I’m going to serve it to you cold: This season of Supergirl was… rough. Kara lost herself entirely because of a boyfriend who never deserved her; Maggie’s departure, however well-written and well-acted I thought it was, was heart-wrenching; and Alex slowly devolved into a shell of a human without her AND without her sister; Lena was forced aboard a ship without any of our consent; and it started to look like they had introduced a swath of people of color only to kill them all off one-by-one, including fanfiction-favorite Sam Arias.
And by the end of last week’s episode, I feared this show I once loved with my entire heart had lost its way to the point of no return. I didn’t think one episode could assuage all my fears and give me hope that they understood where they went wrong and how to fix it. But here we are, and I’m… I’m smiling. I know the bar was low, I know the world is a garbage heap right now and I went into this finale desperate to find joy, but I really, truly believe that this was a huge turning point for this show. I know the timing is such that it’s literally not possible, but it’s almost like they read my letter to Kara and addressed most of my issues. This is the most excited I’ve been to write a recap in a minute, so let’s get to it!
Previously on Supergirl, Lena figured out how to split Reign and Sam but they’re both still alive for now, though neither can survive this way. Kara found out her mother is alive and was going to move to the displaced city of Argo with her until the evil priestesses and the newly resurrected Reign started a literal apocalypse. So Alura sent Sam into the Reignforest again to drink from the Fountains of Lilith and become strong again.
We open where we ended last episode, with the world cracking open at its center and trying to swallow everyone whole. Supergirl and her mother work side by side to minimize the damage, while Sam runs around the Reignforest looking for the Lilith Fair… er, I mean, Fountain of Lilith. Alex runs on top of a car and protects it with her new supersuit’s forcefield.
It’s great. James takes off his mask to help calm down a woman by looking her square in the eye instead of just being a robot yelling instructions at her, the Zor-Els work with Imra to slow down a tidal wave, it’s an action-packed opening and I’m here for it. Supergirl even gets in one of her classic quips, this time a line from Star Wars and then incredulousness at Brainy for never having seen any of those movies.
Papa J’onn melts into the Earth and seals up its cracks, which is of course very sad, but is way better than just deteriorating to death, which is what I thought they were going to have him do.
Team Supergirl looks out over the now-calm city and feel like maybe they won this time.
Alex and Kara go inside and hug their Space Dad, assuring him his father went out a hero. The thing is, though, only six minute have passed, so the danger is still imminent. Sam is still unconscious in the real world, her mind running around the Reignforest. There, she runs into her late mother, which makes her fear she’s once again started to lose her mind within her mind.
So she pushes on and finds the fountain and she’s about to drink with it when the vision of her mother appears again and tells her not to drink from the clear, clean side, but from the yucky-looking side. Sam doesn’t believe her, thinks she’s a vision sent to torment her, but Mama Arias begs her to listen, apologizing for all the times she was a bad mother.
Meanwhile in the Fortress of Doomitude, the priestesses are STRESSED and the former cult leader is not nearly as dead as they think he is.
Lucky for them, however, Reign manages to escape the re-forming Earth just in time.
At the DEO, Brainy pulls Codpiece and Winn aside and sits them down. You see, the audience has spoken, and they’ve had quite enough straight, white, cis men to last them a lifetime. So if they would be so kind as to take his place in the future, he’d handle things here in National City for a while. Winn’s tech will be much needed in the future, and Brainy himself can’t go back because there’s someone with the oh-so-clever name of The Evil One out to get all the AIs. It’s really a win-win overall.
Across the offices, Lena goes to check on Sam in the med bay and Alex reassures her that Sam is okay so far, and I suddenly don’t care if they’re super-smart coworkers, best friends, or science girlfriends, all I know is that I want them to interact alone more forever.
Lena tells Alex she’s wonderful with Ruby and will be a wonderful mother someday and Alex, desperate for a female confidante since her sister has been emotionally MIA lately, blurts out that she’s starting to panic about what to do with her life. She finally knows she wants to be a mom, but what if she never finds a love like Maggie’s again, what if she can’t find anyone she loves who also wants kids? Does she just keep hoping for a partner and let time slip by or does she try to do it on her own? Can her job sustain her being a single parent? (And the answer, of course, is ALEX DANVERS YOU AREN’T EVEN 30 YEARS OLD YET SLOW YOUR WHOLE ROLL. But Lena has more chill than I do.)
Lena tells Alex that “people like us” (sounds gay but go on) do what it takes to get what they want. Lena has all the faith in the world that Alex will make it work, saying that figuring out what you want is half the battle, and she’s got that part sorted.
But duty calls, as Team Supergirl gets a distress signal from J’onn’s stolen ship in the Fortress of Doomitude. They worry it’s a trap but know they have to respond anyway. The plan presented is to kill Reign dead with Lena’s kryptonite, but Supergirl is uneasy with this plan; she doesn’t kill… she never kills. But Alura says sometimes you have to do bad to do good, and J’onn promises it would be a last resort, Kara reluctantly agrees with her mom and Space Dad.
On a related parenting note: in the Reignforest, Sam’s mom is feeding her the gross water, and sings Sam a song they used to sing when she was small to help her along, and Sam finally trusts — and more importantly, forgives — her mother. She drinks from the correct water and when her body wakes up, it’s floating like someone was just playing Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. She’s alive, and she’s Super.
Sam gets a determined look on her face, asks where Team Supergirl went, and rushes off to help them, leaving a relieved Alex, Lena, and Ruby behind.
Team Supergirl shows up to the Fortress and an epic battle ensues. Things take a turn for the worse when Reign gets Supergirl in a chokehold, but Sam swoops in just in time to stab Reign in the back. Literally.
This makes Reign raptor-mad and she whips into another attack, but Kara punches her but good, sending her flying into the hole to the center of the Earth. As she gets swallowed by the molten pool, Reign’s heat vision goes off, zapping almost all of Team Supergirl in the process. She feels powerless and even when Reign is well and truly dead, she can’t celebrate, because only J’onn remains alive of the team she had assembled for this fight.
Supergirl is shook.
Kara starts to cry, blaming herself, looking almost like she’s snapping out of a deep fog, like she’s finally lucid after months of being dissociated. She looks around at where she is, what she’s done, or, more specifically, what she HASN’T done. She has been letting people tell her who she is, tell her what she should do, and she hasn’t made a move of her own in such a long time. But her eyes, though brimming with tears, are clear now.
She sobs out, “I lost track of what I stand for.” And enough is enough. She knows what she has to do. She puts the Legion
Plot Device Ring on and begs Alex and Winn to find her a disruption. She wants to go back in time. Nothing Barry Allen level, she doesn’t want to totally fuck up an entire universe’s timeline, she just wants a few minutes back. One do-over.
So Supergirl flies. Up, up, and away. Deep into space, hearing time rewind, hearing her sister’s voice say, “Kara Danvers is my favorite person,” until she finds herself back in Reign’s headlock. This time, she stops Sam from stabbing her, takes the Harun-El rock and zips the three of them to the Reignforest.
Kara watches proudly as Sam stands up to Reign and force-feeds her the good-looking bad water from the Fountain of Lilith. Reign’s powers dissipate and wraiths appear to come and take her. Sam is one person, and she is free.
When Sam and Kara wake up, back from the Reignforest, their friends all alive, well, and unzapped, Reign nowhere to be found.
Kara says that she thought she could be Kara Zor-El, but that isn’t who she is, not anymore. Argo isn’t her home. National City is. Earth is. She’s both Kara Danvers, and she’s Supergirl. She’s already home.
And then, the thing we needed most happened. Even though part of me thought they could have found a way to make it work with him still around, this feels like the safest bet. It’s like when you have to trim away some good plants with the weeds when you’re gardening, just to make sure everything grows back right. (I really hope that makes sense, I’m a city girl, born and raised.) The future beckons, and he’s grown enough to know that the greater good is more important than his own personal feelings; so we say goodbye, for once and for all, to Mon-El.
NOT saying goodbye, and rather pleased about it, are Sam and Ruby. They hug Lena and Alex and thank them profusely for saving their now-100%-human family.
Speaking of families, Alex goes to talk to her Space Dad about her desperate need to have a family and how that seems to be butting up against her job at the DEO, and that she wants to give her notice. Instead of accepting her notice, J’onn gives Alex a promotion. He wants to become more of a man about town, so he’s leaving her in charge. Director Danvers. That way, she doesn’t have to be in the field all day every day, just every Monday at 8pm, and she can have a family, on her own terms. As someone who is 31 and single and wants to be a mother someday, she’s STRESSING ME OUT so hopefully this will help her chill out and relax for like TWO YEARS before giving up on finding someone to raise these hypothetical children with.
Alura is going back to Argo, and she’s sad to say goodbye to her daughter, but she’s grateful to have had this opportunity to fight alongside her, and is proud of the woman she’s become. Lena brings Supergirl and Alura some more Harun-El and a recipe for it, officially making it a renewable resource. And while Alura worries about the long-term effects of this mystery rock, overall she’s happy to have more time to figure things out for her people.
Winn is also going to the future, and while I doubt this is the last we’ve seen of him, it’s a little weird to be saying goodbye to someone who has been there from day one. Even Alex is sad to see her little bruvver go, and I’ll miss their dynamic quite a bit.
Storylines start to wrap up and open up, with J’onn putting on a hat and going off into retirement, James announcing to the world that he’s Guardian, etc. And then, just to prove to us that all is right with the world, Alex and Kara are at the loft, on the couch, with pizza and wine. I got a joyful tingle just typing that.
They recap the goings-on of the finale and are sweet to each other, calling each other brave. Kara says the truest thing she’s ever said: that this is her home, with her sister and pizza, and Alex couldn’t be happier about it.
Alex asks Kara, softly, quietly, if they’re going to be okay, and Kara thinks for a moment and nods, a familiar glint of hope in her eyes. They’re gonna be okay. It was a moment that felt like it was reaching out and pulling me onto the couch with them, reassuring me that Season Four will be different. That they know what went wrong and they’re going to fix it. That they see where they made missteps and they’re going to reset, starting right here, right now, on this couch of sisterly bonding.
And of course since this is a season finale, we need a tag to set us up for the future. You see, Alura assumed there was no more Harun-El on Earth, but technically nobody asked that of Lena and technically she never said there wasn’t, so technically she’s well within her right to be testing on the Harun-El with Eve Tessmacher, which is technically what she’s doing right about now.
What she doesn’t know, at least not yet, is that the black rock seems to have done to Kara what it did to Sam, because there is a second Super-shaped person wandering around Siberia who looks an awful lot like Ms. Zor-El.
And there we have it. I wasn’t sure it was possible for this show to win me over in the end. I was worried they were too far off-path to find their way back. But I think they might be finally heading in the right direction again. I will accept this episode as an apology, and I am ready to move forward. I know there was a lot going on behind the scenes this year, and everyone makes mistakes. I’m willing to give them another chance, because they seem genuinely willing to change. Because during this episode, I felt something I hadn’t felt in National City in a long time: Hope. I saw it in Kara’s eyes, I saw it in Alex’s face, I felt it in my own heart. I truly believe that they can find their way back to the joy and the feminism and the fierceness and the cleverness and everything we ever loved about this show. I believe. And so, even though there were a few episodes were I wasn’t sure it would be the case, I’ll be back again next season.
Enjoy the hiatus, friends, and let your heart heal from the whiplash of this season. If you’ll join me, let’s enter Season 4 in the fall with open, cautious, hearts. And in the meantime, I’ll see you around the internet flailing about Chyler Leigh’s various social media posts, and I’ll see some of you right back here on Autostraddle in a month’s time for Wynonna Earp recaps.