NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Supergirl” are present in this review
Among the inevitable initiation rites of the Superman family on the small screen is the obligatory exposure to Red Kryptonite, the nasty stuff that makes even one of the most noble and upstanding heroes of the DC Universe, the Man of Steel himself, go bad. It’s now Supergirl’s turn to have a go with Red K, as “Falling” was carried entirely by Kara having a run-in with her dark side after being exposed to it, and boy, was this an excellent episode as a result!
To start, the showrunners were more clever than you would imagine with the implementation of Red Kryptonite on Supergirl, as it didn’t simply turn Kara into an over-the-top caricature of a superhero going bad, which occurred even as recently as Smallville’s run on The CW. Instead, the Red K had a more subtle and ominous effect here. As the episode goes on, Kara starts becoming more and more confident, and then more and more unhinged. Her metaphorical fall is very traceable, and as the effects of the Red Kryptonite appear to become worse with every hour, it creates a brilliant sense of tension, since you never know what Kara will do next. This proves to be a lot more effective than instantly turning her into a dangerous menace, and made the stakes of the episode very high as a result, since even the viewer will feel Supergirl uncomfortably slip away as the episode goes on.
It was also clever to have the Red Kryptonite be an accidental creation of Maxwell Lord, who was attempting to create synthetic Kryptonite to fight Non and his Kryptonian army, since Non has already announced a major attack on National City in the near future. It was a little convenient to have Lord drop into the DEO, get tossed in prison again, then whip up the miracle cure that was necessary to restore Kara to her former self, but still, it was neat to have a better explanation for Red Kryptonite than usual, especially since the show has only ever referenced the normal Green Kryptonite so far.
The other big strength of the episode was the fact that the show didn’t suddenly pretend that everything was fine by the time Kara is inevitably cured by Lord’s miracle formula, conveniently fired from an enormous laser gun somehow. There was major damage done to the city and Supergirl’s reputation in the wake of Kara’s Red K bender, and it was all still there by the end of the episode. Over the course of events, Kara gets Siobahn fired (no doubt finalizing her metamorphosis into Silver Banshee soon!), tosses Cat Grant off of her building’s balcony, which leads to Cat publicly denouncing Supergirl and labeling her a threat to the city, plus Kara even alienates herself from James as well, after attempting to seduce him while insulting Lucy in a club (Lucy apparently quit CatCo after the previous episode, by the by), which leads to James packing up and saying that he needs time away from her. Oh dear. This won’t be an easy mess to clean up.
The only gripe about this fantastic sequence of damaging fallout to the Red K exposure is that a lot of it stems from a pretty contrived incident. Everyone only puts together that something is very wrong with Kara when she lets an alien escapee from Fort Rozz go, after nearly crushing the bad guy’s throat under her boot, then just flying away. Uhhh, what? Even on Red K, this doesn’t make sense for Kara at all. Why would she let the alien go? It would have been far more impactful and logical if Kara had actually killed the thing, which would have been another great consequence to her Red K exposure, and National City subsequently doubting her. I guess that the showrunners didn’t want Supergirl to become too dark, since it’s one of the most light-hearted comic book shows on the airwaves right now, but still, this moment really stretches logic in an otherwise awesome storyline for the show.
Still, the Red K consequences were frequent and powerful stuff, challenges that Supergirl will no doubt have to overcome over the rest of the season, even if Cat at least forgives her by the end of the episode, as does the DEO. Speaking of the DEO, when they even fail to stop Supergirl, the biggest consequence of all occurs, as Hank is forced to reveal his identity as Martian Manhunter to the world, which gives Alex enough time to shoot the formula into Supergirl and fix the Red K issue. Alex tells Hank to run as the frightened local cops point their guns at him, but Hank willfully surrenders, and ends up in a DEO cell. Senator Miranda Crane even makes a comeback just to make Hank feel extra bad for lying about his true identity as a Martian, and being the former reason that she started to believe in co-operating with good-natured aliens. Among the fallout to Supergirl’s rampage, Hank suffered the worst (and Siobahn I suppose, though her firing is somewhat her own fault, as she was sabotaging Cat), and that was both shocking and satisfying.
Supergirl still too often feels like it’s trailing the legacy of many Superman stories across decades of DC media, but “Falling” proved to be an exception to that. Easily a new high point for the Superman family and their history with Red Kryptonite, this was an incredible episode of Supergirl, one that excellently used Red Kryptonite to punctuate a superb and heavy storyline for Kara. With just a few episodes left in Season One, Kara doesn’t have a whole lot of time to redeem herself to National City before the season wraps, but I suppose that the first step is the city finally truly getting their heroine back by the end, so it certainly could have been worse, even if the consequences definitely aren’t small!
- Brilliant use and effects of Red Kryptonite on Kara
- Major fallout from Kara's actions
- Melissa Benoist's best Supergirl performance to date
- Even on Red Kryptonite, Supergirl letting the bad alien escape doesn't make sense