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When the holidays roll around, people tend to reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year to come. So too for showrunners putting together their midseason finale episodes. Judged on that basis, “Reign” encapsulates Season 3 of Supergirl: imperfect yet promising. The episode’s climax features a brutal (yet festive) confrontation between Supergirl and Reign, her dark opposite, that is as exciting as any action sequence on the show this season. But before we get to that thrilling climax, viewers will SMH over some shaky characterization and plot points that prevent “Reign” from reaching its full potential.
First, let’s discuss the character who the episode is named after. “Reign” reveals more about the so-called Worldkiller after her emergence in “Wake Up.” We learn that she has a different set of ethics than Supergirl: while Kara believes in the preservation of all life, even her enemies, Reign has an Old Testament code of ethics that calls for no mercy for bad people, whether they be drug dealers or a sleaze like Morgan Edge. In this regard Reign is strongly reminiscent of the Eradicator, another DC antihero who, like Reign, has Kryptonian origins. My only wish for Reign is that she finds a better costume than the one she’s currently wearing, which is overly derivative and cheesy (especially the mask). I’d recommend modeling the character after her look in the comics, which is considerably more monstrous and terrifying.
Even if Reign’s targets are baddies, Supergirl is obligated by her “no killing” policy to intervene. The series is as explicit as it’s ever been in exploring the Christian allusions and iconography within the Super-mythos. To hammer the point home, “Reign” reintroduces us to Thomas Coville, the leader of the Supergirl worshipping cult in “The Faithful.” Coville informs Supergirl that Reign is basically the Kryptonian version of the Devil set to bring about the Apocalypse (not to be confused with the X-Men villain). Under most circumstances this would make her a pretty unambiguous Big Bad—but remember that Reign is also the alter-ego of a single mom who happens to be best friends with Kara and Lena Luthor. It’s not clear by the end of “Reign” whether Samantha Arias is a pawn or willing accomplice in her alter ego’s actions, but either way it does complicate the morally simplistic “good vs. evil” dynamic promoted by Coville.
As alluded to earlier in this review, the Supergirl-Reign fight is spectacular both in terms of the action itself and the CGI used to depict it. The environment in which a fight scene takes place is a vital element but one that’s often overlooked. On this score, “Reign” doesn’t disappoint: the two combatants start their fight in a holiday office party—with Christmas music serving as the score—and ends with a violent punch-out on the streets of National City. Surely it was no accident on the part of the showrunners that this latter portion of the fight was reminiscent of the first Superman vs. Doomsday fight during the early 1990’s “Death of Superman” storyline. In fact, the fight was so bloody that it seemed likely that Supergirl could even die (or at least “die”). My only qualm about the fight itself is that none of Supergirl’s powerful friends, including the Martian Manhunter, Mon-El, or Saturn Girl, pitched in to help fight Reign. Even Superman had the Justice League by his side when Doomsday was kicking his ass.
“Reign” also advances a few character subplots with varying levels of effectiveness. The burgeoning James-Lena relationship seems like a weird place to take those characters. This isn’t to say they don’t deserve romance, but whatever chemistry between the two of them that’s apparent to the other characters isn’t necessarily apparent to this viewer. Also, Kara touches on a troublesome aspect of their union that deserves closer attention: the fact that Lena is James’s boss. And to respond to Kara’s point from the episode: just because office hookups between superiors and subordinates happen all the time, it doesn’t make it any more right and (particularly in this current moment) it deserves to be scrutinized all the more carefully.
We’re also treated to further servings of angst with the Kara-Mon-El-Imra triangle (if you can call it that given that the latter two are happily married to one another). As a Supergirl viewer/reviewer I wasn’t strongly in favor of shipping Kara and Mon-El in the first place, so I’m fine with them breaking up. With that said, I’m equally opposed to the excessive angst that’s been wrung out of their time crossed lovers relationship. My least favorite Supergirl is an overly self-pitying one who wonders if she’ll find (or even deserves) love, and unfortunately that one has been on display too often this season. The same woe-is-me has affected Alex and her pining for Maggie, but at least that makes sense given that they were set to get married. It’d be a welcome development for Supergirl, both the character and the show, got over her Mon-El fixation but that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. At least we’ll likely see the team Mon-El and Irma belong to, the Legion of Superheroes, in 2018. That alone should make Supergirl worth returning to once it resumes its season.