Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)

After a standalone story about Winn’s mom and an episode that mostly felt like it was stalling for time, Supergirl delivers its first big mythology focused outing since it’s return from hiatus. “Of Two Minds” not only introduces the third Worldkiller, Pestilence, it also ends with all three Worldkillers united for the very first time. On paper, there’s a lot to like about “Of Two Minds.” Kara and Imra engage in an age-old superhero debate about whether it’s ethical to kill one person in order to save millions; Sam comes face to face with Reign in the dreamlike “dark valley” of her mind; and our heroes have to figure out a way to fight a deadly disease brought on by Pestilence. Unfortunately, Supergirl doesn’t quite manage to elevate those intriguing elements into something greater than the sum of their parts.

For instance, there’s a lot of strong material in Kara and Imra’s debate over whether or not to kill Pestilence. Kara is right that the DEO has firsthand evidence that reaching out to the Wordkillers with empathy is a viable strategy. And Imra is right that gambling on the future of the entire universe in order to potentially save one person is a pretty big risk. Unfortunately, the episode explores that conflict by just having Kara and Imra repeat their respective opinions while the people around them calmly listen and mostly side with Supergirl. There’s just no oomph to the material and maintaining a mystery around Imra’s real motivation (her sister is killed by Blight in the future) doesn’t do the episode any favors. When it comes to both Mon-El and Imra, Supergirl has fallen into this repetitive pattern of having one or both of them make a bunch of cryptic statements only to have an emotional reveal on the DEO Balcony of Deep Thoughts right at the end of the episode. It would behoove the show to mix things up a bit moving forward.

Similarly, the Sam vs. Reign portions of the episode have a ton of potential that’s only partially realized. As much as the show has established Sam and Reign as separate people, I really like the idea of Reign being the manifestation of Sam’s darkest thoughts, particularly when it comes to parenting. Of course Sam loves Ruby, but Reign is there to remind her of the frustrations, sleepless nights, and constant stress of being a parent. Wouldn’t it be easier if that all just went away? Maybe it would have been better if Ruby had never been born at all? It’s smart for the show to root Sam and Reign’s Jekyll and Hyde dynamic in something emotionally relatable. I just wish the episode had spent more time on that and less of the logistics of Lena’s electrocution process.

Speaking of Lena, this episode is also clever about the way it depicts her Luthor family traits in action without just stringing us along about whether she’s secretly a supervillain. Like Lex and Lillian, Lena is a fierce individualist who distrusts authority. She assumes she’s the only one smart enough to cure Sam and that she’s the only one empathetic enough to realize Sam and Reign aren’t exactly one and the same. Lena isn’t evil, but like the other members of her family, her fatal flaw is hubris. Her refusal to share what she knows about Sam with anyone else (including Supergirl) winds up putting the whole Earth in danger when Purity and Pestilence track down Reign and break her out of Lena’s holding cell.

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In terms of its actual “threat of the week,” the majority of the episode focuses on Pestilence’s plague—the terrifying illness that first strikes City Hall and then the DEO team (plus that unlucky flock of pigeons from last week). Again, this one gets filed under “cool idea, okay execution.” Though the Contagion-like premise should be absolutely terrifying, it never fully lands—partially because the Legionnaires immediately start making a cure and partially because the only infected people we spend any real time with are Winn and Alex, two characters the show clearly isn’t going to kill off in a mid-season episode.

In terms of Pestilence herself, Supergirl does a good job giving us a red-headed red herring while making Dr. Grace Parker (Angela Zhou) just memorable enough in her first appearance to ensure the big reveal lands (I thought she was being set up as Winn love interest). Unlike Reign/Sam and Purity/Julia, Grace seems to be just as evil in her human persona as in her Worldkiller one (at least I think that’s what we’re meant to take away from her emotional confrontation with Kara). Grace’s experience as a surgeon gave her both a god complex and a very particular relationship to mortality—she’s seen first hand that bad things can happen to good people. And her Worldkiller powers allow the darker parts of her personality to manifest in terrifying ways.

Like Reign, Pestilence is less of a supervillain than a really, really warped superhero trying to crusade for vigilante justice. And that makes the newly united Worldkillers a fascinating threat for Kara to face. “Of Two Minds” doesn’t fully deliver, especially when it comes to action (there’s very little of it until the episode’s pretty standard final fight), but it does set up a whole bunch of intriguing ideas for the season to explore as it starts moving towards its endgame.

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Stray observations

  • Pestilence deciding to go after greedy insurance companies was almost enough to make me #TeamWorldkillers.
  • Upon hearing that Sam can speak to Reign in the dreamlike “dark valley,” Lena makes the leap to “Reign exists in a parallel dimension!” awfully quickly.
  • As I mentioned in a recent tweet about Avengers: Infinity War, I don’t like this trend of colorful alien characters randomly appearing in human form. If Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn could sit through hours of makeup for every episode, so can Jesse Rath, goddamnit.
  • This episode got an inadvertent laugh from me when James referenced the fact that he’s the CEO of CatCo, a location the show has all but dropped.
  • It’s well delivered by Jeremy Jordan, but I’m not sure exactly what we’re supposed to get from Winn’s tearful sickbed monologue about revaluating his life. Was that just emotional texture for the episode or was it setting up a new arc for Winn? (Or were we supposed to actually think the show was going to kill off Winn?)
  • I love that the Worldkillers’ powers include manifesting goth leather costumes out of thin air.

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