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A Lena-centric Supergirl bites off way more than it can chew

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov (The CW)
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Producing 22 episodes of genre TV a season is no easy feat. And that makes me wonder why the Supergirl writers are making it even harder on themselves by burning through story at a pace that would make even Barry Allen winded. There’s been a manic quality to the first six episodes of this season, which haven’t really felt like they’re building on one another so much as throwing out as many twists, turns, and character shifts as possible. It’s sometimes exhilarating, but mostly just exhaustingand often downright confusing too.

“Confidence Women” at least has a memorable hook. This is a Lena and Andrea flashback episode, which takes us from their Titanic­-fueled boarding school friendship to their falling out over an Aztec medallion to their subsequent secrets and manipulations. Yet it’s hard for any of the big reveals to land because they all come at us so fast. “Confidence Women” should be a character-focused episode that gives Andrea some much needed nuance. Instead it too frequently feels like an exposition dump.

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The biggest problem with “Confidence Women” is that it expects its audience to have a much deeper knowledge of Supergirl’s timeline than I think is reasonable. Keeping track of its era-hopping story sometimes becomes a bit of a distraction. That’s most apparent in the casual return of Jack Spheer (Rahul Kohli), a character who was introduced and killed off in the same episode way back in season two. The “previously on” segment at least provides a little bit of context for his romance with Lena, but then the rest of the episode treats it as a given that, oh yes, of course we remember the details of their relationship and of course we’re deeply invested in seeing more scenes between them.

“Confidence Women” definitely could’ve benefited from prioritizing depth over breadth. In fact, there’s probably a pretty compelling episode to be made out of just the first half of this episode—from Lena and Andrea’s boarding school meet cute to their adventure in the Costa Rican jungle. As two lonely young women from powerful families, they feel a natural kinship towards one another. Yet it’s family complexities that wind up driving them apart. When they reconnect in 2014, Obsidian North has just been beaten to the latest smart phone innovation by their rival Lord Technologies (a fun callback!), which sends Andrea’s dad into a suicidal tailspin. Lena, meanwhile, is starting to see Lex’s unhinged anti-Superman tendencies rise to the surface in terrifying ways.

Both women are essentially being forced out of their companies by unstable men. So Andrea agrees to join Lena’s quest to find the mythical Medallion of Acrata, which is the one thing that could potentially stop Lex. Yet Lena and Andrea’s sweet friendship becomes a Greek tragedy when Andrea decides to steal from her best friend in order to save her own family instead—only to inadvertently enter a Faustian bargain with Leviathan in the process.

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Photo: Sergei Bachlakov (The CW)

Flesh out those character beats and end with the big reveal that Andrea is the Shadow, and you probably have a pretty solid episode on your hands. Instead, “Confidence Women” decides to throw about half a dozen other storylines into the mix too, including revisiting that aforementioned Lena/Jack relationship, depicting the entirety of Andrea and Russell’s romance, and revisiting the early days of the Lena/Kara friendship circa the season two episodes “The Adventures Of Supergirl” and “Survivors.” None of it’s bad, exactly, it’s just hard to invest in deep emotions of fear, love, betrayal, loyalty, and manipulation when the episode keeps bouncing from one thing to the next.

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The most interesting thing about “Confidence Women” is just how much it expands Leviathan as a threat. Not only do they apparently have the resources to keep 24/7 watch over a hidden Aztec medallion, it sort of seems like there’s no element of life Leviathan can’t control—from causing Lord Technologies’ phones to explode to seemingly predicting the future. Right now there’s a magical quality to Leviathan’s abilities, but based on how they use and manipulate Andrea, it’s also possible they just have a very well-connected set of reluctant participants at their disposal.

“Confidence Women” also really ups Lena’s level of manipulation, while still not quite taking her over the villain line. She balks when she thinks Andrea is asking her to help assassinate Russell, but she’s not above threatening Russell’s life in exchange for Andrea’s medallion either—which is probably the darkest thing we’ve seen her do yet. That’s pretty impressive considering this is also an episode where Lena tricks Kara and mind controls the entire DEO.

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Adding Andrea’s betrayal into Lena’s backstory offers one more layer to her sense of isolation and abandonment. One of the most subtly effective moments in this episode is when Lena is flipping through news channels that are all covering either Andrea, Lex, or Supergirl. She can’t escape her past even when she tries, so she figures she might as well lean into it. It turns out Lena specifically lured Andrea to National City with a plan to keep her friends close and her enemies closer. Of the many messy throughlines this season has introduced so far, the battle for Lena’s soul is definitely the one I’m most intrigued by. “Confidence Women” effectively brings that idea to the forefront, it’s just a shame it feels so uncentered in the process.


Stray observations

  • I dug Lena and Andrea’s jungle exploring outfits. Very Ellie Sattler chic.
  • The opening scene of Andrea’s first jailbreak attempt is cool and stylish, with the DEO cast in moody red light. The second one felt much more muddled.
  • I laughed really hard at Lena’s lame, “What’s the DEO?” ploy when Andrea first showed up asking for help.
  • The Leviathan leader who gave Andrea the medallion suggests that it simply unlocked the darkness that was already inside her, but apart from engaging in some underaged drinking, she didn’t really come across as a particularly dark character? I wish the episode had explored that more.
  • Leviathan gets mad that Andrea left the medallion where her boyfriend could find it, but I thought wearing it as a necklace was an even more egregious flouting of their command to keep it secret.
  • Hey, nice to see you again, Jon Cryer! It’s already confirmed that he’ll be popping up in the big crossover event. I wonder if Supergirl has more plans for Rahul Kohli too and that’s why they reintroduced him here.
  • There’s not a ton of Kara in this episode, but I really appreciated her little speech to Russell: “It’s never too late to try to make things right. Or at least better.” The moment she hears Alex shout from across the city was also very cool.
  • Rip Roar? More like R.I.P. Roar.
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About the author

Caroline Siede

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.