REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E23 – Battles Lost and Won

Supergirl‘s uneven third season gets an equally uneven conclusion in “Battles Lost and Won,” which mines a lot more emotion out of various character farewells than out of the climactic battle against Reign. But on the bright side, Kara (Melissa Benoist) shines as a hero with the help of a Legion Ring and finds her purpose once more.

The earth-shaking disaster that served as last week’s cliffhanger is handled in the first few minutes of the episode, thanks in no small part to M’rynn’s sacrifice. Before he becomes one with the Earth, though, he transfers the most important Martian memory to J’onn (David Harewood): the origin of Martian ways and laws. With this parting gift, J’onn is ready to face a world with his father’s spirit guiding him – which inevitably leads him to step down from the DEO by the end of “Battles Lost and Won,” instead choosing to live among the people as a Green Martian should. There’s been no announcement regarding Harewood’s departure from the show, so hopefully we’ll get to see him being a new kind of hero.

But it’s not a straight line from Point A to Point B for him, seeing as his desire for vengeance against Reign overwhelms his reason at some points. Kara

A true superhero team-up.

is thus left to weigh the advice of her mentor and her mother Alura, to simply kill Reign and be done with it, and her own instinct to never take a life no matter how necessary it may seem. While she’s deciding, Sam (Odette Annable) is fighting her own battle out of her weakened coma state while Reign grows more powerful outside her. She reunites with Patricia inside her mind, which winds up being the most powerful moment in all of “Battles Lost and Won.” Sam getting to say goodbye to her adoptive mother and bestow the forgiveness that Patricia sought from her alter ego is what gives her the strength to wake and fight again, but it’s also what anchors the audience to a story that might otherwise get lost in unexplained Kryptonian mythology.

Speaking of getting lost, that’s been a theme for Kara throughout the season, and it finally comes to a head in the last episode. In the moment that her resolve weakens enough to choose killing, Reign takes most of Kara’s loved ones down with her. It is because of this tragedy that Kara takes up Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) Legion Ring and decides to go back in time to imprison her enemy in the Harunel rock instead. This was an important step for Kara, considering so much of her journey this season has been decided by other characters or external forces, but the same effect could have been achieved without the deadly fake-out. Perhaps Supergirl wanted to drive home the point that violence begets more violence, and felt the audience had to see the result to understand – but in that case Kara could’ve been allowed more time to grieve the devastation before turning back the clock.

Although she saves the day without any other casualties, there are still goodbyes aplenty in “Battles Lost and Won,” and some are more emotional than others. The Legion returns just in time to help in the fight against Reign, but their real purpose in the episode is to exposit a crisis in the future that’s come to take some series regulars away. Even though Imra releases Mon-El from their marriage and thus gives Karamel fans hopes of a romantic reunion, Brainy flips the switch by explaining that his evil relative is out to destroy all AIs in the future. And not only does the Legion need Mon-El’s leadership, but it needs Winn’s (Jeremy Jordan) designs as well. This is a pretty rushed way to usher out such important characters, but it leads to some rather touching moments for Winn. His scenes with James (Mehcad Brooks) underline his need to save lives the way he knows best, and his silent goodbye with Alex (Chyler Leigh) beautifully showcased a series-long friendship that’s been underserved by the narrative.

Safe journey, Mon-El.

Mon-El’s farewell to Kara, on the other hand, left something to be desired. As someone who is admittedly not a fan of their relationship, I’m just glad that he’s become a hero and is willing to put the needs of Earth above his own desires. But as someone who has been subjected to a renewed will-they-won’t-they this season, it was strange to separate them once more without even allowing Kara to acknowledge her feelings for him one way or another. Why not have her officially declare she’s moved on, rather than leave her confused all season and close the book on them by calling him “the man I admire?” Not to mention that his marriage didn’t move the needle one way or another, ending up just a shock-value reveal that hampered his character growth rather than aided it. Nevertheless, they’re both on different paths now, which is a realistic outcome that doesn’t happen often enough on television.

Sam and Ruby, who grounded so much of Supergirl‘s season when the plots were getting out of control, had a much more cursory farewell than they deserved. But at least they reignited Alex’s fire for motherhood, and circuitously led to J’onn offering her the position of DEO Director, so that she can risk her life less and make room for a family in the near future. I expect to see her adopt next season, considering the journey she’s had to come to this decision.

Finally, James and Lena (Katie McGrath) didn’t go anywhere… yet. But while they’re still together and in love, their arcs for next season are raising some interesting questions. Now that James has admitted he’s Guardian to the world, will he still be able to run CatCo or will he run into legal troubles? And why is Lena still experimenting with Harunel in secret? We’ve been tricked into thinking Lena was going dark several times now only for her innate goodness to win out, but how long can the writers keep shuttling back and forth? And do her experiments have anything to do with the Supergirl double that appeared in Siberia as the season closed?

“Battles Lost and Won” felt a microcosm of Supergirl‘s season as a whole. There were heartfelt beats and sweet character interactions, but the plot was full of more holes than substance. Hopefully next season, when it returns Sunday nights on the CW, strikes a better balance.