REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E4 – The Faithful

Supergirl delivered an emotionally layered and well-crafted episode this week with “The Faithful,” which explores the ways in which any religion can be twisted into violence by extremism without disdaining the healing power of belief in general. Thanks to a creepy performance by Chad Lowe (playing a very different man from his Pretty Little Liars character) as cult leader Thomas Coville, the threat from the followers of Rao felt incredibly compelling despite blessedly never amounting to any large-scale destruction or violence. Meanwhile, Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Lena (Katie McGrath) get to know Samantha (Odette Annable), while Alex (Chyler Leigh) gets to know herself a little bit more.

We could’ve had it all…

Kara has been struggling all season long with a god complex that’s alienating her from the humans she saves every day, something which “The Faithful” took to its logical conclusion with a Supergirl-worshiping cult led by a man who believes that to be rescued by Kara is to be chosen. To her credit, Kara does not in any way buy into the idea that she’s a god – and in fact is adamant that her culture’s religion is being misused by Coville to lead impressionable citizens astray. She has a great verbal confrontation with him, and even turns to James (Mehcad Brooks) for some helpful advice and uplifting words. It was a breath of fresh air to see the two of them interacting as good friends once more, and to hear James’ personal stories about his own faith. Not to mention a shoutout to Clark for the first time in a long time!

While the final showdown did not involve a lot of fighting, it did contain a great deal of tension that managed to show Kara both at her most vulnerable and her most kick-ass. Plus, it was an interesting experience to deal with a villain of the week who was not so much evil or cruel as he was misguided and eerily focused. Even in the closing minutes of “The Faithful,” his belief in Kara as a god did not waver, and the sense that he would be back to cause more well-intentioned chaos was strong. The fact that this storyline intertwines with the origins of Samantha’s journey to becoming Reign is just icing on the cake.

The final scene of “The Faithful” finally kick starts the Reign storyline through the mysterious Kryptonian pod that Coville was using to blow up the hockey stadium in the name of Supergirl. It is revealed that Kara accidentally awakened the creature inside when she used her heat ray vision to de-power it. Before the chilling final sequence in which Samantha comes face to face with a terrifying stranger who warns of her destiny, she was just a working single mother trying to juggle her daughter with her new position as CFO. These scenes were a lovely and light counterpoint to the heavier religious themes this episode, and offered all the ladies on Supergirl a chance to interact and shine.

Chyler acted her entire butt off.

Lena and Sam especially got some touching bonding time in, proving that Lena is getting great at being a good friend and a good boss. The emotional thread actually tied back beautifully to Alex’s personal journey these last few episodes, as well. When all four women gather at Ruby’s school to watch her perform – a very sweet scene that includes young girls dancing while dressed as Supergirl, and a reminder that not all admiration is worship – Alex is viscerally reminded of just how much she wants a child. This leads to the most heartwrenching scene of the night, in which she breaks down to Kara her desires and the fear that Maggie (Floriana Lima) won’t change her mind. It’s been a minute since we had some quality Danvers sisters interaction, and “The Faithful” brought it in spades.

All in all, Supergirl had its strongest episode of the season last night, which it accomplished by tying every storyline together in an emotional bow and by opting for a subtle message rather than a blunt one.

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on the CW.