Supergirl season 3 episode 15 review: In Search of Lost Time


Change wreaked havoc on Supergirl last night, and the characters struggled to cope with the ramifications.

The title of this week’s Supergirl alludes to a novel by French author Marcel Proust. Sometimes translated as Remembrance of Things Past, In Search of Lost Time chronicles the experiences of a nameless narrator as he grows up during the turn of the century. Spanning 4000-plus pages and seven volumes, it more or less forgoes plot in favor of fragmented, elliptical reflections on the nature of memory, subjectivity, and loss.

Point being: it’s an ambitious reference for a superhero show. “In Search of Lost Time” doesn’t experiment with form, which feels like a missed opportunity. (Let’s be real: a Supergirl episode done in the style of modernist literature would be amazing, or at least endearingly weird like that Mad Men episode where Ken Cosgrove tap dances.) Still, it earns the title, exploring Proust’s themes in its own way.

Two common ideas run through the episode’s three storylines. First, they all involve characters confronting sudden change. Second, they involve characters realizing that their actions have unintended consequences.

Although Supergirl devotes a roughly equal amount of attention to each plot, the J’onn/Myr’nn plot anchors the others. We open on a light note, with the Martians hosting game night at their apartment. They’re playing charades, and Myr’nn keeps inadvertently cheating, using his shape-shifting and mind-reading abilities. It’s all harmless fun, though, until he fails to remember the name of J’onn’s imaginary friend from childhood — a “fifth-dimensional imp” that manipulated games.

With that, the illusion of harmony shatters. From what we can tell, J’onn hasn’t spoken to his father much about his illness. Every once in a while, he asks Myr’nn how he feels, but Myr’nn, a naturally stoic person, dodges the inquiry. He spends his time playing a traditional Martian board game (it not only helps him focus but also preserves his connection to the past) and meditating using a technique that can move memories from the decaying part of his mind to a safe place. By all appearances, he is handling his condition remarkably well.

But, of course, appearances can deceive. A psychic event causes everyone at the DEO to attack one another, and they realize that Myr’nn is responsible. When he meditates, he exerts a massive amount of energy, and as dementia renders his mind increasingly unstable, his ability to control the energy weakens. Even as he refuses to acknowledge the psychological and emotional turmoil resulting from his illness, it affects the people around him. In a sense, the episodes are his body’s way of expressing what he won’t.

J’onn has two options. Either his father has to stop meditating, or he has to convince his father to wear a dampener that will blunt his powers. The former is unthinkable, but the latter presents its own difficulties. He knows that, above all else, Myr’nn takes pride in his mind.

“He has relied on his mind his whole life,” J’onn explains to Kara and Alex, “first as a theologian and then as a prisoner. The White Martians may have locked him in a cage, but he was still free… I don’t want to take away more from him than he’s already lost.”

As J’onn feared, Myr’nn resists his offer of help. On a surface level, he is proud, and accepting help would be a sign of weakness. But his resistance also stems from a deeper anxiety. Once he admits that he needs help, his situation would become real; he would have to confront the fact of his mortality, the fact that he has no control over his future. We’re only two episodes into it, but this plotline is fast becoming a favorite of mine, bringing relatable conflict to a show with aliens and magic capes. It helps that actors David Harewood and Carl Lumbly have been on fire these past couple episodes.

Elsewhere, Lena keeps Samantha in a quarantine unit, determined to find out what’s happening to her friend. Medical tests confirm that Samantha is transforming on a cellular level. She and Reign aren’t alternate personalities so much as two individual people inhabiting the same body; neither has control over the other.

Still, when you find out that you’ve committed mass murder, the knowledge that you didn’t mean to do it is cold comfort. When Lena reveals her findings, Samantha reacts the same way Myr’nn reacted to the news of his psychic episodes: she denies that there’s a problem. “I get squeamish about killing a spider,” she points out. “How could I kill people?”

Not until Lena induces a transformation and plays a video recording of it does Samantha accept her new reality and agree to remain quarantined. In a tearful phone call, she tells Ruby that she is in the hospital with a contagious sickness. Odette Annable turns in a startlingly raw performance, conveying the true horror of Samantha’s ordeal. The shadowy woods that Samantha finds herself in when she transforms are scarier than anything Reign has done.

Once again, Kara’s storyline, which involves Mon-El training her for the inevitable showdown with Pestilence, is the weakest of the hour. At first, they seem to be getting along. Kara gushes over a holographic video that Brainiac made of her fight with Reign (“The future is cool!”). But when the psychic anomaly causes Kara to attack Mon-El, first physically and then verbally, it becomes clear that they still have issues to sort out.

In a vicious tirade, Kara reprimands Mon-El for his behavior in the second season. She tells him off for showing up to training sessions hung over to hiding his identity. “I gave my heart to this lying jackass who was unaware of his behavior toward me, who disrespected me at every turn, and now is this reformed person who… what? He wants to reminisce about the good times?”

Melissa Benoist delivers the lines with such intensity that I almost buy them. But the entire conflict still feels manufactured, a blatant attempt to appease fans who criticized the show’s portrayal of Mon-El.

On the bright side, Kara and Mon-El eventually reconcile and decide to put the past behind them. Here’s hoping that Supergirl does the same.

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Bullet Points:

  • “In Search of Lost Time” features a couple quality song cues. “Gotta Reason” by Hard-Fi plays over Kara’s bar fight with the Kalanorian, while “No Angel” by Birdy accompanies the closing montage.
  • The action scenes are above par as well. In particular, I enjoyed the goofiness of the bar fight and the tongue-in-cheek joke that precedes it: “What? I like this shirt.” Between that and last week’s karaoke scene, Supergirl appears to have recovered its sense of fun.
  • Speaking of fun, Myr’nn isn’t above having some with his condition, tricking J’onn into thinking he’s hallucinating. Carl Lumbly’s delivery of the line “Only because you did not see your face” is perfect and weirdly heart-tugging.
  • Director Andi Armaganian creates some interesting visuals, using slow motion when Kara practices with her cape and bathing Myr’nn and J’onn in white light when they form a psychic bond. But the image that stuck out to me is simple: Samantha talking to Ruby on the phone while Lena stands in the background, out of focus.
  • The random DEO agent calling Winn “you egotistical little son of a serial killer” is my new favorite insult. (For the record, I fully support random DEO agents getting more screen time.)
  • “Do you want to go be heroes?”

Supergirl airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.