Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Supergirl episode reviews here.
“Falling” was, hands-down, Supergirl‘s best episode yet. It was the perfect example of why, despite all of the ups and downs, I will always love this show. The foundation and the potential for greatness is right there and was on full display this week.
This episode could have been a forgettable one-off. A nice, self-contained, consequence-free story in which Supergirl turns dark, does a few mischievous deeds and says rude things, then gets cured and happily repairs the damage in the last act.
Thankfully, “Falling” was more ambitious than that. This was an episode with major and terrible consequences. One of Supergirl‘s greatest strengths has been its characters and their relationships. Another area it excelled at was showing Kara as a truly inspirational hero. And “Falling” took a sledgehammer to all of that. It fulfilled the true potential of the Red Kryptonite premise, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.
Kara got Siobhan fired. She brought her own sister, Alex, to tears. She threw Cat off a building, forcing Supergirl’s biggest supporter to publicly denounce her. She went on a rampage throughout the city, terrifying the civilians who’d grown to idolize her. And she left J’onn with no choice but to reveal his true alien nature to the public in order to take her down. Relationships were damaged and broken, and a city’s trust in their hero was shattered. The effects of this episode will be felt for a long time.
Oh, sure, her mind was warped and she’s better now. But the mere knowledge that such a thing could happen, that Supergirl was powerful enough to bring the city to its knees when she had a bad day, is not something I see National City getting over anytime soon. And the knowledge that everything she said to her loved ones was based even slightly on feelings she truly held deep down means that her relationships with Alex, J’onn, and James might forever be tarnished. Even as she returned to normal, her friends were not quite ready to move on from what she said and did. Alex’s face as she stood at her sister’s bedside said it all: these are things they’ll all have to deal with now.
And that’s why Kara broke down when she woke up at the end. The sight of her crying was utterly heartbreaking, far more affecting than anything she’d done. Sweet, innocent Kara, who never held grudges and brushed off all negative emotions, had to confront the fact that her deepest, darkest thoughts had done so much physical and emotional damage. The fact that it was all so real elevated this week’s story to more than just a gimmick.
I’ve always praised Melissa Benoist’s positively charming portrayal of Kara/Supergirl, but this week she knocked it out of the park. She sold Kara’s gradual downward spiral very well, and she played evil Supergirl with a terrifying menace, which was especially disconcerting when compared to her usual cheerful personality. And when she cried at the end? I’d be surprised if there was a single dry eye in the audience.
But let’s not take away from the action. The final fight between Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter was very impressive, especially on a TV budget. The kind of superhero showdown I love to see.
My favourite scene, though, was the very last one between Supergirl and Cat. Like I said before, neither Alex nor James truly healed from the damage Kara had inflicted, and they let her know it. But not Cat. She did not pretend that what Supergirl did was okay, or that it was going to be. But she was the only one who stood by Kara and gave her encouragement in the end. Not only is Cat pretty thick-skinned, but she shares a unique motherly relationship with Supergirl. It’s easily my favourite relationship on the show, as I’ve said before, and that last scene perfectly demonstrated why.
It’s hard not to feel like Supergirl was taking shots at Man of Steel at several points in the episode. Some of them weren’t intentional—just the sight of Supergirl helping out a young fan who was being bullied immediately put her brand of heroism in stark contrast with Man of Steel‘s. But some parts after she turned dark definitely feel intentional. “Supergirl is brave, kind, and strong. Isn’t that kind of a stock characterization? Very two-dimensional. Everyone knows real people have a dark side.” Tell me that isn’t something you can imagine Zack Snyder saying.
The only weakness in “Falling” was Max Lord. Don’t get me wrong, his characterization was better than normal, and I really liked the idea that he himself turned Supergirl into the very thing he was afraid she was. But the way he popped in randomly, explained everything, and immediately provided a solution was forced and stilted. Hi, I’m Max Lord, and I’m a plot device.
Given how busy this episode was, though, it’s forgivable. And really only enough to knock the score down from a perfect 5 to a 4.5.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
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