REVIEW: Supergirl, S3E21 – Not Kansas

Supergirl tackles gun control in”Not Kansas” and handles the subject considerably better than it handles Kara (Melissa Benoist) acclimating to life on Argo, which is more of an abrupt detour than a real step in our superheroine’s development.

Thank Rao for fake science.

The episode opens with Supergirl and Mon-El (Chris Wood) keeping Reign (Odette Annable) busy while Lena (Katie McGrath) develops a three-second cure to separate the Sam from the Worldkiller. The battle is somewhat anticlimactic, especially because the audience knows it won’t be the final one. Still, it’s almost silly to watch Reign burn away into nothingness until only a Sam with a migraine is left. The sweet reunion with Ruby as Alex (Chyler Leigh) looks on with bittersweet pride contains more emotion in under a minute than the rest of the temporary band-aid over the Reign plot does.

Even Supergirl and Lena patch up their differences, as the former asks the latter to synthesize more black Kryptonite for protection. It all feels like the last few minutes of a season finale, as if someone in the editing room actually spliced the clips together wrong. Kara lets her sister know she’s planning to move to Argo, despite Alex filling her heart on Earth, which is also an underwhelming declaration. Moving planets after fifteen years seems like a momentous decision worthy of its own episode, especially when Kara’s farewell party is missing some key people like her adoptive mother. It’s nice that Alex gets the chance to express her disappointment over her sister leaving, and it’s cringe-worthy yet expected when Kara asks Mon-El to come with her, but afterwards the farewell party begins to feel a little performative. Kara’s voiceover as she says “see you on the flip side” is heartwarming, but there’s a sense that someone in the editing room spliced the episodes together wrong.

Casting Esme Bianco as Thara Ak-Var is a nice touch, contrasting the life Kara might have had (and the age she should have been) against the one she found after being trapped in the Phantom Zone and then living on Earth. Everything seems perfect on Argo until Kara starts to feel haunted by one of Selena’s (guest star Anjali Jay, who has imbued the mysterious woman with a lot of presence these past few episodes) minions. But her and her religion’s motives remain murky and convoluted, meaning that the best Argo scenes in “Not Kansas” remain the ones between Kara and Allura (Erica Durance), which radiate with a warmth that makes Kara’s desire to stay believable.

Meanwhile, Mon-El finally takes the next step in sorting out his feelings and confesses that he’s still in love with Kara. He apologizes for springing this on her, which makes it all the more confusing why he decided to tell her anyway. She nearly gives him an answer – maybe even one he wants to hear – when they’re interrupted by Selena’s disciple once more, cutting off both the romance and the previous mystery about Selena’s plans. But there’s not much room to worry about Kara’s new planet or her old love, because Supergirl quickly becomes a more topical episode about gun control.

The true heroes this week.

James (Mehcad Brooks) saves a police officer from a DEO-grade weapon that hasn’t been microchipped, and so he and Winn (Jeremy Jordan) begin their hunt for the shooter alongside J’onn (David Harewood). Much of the dialogue comes across like characters reading off talking points, such as the conversation with the gun manufacturer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important discussion to have. James shines once again, taking up the argument for stricter gun control like the moral center of the show that he is, but there are still a few uncomfortable beats. One is Lena’s ‘second amendment rights’ side of things, considering that her claim of self-defense is easily countered by that time she nearly killed Morgan Edge in cold blood. Thankfully, “Not Kansas” moves beyond the realm of after-school special when the shooter turns out to have bought his guns legally, passing his background check, and J’onn clashes with James over what weapons to bring to the confrontation. In the end, James implicitly wins out and J’onn must talk Arthur down with only his words. This is the scene where the storyline really comes together, organically putting forth its thesis without preaching to the audience.

J’onn’s decision to phase out lethal weapons is a true victory, it’s just a shame there isn’t a Winn in real life developing non-lethal weapons for our law enforcement. It’s also lovely to see how the topical part of “Not Kansas” dovetails with J’onn’s personal life, seeing as M’yrnn informed his son that it’s time to perform the ancient Martian ritual to pass down his memories before he dies. Poor J’onn is not having it until James helps him remember that the best defense is a shield, at which point he understands that he needs to take on the rest of his father’s teachings too.

Supergirl ends by definitively declaring that the Worldkiller story has not yet reached its end, but whatever Selena and Coville (yes, he’s still around) have in store is left for next week’s episode. Narratively-speaking, though, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for Kara to have returned to Argo aside from giving Mon-El space to confess and letting characters who aren’t bulletproof take the lead on gun control. “Not Kansas” was another strong entry when it comes to emotional character beats but much weaker on plot, which seems to be the norm for the back half of the season.

Super Thoughts

  • Alex is starting the first step towards adoption! It was just a few short, silent beats but they made my heart flutter.
  • Considering that saving Sam from Reign was a struggle that lasted several episodes, it makes little sense not to see her for 80% of the episode.
  • How is Coville more knowledgeable about Kryptonian lore than Kryptonians themselves, and why does Selena need him to achieve her goals?