Covens, covers, and cat jokes? Supergirl was speaking my language this week! This show can be so self-serious in its earnestness that it sometimes loses sight of just how charming it can be when it leans into its more comedic impulses. And nothing brings out Supergirl’s comedy side like Mister Mxyzptlk, the goofy fifth dimensional imp we last saw in the show’s 100th episode, where he returned played by Thomas Lennon rather than Peter Gadiot. Like a lot of late-season Supergirl episodes, “Mxy In The Middle” suffers from a stultifying amount of exposition and a bafflingly rushed climax that’s genuinely hard to follow. But when everything else is so fun, it’s easier to forgive those flaws. How can you not be delighted by an episode that features Kara using her heat vision as a giant laser pointer to distract a magical two-story cat?
The same goes for Mxy doling out Princess’ Nyxlygsptlnz’s backstory via a performance of “I Will Survive.” As with the goofy “eat your vegetables” PSA from last week, it’s a scene that allows Supergirl to poke fun at its weaker storytelling impulses. And it’s true that it’s easier to swallow all the cosmic exposition when it’s doled out in comedy. As Mxy reveals through his less-than-dulcet tones, Nyxly’s problems started when she and her brother teamed up to overthrow their tyrannical father, Wicked King Brpxz. When their rebellion failed, Nyxly’s brother was welcomed back as a golden boy while she was banished to the Phantom Zone. (“Because, hey, patriarchy,” Mxy sings.) Now her goal is to find the seven totems that make up the AllStone—a device that gives its user mastery over literally everything in the universe. And to do so, she needs to trap Mxy in her crystal because he’s the last descendant of the evil imp Jyrryd who created the AllStone in the first place.
Got it? Not really? Well too bad because Supergirl is already moving onto its episode-specific technobabble! The Super Friends quickly decide to use Dr. Raab’s device, a magical amulet, and some DEO power-dampening cuffs to de-power Nyxly without having to force her back to the Phantom Zone—a punishment Kara deems too cruel for an imp who’s at least justified in her anger, if not her methods. All that long- and short-term exposition is a lot to take in, particularly in an episode that also features a whole separate backstory-filled side quest for Lena and the somewhat confusing return of Mitch the menagerie criminal. But, again, a little self-aware comedy goes a long way towards encouraging the audience to handwave away the details and just go with the flow.
And the flow is pretty damn fun. As in the 100th episode, Lennon’s comedic energy is a perfect fit for Mxy—a character so goofy that even the silliest of the Super Friends looks like a straightman compared to him. (I love that Brainy has absolutely no time for his antics.) Lennon knows just how to play the “I Will Survive” number so that it’s silly and self-aware without being actually cringe-y, something that’s helped by the team’s hilariously blasé reactions. And Supergirl gets a good amount of comedic mileage out of Mxy being forced to contend with just how few practical skills he has since he can’t use his powers without Nyxly being able to track him.
Emotionally, however, the heart of this week’s Super Friend’s story belongs to Nia, who’s really feeling the weight of her guilt about helping Nyxly escape the dream realm. It’s not totally unfamiliar territory for the insecure young hero, but I like that Supergirl doesn’t forget how much Nia has grown too. For one thing, she opens up to Brainy as soon as he reminds her that they promised not to keep secrets from one another. The duo get an incredibly sweet scene where Brainy reassures her that he knows exactly what it feels like to be manipulated by a villain, given everything he went through with Lex last season. And though it takes Nia a little bit to build up the courage to confess to Kara, her recent tough love tutorial from her mom does seem to have helped her gain new confidence in her abilities. She’s no longer frightened by her dream powers, she’s eager to use them.
And speaking of powerful women: It turns out Lena is a witch! It’s a development that’s both utterly random and utterly delightful, and definitely not where I thought the “Lena learns about her biological mom” storyline was going. Lena takes a trip to the heavily accented town of Fortune Bay in Newfoundland, Canada, where she seems to uncover some dark secrets about her mom’s murderous past. It’s almost enough to destroy her newfound sense of peace and optimism. But, like Nia, Lena has evolved quite a bit since last season. Rather than shut herself off, she takes Andrea’s advice that she should dig deeper to learn the real truth.
And the real truth is that Lena’s mother was part of a coven. When the trio of nature-loving Newfoundland witches teamed up to threaten one of their abusive husbands, they accidentally killed him instead. (It’s all very Practical Magic.) With their magical covers blown, Elizabeth Walsh fled to the States to shack up with Lionel Luthor and give birth to Lena; Margaret Bishop stayed in Fortune Bay where she raised a daughter who now hates all Walshes; and Florence Abbott ran off to live in a witchy cave, which is where Lena finds her in the present. Thus Lena, woman of science, learns that she’s also a woman of magic. And while, again, it’s all a bit random, I’m never going to be mad about a TV show putting witches front and center.
Though “Mxy In The Middle” doesn’t make the parallel explicit yet, it seems clear that Supergirl is setting up Lena and Nyxly as magical foils for one another, much the same way this episode draws a parallel between Nia and Kara as heroes with a guilt complex. It’s a welcome reminder of how deep Supergirl’s bench of complex female characters is. And while this episode’s climax doesn’t weave everything together as well as it could (the talk about privilege was pretty clunky and it took me two viewings to see Mxy put the cuff on Nyxly as he got sucked into her crystal ball), on the whole “Mxy In The Middle” offers some welcome reassurance that Supergirl still has gas in its tank in this final season. It’s a fun subversion to see one of Kara’s big empathetic speeches fail for once. And it’s an even better twist that it’s Kara’s words that inspire Nia to give the team the rallying speech they need to get back up and keep fighting.
- Supergirl’s promos return just in time to tease an episode that was co-written by Kelly herself, Azie Tesfai, and features a crossover appearance from David Ramsey’s John Diggle!
- So about those totems: They represent truth, destiny, love, dreams, hope, humanity, and courage, and they’re scattered across the known universes where they can be disguised as literally anything. It definitely made me think of the Paragons from Crisis On Infinite Earths, especially because those sure seem like qualities our seven Super Friends each embody.
- Here’s yet another plea that The CW continue to use Nicole Maines and Jesse Rath in the Arrowverse after Supergirl ends. They’re so, so great together!!
- I like the way this episode uses Andrea as Lena’s friend rather than Kara’s boss.
- It feels like we’ve been really light on J’onn stories in this back half of the season. Surely it would’ve made more sense for him to be the one to shapeshift into the Mxy decoy?
- I love that Nyxly’s commitment to evil is symbolized by her slightly more glam look.