NOTE: Some spoilers from throughout the sixth and final season of, “Supergirl” are present in this review
Another Arrowverse series has officially been retired. Following on from Black Lightning’s conclusion this past May, Supergirl has now become the second DC drama series on The CW to wrap up its run this year, lasting a fairly impressive six seasons between its CBS origins, and its majority of successive CW episodes. Fortunately, the freshly-launched Superman & Lois will continue to represent the Arrowverse’s Superman Family in some form, not to mention that, while Arrow’s Oliver Queen perished at the end of his own show, and Black Lightning’s Jefferson Pierce retired as the city of Freeland’s protector when his series ended, Kara will instead keep protecting National City as Supergirl, even if Team Supergirl’s adventures will now mostly happen off-screen. This, I suppose keeps the various Arrowverse series’ current endings from overlapping at this point. Plus, Team Supergirl seeing no significant changes after the conclusion of their CW show does make them easy guests for future Arrowverse crossover events. Hell, Supergirl’s adoptive sister, Alex Danvers/Sentinel has already popped up twice during The Flash’s current crossover event, Armageddon!
While Team Supergirl continuing to do their thing uninterrupted, even after their show ends, will be seen as good news by a fair contingent of fans, it’s also sadly true that Supergirl’s sixth and final season represents a disappointingly weak note for the series to end on. There’s plenty of feel-good heroics and a few interesting character arcs to be had during this final batch of twenty episodes, but much like Black Lightning’s final season earlier this year, it’s too easy to get the sense that Supergirl stayed on the air for at least one season too long. The show is mostly out of ideas by this point, particularly after being rendered completely obsolete within the Arrowverse catalogue. After all, Superman & Lois stands as a vastly superior Superman Family-themed series for the Arrowverse, while Batwoman has taken up the cause of social justice-fueled superhero narratives that The CW seems to love so much.
A big part of the problem behind Supergirl’s final season is that it’s filled with false starts, and ideas that go nowhere. The season begins adequately enough with its first seven episodes (which were awkwardly sandwiched between Superman & Lois’ split debut season last Spring), wherein Kara is sent into the Phantom Zone by Lex Luthor. This creates the season’s most interesting conflict, involving Kara reuniting with her imprisoned father, Zor-El, and befriending a trapped fifth-dimensional princess named Nyxlygsptinz, or, “Nyxly” for short, while the rest of Team Supergirl scrambles to rescue Kara in National City. Unfortunately, Kara being cut off from her team gets even worse once a Prime Phantom escapes from the Phantom Zone as well, and begins infecting National City’s population, turning them into more Phantoms that continue to feed on people’s negative energy throughout Earth. This may not be a brilliant storyline, but at least it’s a novel, engaging idea, one that eventually leads to Nyxly stowing away during Kara’s rescue, thus cementing Nyxly as the surprise arch-villain of Supergirl’s final season.
This is also the point when Supergirl’s last bow really starts to fall apart. To be fair, Kara is overdue for being pitted against a magical arch-villain, and positioning a female acquaintance of Mr. Mxyzptlk (who makes a couple of fun guest appearances during this final season), as said arch-villain is a smart move. Unfortunately, Nyxly is an inconsistent, confused and ultimately ineffectual villain, not least of which because she spends most of this season without her powers. This is yet another good, old-fashioned CW budget squeeze, and it almost completely defeats the purpose of Nyxly as a threat. Instead, Nyxly spends her villainous campaign hunting for magical totems that contain almost the exact same seven virtues that the Paragons held during The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, only with the, “Honor” virtue swapped out for a, “Dream” virtue, so Nia has something extra to do. This is a double issue, because not only is recycling the same virtues from Crisis on Infinite Earths, without even mentioning the Paragons in the process, pretty uninspired overall, but sibling Arrowverse series, Legends of Tomorrow already built one of its own seasons around a magical totem hunt, and executed this idea far better.
Of course, it also doesn’t help that Supergirl’s final season didn’t seem to know what to do with its own heroine. Even Zor-El ultimately just disappears after stumbling out of the Phantom Zone with his daughter, before subsequently failing to instantly fix climate change. That’s one of many political issues that Supergirl’s final season touches on and immediately abandons the following week, as if the show is confused about exactly what it wants to say with its final episodes.
Part of the problem though is Kara herself, as I’ve indicated repeatedly in prior reviews. Kara can be fairly likable, and can even be fairly inspiring when she’s written well, but she’s also a boring, bland superhero in the Arrowverse, and that was always going to drag down Supergirl’s ending. When it comes down to it, Kara is a complete Mary Sue that started awesome, and ended awesome, having not achieved any meaningful growth or introspection as a character. This makes much of Kara’s storytelling on Supergirl feel like a complete waste of time, because even when Kara’s ‘wrong’, she’s right, at least according to the show. Thanks to Kara’s lack of inherent character flaws, she thus ends up leaning into the worst stereotypes surrounding the Superman Family and feminist superhero narratives! No matter how Kara’s Arrowverse series arc ended, it was always going to be unfulfilling and lame.
That being said, some of Supergirl’s supporting cast manage to get decent final arcs, even if the show awkwardly reverses course on one of its better ideas during the series finale. Alex and Kelly probably occupy the most interesting storylines this season, even as they both continue to betray their central character traits by being the two most hyper-emotional members of Team Supergirl, even though they’re supposed to be the tough, hardened personalities. Regardless, Alex and Kelly adopt a daughter, Esme, an alien with volatile mimicking powers, and cap off the series nicely by getting married. As much as marriages can be a bit of a cliche for TV series finales, I have to admit that Alex’s and Kelly’s union is both beautiful and gratifying. Seeing Alex finally get the family she’s always wanted makes for a much better concluding arc for Supergirl than Kara herself ultimately gets too, wherein Kara is inexplicably handed an editor-in-chief job at CatCo by Cat Grant, despite the fact that Kara remains a terrible, uncommitted reporter that even storms out of the company later in this final season.
Lena also gets a pretty good, if slightly undercooked storyline during this season. After looking into her family heritage, Lena discovers that her birth mother was a witch, resulting in a subsequent revelation that Lena has vast, untapped magical powers. While this is undeniably weird, it does allow Lena to remain one of Supergirl’s most interesting personalities, headlining inspired storylines where she doubts and initially rejects her own abilities, as she’s always been a Luthor, and a woman of science. Like Nyxly’s own magical history in the fifth dimension however, this season doesn’t fully do this Lena heritage angle justice, especially while the Arrowverse has continually rewritten its rules surrounding how magic works between Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl. Eventually, Lena just devolves into being a pure Deus Ex Machina for Team Supergirl, though she does at least get a bittersweet opportunity to make peace with her adoptive mother, Lillian, before Lillian ends up being killed during the series finale.
Speaking of surprising losses, William also undergoes something of a redemption during this final season. Granted, William still isn’t a great character, being an equally inconsistent personality as James, the character he’s seemingly meant to replace. Even so, William being the voice of reason at CatCo puts him in a fair enough position to keep that element of Supergirl’s storytelling in focus, especially after Andrea inexplicably backslides from all of her development during the previous season, going back to being a snotty, trend-chasing tabloid news queen during this final season. Even Andrea’s metahuman history as Acrata is practically swept under the rug during this final season, unless she, like Lena, needs to be a Deus Ex Machina. William however successfully becomes the everyman hero that he’s been trying to be for a couple of seasons now, and that’s capped off effectively when William is unexpectedly shot and killed by Lex during Supergirl’s final few episodes. William isn’t the heaviest loss that Team Supergirl could have suffered, but his unceremonious end does return some real stakes to Lex’s villainous agenda, even when the rest of Lex’s final season arc takes a very bizarre turn.
Compounding the fact that this season quickly mishandles Nyxly as an arch-villain is the fact that Lex’s own climactic agenda is pretty absurd. Jon Cryer remains engaging and committed to his Lex performance, for better or for worse, but despite Nyxly originally wanting the totems’ power to take revenge on Kara, National City and/or the fifth dimension (the exact threat that Nyxly presents is a bit nebulous), this plot is eventually derailed by an apparent future version of Lex coming to the present to declare that he’s in love with Nyxly. I seriously doubt that most DC fans will appreciate one of the DC Universe’s most dangerous and sociopathic arch-villains, as well as the archenemy to the Superman Family as a whole, being reduced to a lovesick head case during Supergirl’s final season, but I suppose it is something different for Lex’s character. Regardless, the lovesick Lex points Nyxly to more totems for the sake of what seems like simple mischief, and this eventually culminates with the two breaking up, turning on each other, and eventually being tossed into the Phantom Zone due to their own villainous incompetence. Like I said, this is a pretty undignified end for the Arrowverse’s Lex Luthor, though I suppose that this is likely a separate Lex from the future, whereas present-day Lex is probably still in prison after he initially zaps Kara into the Phantom Zone, hopefully allowing Cryer’s Lex to show up on Superman & Lois someday, for a much better storyline.
Lex isn’t the only character to get a head-scratching ending arc either. Despite the fact that Kara’s final arc was seemingly doomed to be disappointing from the start, there were other characters among Supergirl’s lead ensemble that deserved better resolutions than they ultimately got. J’onn, for example, is another character that has completely run out of story potential at this point, so he just kind of floats around and helps out Team Supergirl during this final season, without standing out in any particular way. Sadly, the same is true of M’Gann, who returns early in the season to help contain the Phantom threat in National City, before disappearing for all of the season’s remaining episodes.
Brainy is another character that’s ultimately let down, despite an initially promising resolution idea that the show frustratingly wimps out of. After a threat in the future demands that Brainy return to his own time period, he faces the probability that he will have to live the rest of his life without Nia, or the rest of his friends. Nia, by contrast, gets some solid writing during this final season, whereupon she resolves her complicated feelings surrounding her dead mother, her strained relationship with her sister, and her own powers and heritage as Dreamer. This solid climactic arc for Nia is sadly betrayed by Brainy simply shrugging and abandoning the future during Supergirl’s series finale however, basically saying, “Meh, it will sort itself out.” This is not only unfulfilling, it’s also immature, especially for a character that’s spent the past couple of seasons as a bit of an intellectual wild card, one that even found himself working for Lex at one point, after Brainy struggled to reconcile that he can’t follow his heart when people’s lives are on the line, and he must act according to the greater good of the timeline. If the idea is supposed to be that Brainy no longer cares about managing the future, that seems more than a little reckless, particularly for a twelfth-level intellect! Maybe the Legends will volunteer to keep Brainy’s mess in line?
If there’s a theme behind Supergirl’s final season, it’s the fact that it’s disappointingly directionless. The show appears to have become unmoored for its final episodes, and like I said, this is symptomatic of Supergirl running for at least one season too long. Despite an initially intriguing idea surrounding Kara being trapped in the Phantom Zone, and inadvertently unleashing a supernatural threat on National City, the rest of the season quickly becomes inconsistent, tedious and ultimately unsatisfying. This stings even more when you consider that Kara is finally being pitted against a magical arch-villain, only for Nyxly to spend most of this season without her powers, instead being left to stumble between chasing some enchanted virtue rocks, and falling both in and out of love with Lex Luthor. Team Supergirl’s final season arcs also vary drastically in quality, with Alex, Kelly, Nia, Lena and William getting solid resolutions, while Brainy, J’onn, Andrea, Lex and, inevitably, Kara herself, get frustratingly weak wrap-ups that either don’t leave an impression, or stink of feeling forced.
At least Team Supergirl can keep on trucking though, protecting National City off-screen, rather than disbanding like Team Arrow did after Arrow ended, or forcing out the veteran heroes like Team Lightning did after the conclusion of Black Lightning. I guess that’s a fitting end for an upbeat, but ultimately weak Arrowverse series, not really rocking the boat, and not truly standing out with its conclusion. Arrow and Black Lightning both had better, more satisfying endings, but Supergirl will have the advantage of easy victory laps in future Arrowverse crossovers, after opting to end on little more than a feel-good smile for its crew of heroes. Fair enough, I guess.