Supergirl Season 3, Episode 13: “Both Sides Now”
Last week was a swing and a miss, but this week Supergirl is back in form with an all killer, no filler second mid-season finale. Yes, that’s right, this is going to be the last episode of Supergirl for a while, so they made sure to make this one count. Big character moments, forward momentum on the plot, and a couple of badass fight scenes make this episode the perfect note to close on going into another hiatus. Kori is here on recaps and Elizabeth is here on analysis! Let’s jump in.
We open with Supergirl and the DEO showing up at Julia Freeman’s (Krys Marshall) doorstep and kicking down the door. Julia can’t hear them because she’s rocking out to her Lisa Loeb bad self in the living room.
Unfortunately for Julia, Supergirl & Co showing up at her house unannounced is a terrifying shock. Though Supergirl manages to calm her down, Alex panics and aims her favorite gun at Julia, and lo and behold, Purity comes through. Quick thinking on Kara and J’onn’s part allows them to capture her, but for how long?
Hey, at least they got a Kryptonian crystal from her house to analyze, though! Winn will have to leave that to scan for a while however, because he, J’onn, and Mon-El must try and fix the Legion ship. The fuel cells need to be continuously charged or they degrade over time, and the ship has blown it’s power source, so a new battery is needed ASAP. Mon-El and J’onn know exactly where to find one: J’onn’s Bel Air space cruiser.
But that’s not the only trouble with the Legion: tension is brewing between Imra and Mon-El. Imra’s no dummy and knows Mon-El’s feelings for Kara are still there. It’s complicated, because Imra and Mon-El were a political marriage, to get Imra’s people on Titan to buy into helping Earth. Oh, they grew to love each other, but it’s hard being around Kara. It’s nobody’s fault that they’re in this situation, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. Fortunately, J’onn encourages Mon-El to be honest with Imra, citing his 77(!) years of marriage experience. Mon-El wisely chooses to heed his advice.
Imra and Mon-El talk it out, and it’s not easy, but they resolve to work through it together. Well that was a pleasant reconciliation. But wait, Imra reveals she hasn’t been entirely honest with Mon-El, either. For the sake of time, I’ll just tell you right now that at the end of the episode, we find out Brainy and Imra had planned this mission, and that it wasn’t an accident they ended up here. This means they deliberately kept this information from Mon-El. Dun, dun, dun!
With that out of the way, let’s get back to Julia. Kara still believes Julia is in there, that Purity isn’t the only entity in this body. She’s right, of course, because this is Supergirl and Kara is always right to believe in someone’s better angels. During her time with Purity, she nearly manages to bring Julia back out by showing her a photo of her best friend.
Unfortunately, Alex is… rather porcupine-y this episode. She immediately assumes ‘Julia’ is an act, and Purity is trying to trick Kara into releasing her. She threatens Purity with several years worth of imprisonment, torture, and even dissection, and I’m honestly having a major problem with this version of Alex.
Kara even calls her out on her attitude, because this is wildly unlike the Alex Danvers we’ve seen evolve over the series. Of course, the next interrogation with Purity reveals a more latent power beyond her sonic screaming. She can read people, and she spills Alex’s dirty emotional laundry all over the floor to get Alex to storm off in a huff. She’s extremely successful, which convinces Kara that ‘Julia’ is an act, and the two verbally spar in Kryptonian.
Meanwhile in Winn’s lab, Chekov’s smoking Kryptonian crystal activates! Purity bulldozes through the DEO, grabs said crystal, and leavesb through the plate glass window on the front of the DEO building.
The crystal also calls to Reign, and the timing could not possibly be worse. Finally heading Lena’a advice, Sam had taken Ruby out of school for a trip to the skating rink as a mental health and happy bonding day. And this just sucks. All of it sucks. Mother and daughter are having a great day, and then Reign is activated and Sam is gone, leaving Ruby alone. Ruby calls Lena, who immediately comes to pick her up, and they talk a bit about Sam’s erratic behavior.
It’s heartbreaking to see how aware Ruby is that something is going on, and Lena can’t bear to lie to her. She is careful with her words and phrasing as to not worry Ruby too much, but Lena is up front with her.
Back to Purity. Supergirl & Co track her to the metro line and confront her. She tries to use her sonic powers on Kara, but surprise! Winn has whipped up one of his emergency specials, and Kara now has an earpiece that makes her immune to Purity’s scream powers. Purity then resorts to plan B, and blasts a hole in the floor in order to dump them all into a metro station full of people. This tactic splits up our heroes so they can’t focus just on Purity: Alex and Mon-El help get people to safety, Kara goes toe to toe with Purity in a fist fight, and J’onn is busy holding up a pillar that Purity smashed so the entire building doesn’t collapse on top of them. It looks for a moment like all is lost for our heroes!
But then, Kara is given a sliver of hope, which is a very big mistake to make in a fight against Supergirl. Purity gets Kara in a headlock, and it’s clear Kara is just barely clinging to consciousness as Purity whispers a secret to her; that Julia is still alive, and she’s going to make Julia watch as Purity kills everyone. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for Kara to muster the strength to beg Julia to fight. For a split second Julia regains control, just long enough for Alex to see it as well and realize Kara was right. Now realizing her mistake, it’s Alex who appeals to Julia, imploring her to fight Purity.
And Julia wins.
Sadly, it’s a short lived victory. Reign shows up and takes down Alex, crushing Alex’s chest with her foot. Julia sacrifices herself, letting Reign take her so everyone else can live, and Reign accepts the trade.
It’s a bad loss for the DEO, but Alex is still alive and Kara is resolved. If they can’t beat the Worldkillers, then she’s sure as shit going to save the women trapped inside of them. It’s a great moment, very true to the spirit the show embodies and Kara’s paragon nobility. Our girl is back and I loved every second of it.
After debriefing and a trip to the med bay for Alex, Kara and Alex go to the bar and talk. Alex is so far only drinking water! Progress! But she also admits how much she still misses Maggie, and that she thought it was supposed to get easier by now. She still has Maggie’s number on speed dial, and every day she both wants to call her and delete it.
It’s nice to hear how Alex is dealing, and to see the aftermath of a wlw break up being explored in a way that isn’t a soap opera or immaturely dramatic. Kara reassures her that Alex was right in not settling and that she will find someone else for her, and she will have kids and she will get ALL the things. She talks her sister out of that spiral just long enough for Alex to find her footing again, just like Alex was there for Kara during Psy’s attacks. I just really love their sisterly relationship, okay? It always has been and always will be why this show is one of the best on television.
After all of that action, we end on a quiet note with Sam and Lena. Sam rushes into Lena’s office after Lena had picked up Ruby. Sam is furious that Lena let it slip that Sam is sick to Ruby, despite Lena explaining that Ruby had figured it out on her own and Lena hadn’t told her anything she didn’t already know. Reign comes out briefly, eye flashing and all, before Sam reasserts control. Lena twigs on what’s happening and calms Sam down, saying she knows what’s wrong, and she’s going to make her better. DUN, DUN, DUN.
Final Thoughts: Okay but seriously, Lena figures out Sam is probably Reign and she doesn’t know Kara is Supergirl? Show, you’re really pushing it here. Unless Lena has made a completely wrong guess, which we won’t know for quite a while. But the staging seemed to imply Lena was remembering the red eyes from her previous encounter with Reign. Granted, red eyes is a much bigger visual cue than whether or not someone is wearing glasses, but Lena’s face is inches from Kara’s on a regular basis and she’s only seen Reign like once. Come on Supergirl, put this to rest along with Lena’s insecurities. It’s getting old.
Fun thing: it was J’onn who identified the Lisa Loeb song in the beginning of the episode, which means Space Dad is a fan of earth pop music. Maybe the Britney Spears CD in his ship wasn’t Kara’s after all!
I have never been so disappointed in my 29 years on this earth than when I looked up the airing schedule today and saw that it’s going to be weeks before we get to know what happens next on Supergirl.
Okay, first thing’s first. Please guys, don’t take this out on the Legends of Tomorrow cast, crew, and/or fandom. The scheduling is not within their control. While I find it ridiculous that having five shows running concurrently could be seen as a bad thing, the primary reason for this schedule change was production issues. Ultimately we only know what they tell us, and speculating wildly will get us nowhere, so let’s not start circulating conspiracy theories.
I know it sucks to have something you love go off the air for a while, believe me, but please don’t go starting trouble where there is none. Resist that urge that makes you feel like you have to have a specific thing to blame for this happening. Like Floriana Lima leaving the show, pardon my language but… sometimes shit happens, guys. If you think about it, production issues makes sense; there are so many fight scenes this season, and most of them involve using flies for two to five characters. All of it looks incredible, which means it’s probably also incredibly taxing on both the actors and their stunt partners. Production issues is a believable answer, at least in my opinion.
Let’s talk about those fight scenes for a minute. While the Legion’s intro was kind of a snoozer in my opinion, both Imra and Mon-El have gotten to participate in much better fight sequences since that misstep. I feel like Mon-El is getting knocked around far more than he should be at this point in his development, though. I know he isn’t as strong as Kara, but he’s pretty strong. He shouldn’t be going down with the same number of hits as Alex. Not that Alex isn’t a badass, but she’s still human. If she can survive Reign stomping on her chest, Mon-El should be able to get back up after getting thrown into something.
That being said, this episode is yet another stunner with a Worldkiller versus Supergirl smackdown. It’s still not as involved as the first punchout with Reign, but I’m guessing the next fight to be bigger than that will be the season finale. Still, Purity is every bit as terrifying as Reign, and Julia is every bit as heartbreakingly sympathetic as Sam is. Supergirl has done something really remarkable with this season’s villains. It has 1.) created villains that are an actual threat to Kara, who is essentially a god, 2.) kept these villains grounded enough that it doesn’t feel like the fight is entirely hopeless by giving them a human side, and 3.) it’s made their human sides so good and noble that you can’t help but feel deeply conflicted about how the heroes should deal with the Worldkillers.
I’m glad that Kara’s weakness, her empathy, is not just being framed as a weakness. It’s being framed as a strength as well, one that could defeat the Worldkillers. It makes her hesitate to hurt them, which is bad, but it also makes her determined to save them, which is very good. The larger point is, well, it’s nuanced. That’s something I really like in storytelling, but something I rarely get to see done well. Many other shows have tackled this issue of whether empathy is a strength or a weakness, and it often comes across as very petty or shallow in its presentation. Supergirl has no such issues, and manages to tackle this problem from dozens of different angles without compromising who Kara is as a person.
This isn’t the only thing I’m in love with in regard to Kara’s development. I love that she was allowed to be angry, bitter, and depressed at the beginning of the season, which makes her able to help Alex through a similar rut at this point in the season. Once again, the heart of the show is how much they love each other, and it never lets you forget that.
I love that Alex is allowed to be stuck. Because I’ll be honest, I’ve never known someone who’s bounced back from a breakup like that quickly without doing so in a very unhealthy way. Hesitating to delete your ex’s phone number, then being angry at your inability to let go, is a very common and normal reaction to have to suddenly losing someone that important to your life. I’m not gonna lie, it is damn hard to get out of the habit of wanting to call them the second something exciting happens. It takes a long time for someone to get back their sense of self after ending a serious relationship, because you have to rebuild the hole that person left behind brick by brick. I would be very upset if the show had rushed Alex into something new too soon. It’s a bad message to send, especially to queer women.
I also like what they’re doing with Mon-El, because like. Come on. There’s still unresolved tension between him and Kara. Also, we learned that him and Imra are married as a matter of duty, and honestly I can’t hold this against him because he was perfectly justified in assuming he would never see Kara again. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and I’m thrilled that J’onn didn’t have to spend more than one conversation convincing him to be honest with Imra. I’m sure some of you aren’t thrilled Kara and Mon-El are potentially back on the table, and that’s fine too. But personally, I like how maturely this is being handled, without making everyone feel wildly out of character.
Yea, Mon-El is a coward. This is his character flaw. It should be his middle name, if we’re being brutally honest. But not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings is not the worst kind of cowardly, and he came clean by the end of the episode. Imra is hurt but accepted his honesty, so… all we can say is, “We’ll see.” I’d much rather they explore this than leave it simmering in the background, because that is how resentment builds. If Mon-El and Kara are going to get back together, I don’t want it to be behind Imra’s back.
I want to briefly say that Ruby is a damn smart and strong kid, just like her mom, but she needs to be under someone else’s care right now. My heart goes out to her, and she needs a lot of support through this, especially at such an important age.
What’s going on with Reign, and how Lena is dealing with it, deserves its own article. The pressure Sam puts on herself to continue to work despite being clearly too sick is something we Millennials know all too well. Well, most of us probably aren’t secretly Worldkillers, but many of us aren’t getting the help we need because there’s so much stigma over taking medical leave for anything other than ‘acceptable’ conditions, such as cancer. How Lena is handling this is so validating and affirming, and once again Supergirl is at its best when it leans on the relationships between its female protagonists. The show is a joy to watch in its current form, and a lot of that is because this has been such a central focus of this season.
We’ve been babbling for over 3,000 words now, so I should probably shut up soon. I know I’ve been slacking off on meta lately, and I apologize. Much like Kara and Alex, I’ve had a lot of big changes over the last year, and especially in the last couple of months. But we’ve got a while before Supergirl is back, so I figure: why not fill that time with some good, old-fashioned, dissertation-length analysis pieces? You know you missed reading 3,500 words every week from me.
I will see you all very soon with some things I didn’t have time to say in the recaps thus far, and Kori & I will both be back when Supergirl makes its triumphant return on April 16th, 2018. Stay strong, Super Friends!