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Supergirl - Still I Rise - Review: Uneven Balancing Act

With Still I Rise, Supergirl suffers its first stumble in what has so far been a solid final season. While having a few bright spots, this episode was an uneven misstep for the show. Other episodes this season have deftly addressed important social issues while moving their own story forward and continuing character growth, this one unfortunately does not.

The thing with very special episodes addressing social woes such as recidivism or gentrification is the oversimplification of complicated issues and then not revisiting them in later episodes. Some of the issues are far too complex to be addressed and solved in one episode. The biggest problem with Still I Rise is the writing. Overall, it ended up being more on the heavy-handed side than previous social issue stories. One positive outcome of the episode’s main story was the performance of Jhaleil Swaby as Orlando, the formerly incarcerated brother of Kelly (Azie Tesfai)’s charge, Joey (Aiden Stoxx). Orlando’s character was given the opportunity to forge a connection with Supergirl giving her a new non-superhero friend of sorts. If the show keeps Orlando and his brother around and incorporates their dilemma as part of the long-term story, rather than just briefly using them as the human face of an issue, then the time invested with this episode makes more sense.
Another area where the show was uneven was Nia (Nicole Maine)’s long overdue reunion with her mother, Isabel (Kate Burton). Setting aside the weaknesses, the scenes between mother and daughter were often well-executed by the actresses. The way the reunion happened, though, was more than a little contrived to insert Nyxly back into the show by the shortest route possible. There were other ways for Nia to connect with her mother again than by having her trust Nyxly (Peta Sergeant) and essentially making a deal with the devil. For all the buildup Dreamer’s interaction with her mother turned out to be anti-climactic. It was obvious that Nia needed to reconnect with her sister, and that has become a storytelling point the show dragged out a bit too long. The logic of Nia’s sister, who had studied dream interpretation most of her life under their mother, being the answer to resolve her struggles with her dream interpretations has been in front of her all the time. The only thing or person Nia was running from was her sister. Most of the scenes between mother and daughter weren’t particularly emotional. What carried the most dramatic weight during the mother/daughter reunion was Isabel chastising Nia for the trouble she has unleashed. She repeatedly reminded Nia that her actions have consequences, and she has to suffer through those consequences, rather than sweep them under the rug with an act of heroism. It felt a little random, odd even, for Nia to be the one shouldered with such a heavy lesson when there are other characters whose self-centered actions are more worthy. Hopefully the show will direct more attention and inject more tension into the inevitable reunion between Nia and her estranged sister.
Another slight quibble with this episode is the failure to carryover any of Kara (Melissa Benoist)’s Phantom Zone trauma, although it’s likely Nyxly will trigger that. One does have to wonder though, why both Nia and J’onn (David Harewood) did not recognize or at least question the imp’s presence. Has Kara not opened up enough about her time in the Phantom Zone and encountering Nyxly there? Did she until that great face to face meeting they have at the end of the episode, never tell anyone about Nyxly? If so, why not? A bright spot is that Sergeant has done a fantastic job in turning Nyxly into a formidable, charismatic villain, especially since she’s likely here for the remainder of the season. Nyxly destroying the building at the end of the episode could be a powerful moment if the show explores how her actions affect a community whose trust Supergirl hasn’t quite secured.
Some of the stronger, more powerful parts of the episode do include Nyxly’s transition into full on villain, with her tricking the alien zoo-keeper Mitch (Matt Baram) being a nice throw-back to this season’s earlier Midvale episodes of Prom Night and Prom, Again!; the continued development of Kara and Kelly’s relationship, with them counseling each other in a nice scene in the Tower gym as Kelly again began her Guardian training but still doubted her value to the team. Supergirl giving Kelly a modified hope speech and Kelly offering Supergirl some subtle counseling featured some very nice work between Benoist and Tesfai. Them having that bond is going to help in the long run because Kelly’s training makes her the most qualified to help Supergirl with her Phantom Zone trauma which is likely to be exasperated by Nyxly’s arrival.
Other highlights included using Supergirl and Brainy (Jesse Rath)’s “green vegetable” PSA as a touch of silly fun but effectively used to touch on the impact of social media and spreading Supergirl’s message. Benoist and Rath made a great comic duo. Julie Gonzalo continues to appear to be having fun with turning Andrea into the boss at Catco, a move that has certainly worked well in recent episodes.
Hopefully, next week’s episode, featuring the return of Mr. Mxyzptlk (Thomas Lennon) whom Supergirl smartly summoned because she will need magic to fight Nyxly’s magic, will regain the show's balance and not be as uneven. Mxyz’s return and the upcoming confrontation with Nyxly should certainly shift focus back to superheroing and help the show recover from this week’s stumble.

What did you think of Still I Rise and the return of Nyxly as a full-fledged villain? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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