The 10 Best Episodes of ‘Supergirl’

6. S02E06 “Changing”

Season 2 is a fair bit rockier than the first but it has plenty of commendable high-points, chief among them being the episode where Alex realizes her sexuality (vis-à-vis her feelings for officer Maggie Sawyer) and comes out to her sister. It’s a quiet scene that speaks to both the dramatic prowess of actors Leigh and Benoist, as well as the show’s renewed focus on acceptance in a series about alien immigrants and refugees.

While the episode does have a major downside in the form of Supergirl’s use of lethal force (in a manner that’s barely contextualized), the show does in fact take corrective measures on this front later in the season.

7. S02E10 “We Can Be Heroes”

The show’s ninth episode, “Supergirl Lives,” follows “Changing” in its use of lethal force, though it does so with purpose. “We Can Be Heroes” plays like a direct response to the series’ casual killing, redrawing the lines between villain and hero by examining lethal force, collateral damage, and the ability to forgive.

M’gann M’orzz, a reformed White Martian, reveals herself to J’onn/Martian Manhunter, the last remaining Green Martian on account of their being wiped out by the Whites (History much?), causing J’onn to wrestle with the idea of forgiveness in light of M’gann’s complicity. Meanwhile the stranded Mon-El (Chris Wood), Prince of Daxam (Krypton’s enemy planet), continues his training under fellow refugee Kara as the two chase down an escaped Livewire, Supergirl’s arch nemesis up until this point. The best part about this episode is it pushes the show towards a greater moral complexity, forcing our heroes to confront the idea that villains can be victims too. 

8. S02E20 “City of Lost Children”

Taking a page almost literally out of Alex Ross and Paul Dini’s Batman: War on Crime, in which Batman comforts a young Black boy named Marcus before he uses a gun and goes down the path of violence, “City of Lost Children” recontextualizes the scene. James Olsen, now Batman-esque vigilante The Guardian, also reaches out to a young Black boy named Marcus
(a psychic alien in human form), though James being a Black man himself holds relevance. Before he unwittingly commits telekinetic violence outside his control, Marcus is finally able to see a hero like himself, which brings him back to the light.

Placing James in this context works as a meta-textual mea culpa too. Not that a show has to apologize or work doubly hard to justify casting a Black actor (if you’re wondering whether people were upset at Jimmy Olsen being Black: they were), but taking a “race blind” approach to the character seemed to defeat the purpose in part, since the world of Supergirl certainly wasn’t free from discrimination. In the episode, J’onn, another alien in the visage of a Black man, talks of the struggle he’s had to face, while James tries to ignore his existence as a Black man in a largely white country — that is, until young Marcus begins to find strength and comfort in James, in a world that is otherwise hostile to him. (It’s from this point on that Jimmy Olsen being Black starts to have more of a point, especially in contrast to the white superheroes and how they’re seen by the public)

9. S03E14 “Schott Through the Heart”

While the third season meanders at first, it finds its way back on track post-hiatus in “Schott Through the Heart,” in which dysfunctional parental relationships re-enter the spotlight. Winn Schott, after accepting the ways he and his father were different in season 1, must now confront the common abuse and trauma that binds him and his absentee mother (the incredible Laurie Metcalf), all while Winn’s father The Toymaker plays potentially deadly pranks on them from beyond the grave.

Winn isn’t the only one having to confront his father’s legacy. J’onn’s father M’yrnn, a rescued Martian priest, begins showing early signs of dementia, which takes with it not only M’yrnn’s memories, but the kindness he passed down to his son, as the two confront their anger in dealing with the situation. Yeah, season three gets real; the episode also allows J’onn to establish why he continues to wear the face of a Black man despite the racism he faces in his human form. His reasoning? “I don’t want to live in a world where I have to change the color of my face to be seen. I’d rather change the world.”

10. S03E21 “Not Kansas”

As M’yrnn’s dementia worsens, he and J’onn reluctantly discuss performing a sacred Martian ritual that will pass down the remaining memories from father to son. In accepting this, however, J’onn will essentially have to accept his father’s impending death, a battle that no superhero can win. The best we can do in the face of death is comfort one another, which is where Supergirl proves why the family soap-opera format works for superhero shows; none of us can do it alone…

…a battle that can be won, however, is saving lives from ending prematurely. Where its cousin Arrow paid lip service to the American gun debate with some vaguely worded “both sides” solution that never actually shows up on screen, Supergirl goes all-in on law enforcement’s role in gun violence, with J’onn himself deciding that the C.I.A. equivalent he leads should do away with lethal weapons as they can be misused for harm. A strong political stance nestled among a heart-wrenching character story is exactly what makes this show special.


Supergirl returns October 14, 2018 .

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