After a long hiatus to let Superman and Lois run their initial (and excellent) run, Supergirl returns for the second half of her sixth and final season. Finally, everyone’s been rescued from the Phantom Zone and the “Superfriends” (they really need a better name) are reunited. But not all is well and there’s all kinds of different trauma to work through in “Welcome Back, Kara,” which is no doubt a nod to the classic tv show “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
The episode opens with some really well-choreographed… well, I’m going to call it street ballet as Brainy moves a package through the busy streets of National City. It actually reminded me of some of the fight scenes where they’ve allowed him to be effective and fight in a way that made sense for a staggeringly high-level genius. He finally makes it back to the Watchtower, we see what’s being prepared for, and that the group has some thoughts on how Brainy has been handling his fears and anxiety. The Girl of Steel herself is having some nightmares while she basks under the yellow sun lamps and wakes up freaked out. Alex immediately is at her side, comforting her.
After we see just how rattled Kara is, she comes out to the main room and is surprised by the party the team is throwing her. It’s a small gathering, but very intense, and she gets lots of hugs. Kelly “couldn’t make it,” which is all we hear about her for the episode, which makes less sense as we go along. Zor-El is also there, and is impressed with J’Onn’s set up. The Martian is modest, and mentions the Tower has the benefit of many different types of alien technology coming together. Oddly, he gives no credit to the resident geniuses of Lena or Brainy, which seems like a big omission to me. J’Onn also manages to be remarkably insensitive, although he might not know how his words are hitting others, as he talks about reuniting with loved ones, which strikes Lena and Nia particularly hard. There’s some mention of bringing Zor-El to Argo City and reuniting him with his wife, but he says he’d like to see some of Kara’s home here on Earth.
In an ill-conceived plan, they bring Zor-El to CatCo, and follow the tradition of “glasses make the secret identity.” I’m not sure why they’re bothering, since Zor hasn’t really appeared in public at all and isn’t a well-known figure on Earth, but hey, I guess it’s the rule. The cover story is that he’s “Uncle Archie from Midvale.” In a remarkable lack of planning, Nia doesn’t tell Kara the cover story to explain Kara being gone so long until they’re in the elevator on the way up. Andrea is, at first, glad to see her wandering reporter home, but a lot less so when she hears that Kara’s not bringing a big story back with her. Andrea goes in a rant to the office about being eighth in the ratings for news sources, and is really not happy about this. Big meeting over, Kara catches up with William, and finds he, too, has moved on in the time she’s been gone, dating a doctor. Kara is not having a great return to Earth so far. Just to pile on, Andrea pulls her aside and demands some interviews with Supergirl. No pressure, right? This is also when Kara finds out about the Phantom attacks while she was trapped. Really, neither J’Onn nor Alex, skilled leaders that they are, thought to give Kara a briefing about what happened while she was gone?
After Nia helps cover up “Archie” using his powers, she takes him out on the balcony. His new powers catch sight of a falling satellite, and Zor-El and Supergirl leap into action, as he gets some on the job training in being a superhero. They guide the crash down into a big garbage patch just off the coast of National City, which promptly catches on fire. They manage to put that out, but we see some ominous shots that make it seem like there’s more trouble coming. Besides, it’s still early in the episode. Kara tries to spin the garbage patch mess into a story, dropping ties to the DEO and Lex Luthor. Andrea is mildly interested at best, but gives the story to William, making Kara stay on the task Andrea assigned: interviewing the victims of the Phantom attacks. Back at the Watchtower, Zor-El has been studying Earth’s environmental issues, and arrived at a weird conclusion, somehow deciding the oceans are the first step in the chain to Earth’s eventual destruction, like Krypton. How in the world ocean pollution makes a planet’s core go unstable and explode is beyond me, and even comic book science doesn’t really explain this. Despite both J’Onn and Supergirl telling him things are complicated, Zor is convinced he is going to be able to solve Earth’s pollution problems. But just in the ocean. When Zor brings up he needs records from Krypton, Kara brings him to the Fortress of Solitude (which not only looks different on Superman and Lois, but was destroyed over there).
Nia goes to the Watchtower searching for Kara, who isn’t answering her phone, and Andrea is looking for. I guess Nia doesn’t have anyone else’s numbers, so she had to leave work in the middle of the day to come check? Kara isn’t there, but Lena is, and the two of them talk about their dreams/nightmares in the Phantom Zone. At the Fortress, Zor is deep into blaming himself for pretty much everything, which Kara tries to talk him out of. They find Kel-Ex, the robot servitor of the Fortress, and Zor gets an idea. At CatCo, since I guess she can’t find anyone else to pick on, Andrea goes after William for his story, complaining he’s not blaming Lex. William explains why, and is perfectly right and rational, but she’s not happy with this.
Brainy and J’Onn arrive at the Watchtower, having dealt with another fire at the garbage patch. Supergirl and Zor arrive just behind them, and Zor-El is sure he can fix everything. Zor brings a new creation, something he’s modified with a cute name and a nod to Sesame Street. Most of the team aren’t sure about this approach, but Zor is adamant about fixing everything, and those who should know better let him go at it. Once again, in matter of high-tech issues, Brainy is strangely mute, allowing J’Onn to speak for him, which makes no sense. We also just now hear about Kryptonite being out there, but it didn’t affect the two Kryptonians earlier, possibly because the writers hadn’t thought of it yet. While Andrea shows some remarkably obsessive behavior and uses her Acrata medallion to sneak around Luthor Mansion, Zor-El’s plan goes off the rails, to no surprise at all. The rest of the team goes into action to find out what’s happening, and Zor’s helpful little cleaner bot emerges from the sea as a giant trash monster, because why not?
This gives us an excuse for the heroes to beat on a big CGI monster for a while, and Lena to type and frown concernedly as she gives advice from the Tower. Brainy manages to come up with a plan to save the day, and the others basically serve as a distraction for him. Supergirl’s anti-Kryptonite armor gets damaged and she looks really bad for a moment, but then is feeling good enough to take a trip to space under her own power a second later. Back at the Tower, Zor and Kara have a talk where he admits a lot of things he’s been feeling and denying, and then we’re told Brainy is ready to take him to Argo City (although I thought J’Onn was the only one with a functional spaceship). They get a last hug and Lena watches with a smile.
With a series of short scenes, the episode inches towards ending. Andrea decides on a new obsession to aim CatCo at, and William is the first one to get drafted in the new crusade. Nia and Lena share notes on their issues with Phantoms and family, and it sounds like Lena will be gone for a while. Alex and Kara hang out at Kara’s place and Kara is having massive writer’s block. She finally starts talking about how bad the Phantom Zone was for her, and Alex offers her some comfort and shares her own issues from when Kara was gone. They both sound like they are having different degrees of PTSD, and aren’t handling it well. Too bad they don’t know a counselor who specializes in that. Wait, what does Kelly do again? Ya know, the one who is conveniently absent this episode? The show ends with Nia having some kind of nightmare, which isn’t good with someone who can see the future in dreams.
What I liked: The opening scene with Brainy was fun to watch. The big reunion party was touching, and it’s nice to see how much everyone cares about Kara. It sounds like at least Lena has made some progress with her issues. Zor-El being so delighted with his powers was fun.
What I didn’t: There were so many holes in this episode. Kara’s having major PTSD when the one character who specializes in that “couldn’t make it.” We don’t even get a decent explanation as to where Kelly is. Andrea seems to be spinning out of control and picking a new obsession every few minutes. No one briefed Kara on what happened in her absence. Brainy didn’t speak up about major tech issues. Supergirl was clearly suffering from Kryptonite poisoning, but was ok enough to hurl something into space, which she did not at all need to do.
This show has arguably been the most uneven of the Arrowverse offerings, and that’s definitely the case here. I’ll give this a low 2 out of 5. I hope the rest of the season is better, or they’re going to be going off the air on a real low note.