The 3 Biggest Missed Opportunities in Supergirl Season 3
The first two seasons of Supergirl cemented the show as a Monday night staple for me: flawed but fun, with campy superhero battles and cozy couch snuggles. Its themes of strong family ties and positive friendships have largely been genuine enough to balance out some of the more bland villains, boyfriends, and plotlines.
And then there’s Season 3, which started out fairly strong! But wow, did things take a turn. I thoroughly enjoy this show and find its brand of silliness charming, so it pains me to say that Supergirl full-on jumped the shark in ridiculousness before the end of this season. (Reign flies through the center of the Earth to cause earthquakes? Really?) That’s disappointing all by itself, but what makes this blunder hair-pullingly aggravating is how close this season came to being something great.
Early on, multiple arcs had me pumped—it looked like fans could bank on there being some big, exciting reveals in store. Instead, these intriguing storylines fizzled out at best, or cheapened the season as a whole at worst.
Three particular disappointing story arcs stand out as weak spots where the season could have soared if only things had played out a little differently.
(1) No reveal that Lena knows Kara’s identity
By the final third of Season 3, I was so convinced that an “I’ve always known” moment was coming between Lena and Kara that I was pre-celebrating. In several instances, it seems pretty clear that Lena at least suspects it and is waiting for Kara to tell her the truth—she challenges Supergirl on not being friends with Sam (which Kara is), daring her to argue the point.
Later, after Supergirl has been waxing poetic about secrets vs. trust in regards to Lena’s kryptonite, Lena straight-up asks for Supergirl’s real name. It comes across as more of a rhetorical question—one she totally already knows the answer to. Like an adult asking a child with chocolate all over their face who ate all the cookies.
However, my “smoking gun” comes when Lena and Kara (as Kara) finally interact for the first time in weeks, running into each other in an elevator on the way to visit Alex and Ruby. Lena seizes the opportunity to admit that she is only working with Supergirl out of necessity and that she can’t trust her, even casually quoting “never meet your idols.” Blindsided, Kara stumbles through a hasty defense of her alter-ego. Lena is unfazed by Kara’s deer-in-headlights expression, smiling and switching topics as the elevator doors open.
Every second of this scene plays like a calculated move on Lena’s part: her initial warm greeting, her palpable glee at watching Kara learn that James lied about following Supergirl’s request to break into Lena’s vault, and her abrupt and sunny “anyway, time for ice cream”—this is a performance, and she nails it. If Kara isn’t going to tell Lena the truth, Lena’s going to play the game and make Kara sweat a little. I cannot watch this exchange and see a naively blind Lena Luthor innocently venting to her friend.
Even more evidence comes in Lena’s interaction with Supergirl in the following episode, which shows just how skilled she is at playing this game—and is that any surprise, since she’s a Luthor mastermind? She feigns confusion at Supergirl’s insistence that they’ll be able to rebuild trust and be friends, wondering out loud why Supergirl even cares so much about their friendship (or lack thereof). And you know what? Good on Lena for doubling-down. Kara doesn’t get to have it both ways; she can’t hide her true identity from Lena and then expect Lena to embrace Supergirl with the same friendship Kara enjoys. That’s not fair.
I was so sure that this was all building to something amazing: Kara finally gathering her courage to tell Lena the truth, thinking she’s risking their friendship, only for Lena to grin and say, “I was starting to think you’d never tell me.” And after a serious heart-to-heart, bam, they’re back in BFF town! Alas, if this reveal is endgame, it didn’t come to fruition in Season 3. A huge bummer, since it could have been one of the show’s most memorable and impactful moments.
Instead, Kara starts to consider coming clean to Lena, only to conclude that she can’t do that … because it would put Lena in danger. I’m sorry, WHAT? Lena Luthor, a genius CEO and known ally of Supergirl, who has no shortage of enemies due to her last name, is so delicate that she must be protected from this specific truth? All this time, I had assumed that Kara’s reasoning for lying to her closest friend was to protect her cousin: Maybe Lena knowing would make it too easy for Lex to find out Superman’s identity. Justifying the choice on Lena’s safety, instead, is a boring and flimsy cop-out.
I can only hold out hope that the reveal that Lena knows is coming in Season 4. I swear, if we are ever forced to watch a scene where Lena finds out Supergirl’s identity and is genuinely shocked by it, I will riot.
(2) Argo is 100% real—not a trap, simulation, or dream
From the first moment Kara sets foot in Argo, something feels weird, to both her and the viewer. She discovers the city alongside Mon-El, after they travel to a mysterious meteor in the hopes of retrieving some Harun-El, a black kryptonian rock with special properties.
When they arrive, they discover Argo, the city of Kara’s childhood, separated from Krypton and preserved all this time, with her mother (who doesn’t seem to have aged) and long-lost best friend intact. It’s all surreal, but Kara is understandably elated to be reunited with them and to be in her old neighborhood.
In the following episode, Kara decides to return to Argo indefinitely, giving abrupt goodbyes to her sister and coworkers before flying right back to the meteor. The scenes in Argo are dream-like and surreal: everyone wears muted colors, characters dissuade Kara from having intense emotions about things, and dialogue is even weird—at one point, Kara’s mother says something eerily similar to Alex’s lines right before Kara left Earth. Later, a mysterious cloaked woman even states, “Nothing is as it seems.”
Everything seems to point to one delicious (yet devastating) conclusion: The city isn’t real. Someone, and most likely a dark priestess, is messing with Kara’s mind and pulling her into an irresistible distraction, in order to leave Earth vulnerable. Honing in on the one thing that could entice Kara into leaving the planet is a clever move! I eagerly watched for the reveal that suspiciously happy Argo wasn’t what it seemed. Would it be a hallucination? A simulation? Something else? How intriguing!
Only … it turns out, everything is exactly as it seems. Argo is, perplexingly, to be taken at face-value. Not only is her mother alive (and in possession of Himalayan salt lamps in her posh pad), she’s able to accompany Kara through a portal back to Earth. It’s all real, and my brain hurts.
I do get the appeal of Kara being reunited with her mother. It’s a warm, happy twist, and there aren’t enough of those in superhero stories. Further, it’s worth noting that Argo surviving the destruction of Krypton has basis in multiple comic storylines, as well as previous film adaptations of Supergirl—I’m not entirely against incorporating Argo into the show. But as it plays out, it feels like an unforgivably awkward retcon.
Kara’s mother being alive all this time and never making contact because “dome” reasons is distressingly cheesy, and their anticlimactic reunion is a betrayal of both Kara’s painful backstory and her established life as Kara Danvers on Earth. I mean, sure, her mother saw Kara’s pod get knocked off course, so they’d each assumed the other dead all these years. Only … why didn’t anyone on Argo try to track down Kal-El on Earth? Wouldn’t he be interested in knowing that a kryptonian city survived?
And, um, how hilarious that Kara is able to find a way to contact Earth within days of arriving on Argo, despite it supposedly being fully isolated. Come on. (In that same vein, Kara seems like a pretty shitty cousin for not contacting Clark before she moves back to Argo, but I digress.)
Imagine if, instead of this weird Saturday-morning-cartoon-meets-Lifetime-movie mess of a story arc, we got something equally surprising but far more substantial (and closer to the source material): Kara returning to Argo only to discover that the city she saw when she arrived was an illusion manifested by alien technology, designed to lure her in. Then, when it fades away, she sees the city as it actually is: Argo was once there on the meteor, but it’s now in ruins. No signs of life.
Perhaps she’s able to recognize old structures and locations, running her hands over corroded metal and broken stone, in contrast to the sunny, unsettling utopia she tumbled into. These are the relics of a past she can never truly reclaim. But seeing it in person, one last time, gives her something she’s struggled to find for her whole life: closure.
(3) Sam & Alex never become girlfriends
This one is way more of a reach than the others, admittedly, for two reasons: Odette Anabelle is not returning as a series regular for Season 4, and unlike my other two entries here, there weren’t any specific moments that had me actively holding my breath for this outcome.
However, I (and many shippers, I’m sure) still consider it a glaring missed opportunity. The final third of this season doubled-down on Alex’s determination to become a mother—ASAP, apparently, even though she’s young, career-driven, and single. (Valerie Anne on Autostraddle gives excellent commentary on how ridiculous this sudden obsession is.)
Meanwhile, the show has been setting up mother/daughter chemistry between Alex and Ruby, Sam’s daughter, since their first meeting … and then Alex and Maggie broke up because of Alex’s non-negotiable dream of becoming a mother someday.
Conditions seemed perfect for two things to happen: Alex to adopt Ruby—which sort of happened, since she became her temporary guardian while Sam was indisposed—and Alex and Sam to start dating. I mean, why the hell not? They’re both single, Alex wants to be a mom and connects with Ruby, and she’s good friends with Sam. Plus, we need a relationship with a happy ending for Alex. We need that “biggest, gayest wedding” she wanted to plan with Maggie! With blue-haired Ruby as flower girl!
Given an executive producer’s admission that Alex adopting Ruby was considered as a potential outcome but rewritten to give Sam and Ruby a happy ending, I just have to ask: Why not both?
Of course, there’s the question of how this would have fit into the season while Sam’s story arc centered on her struggle with Reign. And here’s my answer: All of it would have been more compelling, for both Sam and Alex, if they had been an established couple. Alex was the first person Sam told about her losing time, before anyone had made the connection to Reign, and Alex was immediately supportive.
How much more dramatic could that have been if they’d been dating, only for Alex to notice that Sam was behaving increasingly strangely? Maybe Alex would have even become paranoid that Sam was having second thoughts and avoiding her before discovering Lena’s underground treatment lab—which becomes significantly heavier as a secret if Sam’s girlfriend was kept in the dark.
One of the strengths of this season was the team of amazing women characters coming together to save Sam, their friend. I think that storyline only gets stronger if Alex is more than a friend—including her devotion to protecting Ruby and the two growing closer. If Alex could look at Ruby and say, “We both love your mom more than anything,” how incredibly powerful would that be? Imagine, also, that instead of Sam’s mother’s spirit somehow appearing in the dark forest realm to help her drink from the correct cave fountain ( … yeah), it was Alex, who re-entered that dimension to save her lady love. What a true romance! What soulmates!
I’m dreaming, I know. All I really want is to see Alex in a happy relationship again, in addition to becoming a mom. Pretty please?
To be fair, Season 3 wasn’t all bad. It did introduce some cool new characters, including the consistently delightful Brainy, who is joining the main cast for Season 4! And as always, the show shined when it stuck to its main strength: personal connections. J’onn’s storyline with his aging father was impactful and heartbreaking, there were several fun Girls Night scenes and some quality sister time (even if this dwindled by the end), and we were treated to some super-cool future tech brought in by the Legionaries, to boot.
The finale actually gives me hope for the future, because it returned to the heart of the show: Supergirl saving the world with the help of her pals, while refusing to compromise on her principles. The epic closing battle scene wherein all our faves come together to save the city (and the planet) was a comparatively solid landing after a fairly shaky third season.
Looking ahead, with Reign and Mon-El gone, there should be plenty of room for Kara (and the show) to refocus on the people who matter most in her life. Truly, there is so much potential for greatness in Season 4, and I am optimistic about it getting back on track.
What are your hopes and dreams for Supergirl Season 4?
(images: The CW)
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