Supergirl 5×19 Review – Character & Story Tug of War

Supergirl 5x19 - Supergirl and Lena Luthor
Supergirl -- "Immortal Kombat" -- Image Number: SPG519A_0262r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

It really speaks to the scrappy willpower of the entire Arrowverse cast and crew that the finales to these COVID-19-aborted seasons don’t suck. In any other year that would be a back-handed compliment, but right now? It’s genuine praise. Supergirl‘s finale is no exception. The show has struggled to maintain my interest this year even as an avowed fan of the series and of Melissa Benoist’s take on the character, but the finale makes good on a lot of the emotional build-up and makes the most of its generally very good cast. Spoilers follow for The CW’s Supergirl Season 5, Episode 19, “Immortal Kombat.”

“Immortal Kombat”

Continuing this season’s trend of constantly referencing Mortal Kombat for some reason, the Supergirl season finale is titled “Immortal Kombat.” It marks the showdown between Supergirl and Leviathan, a league of immortal aliens that has controlled Earth’s population for millennia through disasters, disease, and other means.

This is a big action-packed episode that spends a lot of time on fighting and not nearly as much on plot, so a few particular moments stick out from the rest.

Alex gets Super

Since Supergirl‘s inception, Alex Danvers has been the show’s resident Space Cop. Kara’s relation to Alex made her a defacto government representative until things started to break bad last year and then flipped on their head after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Alex left the DEO this year, marking a moment of huge growth for the character. Alex suffered an identity crisis in the aftermath of her exit, and last week’s destruction of the DEO certainly didn’t help. It was her girlfriend, Kelly, who suggested last week that if Alex wants to continue working with the Super Friends, she might want to consider gearing up with something more substantial than a hoodie.

Unveiling her new supersuit is a great finale moment. The suit itself seems inspired by the version of the Supergirl costume Alex wore in her VR episode. It’s funny, though, that Kelly suggested specifically that Alex consider a mask and that Alex’s response to that was to put on flashy eyeshadow and a dye streak suggestive of a mid-life crisis. Eyeshadow and a hood are Alex’s version of a mask. I’m sure she’ll be hearing from the estate of Oliver Queen before too long.

Tons of Action

Kara and Lena

There is, as I mentioned, quite a bit of action this week. The heroes split up, with J’onn and M’gann both pretending to be Supergirl. One of the genuinely funny moments has J’onn’s voice coming out of Kara’s mouth, a gag that worked well a season or two ago, too. The show hasn’t overused it, so seeing it again was fun.

With the team split up, they end up each fighting a different immortal before they end up fighting with the two groups united. I can’t say that Supergirl has the best action of the season; it depends more on VFX perhaps even more than The Flash and that limits it somewhat. But I still enjoy seeing the heroes working together, and there’s a lot of that here.

Kara and Lena

The real emotional heart of the episode, though, comes from the emotional journeys of its core characters. Last week ended with Lena showing up at Kara’s door in tears. Lena’s turn toward the dark side began last season and lasted through this entire year. It wasn’t until the depth of Lex’s betrayal hit Lena that she understood her mistake. Kara, to her credit, doesn’t forgive Lena immediately, and much of this episode is the two of them contending with the mistakes both have made.

These are the best scenes of the episode and some of my favorite of the season. A lot of superhero stuff can get really silly, but as Legends of Tomorrow proves week after week, having a solid emotional core powering the relationships on a show gives license to do lots of really silly stuff. The scenes between Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath are as good as it gets. Lena’s tearful apology and Kara’s stern, guarded expression are heartbreaking. When Acrata comes to assassinate Supergirl and Lena gets in the way, that moment hit with full emotional force. To see Kara and Lena working together again is awesome.

Brainy, too

Similarly, Brainy has been on the outs since the Crisis, working with Lex under the impression that doing so is the only way to stop Leviathan. We’ve watched Brainy struggle and become increasingly frustrated as Lex stymies him and keeps him isolated from his friends. So when he finally makes a decision this week and goes full Brainiac-5 to capture Leviathan’s element benders in one of his Coluan shrinking containers, it’s a relief to see him make some moves and put himself in harm’s way. I also love the move toward the more comic-accurate costume the show has taken this season, and I wish we could see more of him in it.

Levithan is a snooze

Lex Luthor and Leviathan

The thing that stands out to me as my least favorite aspect is how the show resolves the whole Obsidian VR thing. I haven’t bought into this whole storyline since the beginning. It’s a combination of pseudoscience, huge logical leaps, and an uninteresting concept. The resolution is for Kara to go into VR and talk to everyone on earth and convince them to stop talking to their dead loved ones in VR. I’m generally in favor of giving Kara problems she can’t punch, but nothing about this particular problem has worked for me since the beginning. I’m willing more than most to suspend my disbelief and just let things happen, but that only works when I’m enjoying what’s happening.

If it wasn’t for the emotional arc of Kara and Lena’s relationship and the consistent presence of Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor, this season would’ve felt like a total bust. It’s been frustratingly unfocused and overly complex throughout, with little in the way of explanations to keep us going.

That cast though

The cast is really the draw this year, and this finale highlights that. The cast and their characters drive all of this season’s best moments; and most of that was work they did in previous seasons. An overly-complex story fails the show again and again. Yet another wealthy heiress buys Catco, there’s an implausible VR technology that somehow nearly half the world can afford, and it’s all run by this secret organization of like six people, and the most interesting thing about them is that Lex Luthor really wants to hang out with him.

I’m more interested by Lex bringing the captured immortals to his mother, Lilian, at the end of the episode, than I am in literally anything that Gemma, Rama Khan or the other completely undeveloped immortals did throughout the entire season. Last year’s story gave us a villain that the show took the time to draw out in great detail. Ben Lockwood’s Agent Liberty persona made sense for him. I understood how Lockwood came to his conclusions, even as I disagreed. Leviathan is none of that. They just want to kill humans because that’s what they do, but they do it a lot, and secretly. Who cares?

What I care about is virtually every moment Lena has with Kara or Lex. I care about J’onn’s friendships with Kara and Alex. I care about Nia and Brainy. That stuff is great, and I’m hungry for more of it. But I’m deeply and utterly done with Leviathan.