Supergirl: The Final Gauntlet

Should I raise my arms more to make the symbolism even more blatant?

Supergirl has run for six seasons, making friends, allies, and enemies, taking part in crossovers, and and trying to find their niche in the Arrowverse. There have been a lot of changes and shifts, new faces, and losses. Now we’re down to the final two episodes as the “Super Friends” (I guess my hope for a better name isn’t happening) clash with Nyxly and Lex in the race for the Totems to create the All-Stone which is supposed to grant unstoppable power. Things keep getting worse as the team faces “The Final Gauntlet.”

Last episode ended with the death of William Dey and abduction of Esme, who somehow or other has the love totem on her back now. Not done with shock and grief, the team gets a video recording from Lex. The arch-villain is his usual psychopathic self and leaves a message dictating terms and threats and utter indifference to anyone else’s feelings. The exchange is some weird place where powers and tech doesn’t work (remember that point, the writers won’t). The team debates what to do, as a few go try some useful things while Supergirl and Alex argue over what to do. There have been a lot of weird accelerations without build ups this season, and one of those is Alex’s fanatical devotion to Esme. I get opening your heart to take someone into your home (how they got approved is something else that was never explained), but Alex is acting like she gave birth to Esme and has cared for her for years.

The exchange comes with a deadline, and we keep seeing a countdown during some of the scene shifts. With 14 hours to go, Lex goes to one of his hideouts, with Nxyly and Esme, where Mitch and Phillipe (Lex’s butler) are already waiting. There’s some disagreement about snacks and how to handle Esme, and a really heartbreaking statement of resignation from the little girl. Nxyly tries to make use of the totem, which doesn’t really work, and brings a change that puzzles both her and Lex. Lex makes a Disney mention, and he and Nxyly argue about how to proceed. Nxyly is suddenly a lot less ruthless than we’ve ever seen her, and I’m not sure what prompted the change. If we didn’t already know what Esme’s power was, I’d wonder if she was manipulating people into taking care of her. Nxyly pushed Lex on the issue, and he gives his usual, weaselly kind of answer. Andrea suits up as Acrata, which somehow lets her home in on the Tower. I know this isn’t how her power works in the comics, but her abilities have been very ill-defined on this show. Either way, Lena finds her, almost shoots her, doesn’t react to the costume, and they talk about how Andrea can change and we see the Super Friends are horrible at clean up.

At 10 hours left, Supergirl and Martian Manhunter share their losses and determination for the future. They talk briefly about William’s death and promise they’re going to make sure they don’t lose anyone else. Lex argues with himself as he toys with a chess set, and then his mother portals in. Does everyone have those now? She’s her usual horrible self, and is stunned when Lex tells her some things. It’s a typical Luthor family scene, and just as warm and understanding as you’d expect from that. While Lex makes a surprising choice and Lillian storms off in a huff, Nxyly tries to bond with Esme. They talk about drawing and family, Nxyly makes another attempt at using the totem, and an earlier problem gets worse.

As Lex looks menacing and thoughtful, Alex has a small-scale breakdown and Kelly tries to comfort and reassure her. The two of them repeat a line that was ominous when it kept cropping up over in Avengers: Endgame. As they rejoin the others, we learn the final totem has been found, and Supergirl flies off to get it. Brainy comes up with something for Dreamer, and the two of them go off on another side quest together. With 2 hours left to go, Supergirl gets the last totem. There’s no real challenge for this one, because things are inconsistent and the writers have something else in mind. Alex shows up as Sentinel and does something understandable but remarkably selfish and pretty much against everything we’ve seen from her character for the five seasons before this one. She and Kara argue for a bit, and then Sentinel portals away, because I guess they’re giving those out to everyone now. Nxyly appears to be gathering up some toys (again, when did she start getting this nice?) when Lillian pops by for a visit. Lillian says some horrible things about her son, and plants the seeds of doubts in Nxyly’s head. The Luthors are amazing manipulators, one and all.

Supergirl returns to the Tower and tells everyone about the developments with Alex. I get being friends, and teammates, and found family and all that, but one of the most unbelievable things about this episode is that everyone is ok with this. Brainy has another idea, but there’s a good reason he hasn’t brought it up until now. Continuing the odd dynamic we’ve seen a few times this season, one of the El family gets very “the end justifies the means,” while a Luthor points out that this is morally dubious and not the best idea. Everyone else keeps their opinions to themselves, which also seems out of character. With twenty minutes left to go, Lex decides to take matters into his own hands. His backstabbing attempt goes awry when Mitch continues to be inexplicably loyal to the woman who commandeered his ship, got it destroyed, and has been nothing but mean to him when not under external compulsion. Lex and Nxyly argue, something changes, and Lex can’t resist a very ill-timed “I told you so.” Nxyly says some horrible things, makes Lex wonder about his mother, and departs. Lillian comes by and Lex is weirdly forgiving of her as he plots something new.

At the designated meeting place, where no power or tech works, Sentinel and Guardian show up to meet Nxyly and Esme. Esme is delighted to see her two mothers while the others leap into ill-considered action. J’Onn hijacks a satellite, Brainy helps with the controls, and Supergirl really manages to paint herself as a public menace. The totems do weird and unexpected things, as Supergirl gets a power up and starts to finally figure out how bad an idea this was. Brainy faces down armed troops and the Secretary of State, which is now an armed position? Somehow? Considering Brainy is about to go back to the future, it’s not a big thing for him, but I can’t imagine it’s going to make anything better for the team. The entire affair apparently runs off physics like Star Trek, where 100% is when things happen, but absolutely no negative effects happen up to that point. The Girl of Steel makes a really lame statement to everyone, then takes the powerful members of her team to go help the others.

As if things weren’t complicated enough, Lex and Lillian show up at the exchange point, and Lex sets off a series of explosions. How does he do this where tech doesn’t work? No idea. There’s a weird version of keepaway as the totem goes through some changes, and a several sided fight with the heroes, Lex and Lillian, and Nxyly. Mitch apparently wisely sat this one out. The power ends up being divided, in part because Supergirl seems to have forgotten she has superspeed. The battle goes on for a while, there’s a surprising act of selflessness, and everyone splits up as some characters make some surprising changes.

The power being used has some horrible effects on what’s supposed to be humanity in general, but seems to be limited to National City. I say this in part because that’s most of what we see, and in part because a character we haven’t seen in several episodes makes a speech that somehow counters the totems’ powers. The speech is local, but starts undoing everything. Inspired, Supergirl frowns determinedly and flies off, looking for the second part of the finale I guess.

What I liked: This was another of the rare episode they allowed Brainy to be effective as more than just a guy pressing buttons. I loathe the character, but Lillian is true to herself at least. I don’t see how it’s going to survive coming events, but Dreamer and Brainy’s relationship is very strong and healthy. Lena is a powerful moral force on the team, which is weird, but interesting growth for her.

What I didn’t: There are a lot more portal devices around than we knew of, and I don’t know where they’re all coming from. Alex is being selfish and has manifested a remarkably deep emotional bond in very little time. The bridge thing was supposed to stop all kinds of stuff, but apparently only worked occasionally. Most of the team standing silent as Supergirl made that incredibly bad choice is way out of character. And, shared world problem again, with the way she’s been acting, she really should have gotten a visit from her cousin or her really fast friend by now at the very least.

There are a lot of balls in the air for a one-hour finale being all that’s left. I’m going to miss a lot of these characters, but this uneven writing I’m fine with not seeing any more of. I’m giving this a 2 out of 5. Let’s hope they pull something amazing off for the very end.

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