Supergirl season 3 episode 17 review and recap: Trinity


The world’s fate grows precarious, as the Worldkillers try to join forces. Meanwhile, Supergirl finds her world already in turmoil.

Last week’s episode of Supergirl ended with a bang. In addition to finally discovering Reign’s human identity, Kara learned that Lena had kept the knowledge secret for weeks. And, as if these revelations weren’t earth-shattering enough, the Worldkillers united, edging closer to fulfilling their destinies. For the first time, they felt like a real threat.

So, “Trinity” counts among season 3’s biggest letdowns (which, given the erratic quality of the season, is saying something). From a craft standpoint, the episode is haphazard, full of disjointed action and stilted acting. It’s a rare misstep for director Jesse Warn, not to mention the typically game cast. From a narrative standpoint, it’s downright incoherent.

It begins with an interrogation. Her secret out, Lena faces Supergirl and the DEO, attempting to explain what she has been doing for the past three weeks. J’onn points out that Samantha/Reign is technically a mass murderer, which makes hiding her a crime. Lena, in turn, points out that she has no obligation to report to the DEO, a secret agency whose existence the government doesn’t publically acknowledge. Dig and you can see the roots of an interesting debate about who gets to enforce the law and whether the DEO deserves anyone’s trust.

However, Supergirl goes a different direction. The scene’s kicker comes when Lena admits that she contained Reign by manufacturing a force field with kryptonite. She claims that she inherited it from Lex, who stored some in a vault at the Luthor Corp. labs. It’s shady, to say the least. Why keep around a stash of the one material on Earth lethal to Supergirl? And what kind of person has radioactive material at their disposal anyway?

Still, it’s hard to believe that this would be the kryptonite in Kara and Lena’s friendship, enough to undo two seasons of hard-fought (if, at times, strained) character development. When Lena got blamed for an outbreak of lead poisoning in kids, Kara rushed to the CEO’s defense, despite the damning evidence against her; clearly, she wants to give Lena the benefit of the doubt. In “Crisis on Earth-X”, when she found out that Oliver has kryptonite-tipped arrows, Kara accepted it with a quip.

Her resenting Lena for having kryptonite is like one person resenting another for having a gun. Perhaps, it’s reasonable, but it isn’t realistic; although we know guns are dangerous by nature, no one assumes every gun owner has malicious intentions. Ultimately, Kara’s reaction comes across as over-the-top and weirdly self-centered. Now that Lena’s scheming might endanger her, she’s suddenly suspicious? But when the victims were random kids, all she cared about was preserving her friend’s reputation?

What’s frustrating is that the show has a perfectly believable excuse for creating friction between the characters — namely, Lena’s decision to keep Reign’s identity a secret. For Supergirl, ever the optimist, it constitutes a bewildering betrayal; after all those times she gave Lena the benefit of the doubt, doesn’t she deserve the same treatment? But for Lena, who sees all strangers as future enemies, secrecy is only natural — smart. In other words, it shouldn’t be conflict between morals, but worldviews — not good vs. evil, but faith vs. doubt.

At the end of the episode, we learn that Lena didn’t inherit the kryptonite from Lex; she made it herself. Evidently, it’s important. But couldn’t James have investigated the labs by himself rather than because Kara asked him to? Say the revelation that Lena possesses kryptonite causes his old misgivings about the Luthors to resurface. His decision not to open the vault, then, demonstrates how he’s changed. Not only does it make sense, but it makes for a more compelling story, letting James drive his own plot for once instead of supporting someone else’s.

Typically, large-scale narrative benefits from a sense of intimacy, as it grounds them in personal stakes. Here, though, the personal stakes just make the narrative seem small. Watching Kara and Lena bicker, you can hardly tell that they’re trying to stop an apocalypse.

It’s unfortunate because “Trinity” has the ingredients of a great episode. For starters, it involves magic. At the Fortress of Sanctuary, the Worldkillers join hands and chant, creating a solar eclipse that will eventually consume Earth. Supergirl recognizes the phenomenon from the Book of Rao, which depicts witches performing a ritual to cover Earth in “blessed darkness”. In order to prevent totality, they have to find the Worldkillers.

And so, as Supergirl says, they fight fantasy with sci-fi. Using the technology that allowed him to access Kara’s mind during her post-Reign coma, Brainiac-5 sends Supergirl, Lena, and Alex to the alternate dimension where the Worldkillers’ human alter egos are trapped. There, they find that Grace is dead, her transformation into Pestilence already complete. Also, demons!

Meanwhile, Samantha and Julia struggle to remember their identities and lives, engraving their memories into trees. We get more Stranger Things vibes, as Supergirl, Lena, and Alex take turns reminding Samantha who she is: a friend, a fighter, a mother. Of course, it’s Ruby’s name, repeated like an incantation, that prompts Samantha to wake up in the Fortress of Sanctuary and reveal its location to the DEO.

A hectic battle ensues, culminating with Julia waking up and defying Pestilence and Reign. Her scream and “Come at me, witch” taunt offer a brief, cathartic thrill in the otherwise anticlimactic sequence. Given its title, I expected “Trinity” to focus on the Worldkillers, either by giving them more depth or simply having fun with them. They’re a super-villain team consisting entirely of women; by all rights, they should be awesome. Yet, they barely interact with one another, and by the time Purity and Pestilence kill each other, they remain as enigmatic as ever. Their deaths feel weightless, both from emotionally and plot-wise.

Nonetheless, it’s jarring to see the characters celebrate as though they’ve achieved victory. First of all, even if she managed to redeem herself in the end, Julia is still dead. Second, Reign clearly isn’t gone. Did they not see her absorb the glowing stuff from Purity and Pestilence’s dissolving forms and fly away? Maybe they were preoccupied with escaping from the Fortress of Sanctuary before it collapsed, but it was pretty hard to miss. (Imagine the scene in Annihilation where Jennifer Jason Leigh vomits light, but without the meticulously crafted atmosphere that makes it mesmerizing instead of silly.)

Come to think of it, that moment encapsulates the experience of watching the episode. It’s like the “LOUD NOISES” meme: so much is happening, and you have no idea what any of it is.

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Bullet Points:

  • The highlight of “Trinity” occurs early on. In the opening shot, we see Lena’s reflection in a shard of glass after the Worldkillers’ visit to L-Corp.
  • The fog in the Dark Valley is another nice touch, a visual manifestation of Samantha and Julia’s confusion.
  • While the episode’s credits list Jesse Warn as director, the official synopsis lists Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss. Hmm…
  • Humor is always welcome in Supergirl, but here, the attempts at levity feel awkward, at odds with the urgent situation. Like, Winn giving Alex a suit and Legion ring is cool. But maybe don’t do it as she literally heads into battle?
  • I don’t buy at all that Imra would want to go home just because Pestilence is dead. Again, Reign still exists.
  • “Is this what it’s like when humans exercise? This is terrible!”

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