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Whether it set out to do so intentionally or if it was by chance, Supergirl is the perfect antidote to the troubling Trump era. This season’s predominant storylines have included alien refugees fleeing repressive regimes, as well as villains who either want to exploit the fear of those aliens for their own purposes or who believe it’s their divine right to rule. (For what it’s worth, it should also be noted that Rhea doesn’t exactly fit the Trumpian mold: for one, she’s a woman and for another, she’s hypercompetent.) In any other year, such plotlines might’ve been mere fodder for a typical superhero/SciFi show. Given the current political climate we’re in, however, these stories are charged with a special significance. Supergirl certainly hasn’t been shy about spotlighting the showrunner’s liberal allegiances and having its heroic protagonists serve as mouthpieces for their ideology. Presumably this quality has already turned off conservative audiences and years from now may be prove to be as embarrassingly didactic in retrospect as other explicitly liberal superhero fiction has proven to be. But in the present moment, it’s just what viewers like me are looking for, and the trend continues in an episode called—what else?—”Resist.”
Aside from its ability to capture the political zeitgeist, I should point out that Supergirl has also been a pretty kick-ass superhero show, particularly of late. This episode emphasizes the barrage of powerful female characters at its disposal—Supergirl, Alex, Maggie, Cat, Olivia, Lena, Lillian, Rhea—with each given a significant role in the proceedings. As the penultimate episode of the season, “Resist” brings to a head the schemes of two of this season’s most persistent antagonists in Rhea and Lillian. The episode picks up immediately where last week’s “City of Lost Children” left off, with Rhea leading a Daxamite army to take over National City. (With the number of troops at her disposal, you’d think Rhea would spread out her attack to cities without a team of superpowered protectors, but let’s suspend our disbelief on this point.) Rhea has kidnapped Lena Luthor, who she has come to see as a surrogate daughter of sorts, and Mon-El, her actual flesh-and-blood son. Her plan is to get her “kids” to marry—don’t forget that she’s a royal and they traditionally have lenient attitudes about that sort of thing—so that they can serve as figureheads for a New Daxam established on Earth. Both Lena and Mon-El are obviously not big proponents of this plan until Rhea forces the two to acquiesce by threatening to bomb a Luthor children’s hospital. If Rhea had a mustache, you could easily imagine her twisting it in a dastardly fashion during this moment.
Along with Rhea, Supergirl’s other primary foil, Lillian Luthor, offers to help Team Supergirl defeat Rhea and save her daughter. Because of the grief Lillian caused them as head of Project Cadmus, the team is loathe to accept her help. One of the piquant ironies of the Daxamite invasion is that it confirms Lillian’s worst fears, as she is all too happy to point out to Team Supergirl. However, Lillian comes to them with metaphorical hat in hand because of her concern for Lena, which is a bit strange. For as interesting and multidimensional a character as Lillian has been this season (aided in large part by Brenda Strong’s performance), her relationship with Lena has been wildly inconsistent: at some points she seems to exhibit legitimate concern for her adopted daughter, while at other times she seems to view Lena as just another pawn in her game. Also, Lillian’s reappearance reminds us that the Project Cadmus plotline has essentially been abandoned; Alex briefly brings up Jeremiah’s disappearance but Lillian hand waves the issue away and it’s not reintroduced again. Granted, there was already a lot going on in this episode but the lack of resolution regarding Jeremiah’s fate is glaring.
As Team Supergirl rebuffs Lillian’s offer, President Wonder Woman—er, I mean President Olivia Marsdin—incites a confrontation with Rhea, giving us the opportunity to witness a Great Dame Off between Lynda Carter as Marsdin and Teri Hatcher as Rhea. Just as Marsdin and Rhea engage in their bout of aggressive pseudo-male posturing, who should appear to deliver an extra-sized dose of Girl Power to the proceedings? Why, none other than Cat Grant, of course! Seeing Cat again wasn’t a surprise in and of itself since her reappearance had been hyped for weeks, but watching Calista Flockheart casually sashay through Air Force One at that point was still enough to make me do a double take and a fist pump at the same time. Just as I’d started to recover from the shock, the following events happen in quick succession: Air Force One is blown to smithereens; Cat falls to her apparent death until Supergirl saves her; and both Cat and Supergirl think the President is dead until she lifts a piece of plane debris and reveals her alien form in the process.
I have to admit, mentioning Cat Grant’s triumphant return feels a bit like I’m burying the lede so I’ll repeat it again with emphasis: CAT GRANT IS BACK, Y’ALL! And she comes equipped with more winning one liners than a late-night talk show host. Here’s a brief sample of some of her gems:
You get the idea. Seeing Cat again is a wonderful breath of fresh, salty air for longtime Supergirl viewers. In addition to the witty bon mots, Cat also plays her traditional roles as Supergirl’s conscience and as inspirational media figure. Both roles allow for two inspirational scenes: the first is when Cat informs Supergirl that the secret of happiness is human connection, thereby spurring Kara to save Lena and Mon-El; the second is when she makes an impassioned speech to National City to—you guessed it—resist the Daxamite invasion. The political subtext, as you might expect, is unmistakable.
There’s more to this episode that I haven’t even delved into, including Supergirl’s dramatic break-in into Rhea’s ship, her dramatic reunion with her best friend and her man, Lillian’s betrayal, and her confrontation with Rhea and a special mystery guest (spoiler: it’s Superman). I’m sure we’ll have time to get into all that in my final Supergirl review of the season. But after appearing to flounder a bit mid-season with its obsessive focus on Mon-El, the show has not only found its footing but seems determined to soar to a great season finale.