‘Supergirl’ (Season 3): Darker Depths

In my first article on this season of Supergirl, I noted a concern that the general tone of the season seemed to be teetering on the edge of darkness, the sort that previously dragged down the third seasons of The Flash and Arrow. So far, the show is definitely leaning that way, the Girl of Steel’s adventures this year being darker in tone than her Earth-1 counterparts. For now, at least, this is managing to work in the show’s favor as the writers continue to add depth to the show’s world.

The major problem the Arrowverse series have run into in the past with darker seasons is a tendency to go too bleak, miring characters in downright torturous, unpleasant storytelling. So far, Supergirl is avoiding that by instead darkening things just enough to tell more complex stories than in previous seasons.

The second episode of the season threw a psychic opponent against Kara that forced her to confront her worst fears and memories. Instead of a physical challenge, Kara had to deal with her own survivor’s guilt, both in regards to the destruction of Krypton and her role in banishing Mon-El from Earth. The following episode expanded on that theme with J’onn’s guilt at leaving Mars behind upon discovering that his father M’yrnn was still alive.

This episode went deep on father/child relationships in general, with J’onn having to desperately work to convince his father he wasn’t a White Martian trick, while on Earth, Maggie attempted to reconnect with her homophobic father. Though the writing is a bit blunt in both stories – though better on the whole than it has been in past seasons – the episode overall paints a complex portrait of these relationships; while J’onn is able to reconnect with his father, Maggie realizes she’s better off without hers in her life if he can’t accept who she is.

Finally, last week’s episode was perhaps the most ambitious the show has attempted yet thematically. After saving people for over two years, Kara discovers that a cult has been formed to worship Supergirl as a god. It led to a thoughtful episode dedicated to mediations on faith and how the presence of superpowered beings can affect normal people. While the conflict wraps up a bit easily at the end, it’s still fascinating to see the show dealing with content that calls for deeper analysis.

Again, the show isn’t as light-hearted as it’s been in the past right now, but it’s worth it if it allows the show to continue to evolve and stretch into new avenues of storytelling. Hopefully, the show can return to some sillier arenas as the season goes on – I’d love a Mxyzptlk episode, for one – but for now, it’s good to see some ambition from the Girl of Steel’s writers.