NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review

 

 

Supergirl appears to be starting its 2020 run of episodes on a superb note, if its previous midseason premiere is any indication. The series has so far made strong use of its new setting on the shared Earth-Prime, and it fortunately hasn’t done so at the expense of former plot elements. This sharp storytelling balance presents a strong opportunity for Supergirl to revisit one of its classic characters this week, namely when Brainy’s first task under Lex is to break none other than Winslow Schott Jr. out of prison! Well, sort of. This Winn is another doppelganger from one of the destroyed Earth’s that’s been displaced onto Earth-Prime, and in his universe, he ended up becoming a criminal, and succeeding his father as the Toyman.

Not only is it great to see Winn on Supergirl again, even in a different form, but it also allows, “Back From the Future – Part One” to effectively anchor itself around another solid scheme from Lex, one that also eventually brings Earth-38’s Winn back from the future, where he’s since joined the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Toyman storyline originally hits the notes you would expect, with Toyman attacking a toy expo, in an effort to blow up a plagiarist that was apparently responsible for stealing a VR patent from his late father, thus ruining the Schott family name, and driving the original Toyman to insanity. This is relatively similar to Winn’s father’s history on the former Earth-38. The twist eventually comes in when the Winn doppelganger ends up affecting Earth-38 Winn’s future, namely imprisoning him for crimes in the past, resulting in Winn’s family and superhero career being erased from existence.

The idea behind this mess actually ends up being weirdly brilliant, with Lex manipulating the Winn doppelganger to attack the expo, thus disgracing Winn in the future, forcing him to come to the present to fix the situation with Team Supergirl. This not only doubles as keeping Kara and her friends busy while Lex gets up to his business, but also provides a convenient opportunity for Lex to get at the memory cube in Winn’s ship, which grants Lex all of the information he could want on Leviathan. This allows Lex to see that Gamemnae is in disguise as a CatCo board member and friend of Andrea’s, something that doesn’t have a payoff yet, but is certainly bound to come back into play later. It’s also telling that Lex doesn’t appear to recognize Rama Khan, likely as a side effect of Rama Khan’s attack during Supergirl’s recent midseason finale being retconned out of Earth-Prime’s history.

This core scheme with Lex also ends up highlighting something that Batwoman previously teased, and The Flash plans to investigate in earnest when it returns for its 2020 run, namely that Earth-Prime’s science, physics and other such laws of reality, have now been re-written compared to the former Earth-1 and Earth-38. This means that Lena’s experiments on Q-Waves are effectively worthless on Earth-Prime, since their frequency has now completely changed, necessitating that Lena go along with Lex’s plans, in order to further her own research. This has the double-sided advantage of re-establishing Lena’s strained friendship with Andrea, which now eliminates Lena’s former struggles against Leviathan on Earth-Prime, while also granting Lena her own access to Winn’s memory cube, giving Lena another shot at perfecting her Q-Wave experiment. The Luthor storylines on Supergirl consistently continue to excel, and I have to say that the tense alliance between Lex and Lena on Earth-Prime is so far proving to be amazing to witness.

As for the core storyline with Winn and his Toyman doppelganger however, it sometimes works to more mixed effect. There is another interesting switch to the status quo here, namely that J’onn has created a ‘Team Supergirl’ lair (hence why I used that term, and didn’t just say the ‘DEO’ this time), to avoid Lex’s prying eyes, complete with spots for The Flash and Batwoman, teasing some smaller-scale crossovers with those characters down the road. It’s also interesting that this lair is originally used to receive a worldwide transmission from Toyman, who claims his next attack will be triggered after reaching one million followers worldwide. This presents an interesting message on online safety and anti-trolling practices in concept, but it’s once again a little juvenile and over-simplified in execution, even if it’s less insufferably preachy than some of Supergirl’s past story arcs have been. At least Toyman making use of technology that doesn’t exist on Earth-Prime (somehow) is a halfway decent excuse for why he can’t immediately be traced and arrested though, even with the help of Brainy and Winn.

There’s a lot to unpack towards the end of the episode too, considering that this kicks off a two-part storyline, even if its conclusion frustratingly won’t air until three weeks from now, due to the Super Bowl and the Oscars airing over the next two Sunday nights. Toyman attempts to attack the National City University after Andrea demos some new tech there, which Team Supergirl naturally foils, eventually leading to Toyman appearing to commit suicide by detonating the university with himself inside. There are no fatalities outside of Toyman, thankfully, but Toyman nonetheless appears to linger, despite his supposed demise, existing as a virtual entity inside his own confiscated technology. This is a bit of a relief, since it would have been a waste to make evil Winn a disposable, one-off villain, even if he’s meant to return in a heavily altered form after this.

There’s also some attempts to further the romantic tension between Brainy and Nia, and Kara and William, though it feels like these payoffs are largely being saved for the following episode in a few weeks (though do take a shot when Winn fixes Nia’s latest power snafu with a pep talk outside), where I hope that the Kara/William romance feels less tiresome in its development. All in all, “Back From the Future – Part One” makes for a fun and satisfying re-introduction for Winn, alongside the interesting debut of his evil doppelganger from another Earth, while also providing another standout storyline for the Luthor siblings, after they hit their latest snags from the new rules of Earth-Prime. The grand plot of Winn’s doppelganger doesn’t completely hold up to scrutiny, and I’m still not totally buying the budding relationship between Kara and William at this point, but this is nonetheless a solid kick-off to an interesting, albeit short-lived return for Winn. I’m also happy to see that Supergirl still hasn’t given up on portraying some ambitious Toyman storylines every so often, even if it’s hard not to long for that OG charm of Winn’s late criminal father.

Supergirl 5.11: "Back From the Future - Part One" Review
Supergirl brings back Winn, alongside an evil doppelganger, for a pretty strong story kick-off in, "Back From the Future - Part One", an episode that's further bolstered from more Earth-Prime complications.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Winn's exciting return, alongside yet another new Toyman
  • Team Supergirl getting a cool new hideout outside of the DEO
  • More inspired Earth-Prime obstacles with the Luthor siblings
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Toyman's ultimate plot is a little arbitrary and strange
  • Romantic subplots aren't that exciting
82%Overall Score
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