Unlike Batwoman and The Flash, which spent a solid seven episodes finishing off the previous season, Supergirl seems to have managed it with just one episode. The premiere rushed through the right parts–boring Leviathan stuff–to focus on Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor, one of the show’s very best assets. Now, we seem to be properly into the show’s final season. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 2, “A Few Good Women.”
“A Few Good Women”
We have two main storylines this week: Kara waking up in the phantom zone, and Lex being on trial for trying to murder one half the world and enslave the other half. Crimes against literally all of humanity. A slam dunk case, probably, right?
It’s hard to tell how much time has passed here for a couple of reasons. The way the characters are talking and acting, it’s been a few days. But Lex’s trial is already getting underway. In America, we’re watching a trial on television for an event that happened almost a year ago, which has a video of the event taking place. For Lex to go to trial would take a few months at the minimum.
Next, when Kara wakes up in the Phantom Zone, the bangs she sported last season are gone. Those take three months to grow out, according to our all-knowing friend, Google. Of course, Kara Danvers isn’t a real person, and while it’s been a few days on Earth-Prime, nearly a year has passed for star Melissa Benoist, who has since had a kid. It’s a silly plothole caused by the realities of television production and a pandemic, and honestly doesn’t mean an actual thing to the show.
But both of these together, though, are just a reminder that ultimately, even as we try to treat superheroes as serious dramatic characters, a lot of the stuff that happens around them is silly nonsense. I’m here for it, though.
While the COVID Ending of last season only carried over into one episode, it’s impossible to miss how COVID-19 precautions influenced the making of at least this episode.
On the Lex Luthor side, we have a trial occurring in a nearly empty courtroom, with the jurors watching remotely, each with their own screen and space. In the courtroom are Lex, the judge, the prosecutor, and the current witness–that’s it. I could see a non-COVID-related episode done this way, too, but in some kind of sci-fi Lex-proof holding cell or something. Here, it’s just a courtroom.
Supergirl, meanwhile, is trapped in the Phantom Zone, and most of her time is spent either in a state of semi-consciousness or talking to her father who, in a last-season twist, is alive and has been trapped in the Phantom Zone since Krypton exploded. I kind of suspect he may not actually be her father, but we’ll see how it plays out.
In both cases, we’re looking at our stars in mostly empty, quite large spaces, and it’s impossible to miss how much of an effect the precautions had on storytelling and production. It’s entirely possible that with Benoist being a new mother, the showrunners took precautions even further than they would’ve otherwise. On Batwoman, The Flash, and Black Lightning, we can see these precautions, but only at the very edges of the story.
Is this really the Phantom Zone?
I really want to talk about Supergirl‘s portrayal of the Phantom Zone. The Phantom Zone has always been kind of a non-place, often depicted as a flat sheet of nothing that the imprisoned person is trapped inside. The trouble with sending a television character to a non-place is that you can’t film a person in a place that doesn’t exist. I don’t mean a fantasy realm, but a place of unexistence. So they had to make up what this non-place would look like. The answer the showrunners eventually came to is quite possibly the least interesting option imaginable.
The Phantom Zone of Supergirl is a rocky, craggy place lined with trenches and caves. It’s black, gray, and brown. It’s the Meh Dimension. The Di-Meh-nsion. (I’m so sorry.) Along with any prisoners trapped there, though, the place is also inhabited by Phantoms. So instead of being a zone, or place, that is phantom, or non-existent, it’s now an actual place where things called phantoms live.
To my knowledge–which admittedly has big gaps–this is not how the Phantom Zone has ever worked. In addition to diverging from comics lore in a pretty significant way, it calls Kryptonian justice into pretty significant question. The Phantom Zone was meant to be a humane way to imprison dangerous people, a timeless, placeless prison for the most dangerous criminals.
Instead, it’s Boring Hell. You don’t age, hair doesn’t grow, time doesn’t pass, but you’re being tormented by Phantoms until the literal end of time. It turns the Phantom Zone from a fun Deus Ex Machina to a genuinely messed up thing that Kryptonians were doing, justifying all of the anger that former inhabitants have shown.
The Trial of All Time
Back in the real world, we have Lex Luthor who, again, committed crimes against literally the entirety of humanity. He’s rushed to trial, where they have a single witness, Eve Teschmacher, and literally no physical evidence. At the trial, they’re litigating specifically these crimes and nothing else he’s done, such as sending the hero of Central City to Boring Hell, attacking his own sister, destroying Obsidian technology, et cetera. The trial is over in hours after Lex single-handedly dismantles Eve’s case and then, after a surprise testimony by Lena, is found not guilty by people who like a Straight Talker.
And this is all just impossible to believe. If people were going to take Lex to trial, they’d be way better prepared than having one former accomplice as a witness, zero evidence to present, and a jury who is easily taken in by a Cool Speech. What this really was meant to do is get Lex back out of jail quickly while also making him into a kind of metaphor for the politicians and celebrities who are popular for “Straight Talk,” which is another way to say “Lies That Sound Nice To People Who Don’t Think.”
The end result is that this feels cheap and rushed. Bringing Lex to trial seems like something that should be cathartic, the result of careful planning by Supergirl, Lena, and others. Not this weird slapdash soap opera trial. I’m used to the CW doing silly stuff, but this feels below even that stuff.
If this episode is what we’re going to get as a result of COVID precautions, maybe the showrunners should’ve waited another six months. Start airing Arrow again.
On the upside, the episode starts with the team hunting down a vampire, which is apparently not a supernatural creature, but an extraterrestrial from the planet of Transilvane. Transilvane is a thing from early 1970s issues of Superman’s Pal: The New Jimmy Olsen comics, and it’s a small planet that looks like this:
Transilvane in the comics is the home planet of vampires, werewolves, mummies (seriously). It’s a weird, silly but extremely deep cut and I love seeing weird stuff like that make it into the show. I just wish they would’ve done more with it than give a guy fangs.
There’s also a great moment where Brainy gives Nia a peptalk when she’s worrying about her underdeveloped powers, and it’s a good performance by both actors. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I also love just about every moment that Katie McGrath is on the screen despite the fact that she can’t hide her Irish accent for crap. She’s a great actor and has done a killer job of bringing Lena Luthor to life for the show.
This season of Supergirl is not starting out great. The premiere was solid and satisfying, but this episode suggests that perhaps the COVID-related precautions and possibly Benoist’s (reasonable) desire to get out from in front of the camera and spend time with her kid are too much for the show to bear.