If you’re a superhero of the people, it’s only a matter of time before you end up doing PSAs. Captain America did it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now it’s Supergirl’s turn to do the same over on the CW. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 10, “Still I Rise.”
“Still I Rise”
If anything, the previous episode was a primer for this one, and they don’t let us wonder about that for very long. Just a few minutes into the episode, one of the best moments in the entire run of Supergirl drops. Last week’s episode felt like a PSA, a Very Special Episode, and that tone works pretty well for this show. But now the characters are in on it.
After realizing last week that using her platform to represent the causes of others, Supergirl is actively looking for causes to represent, and that leads to Brainy’s well-meaning but tone-deaf suggestion to film a PSA asking kids to eat their greens. It feels like something straight out of a 1970s Superfriends cartoon. And it probably is, honestly.
The video is hilarious thanks to Benoist’s intentionally terrible acting–Supergirl is uncomfortable with the idea of the PSA, but feels talked into it by Brainy. It’s less like Supergirl is on screen and more like Kara is wearing Supergirl’s suit and acting in her place. It’s really good.
The rest of the episode is… okay. It’s fine.
This episode smartly admits that you can’t solve systemic racism by fixing one thing. After getting Orlando out of the corrupt prison program that was exploiting his powers to commit crime, Supergirl finds out that the housing that Orlando was depending on for himself and his brother has fallen through as the city council is going to sell the building and its land off to a giant tech company.
Thankfully, the tech company isn’t the villain here. In fact, the villain is secondary to everything going on here. The tech company is expanding, as companies do under capitalism, and the city council is making a choice that would bring in lots of money to the community and city. However, the decision has a heavy human cost as the gentrification of the neighborhood pushes out people who live there and keeps formerly incarcerated individuals like Orlando out of the space in the first place.
Not a flashback
Looking at Supergirl’s past, it seems like the show would go right to calling the tech company the bad guys, but we don’t even meet anyone from the corporation itself–it’s just a faceless, intentionless conglomerate. Chillingly realistic.
The closest thing to an actual villain in the housing crisis aspect of this episode is the councilwoman who supports the company’s cause remorselessly and looks down on people like Orlando who have been in the American carceral system. She’s a bit of a caricature, but only a little.
The actual comic-book villain comes in the form of Nyxly. After being picked up by Mitch, the assistant to the Zookeeper from the flashback episodes, Nyxly manipulates Mitch and an alien scientist into creating an ice bomb for her.
A Dreamer Dreams
Across the city, Nia is having her day with her deceased mother, who tells her in no uncertain terms that in making a deal with Nyxly, she’s unleashed something truly dangerous on the city and world. Nia has been a superhero for a couple years now, but these deep dives into her inner life and feelings are doing a lot to expand the character. It’s a shame the show is ending. I’m hoping in the back of my mind that maybe she ends up joining the Legends of Tomorrow crew.
After a moving speech from Orlando, Nyxly puts the council meeting to an abrupt end when the building they’re all in–the one they’re trying to sell off to the corporation–starts to shake. Everyone gets out, of course, and Kelly has a brief moment to show how she’s growing as the Guardian-to-be. I appreciate that they’re not shoving her into the role suddenly, but rather reminding us that she has training and then showing us that she has instincts.
After the evacuation, the council votes to keep the building as community-focused housing rather than selling it off, though the one councilwoman lets Supergirl know in no uncertain terms what she thinks of the whole thing.
In the final moments of the episode, Supergirl encounters Nyxly, now powered up by the bomb blast, and calls Mr. Mxyzptlk out of desperation. His last appearance was one of the best episodes of Season 5, and I’m a big fan of the actor who plays him, so I’m all for this.
But even with the comic-book stuff, this is unquestionably still a Very Special Episode–right down to it having a moral lesson. Supergirl realizes that doing PSAs about vegetables might not be the best use of her time, and instead that she should use her platform to amplify the voices of people who are underserved by the current system.
This is corny, somewhat ham-fisted space, but it feels like a good fit for Kara Zor-El as we know her on this series, and I don’t hate it. The show seems to be focused on Supergirl figuring out how to be the most super she can be rather than worrying about finding a boyfriend or something like that, and it’s overall doing wonders for the show’s watchability. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I hated season 5 of Supergirl almost as much as I hated season 7 of The Flash.