Supergirl season 3 episode 21 review: Not Kansas


Kara returns to Argo City in search of a place to call home. Unfortunately, her decision leaves Earth without Supergirl at the worst possible time.

CBS originally marketed Supergirl as a frothy cocktail: old-fashioned heroism mixed with rom-com hijinks and a dash of girl power. Yet, it always had a kernel of tragedy. After all, the heroine was an orphan and a refugee. She lost not only her parents but also her entire species and home, displaced to a faraway alien planet. And she was only 13 years old at the time.

Nonetheless, Kara managed to retain a sense of hope, believing people and the world can change for the better. That optimism has proved to be as much of a superpower as flight and heat vision.

Perhaps, after everything she’s endured and contributed, she deserves a reward. It is miraculous enough that a segment of the Kryptonian population, including Kara’s mother, survived the end of their world. But for Kara to reunite with them so many years later… well, that seems like fate, or salvation. How could she refuse this opportunity?

My point is that Kara’s decision in “Not Kansas” makes sense, both in general and for her. Of course, she would want to spend more time with her long-lost mother. And even as she succeeded in blending in, she never truly belonged on Earth. As she told James in “The Fanatical,” living among humans forces her to wear a mask at all times; she can’t be herself.

Supergirl — “Not Kansas” — Image Number: SPG321b_.jpg — Pictured: Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

However, Supergirl treats the decision with puzzling casualness. Picking up where we left off last week, the episode opens in the middle of a battle. As Kara and Mon-El keep Reign at bay, Lena produces a serum from the black rock they retrieved at Argo. Within seconds, she injects it into Reign, causing the Worldkiller to separate from Samantha and seemingly dissolve into nothingness. Sam, meanwhile, has regained control of her body, though she needs some aspirin.

So, all’s well that ends well, right?

Not so fast. With two episodes remaining in the season, viewers know that Reign isn’t gone for good, which makes it difficult to invest in Kara’s departure. Whereas for her, it’s a life-altering move with profound personal implications, for us, it’s a vacation; we know she’ll be back before long. It doesn’t help that “Not Kansas” puts little effort into convincing us. By the time the title card appears, Kara has jetted off to Argo City, her farewell tour condensed into a brief, wordless montage. The whole thing comes across as rushed and perfunctory.

To be fair, drawing it out would probably just make it feel like even more of a tease. But at least that would convey an interest in the emotion of the situation; at least it would require the show to put actual care into what should be a game-changing plot point. Most people are willing to take a detour if the scenery is picturesque enough.

Regardless, this is indicative of the erratic pacing and generally sloppy plotting that has plagued season 3. Characters vary from week to week. Storylines inexplicably drop, or repeat themselves ad nauseam (seriously, either have Kara and Mon-El get together already or move on). Conflicts surface without warning. Whether due to the behind-the-scenes upheaval or another reason, there is no consistent sense of focus or direction. At the risk of sounding flippant, it sometimes feels as though the writers are playing connect the dots, fishing ideas out of a hat and linking them after the fact.

Supergirl — “Not Kansas” — Image Number: SPG321b_0006.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Chris Wood as Mon-El and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

With that said, taken by itself, “Not Kansas” is a perfectly respectable episode. Back on Krypton, Kara reconnects with her mother and a childhood friend named Thara. (At first, the discrepancy in their ages threw me for a loop, but then I remembered that Kara went through a wormhole on her way to Earth.) Despite having lost her whole family in the apocalypse, Thara claims that she has adjusted to her new life. In an amusingly awkward scene, she introduces Kara to her husband over dinner and gripes about how the gazebo in their backyard faces the wrong way.

Actually, everyone in Argo seems contented. With its flying droids, modernist architecture, and radiant light, the secluded city has an idyllic vibe that verges on dystopian. (Think Camazotz in A Wrinkle in Time, but urban instead of suburban.) The unsettling mood lends credence to Kara’s anxiety about the construction site “accident”. When Alura and Thara dismiss her suspicions as a byproduct of trauma, the thought crossed my mind that maybe they were in on the conspiracy. It all seemed too nice to be good. Plus, what kind of person gaslights their own daughter/friend?

Still, it is gratifying to see Supergirl explore Kara’s trauma with something resembling depth. In addition to her childhood tragedy and its aftermath, her life as a crime-fighter has worn on her psyche in unexpected ways. While walking through the marketplace with Mon-El, she expresses relief that she doesn’t have to worry about saving people.

Yet, the very fact that she comments on this betrays her true feelings: she still thinks about people who need saving. And, perhaps, she misses saving them. As it turns out, the instinct to “live as a warrior”, as Alura puts, it, can’t be removed as easily as a costume.

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Bullet points:

  • “Not Kansas” is heavy on music, featuring montages accompanied by Arizona’s “Oceans Away” and Bayonne’s “I Know”. “Daydreaming” by Rosa Pullman plays over Kara and Mon-El’s heart-to-heart in the greenhouse, while Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” inspires J’onn’s idea to take M’yrrn to the opera.
  • The reach, a Martian ritual in which elders pass their memories on to their descendants, is a neat concept. I’m officially disappointed that humans can’t use it in real life.
  • James’s subplot dealing with gun control has noble intentions, but it feels too much like an afterthought to give the issue the weight it deserves. Ultimately, I wish Supergirl spent time with Samantha and Ruby instead.
  • I 100% believe that a real gun company would use “Our guns bring families together” as a slogan. It would be ingenious if it weren’t so horrifying.
  • After staying in the background throughout season 3, Eve suddenly has a semi-prominent role this episode. Will she turn out to be somebody important?
  • Three Arrowverse shows have featured Singin’ in the Rain: The Flash (“Duet”), Legends of Tomorrow (“Phone Home”), and now Supergirl.
  • Winn studying Guardian’s bullet-riddled shield: “It hurts me to see a masterpiece in ruins. It’s like the Picassos that went down with the Titanic.”
  • Kara to Alex: “You filled my heart.”

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