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Supergirl’s calamity-filled midseason finale teases an even bigger crisis ahead

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov (The CW)
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“The Wrath Of Rama Khan” feels like a solid midseason finale to a season we didn’t watch. Sure, the battle for Lena’s soul has been a central storyline, and, as with the previous episode, it’s once again the strongest part of this one. But Malefic’s redemption, Andrea’s powers and love for Russell Rogers, and, of course, Rama Khan himself were all crammed into the past few episodes only to be resolved here. Meanwhile, Kelly, Nia, William Dey, and the whole CatCo side of things are entirely absent, despite being major elements of the earlier portion of the season.

Still, on the whole, “The Wrath Of Rama Khan” is a much stronger and more cohesive episode than “Tremors.” It centers on a timely debate about hope vs. delusion, as embodied by Kara and Alex. Kara firmly believes that Lena can be saved. Alex, however, isn’t convinced. If Lena and Kara’s rift were just a personal one, Alex could try to see both sides. But when the whole world is at stake, she has to think with her head, not her heart. Both sisters turn to their space dad J’onn for advice, and he mostly sides with Kara’s optimism, even as he gives Alex room to figure out her own pragmatic path as DEO Director.

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“The Wrath Of Rama Khan” uses Malefic and Andrea as arguments for the pro-redemption side of things, and that’s where it loses some of its emotional weight. It’s no fault of the actors. Julie Gonzalo and Phil LaMarr both turn in really compelling performances with very little screentime, and the moment Andrea uses her shadow powers to warn the DEO about Rama Khan’s extinction plan is genuinely thrilling. But we just don’t know either of their characters enough to really tfeel the power of their turn toward good, especially because Malefic’s redemption was delivered via Martian magic in a matter of seconds.

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Instead, the emotional beats that land are the ones that involve characters we actually care about (namely Kara, Lena, Alex, and J’onn), as well as one whose use in this episode really surprised me: Hope. I haven’t really given Hope a ton of thought since Lena transformed Eve into her perfect sidekick, but she’s recontextualized in a fascinating way here. Hope views herself as a creation programmed to serve Lena’s goals, no matter the cost to herself. Lena, however, has started to think of Hope as her friend. So even when the coldly logical thing to do is risk Hope’s life in order to realign some damaged satellites and launch Project Non Nocere, Lena comes up with an excuse to keep her assistant by her side.

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov (The CW)
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It’s a smart insight into the war waging inside Lena’s soul. She claims that Kara’s betrayal gave her clarity on the fundamental deviousness of humanity and inspired her to never again rely on anyone except herself. (“Who needs friends when you can save the world?” she notes.) Yet it’s also clear that Lena craves companionship and friendship, no matter how much she might argue she doesn’t. Lena thinks she’s acting solely with her head, but her heart has more sway than she realizes.

“The Wrath Of Rama Khan” continually emphasizes the idea that people tend to see themselves as heroes, not villains. From Lena’s point of view, everything she’s doing is a necessary part of making the world a better place, and her do-no-harm ethos remains her central moral framework. The fact that Kara and Alex have their own debate about the best way to save the day emphasizes the idea that heroism isn’t always black and white. Though Lena’s mind-controlling methods clearly cross an ethical line (Hope’s willingness to sacrifice herself for Lena is pretty terrifying), it’s also easy to see why she views her actions as heroic.

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The most exciting thing about “The Wrath Of Rama Khan” is that it doesn’t rush to wrap up Lena’s arc ahead of the upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover. There’s a world in which Supergirl let one big emotional speech from Kara immediately change Lena’s mind. Instead, the battle for Lena’s soul will continue—potentially with some help from Lex Luthor, who pops up in a final teaser in which the Monitor visits the cosmic living room where Lex has been living since he was brought back from the dead in last season’s finale. The Lex tease is exhilarating (welcome back Jon Cryer!), but I’m even more excited that Supergirl is taking Lena’s arc so seriously.

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov (The CW)
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And then there’s Rama Khan. I pretty much covered all of my major critiques in my previous review, but the Jarhanpurians continue to feel totally out of step with this season. Kara treats them like they’re any old threat-of-the-week, even though there’s way more to unpack in the fact that Leviathan has apparently been shaping life on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs. We’re supposed to scoff at Rama Khan’s arrogant claim that he’s basically a god, but, well, functionally he kind of is. And that’s a lot to throw into this episode as a B-plot.

Even worse is the fact that Supergirl can’t figure out how to effectively convey Rama Khan’s godlike abilities, which means he’s a lame threat for Kara. The climactic battle where she’s pinned down with slabs of concrete felt particularly lackluster, as did everything involving Andrea and the “Staff of the Shadow World.” From an action point of view, this is a pretty weak episode all around. The big climatic setpiece involves Malefic’s Q-waves battling Lena’s Q-waves, which we mostly watch unfold on a computer monitor.

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By the end of the episode, Rama Khan is out of power and Gamemnae and the as-yet-unseen Tezumak are in, although, again, we know so little about any of these people that it’s hard to care. At its best, “The Wrath Of Rama Khan” unlocks some welcome character-centric storytelling for its main cast and gives the DEO Balcony of Deep Thoughts a thorough workout. For the most part, however, it’s hard to focus too much on the goings on in this episode with Crisis On Infinite Earths on the horizon.

I keep going back and forth on whether I think this year’s mega-crossover is going to be a one-off adventure for the Supergirl crew or whether it will in some way fundamentally change the show’s world. On a meta level, that’s an appropriate question for an episode that’s all about the potential for change. As Malefic happily sails off to Mars to join M’gann in the resistance fight against the White Martians, Kara takes solace in the idea that maybe Lena can still be saved too. First up, however, there are infinite Earths to be rescued.

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Stray observations

  • It turns out J’onn might be Supergirl’s main entry point to the crossover. The Monitor brought back Malefic to unburden J’onn’s soul and get him ready for battle. Crisis On Infinite Earths kicks off in Supergirl’s timeslot next week!
  • This episode ends with the same Tom Cavanagh-centric teaser as Batwoman. I imagine it might pop up on some other Arrowverse shows this week too.
  • Seriously, though, where is Nia?!?
  • Alex makes a very good point about how often Lena has hid things and led her own double life.
  • The image of Kara peacefully raising her arms before a wall of Kryptonite canons was pretty striking.
  • Upon learning that the last place Rama Khan and his staff were seen together was Pompeii, J’onn deadpans, “That’s concerning.”
  • On a serious note, Melissa Benoist recently shared an incredibly powerful video about her personal experience with domestic abuse, which you can watch in full here.
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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.