Supergirl season 3 finale review: Battles Lost and Won


An uneven season of Supergirl ends with our heroes fighting to preserve Earth’s humanity — as well as their own.

The third season of Supergirl began with the Girl of Steel hovering high above National City. As the camera circles her, capturing the vast darkness around her, the white noise of traffic fills her ears. But then, the camera closes in on her face, and the noise fades away as if filtered out. For a moment, everything seems clear.

It’s a beautiful image and one that encapsulates the season as a whole. For long stretches, it felt like we were suspended above a city, bombarded by noise. Occasionally, an episode, or scene, or line managed to cut through the noise, orienting us in the chaos. In the end, however, it was a losing battle. The chaos proved too much.

Last night’s finale, “Battles Lost and Won”, opened with chaos. When the Dark Priestesses led by Selena revived Reign and activated the cauldron, they unleashed a barrage of natural disasters on Earth. Earthquakes tear literal rifts in National City, wreaking streets and buildings, while Madagascar threatens to crumble into lava.

As Kara, Mon-El, James, and the DEO stay busy saving civilians in National City, J’onn crosses the ocean with his father. By shapeshifting into the earth, M’yrrn can reach the cauldron and freeze it, but he would inevitably die in the process. It’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make; after all, he survived genocide and prison, and he somehow managed to reunite with his son. If anybody deserves eternal peace, it’s him.

First, they take time to say goodbye. Since they can’t complete the reach, M’yrrn gives J’onn one last memory: the origin of the Martians. So, at least as long as J’onn lives, a record of their species remains. (Left unspoken is the question of what happens when J’onn dies. To whom does he pass on his memories, if he is the only Martian on Earth?) Ultimately, their parting is sweet, if a tad rushed, coming at the beginning of a busy episode.

M’yrrn succeeds in freezing the cauldron and halting the destruction, but they still have to stop Reign once and for all. In the Dark Valley, Samantha stumbles on a pair of fountains. Growing quickly weaker, she starts to drink — until her mother stops her, insisting that the fountain is the wrong one. At first, Samantha doesn’t believe Patricia. They weren’t close in life, and the Valley has a way of driving its inhabitants mad, as she learned last time she got trapped here; clearly, this must be a trick. But as Patricia sings a lullaby, Sam accepts — or, perhaps, resigns herself to — her mother’s love. Finally, after trying so hard for so long to be strong for Ruby, she lets herself be weak.

She wakes up just in time to join the fight — and now she has superpowers. With Reign focused on Supergirl, Samantha stabs the Worldkiller, distracting her long enough for the Girl of Steel to throw her into the cauldron. Unfortunately, as she dies, Reign’s laser vision goes wild, killing Alura and Mon-El, who takes a hit for J’onn. Due to the murky lighting and frenetic editing, the sequence is difficult to follow and ultimately lacks the emotional impact it needs. Kara doesn’t even bother to make sure they’re actually dead.

Again, Supergirl seems in a hurry to move onto the next thing. Urging Winn to find a disruption in the space-time continuum, Kara uses Mon-El’s Legion ring to skip backward in time. If only she hadn’t given into the temptation to kill Reign, she thinks, her mother and friend would still be alive. The sequence showing her surrounded by memories nicely evokes the underwater scene in the season premiere, giving us brief access to Kara’s mind. (Jesse Warn directed both.) It’s one of the moments that cuts through the noise, a refreshing reminder of what the show is really about.

After that, “Battles Lost and Won” slows down a little. We get more partings, as Winn agrees to go to the future in Braniac 5’s place; Mon-El tells Kara that he should stay with the Legion; and J’onn informs Alex that he is leaving the DEO. I especially enjoyed the Winn/James interactions, and not just because I kept hoping they would kiss. Even though it became clear that the show wasn’t sure how to use Winn, his loss feels big. In season 3, he often provided the only source of levity, reminding us of the goofier, more down-to-earth show Supergirl used to be.

By the end of the episode, the team has scattered to the wind. Only Kara and Alex remain, sitting on their couch, contemplating the future. Then again, it was always them — the Danvers sisters, together in a world neither of them quite knows. At last, Supergirl finds its home. I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

Bullet points:

  • Overall season grade: C. I admire the ambitious themes, but they got buried under overly convoluted plotting and erratic characterization. Hopefully, the ending signals a return to the basics. Highlights include “The Faithful”, Laurie Metcalf’s guest appearance, and the J’onn/M’yrrn storyline. Lowlights include Morgan Edge, Kara getting mad at Lena over nothing, and pretty much every fight scene involving Reign.
  • Charlie Puth’s “Through It All” plays over Winn’s farewell to the DEO.
  • Despite what I say above, I wouldn’t be opposed to Supergirl sticking with the Legion and going full space opera.
  • Mon-El compares Kara’s journey through time to a Greek myth. Like Romeo and Juliet in season 2, it’s an epic allusion that Supergirl never really earned.
  • Not to be all “what about the man?” but Clark was sorely missed this season.
  • J’onn in the fedora makes me want another 1930s-set musical episode.
  • M’yrrn to J’onn: “Promote peace and be happy, my son.”

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For season 4, Supergirl moves to Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.