A television episode designed to celebrate a show’s 100-episode run should feel like cheap fanservice. Not that it’s supposed to, but rather that episodes like these often do. Instead, the episode we got is one of the best of the season, if not the best. The writers cleverly used the idea of looking back at the past four-plus years of Supergirl to not just revisit some of the show’s biggest characters but also to examine the relationship between Kara and Lena that turned from BFF to AEFL (arch-enemies for life). It’s a heartfelt episode that gives Kara and Lena both places from which to start moving forward. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 5, Episode 13, “It’s a Super Life.”
“It’s a Super Life”
In case the episode title wasn’t a clue, we’re doing an “It’s a Wonderful Life” schtick here. Kara doesn’t have a Guardian Angel watching her, but she does have a fifth-dimensional imp named Mr. Mxyzptlk. Last time we met Mxy, he was trying to talk Kara into marriage, and the team banished him by getting him to say his name backward. Kara’s drowning in guilt over the turn Lena’s taken when Mxy shows up. Only we find out that Mxy has suffered some consequences for his bad behavior, and he can’t use his powers except to help people, or so he says. He can help Kara with Lena, or so he says. He even hands Kara a tape recorder of him saying his own name backward as a show of good faith. I don’t trust Mr. Mxyzptlk.
But I do like him, because this time around, Mr. Mxyzptlk is portrayed by comedian Thomas Lennon of MTV’s The State, Viva Variety, Reno 911, and about a million other things. He’s a silly actor who can pull off looks and affectations that would be hard to believe on other actors. That immediately endeared me to this “reformed” Mxy.
With Kara’s permission, Mxy teleports J’onn and Alex away to play paintball. They seem pretty okay with this turn of events.
And thus our look back begins. Mxy says that he can take Kara back to any point in her history and show her how life would’ve changed if she’d made a different decision. She can look as far ahead as she likes, and if she likes it, he can make it happen.
Kara starts to go back through her memories, and can’t help but cringe at the awkward lies she made up to keep Lena in the dark and try to protect her.
What happened to ‘then?’ We’re past then. When? Now.
Each time they go back, Mxy has a different medium to do it on. First, he’s showing her memories on an old film projector. Then he gets out a laptop and loads up Myxflyx, which has Kara’s life conveniently organized into five seasons of Supergirl. But that runs into buffering problems, so they switch media again.
Each time, Mxy acts exactly as he’s promised, and I’m starting to believe him by this point. The first look back cuts away to Kara and Mxy crying together. Supergirl doesn’t get a lot of chances to do slapstick comedy, and in this case it works really well.
Each time Kara goes back and changes something, though, there’s a ripple effect. Something goes wrong. She tells Lena too late and Lena turns on her. Too early, and Lena ends up getting hurt. She doesn’t tell her at all and Lena ends up being turned into Metallo by her mother and running Central City with her fifth-dimension-powered Lexosuits.
Weirdly, no one has a goatee
The show plays with each of these in interesting ways. Chris Wood (Mon-El and also Melissa Benoist’s real-life husband), Odette Annable (Samantha/Reign), and Sam Witwer (Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty) all make appearances as Kara’s decisions ripple through their lives. Jeremy Jordan stayed on for one more episode, too, to help with those earlier seasons and the very latest stuff.
In that last pseudo-apocalyptic version, Lena has Brainy and Reign under her control. Jimmy Olsen’s sister Kelly became Guardian, and Dreamer has a “dark future” scar across her face. This dark future gives the show an excuse for cool what-if versus fights. Kara gets wrecked by Metallo-Lena against a red-lit backdrop. J’onn unmakes Reign with the staff that caused him so much heartache in season 4. It’s a colorful fun fight that has no real consequences and makes the episode much more than just a clips episode.
And this could’ve been a clips episode. Instead, Mxy has Kara constantly jumping into her clips and interrupting them. Mxy comments on them, too. While Melissa Benoist might’ve ended up falling for Chris Wood, fans still struggle to see why Kara loved Mon-El aside from a mandate by the script.
Mxy: “I never understood what you saw in him.”
So say we all, space imp.
In the end, though, Kara realizes exactly what we’d guess she would based on the source material. Things happened how they did for a reason. Undoing them always hurts someone, and there’s no perfect past. Kara made the best decisions she could along the way, and Mxy’s rewind proves that Kara’s guilt is holding her back.
A way forward
Kara goes to Lena and tells her that she can’t undo her mistakes, but that she does take responsibility for them. She tells Lena, too, that no one but Lena is responsible for her own actions. Kara doesn’t cry, she’s not begging for Lena’s forgiveness. She tells Lena that if she wants to forgive her, she’s going to be there for her, but that she’s ready to fight if that’s what it comes down to.
This is a strong Kara with a new resolve. This feels hopeful. Lena is clearly shaken by Kara’s words. Maybe there is a path back to them being friends, and Kara’s now found a way to open that door. The show could let Lena walk through it and prove that the Luthor surname and genetics are not forcing her to do anything. And now, it feels like the show is in a place to make both of these characters’ decisions feel believable.
This could’ve been a dumb, silly look back. They could’ve stopped to have the actors comment on their roles, on the fun they’ve had making the show, and on the bright future ahead of it. Instead, they put a great comedic actor into the shoes of a cosmic prankster and used multimedia silliness to not just celebrate the show, but to put it in a place to move forward while also giving Mr. Mxyzptlk, which I can finally spell without googling it first, a nice redemption story that feels earned.
I’ve been frustrated over and over with this season of Supergirl, but Episode #100 might be among my favorite episodes.