This final season of Supergirl has really not been their best work. I don’t know if they know it’s over, or the stories just aren’t jelling, or maybe it’s me. Whatever the cause, it’s really not working for me on pretty much any level. After a two episode side quest to the past, the Super Friends are ready to try, again, to rescue Kara from the Phantom Zone where Lex banished her at the end of last season, which seems like it was forever ago now. Now there’s a trip to the Phantom Zone, a lot of “face your fear” action, and ten minutes that seems to go on forever in “Fear Knot.”
The episode opens in the Phantom Zone, as Kara and Zor-El struggle along after their failed escape attempt. Kara was forced to destroy their only way out to prevent Nxylgsptinz (Nyx from here on out) from escaping to Earth and wreaking havoc. After another phantom attack, Kara falls prey to the despair and fear they cause, and Zor tries to talk her into going on. While Kara frets about her friends, Brainy and Dreamer come back with the DNA they need to power whatever gizmo is supposed to find Kara for them. After a hasty explanation about why Miss Martian doesn’t show up this week, and a few surprises about what J’Onn has somehow built into the Watchtower, the team takes off for the Phantom Zone.
On the way, they argue about how to proceed in a “No, I need to sacrifice MY-self” kind of way. J’Onn and Alex are the ones mostly disagreeing, while the others do various science babble and Kelly helps them with some grounding techniques for dealing with fear. Just why they’re bringing the one with no powers, combat skills, or amazing science skills along is unclear, aside from for drama. Then, they get to the Phantom Zone, there’s space-turbulence, or something, and they set up for the rest of the episode.
This is going to be a short review, because there’s a lot of back and forth in this episode. Essentially, the space-turbulence weakened the containment pod for the phantom they brought along, and its fear influence leaks out, so we see the same ten minutes or so over and over as everyone goes through various horrific scenarios. Then we go back ten minutes or so and move on to the next person’s nightmare.
Alex’s fear session almost seems more like a teenager’s melodramatic fantasy. She has to be the one to save Kara, and only she can do it, so she manages to shove J’Onn into a cage (remember, he’s both as strong as a Kryptonian and can phase through walls), before realizing she’s the problem and getting ready to blow herself out the airlock to save everyone else. Then Lena and Dreamer indulge in a mutual admiration society about powers and intellect, and then segue into the We Miss Mom club. Lena happens to bring up some childhood memory we’ve never heard of before, so of course, that’s the form her nightmare takes as it chases her and Dreamer all over the ship. Dreamer doesn’t use her Swiss Army powers to stop the critter because it’s not really her, she’s just a prop in Lena’s nightmare. Kelly’s involves losing the people around her and not being able to help them. There are also a few references to things that we can see for ourselves are just not true. Dreamer, to no surprise at all, gets caught up in something hinging on her recent obsession with “I can’t use my powers right because my mom never taught me,” and failing those dearest to her because of it.
After all this, we see the remaining heroes doing much better for themselves, due to a combination of being aliens, psychic powers, and great intellectual abilities. J’Onn helps fix everything while Brainy’s fear is played for laughs and, really, makes no sense at all. Poor Brainy, so often reduced to comic relief. J’Onn, on the other hand, comes across as a major badass when he resists the phantom’s power and threatens it with some cool visual effects. Do not tick off a Martian. Finally snapping everyone out of their trip down Nightmare Row, J’Onn gets everyone back on task so they can find and rescue Supergirl. Because it’s her show, after all, and she’s been largely absent so far this season.
With a combination of timing, teamwork, and technology, the SS Plot Device arrives at just the right part of the fragmented Phantom Zone in the nick of time to save the El family from looming disaster. Happily reunited, the heroes head for home. One of the last things we see is that they have a hitchhiker who is, I’m sure, going to cause a great deal of trouble once they get out. At least, finally, the “Kara is missing” story should be over, so they need something else to fill in the back half of the final season when they come back in a few months.
What I liked: I will grant there were some good performances in this episode. J’Onn is a consistently underrated hero who is vastly powerful and I’m glad they let him shine near the end of the episode. I will give them credit that they let the main character get saved by the actions of others, which a lot of shows won’t allow to happen.
What I didn’t: Most of this episode. A lot of the fears didn’t make a great deal of sense. The clunky, last minute addition of Lena’s childhood memory really telegraphed what was coming. I’m not sure why it was a good idea, when fighting creatures with mental abilities, to leave one of the psionically gifted characters at home and bring a few powerless humans. Brainy’s fear in particular was just plain weird and an attempt to get some laughs.
I don’t like that the Arrowverse is losing so many shows, but I’m getting to the point where I’m going to be ok with this one going away. This was just not a good episode. I’m giving this a low 2 out of 5, saved from a 1 mostly by what they did with J’Onn.
When the show comes back for their final episodes, I hope they get their act together.