Supergirl 6×16 Review – Family is a Nightmare

Supergirl -- “Nightmare in National City” -- Image Number: SPG616fg_0015r -- Pictured: Peta Sergeant as Nyxly -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

After six seasons, Supergirl is now in its endgame. We have, after this week’s episode, just four weeks left with the Girl of Steel. The show takes big steps this week to set up where the show is heading in its final arc. Spoilers follow for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 16, “Nightmare in National City.”

“Nightmare in National City”

NIA CONFRONTS HER SISTER — Kara (Melissa Benoist) lands her dream story for Catco but when the city is suddenly attacked by a nightmare monster at the same time as her interview, she is forced to take a serious look at her life and decide if she can continue to live as both Kara and Supergirl. As Dreamer (Nicole Maines) takes the lead on the search for the Dream Totem, which can vanquish they nightmare monster in National City, she realizes she needs to ask her sister Mauve (guest star Hannah James) for help. Old wounds resurface as the two sisters come face to face.

As Nyxly and the Super Friends go after the Dream Totem, we end up with an episode that will be crucial for the futures of both Supergirl and Dreamer. For Supergirl it’s about identity and commitment, while Dreamer’s is about family, communication, and second chances.

Dream a little dream

In search of the Dream Totem, Nia finds herself at her sister’s office, where she’s a college professor. The last time we met the sister, Maeve, it was a tough time for Nia. Maeve had believed she would get the Dreamer powers, but they went to Nia instead. Maeve, who had been preparing for the powers her whole life, was deeply hurt. In her pain, Maeve made some deeply transphobic statements to her sister, putting a wedge between the two that would last until, well, this episode.

It turns out that while Nia wields the powers, Maeve has a deep and nuanced knowledge of the Dream Dimension and the two end up working together to explore the Dream Dimension, realizing that neither has the skillset to do so alone.

This storyline is, of course, deeply personal for Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal. While she doesn’t have dream powers in real life (that we know of), she’s likely gone through some conversations that closely mirror the ones Nia has with Maeve. Whether she’s pulling from those or just a good actor (she is that as well, at least as Nia), these sequences really ring.

Confronting family

Nia struggles with working with her sister. Maeve hurt her in some the kinds of ways that aren’t easily forgiven. Maeve tries to apologize early on, but Nia doesn’t have any of it. It’s not until they’re fighting Nyxly together that the two start to reconcile.

I don’t have a lot to say about this thematically, but the performances are excellent and I liked the way it was written. Nia has felt like a character bigger than just Supergirl, and this storyline makes me feel like she has more than four episodes left in her. It’s hard to imagine her with her own show, but I’d love to see her pop up on Legends of Tomorrow or The Flash or something like that.

Kara prepares for the future

Meanwhile, Kara really is prepping for the final episodes and makes some big personal moves. Supergirl isn’t the first and won’t be the last superhero show to have the character struggle with which identity is most important to them; it’s at the core of many Spider-Man stories for example, and even the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home. But because it’s a television show instead of a movie, Supergirl gets to show us more of Kara’s life alongside Supergirl’s.

We’ve watched throughout this season as her battle with Nyxly continues to pull her away from her day job as a prestigious reporter. It comes to a head when she plans a major political interview but is pulled away by the nightmare beast that Nyxly unleashed on the city and the city’s response to it.

Thankless Jobs

This episode does a good job of framing things from Kara’s perspective. She feels these pulling obligations held up by, honestly, some pretty irritating people. At her job, Kara is trying to arrange an interview between the leaders of Kaznia and Corto Maltese, and her boss, Andrea, wants to turn it into an “Oprah and the Royals” fluff piece.

As Supergirl, she and her team have erected a force field around the city to stop the nightmare beast from attacking the nuclear power plant, which would kill tens of thousands and make even more people sick as it irradiates the surrounding area. However, the mayor orders her to take it down despite the danger, and people begin mobbing up to protest it after one day. This is meant to be a kind of hamfisted metaphor for lockdown and social distancing; the mayor specifically uses the phrase ‘sheltering in place’ which has a specific connotation these days.

And so Kara is presented with two jobs, both important in their own ways, and both thankless. I found myself actively thinking throughout the episode, these people aren’t worth helping. It’s a frustrating consequence of making the show as current and relevant as it is. Especially with CatCo, I found myself wishing Kara would just quit.

And then she does.

Taking a Stand

It’s not a rash move; as she examines her responsibilities and obligations, Kara realizes that if she’s going to be Supergirl, she can’t also be a writer in residence at CatCo. This is a job she’s held since Season 2, and a place she’s been since years before the show began telling her story, making this a monumental change for her. We don’t see the fallout of that just yet, aside from Andrea’s stunned expression.

It has me wondering–and we’ll know soon enough–what Kara’s future looks like. Is she going to retire from being Supergirl? That seems unlikely, especially now. Will she die? That doesn’t seem like something Supergirl would do. Will the show just have her ride off into the sunset, promising a long future of protection for National City? Right now, I genuinely don’t know.

With four weeks left, I’m eager to see if the show can give Kara an ending that respects the character and show and feels good to watch. Having Kara make decisive moves now seems like a good omen.