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The Audacity of Hope: Supergirl Season 1 Finale, “Better Angels”


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The Audacity of Hope: Supergirl Season 1 Finale, “Better Angels”


Published on April 19, 2016

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

In the second half of the Supergirl season finale, Supergirl saves the minds of the human race with a stirring speech about hope. Then Indigo and Non double down with an even greater, deadlier threat to the humans’ lives that requires Kara to tap into a much darker place. The episode title is drawn from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861; I think it’s safe to say that Supergirl is that better angel of humanity’s nature, the paragon of virtue made all the more virtuous for getting up every time she stumbles.

Spoilers for Supergirl 1×20 “Better Angels.”

Now, am I the only one who thought that the Myriad plotline got wrapped up way too quickly? Last week was all about the media turning people into mindless drones but also an automaton army, too many threats and too many lives at stake for Supergirl to be able to save every single one. The few characters unaffected—Kara, Cat Grant, Maxwell Lord—were ruled by fear, by a need for control, and, yes, by hope. But this week, apparently hope easily overrode the other two. Instead of Maxwell bombing National City, Kara sent out a media bomb to every TV screen, smartphone screen, and confidential DEO screen about how the humans are her better angels.

Supergirl: People of National City, this is Supergirl, and… I hope you can hear me. We have been attacked, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, children, everyone, suddenly stopped by a force of evil as great as this world has ever known. Your attacker has sought to take your free will, your individuality, your spirit, everything that makes you who you are. When facing an attack like this, it’s easy to feel hopeless. We retreat, we lose our strength, lose ourselves. I know. I lost everything when I was young. When I first landed on this planet, I was sad and alone, but I found out that there is so much love in this world, out there for the taking. And you, the people of National City, you helped me. You let me be who I’m meant to be. You gave me back to myself. You made me stronger than I ever thought possible. And I love you for that. Now, in each and every one of you, there is a light, a spirit, that cannot be snuffed out, that won’t give up. I need your help again. I need you to hopeHope that you will remember that you can all be heroes. Hope that when faced with an enemy determined to destroy your spirit, you will fight back and thrive. Hope that those who once may have shunned you will in a moment of crisis come to your aid. Hope that you will see again the faces of those you love, and perhaps even those you lost.

That’s certainly inspiring, but… is that really all it took to shake Winn, James, and everyone else out of their daze? It made sense when, at the top of the episode, Eliza Danvers was able to get through to Alex—because she talked specifically about Jeremiah, and that was like flipping a switch for Alex. By contrast, Supergirl’s message isn’t specific enough to twang the heartstrings of most of National City. Yes, everyone is still raw from turning their backs on and then forgiving her, but that’s not the same as being reminded of a specific hope. Unless that specific hope is Supergirl herself, which, again, is a generalization.

But at least it gave us this great Cat line:

Cat: Supergirl is my protege. Reaching people is what I do.

It also seemed too easy that Non and Indigo decided “Whoops, guess we’ll just mentally nuke Earth and then try again on a new planet.” But it gave us the meat of the episode: Even though the part of Myriad that can block the amygdala and hope receptors has been interrupted, it’s still a powerful signal. So, they decide to take four hours (what a convenient amount of time) to amplify the signal and eventually explode everyone’s minds. That I found interesting—as someone who gets incapacitated by occasional migraines, I was interested in watching the DEO and CatCo teams struggle to come up with a solution when they could barely think.

Of course, they keep coming up with the same solution: It’s Supergirl versus Myriad, with no backup. J’onn J’onnz is wounded—poor guy got run through twice by Indigo’s blade—but also shackled because let’s not forget that he’s still supposedly a national security threat; and Superman is laughably knocked out in the season’s worst non-appearance.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review
Superman’s boot. His BOOT.

Surprisingly, Maxwell Lord actually seems to care about Kara’s fate at this point:

Maxwell: Chances are this is a suicide mission.

Supergirl: You know I’ll never stop trying.

Maxwell: Believe me, no one is rooting for you more than I am.

She asks him not to tell Alex how bad the odds are, and then goes off on a goodbye tour with all of the central characters. This was difficult to watch, partly because it started becoming so repetitive, and partly because I didn’t actually believe that they were going to kill off Kara. Maybe if the show had gotten cancelled, but seeing as we’re still waiting on the season 2 pickup, they couldn’t go quite that bleak.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

So, Kara thanks Winn for everything—for supporting her from the start, for being her first confidante (aside from Alex), for helping make the costume… and, if I’m reading the subtext correctly, for still being her friend even when she turned him down romantically.

James gets the requisite “I’m hurting you to save you” runaround, which I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than Steve Rogers saying goodbye to Peggy with a rain check on their date.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

But her goodbye to Cat is the best, because Cat Grant doesn’t take your shit.

Kara: Ms. Grant? I just want you to know that working for you is a true honor. You are my role model. You lead the city with such strength and grace, and underneath that prickly exterior… you have the biggest heart of anyone I know. I’m just trying to say thank you for being an amazing mentor and friend.

Cat: OK, so that was either my eulogy or your dictated suicide note. Is there something you need to tell me?

Kara: No, Ms. Grant, just following your advice. Carpe diem and all.

Cat: Well, you’ve made quite an impression on me, too, Kira.

At least Kara has someone in whom to confide:

J’onn: You’re saying goodbye or something?

Kara: I just… We both know what I’m up against. And I will save the Earth, I promise you that. I just don’t know if I’ll make it out alive. I didn’t say the things that needed to be said when I left Krypton, and I wanted to make sure that I said them now. Just in case.

J’onn: I was exactly where you are, Kara, and when I was, you told me to never give up.

Kara: I’m not giving up. My mother didn’t send me to Earth to fall in love with a human, have children, live in a house with a white picket fence. She sent me here to protect Kal-El, and now I will use my powers to protect the Earth. And if I die achieving that, I’m at peace with it. I’ll join my mother. We’ll be together in Rao’s light.

Oof. Various episodes this season have explored whether Kara can be “normal” in terms of work, success, love, etc. If she had stayed on Krypton and the planet had survived, she likely would be starting a non-superhero career and on her way to being a wife and mother, not unlike her own mother Alura. But the moment that Alura put her in that pod, Kara became a protector. There’s so much in this exchange: crushing disappointment for the future she has to say goodbye to for the second time; grief to lose her loved ones, more loved ones than she ever imagined happening; utter terror of the unknown; the small beacon of hope (yes, hope) that she would at least be reunited with her family.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review
Scenes From a Bromance: James+Winn 4eva
Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

But speaking of her Earth family…

J’onn: You didn’t say goodbye to your sister.

Kara: If I say goodbye, I’m never leaving.

The thing is, Kara is completely missing the fact that Alex is her better angel—her guardian angel, if we’re going to stretch Lincoln’s metaphor a bit. Even though she has seen Alex in action at the DEO, she still doesn’t comprehend that her tough, tender, ingenious sister could be a partner; all she’s focused on is letting Alex have that normal life that she can’t, and that Kara believes she somehow took from her:

Kara: I was sent to protect Earth, and that’s what I’m gonna do. I need you to promise me something. I need you to promise me that when you find Jeremiah you’ll tell him that I never stopped wearing the glasses. He needs to know that you and Eliza gave me a great life, a life I never thought I’d be able to find outside of Krypton. He needs to know that everything good I did, it came from you being my sister.

Alex: You taught me, Kara.

Kara: I want you to have a good life. I want you to find love and be happy. I want you to do all the things that being my sister kept you from doing.

But as we learned in the “Manhunter” flashbacks, Alex wasn’t doing so hot on her own, even separated from Kara. It was the DEO that gave her the structure and the purpose to refocus her life. It’s also the DEO that gives her a solution, in the form of Kara’s pod.

Just like Iron Man and the Iron Giant before him, Kara’s solution is to take the entire structure of Fort Rozz on a one-way trip into space. It’s incredibly fitting that this season is bookended by Kara lifting a ship to safety. The seconds are ticking down, and every human is about ready to pop…

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Success! Except that Kara can’t breathe in space. But she seems at peace.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

But look! What’s that? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—Alex piloting Kara’s pod like the fucking badass she is. (I am so glad that Chyler Leigh’s character got killed off Grey’s Anatomy years ago so that she was able to play Alex Danvers. She’s one of the best parts of this show.)

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

From there on in, it’s a usual season-finale wrap-up: J’onn is reinstated as Director of the DEO, but maybe he’s gonna co-lead with Lucy Lane? Maxwell Lord is back to being threatening, hefting some sort of bomb while General Lane looks on approvingly. Clark Kent helps out the best way he knows how:

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

And Cat Grant gives us a scare and then a thrill as she packs up Kara’s desk… only to move her into a private office for a “make your own job” promotion:

Cat: Kira, for the last two years you have done nothing but arrange my travel perfectly and manage my schedule flawlessly, and you have become the best assistant I have ever had. And that is why I have to give you up.

Kara: What am I… What do you want me to do?

Cat: Well, I want you to find me a new assistant, for starters. Then I want you to take a few days and think about what you want, and then think about what you might have to offer, and then we’ll talk.

Kara: Really? Anything I want?

Cat: Well, within reason. And the money won’t be much different, or any different, but this is a step up for you, Kira. This is your “end of Working Girl” moment. And if you take advantage of it, I really believe that you can change the world.

Kara: Ms. Grant? The end of Working Girl always makes me cry.

Cat: Me too… If you work hard, there might be a window in your future—Kara.

So Cat got her name right… but when will she realize (again) that Kara is Supergirl? Also, I was completely expecting Cat to fire her because she knew that Kara was needed for bigger and better things. But, as has been established time and again on this series, CatCo is where Kara needs to be.

Although it’s not the only place. A party at home gets interrupted first by James kissing Kara (aww) and then by a suspicious streak of light.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

A pod identical to Kara’s has landed; another great bit of mirroring has her throwing off the top, just like Superman did to her in the pilot. But who’s inside? My guess is Superboy, but who do you think it could be?

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Other Thoughts

  • I blame it on rewatching The Force Awakens recently, but I was briefly worried that Alex and Eliza’s embrace in the first scene was going to turn into a Kylo Ren/Han Solo moment. I was watching that kryptonian blade like a hawk.
  • “The morning meeting was supposed to start six minutes ago. You people were more punctual when you were drones.” Trust Cat Grant to make jokes that would get a too soon from anyone else.
  • How did the DEO not think to look for Fort Rozz in the exact space that it landed? And thanks government for not telling anyone they just left a giant space prison out in the desert.

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

  • Kara and J’onn’s disposal of Non and Indigo was pretty brutal, but again seemed too easy. They couldn’t have broken her apart and scorched his brains several episodes ago?

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

Supergirl 1x20 "Better Angels" season 1 finale television review

  • Is there going to be a Cat Grant/Maxwell Lord/Alex Danvers/J’onn J’onnz love quadrangle in season 2? I really can’t tell what Maxwell’s interactions with women are supposed to mean—if they’re romantic, or power plays, or both. And I’m still clinging firmly to Alex/J’onn.
  • J’onn J’onnz in an apron is everything.

Natalie Zutter teared up during all the Cat/Kara scenes in this episode. Talk about the finale and season 2 with her in the comments and/or on Twitter.

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Natalie Zutter


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