Supergirl: Still I Rise

This PSA is cheesy and badly done and might be one of the highpoints of the episode. Sadly.

Supergirl’s final season has been remarkably uneven on many fronts. This particular episode has many of these problems all at once. There are a few good scenes, a few really bad ones, inconsistent internal logic, and characters using powers that don’t make sense, as well as forgetting powers and helpful coincidence. There will be more minor spoilers than usual in this review as I’m trying to illustrate my points. As an additional issue, the title, “Still I Rise,” was particularly puzzling as it didn’t really seem to apply to anyone or anything in the episode.

Last episode ended with Nia making a really bad choice and taking a deal from Nxy. To absolutely no surprise at all, it goes very Monkey’s Paw on her. Nia gets her temporary reunion with her mother, but with some serious restrictions and limitations. Nxy goes on her merry way after reuniting them, and Isabel, Nia’s mom, isn’t happy with her daughter for her choices. And I don’t blame her a bit. They actually spend some time with Isabel pointing out what a horribly bad idea this was, and I appreciate this. It’s one of the good points of the episode in my opinion. In a major change of gears, next up is Supergirl and Brainiac 5 doing a Public Service Announcement on healthy eating choices. It’s not well done, and very cheesy, but Supergirl both utterly overreacts to it and clearly didn’t set limits on things.

Elsewhere in the Tower, Alex is training Kelly, who has decided she wants to follow in her brother’s footsteps as Guardian. Of course, the big issue here, among others, is this group does a decent job with secret identities, which many Arrowverse shows don’t do. James, her brother, went very public with his Guardian ID. Guessing a new hero with the same name and gear might be his sister seems really easy. So there’s an issue. At any rate, Kelly is doing ok with the training, but not was well as she’d like. Supergirl comes to interrupt the training for no clear reason, but just happens to be there when Kelly gets the bad news that the housing arranged for Orlando and Joey, two characters from last episode, fell through. This introduces this week’s Big Problem, affordable housing/housing for recently released convicts.

A word or two before I go on: I think affordable housing and preventing convicts from reoffending are important issues. I’m in favor of working on both and calling attention to them. Unfortunately, the writers on Supergirl are consistently ham-handed when it comes to addressing social issues, where the ones on Batwoman seem much better at working them into the narrative. So as the review goes on, and I mock their handling of this situation, it’s a critique of the writing and choices on the show, not a lack of support for the issues themselves.

Feeling bad about the news she’s gotten, Supergirl flies off to find Orlando, who is very annoyed at a basketball court. He talks about the conundrum of needing an address to get a better job, needing a job to afford housing, and needing both to get custody of his brother. Supergirl agrees it’s a horrible issue, reassures Orlando she’s got his back, and flies off. Elsewhere, Nxy gets tracked, scanned, and abducted. A minor villain from several episodes is back and up to no good, and the two end up forming an alliance. He’s also radically changed in appearance, although I’m not sure why, and his initial plan here was foolish at best. He definitely bit off more than he could chew and just happened to get lucky.

Kara gets to work and goes on a mini-rant about affordable housing, while William is sympathetic and offers baked goods. Andrea heard parts of this, and, as always, took the marketing approach to the problem. While it’s frustrating, she’s not wrong. Andrea makes some good points, comes up with a solution to help both Kara and CatCo, and gets a fantastic line about “hashtags are battle cries,” which is a fairly profound comment on modern society. Nia goes into her dream woods for training, which goes badly. Nia’s a lot more emotional and/or out of control since this particular subplot started, and I can’t say I care for it. Elsewhere, a character I don’t care about captures a character we’ve never seen before. Oh, no, I guess?

Against her better judgement, Supergirl goes with Andrea’s idea, recruiting William to help her. It’s worth pointing out that this will be the second time recently that William has come through with a Supergirl story where Kara gets nothing. I wonder how long she’ll hold on to her job that way. At any rate, Supergirl begins pushing her affordable housing Agenda Of The Week, and gets hit right out of the gate by people bringing up opposing, and perfectly valid, points of view. As things go badly, she legitimately hears a call for help and goes to assist, but it looks really bad for her. She ends up running across an old foe and not stopping the crime in progress.

Back at the Tower, we get a lot of backstory about the returned foe, and I think Supergirl gets some of her own history wrong. A rhetorical question gets answered literally, and Supergirl decides to go speak to Councilwoman Rankin about the housing issue. As heavy-handed as the writing is this week, I’m amazed the Councilwoman wasn’t named Karen. Nia has some moments of enlightenment in her odd training, and her mother offers her some advice and a cliché. It would seem we’re being set up for more family drama for Nia.

Supergirl finds Rankin and they at first seem to just be on different sides for decent reasons. But, of course, we can’t have that, and Rankin’s bias shows up by the end of the conversation. Credit where it’s due; this would have been an easy episode to create yet another corporate bad guy, and they didn’t go that route, at least. Frustrated and getting nowhere, Supergirl returns to the Tower, and finds Kelly training. They commiserate a bit, Supergirl loses her temper briefly, and then they give each other pep talks on their respective problems. Kelly offers some useful insight, and Supergirl comes to a realization I wholeheartedly agree with for the way a lot of this season has been handled.

Nxy is off making complicated schemes and references to Earth history that I’m surprised she knows. Nia gets in a bit more time with her mother, and mom once again drives home the point that Nia screwed up with this deal of hers. Isabel’s time runs out, and she fades away after some last encouraging words. Nia is shaken, but then looks up with resolve to deal with the consequences of what she’s done.

Supergirl goes to the critical council vote, being held in the very building under debate, which is an odd choice. Rankin makes a cutting remark when Supergirl shows up, and the Girl of Steel wisely decides to change things up. She has Orlando speak about what the deal could cost him and how much it means to others in his position. He makes some great points, speaks from the heart, and sways many of the people there. And, of course, this is when Nxy strikes. She activates her device, threatening everyone, and it’s even strong enough to pose a threat to Supergirl. Nxy clearly has more than one thing going on, as she lures the other “Superfriends” to the site of her attack. There’s panic and chaos and a rushed evacuation of civilians, although oddly none of the supers use their powers to help get people out. Also, utterly bafflingly, Orlando was shown last week to have an EMP power. The thing causing all the problems is a device. No one seems to think, “Hey, maybe the guy with the EMP power could stop this thing.” But, Orlando is a Symbol now, a shorthand to represent a group, and not really a character anymore. Just like Councilwoman Rankin is white, blonde, and more concerned about corporate deals than poor people. Kelly saves the odious Councilwoman at one point in an improbable way, both in terms of what’s used and it just coincidentally resembling something she’s working towards. J’Onn helps Supergirl with the device, but not by phasing the device away or using any of his regular powers or superior experience with alien technology. Instead, he seems to have developed a new power that helps in a vague way, but keeps him out of the action. Brainiac manages to save a lot of people, and the immediate crisis ends. In the aftermath, Supergirl gets what she wanted, and Rankin really comes off like a cheap stereotype.

Still on her own, despite the enforced isolation being over, Nia goes back to her dreamworld to look into something. Then it’s time for another important Balcony Conversation, a recurring theme on the show. This time, Supergirl is feeling overwhelmed by going up against the system, and Brainy offers reassurance. J’Onn comes out with some slightly odd energy readings, and Supergirl decides to go check it out on her own. She ends up confronting what I presume will be the big bad for the remainder of the season. Supergirl is overmatched, effortlessly beaten, and sees something she worked hard for taken away as part of a villain monologue. In desperation, Supergirl makes a surprising call for help, and they’ve set up for an interesting confrontation next episode.

What I liked: Affordable housing is a complicated issue, and I give them credit for showing it as an actual, multi-faceted issue. I liked that Nia’s mother, Isabel, called Nia out on what she did. It was selfish and foolish. Jhaleil Swaby, who played Orlando, did a good job, especially with his speech near the end. As I said, I give them credit for not making the corporation that was involved in this episode the bad guy. Also, kudos for having ordinary citizens oppose Supergirl’s point of view from legitimate interest, not as part of a villainous plot. The last minute call for help was clever and unexpected.

What I didn’t: This is much, much longer. Nia was remarkably selfish and stupid in this deal she made. Even at the end, when she’s been out of touch of touch for an entire day, she dives right back into her own issues, and doesn’t reach out to her team or her boyfriend. J’Onn was used oddly, and they’ve given him a strange power I’ve never seen or heard mention of before. As I mentioned above, they collectively dropped the ball on Orlando’s power. And at the end, they have Supergirl go back to the site of an attack that was aimed at her by herself?

After some internal debate, I’m giving this a low 2 out of 5. It would have been lower, but they had some good parts amid the lesser bits. I really hope this final season gets better before it goes away. At present, I’d say this is easily the worst of the Arrowverse.