[Review] Supergirl Episode 3×04: “The Faithful”

written by Jason Froikin and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

FYI: my non-contiguous reviews are due to work obligations, and will probably continue throughout Season Three.

I’m glad I had some time to get this one in just under the wire, because this week’s episode was packed with a lot of content. So much so that I checked about three-quarters of the way in, because I was certain it was a two-hour special, but it just seemed that way. It very much felt like two episodes were crammed into the space of one.

Episode 3×04 was billed as a story about a cult worshipping Supergirl. While the title character did her best to try and convince the cultists that she’s not actually a god, she also forgot that the only “god” in a cult is always the charismatic leader. The truth never really has any effect on them unless it comes from that leader. The kind of odd part in the story was that we’re left with the notion that perhaps the Kryptonians had a cult of their own by worshipping Rao, as benevolent as that following seems to be.

That was the light content of the episode. It then proceeded into some very heavy stuff, like Alex’s dilemma of whether to come clean about wanting to have kids; Sam being either contaminated by something psychologically, or is on the verge of a mental breakdown and possibly harming her child someday; and Martian Manhunter reconnecting with his long-lost father. As I said, a lot of content. If you looked away from Episode 3×04 for a few minutes, you’d better watch it again.

-Jason

* * *

“The Faithful” continues the “on the nose” titling of Supergirl episodes. This one seemed to be heavily inspired by an arc from the 1996 Supergirl run written by Peter David. In this episode, a man who is saved by Supergirl finds faith again in her selfless act, starts a church worshipping her as a god (as opposed to, say, as an agent of God), and causes acts of violence to spur her into performing miracles. In the comics, Supergirl was literally an angel, so something of this nature was par for the course in a book which dealt with crises of faith, satanism, and demons of all sorts on a regular basis. Here, it takes on an additional layer of creepy douchebaggery from guesting character, Thomas Coville (Chad Lowe).

In Coville’s efforts to build a church and congregation, he locates all Kryptonian artifacts available on Earth, including a cultural database probe sent by Kryptonian scientists to spread their knowledge and introduce themselves to other planets out of their space-faring reach. From there, he gains access to the doctrines and prayers of Rao, the god of Krypton. He uses these to add a veneer of credibility to his efforts to deify Supergirl as his own personal saviour, even as he is clearly exploiting people who also had their lives changed by Supergirl’s intervention. The sheer amount of cultural appropriation – and, indeed, weaponization – is stomach-twisting.

While Kara struggles with how to combat Coville’s “faith”, he manages to turn the Kryptonian probe into a bomb, placing it beneath a packed sports stadium while his congregation waits for her arrival. Supergirl crashes his prayer circle to find that the probe contains a soil sample which turned into green Kryptonite. It weakens her enough to allow her to shed her own blood to prove she isn’t invulnerable. This causes Coville’s supporters to run (as they’re sane enough to realize they’re about to blow up without Supergirl’s intervention) and leads to a tense scene as Coville is unable to deactivate the bomb. Alex arrives to shove the probe into a pit Supergirl burned into the earth’s core, allowing it to detonate far enough below ground to screw up some tectonic plates. (It also awakens some hibernating aliens, but that’s an issue for future episodes!)

In the end, Coville is arrested, but his faith has only strengthened in resolve, as he feels his purpose is now to help Supergirl find her way back to whatever path he feels is correct for her. And therein lies the rub – as Coville worships an idealized version of Supergirl, nothing she does will meet his expectations, and everything she does incorrectly will only reaffirm his “faith”. I can only hope he stays locked up in jail, and far away from any news media…but I also want to see him back in a future episode, just to challenge the thoughts of viewers who see twisted and appropriated versions of other faiths and accept them at face value. There are no simple resolutions to such a conflict. As Kara says, how do you fight belief?

Trouble also awaits in paradise, as Alex’s desire to have children while Maggie emphatically does not hits a breaking point, and Alex confides in Kara. I’m glad she finally voiced this to someone, but I’m concerned this will be an end for our favourite couple when they’ve already come so far. Sam also is stretched too thin, juggling working as Lena’s replacement at L-Corp and trying to be involved in her daughter’s life, finally causing her to break down in front of Lena, uncontested winner of the “Has The Worst Mom” award. Sam also has a breakdown in front of her bathroom mirror later on when she sees Kryptonian markings on her skin and is visited by a hideous apparition claiming that she will soon “reign”. As savvy viewers, we know this is a setup for the seasonal villain, but as someone who is fond of this struggling mom, I can’t help but hope there’s more bluster than villainy on the horizon.

-Cara

Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Jason can be reached on Twitter @Mangacool and Cara at @virtualcara.

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