Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW

As a rule, Supergirl mid-season finales tend not to be my favorite thing in the world. They have to touch on the season’s biggest dangling plot threads while leaving stuff open-ended for future stories, which leaves little room for the kind of smart, self-contained stories that elevate the best episodes of Supergirl. Mid-season finales often wind up feeling like a random chunk of ongoing storytelling rather than a story in their own right. And while, admittedly, that’s what a lot of serialized TV looks like these days, it’s not my favorite mode of genre storytelling. Thankfully, although “Reign” has some of that mid-season finale scatteredness, it also introduces a compelling villain and ends with a fantastic action sequence.

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The most interesting parts of this episode center on Reign herself, who gets some more shading after her initial emergence in “Wake Up.” Though I was disappointed with the idea of the show just wiping Sam’s personality and turning her into Reign, it turns out the situation is a lot more nuanced than that (to quote another CW heroine). Sam is still around, she’s just increasingly confused about why she’s losing chunks of her memory and waking up super tired. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s now sharing her body with National City’s new Kryptonian vigilante.

For Reign herself, Supergirl goes biblical. She’s a sort of demonic god worshipped by ancient polytheistic Kryptonians long before Rao emerged as the planet’s sole deity. Kara learns all this from Thomas Coville, the cult leader from “The Faithful” who knows more about ancient Kryptonian theology than she does. Coville describes Reign as a “world killer” who will bring about the end of times if she’s not stopped (sorry, smote) by Kara. But in practice, the situation is once again a lot more nuanced than that.

In fact, Reign isn’t terrorizing the people of National City. Instead she seems to mostly be targeting bad guys like drug dealers and Morgan Edge. But rather than arrest these criminals, like Kara would do, she simply kills them. She’s an “evil” version of Supergirl not in the sense that she’s hurting innocents, but in the sense that she kills her enemies when she doesn’t need to. Kara’s friendship with Sam is designed to make Reign a more compelling villain (and it does), but Reign’s moral philosophy also makes her an inherently interesting foil too. Having just reviewed all 13 episodes of The Punisher, I’m curious to see how Supergirl tackles question about superheroes and violence. But for now, the show mostly keeps those ideas on the backburner to explore later.

Instead, the episode spends most of its runtime either following Kara’s investigation into the mysterious symbols Reign leaves around National City or checking in on some of the season’s dangling plot threads. The biggest development is that the show goes all-in on the James/Lena tension that has (kind of?) been building in the past episode or two. Like the Kara/Lena/Sam best friendship, the dialogue is too overeager to sell us on a relationship dynamic that isn’t quite there in practice. But Mehcad Brooks and Katie McGrath do genuinely have some nice chemistry together, and I’ve long been a proponent of this show actually figuring out what to do with James. James and Lena’s investigation into Morgan Edge is fairly dull but that has to do more with Edge feeling like an add-on to this episode, rather than James and Lena not working as a pairing. So while I’m not completely sold on on them as a couple, I’m not completely against the idea either.

What’s definitely less successful is the ongoing drama between Kara, Mon-El, and Imra. Kara sums it up well when she says that they’re three good people stuck in an unfortunate situation, but this episode isn’t able to mine that unfortunate situation for much in the way of compelling drama. It’s annoying to watch both Mon-El and Imra try to comfort Kara when the correct move here is clearly to give her space. And there also seems to be an element of their time travel shenanigans that’s being left unexplored. Surely when Mon-El got to the 31t century, the first thing he did was look up what happened to Kara. I feel like there should be lingering questions of how much Mon-El and Imra know about the immediate future (well, the distant past from their perspective), but so far the show isn’t raising them.

Thankfully, “Reign” largely makes up for its earlier weaknesses with a fantastic final action sequence that pits Kara against Reign. It’s one of the best fights the series has done and a whole hell of a lot more dynamic than any of Kara’s face-offs against Astra and Uncle Non-Descript’s Kryptonian crew. Following a pep talk in which Alex encourages Kara to embrace her icy alien side, Supergirl and Reign crash through a corporate Christmas party, do battle across a cargo ship, and wind up surrounded by onlookers in the streets of National City. The CGI isn’t perfect and the fight could’ve better utilized Kara’s non-punching powers, but it’s still an exhilarating sequence, especially once Reign starts drawing blood. It’s genuinely shocking to see Kara so physically brutalized, even before Reign drops her off a roof and sends her into a coma. Past episodes have ended with Kara momentarily defeated, but never quite this badly. So even with the usual mid-season finale unevenness, “Reign” has me excited to see what Supergirl has in store for 2018.


Stray observations

  • Although this episode doesn’t so much as acknowledge its existence, last week’s four-part Arrowverse crossover event was a real blast with a lot of great material for both Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh (and SPOILER ALERT: Jeremy Jordan). If you missed the other three parts, you can catch up by watching Arrow 6x8, The Flash 4x8, and Legends Of Tomorrow 3x8 in that order.

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  • Mon-El and Imra mention they were part of a 31st century crime-fighting group called The Legion, which Mon-El founded to continue Kara’s legacy. As Winn helpfully notes, that would make them a Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Kara’s Christmas party was a total blast and a reminder of how fun it is to watch the Supergirl characters hang out with one another. I particularly enjoyed M’yrnn’s love of hot chocolate (“the other brown water”) and J’onn’s love of Hall & Oates.
  • That being said, it’s weird to me that Kara didn’t invite Eliza to spend the holidays with her and Alex.

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  • I’m assuming Kara flew around her apartment in order to hang all those Christmas decorations, which is a delightful image.
  • That’s it for 2017! Supergirl will return January 15th, at which point our heroes will maybe just be getting around to celebrating Christmas Day.