Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supergirl stretches for time with cape tricks and mind tricks

Illustration for article titled Supergirl stretches for time with cape tricks and mind tricks
Photo: Jack Rowand (The CW)

Denial: It’s not just a river in Egypt, it’s also a plot device that allows Supergirl to stretch 10 minutes of story into an entire 45-minute episode. Sam’s in denial about the fact that she’s Reign. Kara’s in denial about how much anger she feels towards Mon-El. M’yrnn and J’onn are in denial about how quickly his mental state is deteriorating and how dangerous that could be for everyone around them. And Supergirl is in denial about how stupid Mon-El’s superhero costume looks.


To be fair, there’s some solid emotional stuff in the last 10-15 minutes of “In Search Of Lost Time.” But getting to that point is kind of a drag, especially because every plot point is telegraphed from the very beginning of the episode. Supergirl has a history of walking right up to a genre cliché only to subvert it at the last second, like Kara immediately forgiving Alex for killing Astra back in the first season. Unfortunately, there’s not much of that tonight. It’s clear from the beginning that M’yrnn’s psychic outbursts are the cause of the emotional turmoil that keeps popping up in those around him. And the episode hits a whole bunch of familiar beats before reaching inevitable climaxes in pretty much every one of its storylines.

“In Search Of Lost Time” at least provides a great showcase for both Carl Lumbly and especially David Harewood, who has to grapple with the idea of limiting his father’s independence so as to protect him and those around him. It’s obviously a storyline with a ton of real world resonance, as the episode makes explicit when Alex talks about her grandmother’s struggles with dementia. Unfortunately, it’s also a storyline the show explores without any real subtlety other than the emotional nuance the actors bring to the incredibly on-the-nose dialogue. The moment J’onn acknowledges that he and his father must shift their relationship dynamic is well played (“The son becomes the father and the father the son”), but it takes too long to get there. And since I don’t fully understand how the psychic dampener will affect M’yrrn moving forward, it’s hard to fully understand the stakes of the moment.

I also find it a little odd that Supergirl chose to deal with M’yrnn’s dementia in such a major way after first introducing just last week. It might have worked better if the show had let M’yrnn’s condition play out in the background a little longer to give more depth to J’onn and M’yrnn’s changing dynamic. As is, it feels like Supergirl is somehow simultaneously stretching for time and rushing through things.

The other storyline with decent emotional payoff but far too much setup involves Lena confirming that Sam is indeed the same person as Reign (although when Sam transforms her DNA rewrites itself, so there are some key differences). For some reason, Sam absolutely refuses to believe she could possibly be an alien, despite the fact that she’s spent the whole season noticing strange things about herself (like her ability to stop a bullet!) and despite the fact that she explicitly went to Lena for help. Sam’s episode-long denial doesn’t work as either a plot point or a character one. It’s just a way to stretch for time until Lena provokes her into becoming Reign and records the transformation in action.

Once Sam finally believes the truth about herself, the storyline gets a whole lot more interesting. Lena tries to comfort Sam as she grapples with the devastating reality of just how many people Reign has killed. And the moment Sam instructs Lena to keep Ruby’s location a secret from her is especially devastating. As with the J’onn/M’yrnn stuff, however, there are just too many rote plot beats before that more compelling climax.


The only storyline with any kind of narrative swerve this week is the one between Kara and Mon-El, who sets about training her in the art of cape tricks. When M’yrnn releases an anger-inducing psychic blast, Kara rails against Mon-El—not for making her life more difficult by returning, but for the fact that he was a shitty, entitled dude for most of the time they spent together. By the end of the episode, Kara admits she’s been romanticizing her relationship with Mon-El because losing him was so hard. In reality, their courtship was far from perfect and remembering that helps her let go of the frustrated “what might have been” feelings she’s been having since his return. It’s a smart observation for the show to make and a believable way to move away from any “will they/won’t they tension” between the two. Of course, given that it still feels like some kind of Kara/Mon-El romantic reunion is all but inevitable, it’s also an emotional climax that rings pretty hollow—at least for now.

There are some interesting ideas and strong emotional moments in “In Search Of Lost Time,” but overall it suffers from being a poorly paced episode that arrives at a weird place in the season. After last week’s largely stand-alone hour, this feels like yet another stall before we finally dive back into the Worldkiller stuff. Oh well, at least the cape tricks look cool.


Stray observations

  • The cape tricks do, for the most part, look cool. There’s something slightly silly about the concept, but it’s a nice way to add some additional visual flair to Kara’s powerset.
  • Kara calls CatCo her “place of employment.” But is it? It feels like the show has largely given up on the idea of Kara leading a double life.
  • I can’t believe it took Supergirl three seasons to make a joke about Kara not wanting to rip the buttons off her favorite shirt.
  • Wasn’t there a whole episode about how unethical it is for the DEO to hold prisoners? Or did that only apply to humans?
  • Please feel free to speculate on why Pam from HR has so much pent-up anger against Winn. I’m assuming she’s also mad he didn’t full-on belt at karaoke last week.

Next week: Pestilence strikes!

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.