Photo: Supergirl (CBS)

My biggest fear going into “Worlds Finest” was that the episode would be a fun one-off designed to convert Flash fans into Supergirl fans (and vice versa, I suppose) while ignoring the compelling narrative Supergirl has been exploring since Kara went bad in “Falling.” Instead “Worlds Finest” relies heavily on Supergirl’s long-term storytelling, pulling together threads from the entire season into one jam-packed episode. And it does so while introducing the most enjoyable superhero team-up this side of The Avengers. For better or for worse, “Worlds Finest” represents Supergirl in a nutshell: Fun, clunky, cheesy, and more intelligent than it seems at first glance.

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That said, even by Supergirl standards, “Worlds Finest” is a goofy episode. Since he’s already learned about the concept of the multiverse over in his own CW series, Barry “Fastest Man Alive” Allen isn’t completely freaked out when he realizes his attempts to increase his speed accidentally catapulted him to an alternate universe. He is, however, a little surprised to learn the woman he caught falling out of a skyscraper window is actually a superpowered alien from Krypton.

“Kara Danvers meets Barry Allen. I love bringing people together!”

Rather than mine drama from the meeting of a universe-hopping speedster and a flying alien with superstrength, Supergirl embraces the joy of its comic book premise. Kara isn’t threatened by Barry’s abilities, she’s thrilled he can bring her ice cream in two seconds flat. And Barry’s not particularly worried about being stranded on this new Earth forever. In fact, he’s happy to hang out for a while before he eventually figures out how to return to his own world. It’s not exactly low stakes, but it’s certainly lighthearted.

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Personally, I would’ve been fine if the entire episode had been Kara and Barry comparing pop culture while chowing down on donuts, but “Worlds Finest” goes through the motions of creating a supervillain double act worthy of its superhero team-up. Scorned former rival Siobhan Smythe decides to use her newly discovered Silver Banshee powers to take down Kara Danvers and she enlists old foe Livewire—last seen way back in episode four—to help her take down Kara’s protectors, Cat Grant and Supergirl.

“My powers include controlling electricity and kickass make-up design.”

Brit Morgan and Italia Ricci bring the camp in their respective performances, but “Worlds Finest” spends far too much time establishing its less-than-compelling villains. We definitely didn’t need the scene in which Siobhan’s huckster aunt explains that all Smythe women carry a curse that causes their banshee powers to activate once they’ve been wronged by someone. Especially because Siobhan’s decision to go “full banshee” is in no way related to that mystical backstory—it’s just something Livewire inexplicably tells her to do. Most of the time I’d push for a well-defined villain, but with only 42-minutes to tell this story, Supergirl should’ve stuck with Kara and Barry as much as possible.

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Thankfully, Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin turn the charm up to 11 to make the most their limited screen time. The episode’s best scenes involve them geeking out over space ships, engaging in playful footraces, or discussing heroism on CatCo’s trademark “Balcony Of Deep Thoughts.”

“I come out here to think. And also when I want to pretend to throw my boss to her death.”

Kara’s still struggling to regain National City’s trust after her Red Kryptonite-inspired rampage. Her desperation to prove her trustworthiness causes her to rush into action without a solid plan, leaving her and Barry blindsided by Silver Banshee. (The fact that Siobhan’s screams make Kara’s ears bleed is an especially terrifying touch.) Barry, who knows a thing about superhero public relations issues, encourages Kara to have patience. With time, he assures her, National City will see the good in her again.

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Barry’s advice comes to fruition in the climatic final showdown. After watching Supergirl risk her life in order to save a helicopter from Livewire’s lightning, National City rallies around her once again. She was willing to die for them and they won’t let Livewire take her down without a fight. In the end it’s National City’s firefighters—the ones Kara rescued right before she got her Red Kryptonite infection—that save the day. It’s a bit too saccharine and over a little too quickly to fully land (I wish the episode spent more time here rather than on Silver Banshee’s origin), but I’ll give “Worlds Finest” points for an unexpectedly subversive climax. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up when the firefighter explained, “It was our turn to help you.”

As Kara taught James back in “Stronger Together,” being a hero doesn’t mean doing everything alone. Yes Supergirl is important because she helps people, but she’s also important because she inspires them to help one another (a concept the show explored really well in “Human For A Day”). The idea of people bringing out the best in each other is all over “Worlds Finest.” Cat refuses to run from Livewire because she believes in Supergirl. Winn tries to reach out to Siobhan using the kind of empathetic speech we’ve seen Kara give a dozen times (Jeremy Jordan is consistently great throughout this episode). And Kara even takes James’ advice from “Truth, Justice And The American Way” and has Barry set up a metahuman prison where villains can stay before they receive a fair trial.

“Be honest Lucy, do these two shades of red clash?” “You guys look great together, Barry.”

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Given the timing, it’s hard not to talk about “Worlds Finest” in relation to Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. They’re both big crossover specials set in a time when their central Kryptonian is coming under public scrutiny for the potential danger they pose to the planet. But though his film is the one that actually stars Superman, director Zack Snyder isn’t particularly interested in exploring the traditional comic book ethos of the last son of Krypton. (And I mean that as an observation, not a criticism.) Supergirl, however, has built the traditional Superman values of empathy, kindness, and inspiring heroism right into its DNA.

Indeed, those turned off by BvS’ interpretation of the Man Of Steel should consider tuning into Supergirl more often. Much like Barry Allen, they just might enjoy their stay in National City.

Stray observations

  • Also Kara and James finally kiss! Then James and the rest of National City’s residents are turned into mindless drones by Non’s Myriad program. More on that when Supergirl returns in two weeks!
  • Perd Watch: Perd is happy to report that Supergirl is once again a super girl in the eyes of National City.
  • Anyone else get major Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 vibes from the scene in which the National City residents stand up for Supergirl?
  • Great Grant Gustin moments: His confusion about how to help put out the fire on Kara’s shirt without touching her boobs. And the horrified realization that passes across Barry’s face when Cat points out “The Flash” sounds like the name of a drunken flasher.
  • They did this on The Flash too, but drawing random circles on a white board is in no way necessary to explain the pretty widely understood concept of parallel worlds.
  • “He was so unfailingly charming and nice he either had to be a superhero or a Mormon.” Cat really hit the nail on the head there.
  • What did we think of Cat’s CW reference? Too much or just enough?
  • I’ll be very curious to hear what non-Flash watchers thought of this episode

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