As the lead-up to its midseason finale, Supergirl delivers an episode so overstuffed that the reveal of Leviathan somehow feels like the fifth most important storyline. Bonds are strengthened, relationships are broken, and characters experience major shifts to their statuses quo. The episode is titled “Tremors” after its new earth-bending villain, and it’s clearly designed to leave everyone just a little bit shaken up. Yet the Lena/Kara throughline is so far and away better than anything else that it’s pretty much the only element with any kind of a meaningful aftershock.
The first moment I got the sense that Supergirl was taking the gloves off this week is the scene where Lena passive aggressively brings up all the times Kara needlessly let her think they were in life-or-death situations. It turns a comedic highlight of last season into a truthful emotional sticking point. Lena tries to pass off her complaint as lighthearted banter by complimenting Kara’s acting skills, but her hurt is palpable. Lena lived through horrifying situations in which her only thought was about saving her best friend—like when their plane almost crashed in Kaznia in “Will The Real Miss Tessmacher Please Stand Up?” Now she realizes she was just the butt of the joke all along.
It’s the first sign of Lena slightly losing control of her ability to keep her motives a secret. She manipulates Leviathan into attacking her, upping their perceived threat level and creating a situation where Kara will take her to the Fortress of Solitude to look for a weapon that can defeat them. Lena’s actual plan, however, is to locate a device that can disperse her mind control program, “Project Non Nocere.” And once she finds it in the Myriad weapon from way back in season one, she lets all pretense of niceties slip.
I don’t know if Lena intentionally let herself get caught stealing Myriad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did, at least subconsciously. She’s got a lot to get off her chest and there was no way she could go much longer without saying it. Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath both turn in brutally raw performances as Lena walks Kara through the ways she’s been manipulating her this whole time. Last week’s Lena-centric tangent really does make the discussion of betrayal in this episode land even harder. The moment Lena yells about killing her brother for Kara was guttural and brutal on a level I genuinely wasn’t expecting. It’s also a reminder that Lena hasn’t just been hiding her anger towards Kara, she’s also been hiding the fact that she murdered Lex in cold blood. The trauma of that is clearly still haunting her as well.
As Lena drills home, she isn’t a villain, at least not from her point of view. She has no intention of killing Kara, she just wants to lock her away in the Fortress of Solitude long enough so that she can brainwash the entire planet. You know, like heroes do! The battle for Lena’s soul will probably make up a bulk of the midseason finale, but I’ll be very impressed if the writers manage to top the high-water mark they set with tonight’s explosive Lena/Kara fight.
The rest of the episode is… fine. This show thinks I’m way more invested in the Kelly/Alex relationship than I actually am. Supergirl is trying to make them a central couple by skipping over all the cute, romantic, getting-to-know you stuff and jumping right into the big emotional drama, but that’s a fundamental misread of what makes TV relationships compelling.
The same goes for the J’onn/Malefic dynamic, which unexpectedly takes center stage again. To help process his feelings of guilt over sending his brother to the Phantom Zone, J’onn summons up a vision of his father. Conveniently, Vision M’yrnn is now less of a projection of J’onn’s subconscious and more of a fount of objective knowledge. He tells J’onn that Malefic is still in National City, and encourages him to make the risky move of a brotherly mind meld. Theoretically, the stakes of this storyline are life-or-death, although they never feel like it. J’onn earns Malefic’s love quicker than you can say “deus ex machine.” At least the idea of bringing Malefic into the Super Friends opens up more storytelling possibilities than just using him as a monolouging villain.
Speaking of monologuing villains! Leviathan make their big debut tonight and it lands with a decided thunk. It turns out the old woman we’ve been following is really just a flunky for Rama Khan (Mitch Pileggi), an ageless alien who was one of five leaders to escape the destruction of Jarhanpur—a sister planet to Krypton. They landed on Earth millions of years ago in an asteroid-sized ship that wiped out the dinosaurs. And they’ve been overseeing the rise of humanity ever since, sending disasters like Noah’s Flood and the destruction of Pompeii to keep things in check every so often.
Though we knew Leviathan were all-powerful, this is a drastic upping of their abilities. It’s also a pretty goofy one too. When he’s not hanging out in a sexy underground poker lounge at Leviathan’s secret lair, Rama Khan dresses up in a Ren Faire costume and spins himself into the ground like the Tasmanian Devil. It’s a lot to throw into an already over-stuffed episode, especially when we also meet the vampy rival (Cara Buono) who encourages Rama Khan to take a more technologically savvy approach to dealing with an increasingly advanced human society.
I’d be more frustrated by the lame Leviathan reveal if I weren’t still so giddy from the Lena/Kara fight. “Tremors” also benefits from feeling more energetic and action-packed than some of the previous episodes this season. As always, the CGI is pretty dodgy at times, but I appreciate the creativity and energy of the opening Kara/J’onn sparring match and how Kara eventually uses the same set of moves against Rama Khan. Plus there’s a scene where Lena literally jumps off a cliff and into Kara’s arms, which is a whole lot of fun. Still, the big fireworks in this episode are definitely verbal, not physical. Sticks and stones can’t break the Girl of Steel’s bones, but words can definitely hurt her.
- A Leviathan bombing leaves Brainy with a broken inhibitor, which sends him into full-on super genius mode. Not sure what that’s building to, but it’s always fun to watch Jesse Rath play Brainy in various states of unhinged.
- Alex and Brainy breaking into the Leviathan headquarters is positioned as such a big deal and then weirdly dropped once the security system throws them off the scent.
- It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve seen Nia!
- I enjoy everyone’s commitment to calling Kara “Supergirl” when she’s in her costume, even when there’s no one else around.
- Lex’s weapons include a tiny gun he could hide under his various wigs.
- As much as I love the Lena storyline, I don’t actually feel any tension over how it’s going to resolve. This is almost certainly building to Kara saving her best friend with the power of love, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
- Supergirl is taking next week off for Thanksgiving, then it’ll be back with its midseason finale on December 1st and the kickoff to this year’s big crossover event on December 8th.