NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review
With all of the pieces in place, Team Supergirl is finally ready to venture into the Phantom Zone and retrieve Kara. This by itself marks a pretty strong basis for this week’s midseason finale, before Supergirl goes off the air for several months, not being set to return for the rest of its final episodes until late August. Unfortunately, the outstanding potential behind the show’s Spring finale is largely wasted on a tediously predictable execution. “Fear Knot” ultimately ends up being a disappointingly boilerplate conclusion to Kara’s imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, with even its cliffhanger ending being easy to spot from a mile away.
This is frustrating, because the overall hook behind this episode is actually pretty cool. After Nia and Brainy return with a blood sample from the teenage Kara, J’onn reveals that the Tower is actually a Martian spaceship in disguise, allowing Team Supergirl to fly into the Phantom Zone, thanks to their imprisoned Prime Phantom detecting Kara’s scent. When they arrive however, interdimensional turbulence, along with a wave of attacking Phantoms, make their mission difficult. This is on top of a ticking clock that prevents Team Supergirl from being in the Phantom Zone for more than two hours, lest the ship fail, which would leave all of Kara’s friends stuck in the Phantom Zone forever. No pressure, right?
This concept should be amazing, but the idea is presented in such a by-the-numbers fashion that it fails to excite. The twist behind this episode’s many character-based conflicts is made obvious right from the jump, for starters, when it’s needlessly outlined that Phantoms attack with fear visions in their home dimension. Not only did we already know this, but pointing it out just draws attention to the fact that everything the characters hallucinate during their inevitable fear visions is not real. There is nonetheless some solid effort put into trying to realize some harrowing stakes though, as various members of the team appear to die, while each commercial break ends with a shift in perspective, as the clock winds back to ten minutes previous. Again, all of the pieces are here for a great, memorable episode, but there just isn’t anything truly surprising done with them.
To be fair though, there are still some cool moments realized amid the team’s various hallucinations. Alex going rogue after being infected by a Phantom is pretty great, as is Kelly having to try and fight after the team’s other heroes are all seemingly possessed or killed, a transparent foreshadowing that Kelly will eventually succeed her brother as the next Guardian during this season’s back portion. Even Dreamer failing to interpret a dream that seemingly leads to Brainy’s death could have been cool, if it hadn’t occurred too late in this episode. Likewise, Kara being attacked by a Phantom while dragging her father to safety (uh, did we miss a scene? How the hell did she find Zor-El again?!), thus leading her to see her team’s destruction, could have also been a cool way to punctuate this episode’s stakes. Perhaps this moment should have happened in the middle of the episode though, not the start, because in being presented during the intro, Kara’s Phantom attack is deflated of any potential to be shocking.
Ultimately though, J’onn’s Martian physiology prevents him from being affected by the Prime Phantom, who apparently got loose from containment and caused the hallucinations for everyone else on Team Supergirl, save for Brainy, who is simply able to ignore repeated torment by balloons. Okay, I have to admit, the idea that Brainy is pushing through a balloon-based fear hallucination throughout much of this episode is pretty funny! Regardless, J’onn being unaffected by the Prime Phantom is contrived and unbelievable, especially when M’Gann already ran afoul of this same Phantom several episodes ago. Not only that, but when J’onn states that he can use his psychic abilities to save everyone by giving them a life raft back to reality, it’s never made clear if he actually does this in the end. Instead, characters like Alex and Kelly simply break themselves out of their own illusions, alongside Lena, who can seemingly tell that she’s in an illusion from the jump anyway. If anything, Nia gets some interesting foreshadowing by completely failing to save Brainy, and being visibly rattled by it, but nothing is really done with this turn yet, and now we’ll be waiting several months to see if anything else comes from it.
Fortunately, Lena also has another decent, if convenient fix that allows Team Supergirl to hastily rescue Kara, once they all break out of their Phantom-induced illusions. Thanks to building a Yellow Sun Grenade that saves Kara and her father from being tormented by a whole army of Phantoms, Lena allows Kara to regain her abilities in the Phantom Zone, letting her fly herself and her father back to her friends. Well, that was easy, at least beyond the crippling Phantom nightmares that ate up virtually this entire episode. Finally, we can put this Phantom Zone plot to bed, and properly bring Kara back to National City once Supergirl returns to The CW’s schedule in August. Oh, and Nyxly. Yeah, surprising absolutely no one, Nyxly survived the explosion at the Anchor, and is stowing away on the Tower Ship, as revealed during the final seconds of this episode. In case it wasn’t obvious already, this spells out that Nyxly will no doubt be Supergirl’s next major threat, and possibly its last season-spanning arch-villain. Like I said several reviews ago, Team Supergirl is overdue to face a magic-themed threat as well, and I’m glad we’ll finally be getting one, even if it’s at the very end of this series’ run.
“Fear Knot” is ultimately a disappointing way to cap off the front portion of Supergirl’s final season, especially when this episode had so much potential behind it. There’s still some interesting teases for the remainder of the season here at least, such as Kelly’s first steps to becoming the new Guardian, and Nia having to face a psychological reckoning as she continues to struggle with interpreting her dreams. Despite that though, too much of this episode is predictable and uninteresting, ultimately failing to do anything legitimately impactful with the idea of Team Supergirl facing crippling, potentially lethal fears. At least Kara is finally reunited with the rest of her team in the end however, while her father will also get his chance to take up a new life on Earth to boot. Mostly though, I’m looking forward to Nyxly developing as a new major antagonist for Kara, even if Nyxly’s survival and stowing out of the Phantom Zone is something anyone could have predicted for several weeks now.
Thus, Supergirl fans still have plenty to look forward to across its final thirteen episodes. I just wish that the series’ extended Spring/Summer hiatus could have begun on a more legitimately interesting, unpredictable note.
- Kelly taking her first steps as a new Guardian
- Nia continuing to struggle with her powers
- Nyxly stowing along on the return to Earth
- J'onn inexplicably defying the Prime Phantom's powers
- Narrative structure is too predictable
- Kara's own Phantom attack is pointless