SUPERGIRL Review 1.18 “Worlds Finest”
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There’s something very odd about “Worlds Finest.” Something haphazard and disconnected, between the action scenes in particular. It feels like it was thrown together too quickly, with two episodes worth of plot and story progression crammed into one. These two hypothetical episodes each had vastly different visual styles, and it’s the first time in a while the pop-culture references on the show fall on the wrong side of overwrought. And yet, it somehow manages to be one of the best and most affecting hours of television in this new DC canon, a true testament to the might of these characters.
‘Dawn of Friendship’ is the superhero crossover you’ve been waiting for, and its radiance is unparalleled.
When we last left Team Supergirl, Kara was trying to win back the public’s trust, James was coming to terms with his feelings for her, and Winn was just happy to be there. Caught in the middle of all this was Kara’s professional rival Siobhan Smythe, whose drunken rage led to the accidental discovery of her Banshee screaming powers, not too dissimilar from the X-Men’s favourite Irish son. Siobhan, while equally Irish, isn’t so much a mutant or a metahuman as she is merely Irish-cursed, with an ancient spirit threatening to burst out of her. Her fake Irish aunt tells her to kill the person who made her mad in order to prevent the spirit from taking her over and making her a mad murderer. Or something. It really does just seem like she’s going to end up a silver-haired villain either way, which makes the sudden re-emergence of Livewire a welcome change of pace.
Along with The Flash’s lead character, Supergirl seems to have borrowed its biggest plot convenience. The DEO’s security is now as bad as STAR Labs’, with Siobhan free to roam and listen in on interrogations as she pleases. She catches a glimpse of her partner-to-be, a woman with similar goals and targets, and wouldn’t you know it, we’re off to the races! Brit Morgan’s Livewire returns to a much more confident Supergirl, one that allows her to chew the scenery with her words and her very posture. She exudes the show’s deliciously Silver-Age stratagem (despite being a character from the ‘90s), screaming bloody murder with every look and every lightning bolt, and I do hope she ends up being a recurring villain from now on. Banshee, on the other hand? Not so much. She’s short-changed by the show’s sudden need to speed things up in this, its speedster episode, and while the evil-just-because routine works for her sister-in-crime, it feels like a slight misstep for a character we’ve spent these many episodes getting to know.
A ‘just because’ that does work however, is when Banshee knocks Kara out a window at the exact moment Barry Allen runs through a hole in universe to save her. The Flash’s first appearance on this Earth happens the same way as his first ever comicbook Earth-jump: completely by accident. Barry’s been trying to get faster over on Earth-CW, resulting in his long awaited trip through the Multiverse and on to CBS. Their first meeting? It’s as casual as can be. Both of these heroes exist in worlds where flight and super-speed are completely feasible, and the fact that they essentially shrug each other off without coming to blows while processing each other’s existence is a wonderful thing. Part of the reason it goes down this way is because they both have the same number one priority. The Flash is in this situation because he saved a woman who he thought needed saving, and Supergirl’s first thought is to rush back to CatCo and save the people in the building. There’s no time for sadness and punching when you’ve got people to help.
The collision of these two worlds is the culmination of all great things DC. Supergirl represents the big, existential ideas embodied by Godlike characters, while The Flash smashes together all the craziest, headiest comicbook concepts while tossing its characters into the whirlwind. In either case, it’s about well-meaning people trying to traverse these amazing worlds, with one trying to live up to a symbol and the other fighting to save existence itself. It’s the meeting point of mythology and science fiction in the coolest way possible, as Kara casually reveal she’s an alien as Barry sketches the Multiverse for a skeptical James and a surprisingly receptive Winn, explaining jaw-dropping concepts like alternate universes where history-shaping events unfolded differently, right before proving his physics-shattering powers by getting everyone ice-cream. “Yes!” yells Kara. I concur.
James’ role in the plot feels almost like a distraction, but it’s nice to see Winn finally getting to make fun of him for once. Winn, who gets along famously with Barry, is the one non-superhero reason I want these crossovers to keep happening. Like The Flash’s Cisco, he’s the human perspective. More specifically, the geek perspective. As much as I wanted to concentrate on how our heroes would team up and plan to save the day, I couldn’t help but imagine Winn and Cisco getting together to freak out over a Crisis-like event, or simply, names and costumes. Luckily, Supergirl doesn’t have much interest in planning either. Eager to win back the public’s favour, she jumps headfirst into a messy situation and brings Barry down with her, although not before some neat freeze-breath/arm-tornado action.
No matter how awkward and unmatched the action, nor how unwarranted the shifts in aesthetic – it oscillates between various lenses and colour palettes almost at random, making it feel at times cinematic and at times the epitome of soap, without any middle ground – it’s the moments between the characters that really, really sell it. Even as Kara mopes out on the balcony, the scene is only melancholy because she’s failing to be the hero she knows she can be. A hero of the people. Things finally slow down here, and Barry understands. He’s been through the same thing, and there’s a quiet, unspoken camaraderie between them. Superman’s always off doing his own thing, having established himself a decade ago, and The Flash is the only real superhero back on his show. This is the first real conversation where we see either character fully relate to what someone else is going through as a novice superhero, and more importantly, the first time someone else understands them, without them having to explain it. While Barry’s visit proves useful for the undercooked James and Siobhan subplots, the real reason it matters is so Kara can learn to be a hero again, without having to worry about the pressures that come with it.
The fight where she redeems herself is just the right kind of silly. While it’s far from the most exciting the show’s ever been, Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist have just as much fun as Barry and Kara, playfully taunting their opponents before going to work on them. Livewire probably gets the silliest line of the entire series (“I hate helicopters!”) and the show goes back to walking that questionable tonal line from the first few episodes, but if a story can follow up eye-rolling moments with ones that can make you well up with joy, then it’s a risk that pays off. Everything the episode is, from its terrible extras with worse dialogue, to its audacious, unapologetic sincerity, comes to a head when Supergirl throws herself in the path of Livewire’s lightning to protect that very helicopter. Beats skip, and disjointed shots smash together to move the action along, but the point remains crystal once the smoke clears. Neither The Flash nor Supergirl take down these villains. The people do. They form a ring around their hero, inspired by her sacrifice, because more than saving people from burning buildings, that’s what Supergirl does. She brings out the best in them.
The National City Fire Department sabotages Livewire by fighting fire with water. One of these true heroes is even given his due by having him reach down and help Supergirl up, in a shot that matches the one of Superman in the show’s opening. In that moment, the people are as heroic as any superhero, in part because of the heroes that inspired them. It’s one of those scenes that I wish was given more time to land, but in an episode intended to move ten different things forward at once (including Myriad, finally), that we got it at all was worth every fleeting second.
In terms of actual screen time, Barry and Kara really only spend fifteen minutes together, even if that. The episode takes place over the course of a single afternoon, but as they’re about to depart, it’s a goodbye as meaningful as any. Two heroes who understand each other on a fundamental level, helping each other out because that’s what heroes do, spending their final moments together by having fun. Fun! Who would’ve thought? And the thing is, they don’t need to do this. Neither the show nor the characters need to finish this journey with a footrace. They could just go through the motions and have Supergirl push The Flash through a wormhole with no fuss, but that’s not what these shows are, and that’s not who these characters are. They’re the kind of people who would partake even in a passage between worlds with bright, shining smiles on their faces, bantering from start to finish, through words, as they hug goodbye, and through action as they try and out-run each other for the sheer joy of it.
And just like that, they’re on different worlds once again, off to have their own adventures and bear the trials of heroism with their supporting casts at their sides. But once it’s all said and done, and Supergirl has defeated Non and The Flash has defeated Zoom, and they’re all facing off against some new villains, maybe one of them will drop by for a visit. To help save the day, to impart some wisdom, or maybe just to hang out and grab some ice cream.
Until then, I’m going to watch this scene 52 more times: