this character. The momentary weakness of Christopher Reeve in Superman II when he sees his own blood is comparable to this moment and again I know what I am saying. Iconography is built on such things and the subconscious image of a fallen saviour is palpable here. If you ever had any doubts about this programme’s ability to pack a punch they have been put to bed permanently.