The Good: Decent performances, Interesting villain backstory
The Bad: Mediocre direction, Very forced character moments, Simplistic plot
The Basics: "Reign" is properly introduced on Supergirl in an erratic episode that sets up serious issues for the show.
I have, as a general rule, come to loathe the DC Television Universe crossover events and last week's debacle into forced comeraderie was no exception. Supergirl generally manages to avoid the worst aspects of the crossover episodes in that Kara Zor-El is forced to leave her universe for an entirely divergent series of episodes in order to allow Supergirl to participate in the crossover event. The thing is, the narrative momentum of Supergirl was killed by Kara and Alex participating in the crossover. Right before the crossover began, Mon-El abruptly returned and announced he was married and Samantha Arias learned her true origins.
As a result, as "Reign" begins, the episode pretty much has to ignore the divergence of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" (reviewed here!) - which had Supergirl randomly fighting a Dominator - and restore the plot momentum from "Wake Up" (reviewed here!). Fans of Supergirl need not have actually watched the four-episode crossover; all that truly happened for any Supergirl characters was that Kara was menaced (wow, what a surprise!) and Alex learned to stand by her decision to split with Alex. And the Earth-X version of Winn Schott made an appearance. But "Reign" has to actually reflect upon what the prior episode ignored; Mon-El has returned to Kara's time period with heroes from the future and Samantha Arias learned that she was a Kryptonian who is supposed to be a Worldkiller.
Samantha Arias wakes up in her bed and is told by her daughter that she went on a trip the day before. At the DEO, Mon-El and Imra inform the team about the conditions in the 31rst Century where they came from. That night, the DEO and CatCo staffs meet at Kara's apartment in order to celebrate Christmas together. Kara and J'onn are shocked when they are called to the scene of an arson that looks like Kryptonian glyphs from above. Lena Luthor believes that Morgan Edge is behind the "crop circles" and she and Olsen go to interrogate him. Edge denies involvement, but Kara soon gets a clue as to what is going on with the Kryptonian symbols from the Rao fanatic she had arrested.
The fanatic tells Kara about the Worldkiller and the prophecies about the end of days in the Book Of Rao. While Lena and James go out on Christmas Eve to try to find who is leaving the glyphs around, rival gangs in National City end up in a turf war with one another. The gangs are taken out by a Kryptonian, Reign. Samantha, now outfitted as Reign, heads out to try to kill Morgan Edge. Edge uses his lead-lined panic room to avoid Reign, which pushes Kara to go hunting for the violent Kryptonian. When Supergirl calls out Reign, the two have a showdown on the roof of the CatCo building.
Mon-El's opening monologue in "Reign" serves to immediately catch the audience up on when Mon-El was in the period since he left Earth. The debriefing from Mon-El makes perfect sense; it makes no immediate sense following "Crisis On Earth-X," as it established that "Reign" occurred only a day after "Wake Up." So, some of the character moments do not quite fit as they would seem to precede Alex's off-world catharsis. That, at least, explains why Kara appears in "Reign" completely unshaken by the ordeal she experienced on Earth-1.
On the character front, "Reign" is instantly problematic in the way it attempts to force Samantha Arias into the narrative and Kara's circle of friends. Arias is very new to the Supergirl mix. In fact, Kara Danvers met Samantha Arias only a few weeks ago in the Supergirl narrative (whatwith the season premiere beginning several months after Mon-El left Earth). As a result, there is a forced, inorganic quality to Kara telling Samantha (who is sitting next to Lena at the time) how important she was to her getting over Mon-El. Instead of taking Lena aside and talking to her about her feelings about their relationship, the writers of "Reign" hope that viewers will accept Samantha by association and by her responding to Kara, despite the fact that their relationship is nowhere near that deep.
In a similar way, "Reign" starts to make a truly troubling insinuation for Alex. Alex and Maggie broke up because Alex wants children and Maggie does not. So, all of a sudden, Alex is thrown into a room where she is taking care of Ruby and being more social with a child at an adult party than with the other adults. The narrative pressure here becomes obvious; either Samantha and Alex will end up together to raise Ruby or when the arc that makes Samantha into Reign comes to an end, Alex will be left to raise Ruby. This, sadly, is as painfully obvious as the fact that Alex and Maggie were doomed to break up based on the fact that Lima (who played Maggie) was not made a full cast member for the third season of Supergirl.
Mon-El and Kara have a predictably awkward series of exchanges in "Reign." Imra even attempts to smooth things over with Kara by telling her how Mon-El held out hope for quite some time before ever looking at her. There are moments in "Reign" that feel like melodrama, but most of the time, Chris Wood and Melissa Benoist both manage to keep the dialogue just on the right side of realism. Benoist's best moment of performance has her simply watching Mon-El and Imra training.
Why Supergirl goes off to meet Reign alone makes no real sense. Even if Mon-El and Saturn Girl don't make a trip to the battleground, J'onn and/or Winn Schott being present on-site to monitor and learn what they can about Reign makes a lot more sense than Supergirl just going alone.
The bulk of the fight sequence in "Reign" is poorly directed, with much of the action being cheated by shots that have random people and camera shakes as opposed to a cohesive battle.
"Reign" features a b-plot with Lena Luthor getting more emotional with James Olsen and that plotline does not quite land. Lena Luthor is a good, assertive character, but the build-up to Olsen and Luthor having a credible relationship just was not there. As a result, the plotline in "Reign" feels more like filler and a forced pairing up instead of a well-developed plotline.
Ultimately, "Reign" is an important step in the third season of Supergirl, but it fails to execute its goals well.
For other works written by Paula Yoo, please visit my reviews of:
"The Faithful" - Supergirl
"Ace Reporter" - Supergirl
"Exodus" - Supergirl
"The Darkest Place" - Supergirl
"Survivors" - Supergirl
The West Wing - Season 4
For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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