"Red Dawn" – Supergirl S04E21 Review

And so everything comes together. Finally.

Jesse Rath, Supergirl S04E21

The best parts of "Red Dawn" are Jesse Rath, as is often the case. And Chyler Leigh, who gives a particularly moving performance as Alex. We get a decent battle between Supergirl and Red Daughter.

There's not any real weak spots: Helen Slater doesn't have much to do as Eliza. And James' involvement in the plot still sticks out as a sore thumb. If they have to get rid of anyone in Season 5, he'd be my choice. Even when they give him something to do, it's relatively peripheral to the rest of the story and what's going on.

Also, Red Daughter is apparently dead. So goodbye to any future conflicts between her and Supergirl. Not the physical ones, but the emotional and philosophical ones. Then again, Red Daughter might not actually be dead. Time--or at least the next episode--will tell.

But how does this all tie together? Kara escapes her Secret Service guards, but gets captured by Red Daughter with some green Kryptonite. Red Daughter bwah-hah-hahs a bit and gives Kara time to escape because she's had fifteen years to deal with the Kryptonite pain. She returns to the DEO as Supergirl, and she and Alex kind of work together to find Red Daughter and take her and Lex. Haley shows he true colors by returning from DC and helping them. They go off on their respective missions and it's a bit confusing and pads out the episode to have them split up.

Sam Witwer, Supergirl S04E21

Lena convinces her stepmother, Lillian, (Brenda Strong) to help her by claiming she gave her a slow-acting poison and Lena has the only antidote. Lillian has to find a way to extract the Herun-El Ben and James are still riding on. While Lillian is doing that, Lena confronts Ben, and tells him Lex has been using him, and his entire build-up to Secretary of Alien Affairs has been Lex's scheme. Ben doesn't take that well, and is having symptoms of Herun-El poisoning, or side effects.

Ben goes to confront Otis (Robert Baker) at Generic Warehouse 101, and Otis blabs everything. He then tries to kill Ben, but James and Lena arrive and stop him. Ben walks off, and James collapses from Herun-El sickness.

Brainiac-5, J'onn, and Dreamer go off to track down the abducted aliens Lex is using for his scheme. Dreamer and Brainiac-5 get captured, and the Alien Affair guards torture Brainiac-5. That has the unfortunate effect of "rebooting" Brainiac-5 back to the mindset and emotions of his ancestors. You know, the conquering collecting ones like the original Brainiac. He of the short pants in Challenge of the Superfriends and the much more ominous planet-shrinker in Krypton. Jesse Rath goes all evil and emotionless, even though he says his ancestors had more emotions. Brainiac-5 leaves Dreamer captive and paralyzes J'onn so they'll be taken to a secondary location and Brainniac-5 can track them there.

What's happening at the secondary location? Lex is draining the aliens of their powers and using it to power a Lexosuit. Team Supergirl find this out too late, and we end with a newscast about how the Lexosuited Lex has foiled the Kaznian invasion, killed Red Daughter (posing as Supergirl), and is now the country's hero.

Oh, also Red Daughter captures Eliza and uses her to lure Supergirl to her at the Danvers house in Midvale. They fight, Red Daughter reveals she's "evolved" with energy powers, and seemingly kills Supergirl. She flies off (to get killed by Lex?), and Alex arrives, works out that Kara is Supergirl, and begs her to absorb the sunlight from the nearby grass and heal herself. Supergirl does so, and finally Supergirl and Alex are reunited. While Eliza stands by and rather disinterestedly takes notes. Like I said earlier, it's not a good episode for Helen Slater.

"Red Dawn" was the season's penultimate episode, and we're left with a superpowered Lex--both from his own dose of Herun-El and his new super Lexosuit--against Team Supergirl. What there is of it: Supergirl and Alex are back together, and James has superpowers. Brainiac-5 has turned to the dark side, and J'onn and Dreamer are prisoners. Ben has superpowers and a hatred of Lex, but still no fondness for aliens or Team Supergirl. Red Daughter might have been convinced to turn to the light side, but she's either dead or Lex's captive.

Bremda Strong, Mehcad Brooks, Katie McGrath, Supergirl S04E21

Lena and Lillian may know how to extract the Herun-El from Ben, but he's not a major threat at this point and could be an ally. They end up giving James another dose of Herun-El to stabilize/cure him. So he could have superpowers going into the fight with Lex and Season 5. But... so what? Do we need another hero with Kryptonian powers?

Besides the performances by Rath and Leigh, there are lots of other good parts. Sam Witwer seems to be having fun playing Brainiac-5 disguised as Ben in an unsuccessful gambit to break into the company where Lex is teleporting the aliens. Rath gets to cut loose in a fight which combines super-intellect with emotionless as he slaughters a bunch of AA agents. There's a certain amount of tragedy in how Brainiac-5 was getting ready to tell Nia that he loves her, but then essentially turns into Brainiac-1. But then, as entertaining as Rath was as the socially-clueless geek super-genius, the events of "Red Dawn" give him something new and different to do. It also gives us Brainiac-1 as a major threat for Season 5, and Rath a chance to play the "awkwardly pretending to have emotions while pretending to be Brainiac-5" if they go that route. They might not go that way, but it's hard to imagine the creative team doing 22 episodes of Brainiac-1 getting ready to shrink Earth and then carrying it out for Season 5.

David Harewood, Nicole Amber Maines, and April Parker-Jones don't get much to do. I like the Lena + Lillian dynamic, like in one scene where Lillian, under the influence of a Truth Seeker, tells Lena she actually loves her. And Lillian believing later that Lena didn't poison her, and Lena advising her to drink the antidote anyway.

Melissa Benoist, Supergirl S04E21Melissa Benoist still does solid work both as Kara and as Red Daughter. There were a few twinges of Red Daughter showing a conscience: the whole bit with her studying Kara's life goes beyond gathering intelligence, and into actual wanting that life for herself. If she's actually dead, it all seems for naught. I couldn't see he coming back, but she could revive long enough to do a heel turn to the light side. Particularly since everything Supergirl told her about Lex eventually betraying her turned out to be true.

I do wish they would stop with the Kaznia = Russia replacement. I know Kaznia is a fictional country and all, but the creative team often treats it like shorthand for Russia. It's not like the creative team shies away from using the real world: if they want Russia, just use Russia. The creative team seems to want their cake and eat it, too: it seems impossible a small East European country could mount an invasion of the U.S., even with a "Supergirl" of their own. Russia could do it, but then Russia is too politically and geographically large to have an invasion casually shrugged off the way they do with Kaznia's doomed invasion at the end of "Red Dawn"

The MVP is Leigh, who has lots of help from the creative team in the way of flashbacks and the return of Young Kara and Alex. You can't go wrong with emotional flashbacks, but Leigh brings her 'A' game. The scene where she convinces Supergirl to absorb solar energy from grass comes across as moving rather than goofy, when it could have tended toward the latter in the hands of a less talented actress. We also get the return of the Kara/Alex sister team, which has always been at the heart of Supergirl. Making Alex forget Kara is Supergirl seems to have been a waste, or nothing more than a way to pad the season out to 25 episodes. But it gave us lots of acting moments for Benoist and Leigh, so I suppose it paid off.

Jesse Ratj, Supergirl S04E21Overall, "Red Dawn" is an excellent penultimate episode. How well it pays off, we'll know for sure next week on the season finale where hopefully a lot of the cliffhangers (Will Lex's evil scheme succeed? Will Braiiac-5 stay evil? Will James keep his superpowers? What will happen to Ben?) will get evolved while we get a bit of setup for season 5. With... Brainiac-1 as the Big Bad? That seems a bit redundant since he was the Big Bad in season 1 of Krypton. And the creative team has disappointed us with season finales before: last year we had the big ending with Red Daughter showing up, but she kind of fizzled this season and ended up as more of a pawn of Lex Luthor than a threat in her own right.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

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Apologies for the relative lateness of the review. My family and I were out of town so I didn't have Internet access until after our return.

Written by Gislef on May 13, 2019

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