A shadowy new organization emerges in National City.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Supergirl doesn’t handle its villains very well. That’s been the show’s most glaring flaw from the very beginning. As compelling as the Team Supergirl dynamic is, the two-dimensional antagonists have rarely ever measured up by comparison. That’s why “The Faithful” gives me such hope for the future of Season 3. At long last, the series seems to be building up a threat worthy of the Girl of Steel.
Between this episode and last week’s “Far From the Tree,” there’s a pretty clear theme emerging for this season. Season 3 is developing into an examination of faith and the way it can both lift people up in their darkest moments and blind them to the reality of the world around them. In “Far From the Tree,” faith was a weapon that kept M’yrnn strong and defiant for centuries, yet it also blinded him to the fact that his son stood before him, alive and whole. In “The Faithful,” we meet a group of National City residents whose prayers were answered at their most desperate hour, but have now channeled that into a misguided obsession with the city’s greatest heroine.
I appreciate the evenhanded way the concept of faith is being handled. It’s treated as neither good nor bad, but merely a tool that can be harnessed for good or abused in the worst ways. Like, say, burning down a building so you can become one of the blessed few to experience Supergirl’s mercy. We even got a deeper examination of Kara’s own faith this week, something the show doesn’t explore all that often. That also dovetailed nicely with James’ musings on his first encounter with Superman and the very real impact the Cousins of Steel have had on this world. That scene is easily the best the two characters have shared since the heyday of their romance in Season 1. The series finally seems to be finding a place for James again now that his Guardian phase is dying down.
“The Faithful” introduced a very different sort of villain in the form of Thomas Coville (Pretty Little Liars’ Chad Lowe). Coville is exactly the sort of nuanced, sympathetic antagonist this show usually lacks. He may be a crazed, over-the-top cultist, but at least we can understand where he’s come from and what motivates him. And even Coville had his moments of doubt as he was forced to acknowledge that Supergirl is neither infallible nor immortal. But that only seems to have redoubled his resolve.
I really enjoy villains who are motivated less by a thirst for evil and more by a desire to test their rival and mold them into a better hero (like the comic book version of Flash villain Zoom). That seems to be exactly where the writers are headed with Coville. He’s shaping up to be a quiet, behind-the-scenes manipulator, even as his own strings are being pulled by the mysterious doomsday cult that seems intent on turning Samantha into Reign.
I am still a little iffy on these cult members, if only because their whole shtick seems to be lifted straight from Dr. Alchemy and the Savitar cult in The Flash: Season 3. Plus, the show really seems to be telegraphing the eventual reveal that Kara’s mother is the leader of this group. Why else would the role suddenly be recast with Erica Durance? Certainly not for these brief little flashbacks and hologram cameos we’ve been getting. I need to see more from these shadowy villains before I’m ready to embrace them as readily as Coville and his followers.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’m not at all pleased with the imminent demise of the Maggie/Alex romance. The series is losing something incredibly valuable by removing Maggie from the equation. That being said, at least this episode did its part to justify the coming breakup. Thanks to that emotionally charged scene between Kara and Alex at the school talent show, there’s a much better sense of how important the motherhood issue is to Alex and why it’s turning into a deal-breaker. Those sisterly moments are always such a treat. This series may be able to weather Floriana Lima’s departure, but all bets are off if Chlyer Leigh ever bows out.