Into the Gauntlet

Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 35

Once again we're with the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. as the season continues on, watching just one show until it concludes. Supergirl, you're our hero. Show us what you've got that can save the world this week!

So let's get to it and see where the Girl of Steel goes this week:

Supergirl, Season 6, Episode 13: The Gauntlet

After last week's episode, which should have been character focused as it introduced Guardian II (and character moments are the thing this show does best, normally) only to drop the ball as it became an after school special about the inner city (good message, but way to tell it), I was pretty well ready to write off the show, riding it out just so we could get to the end and stop watching it. This week, though, is slightly better, enough that I'm at least ready to give the show another chance.

I derided the idea that there are seven magical totems the heroes have to collect because that's a really basic fetch quest (and super formulaic), and while this episode doesn't really make the idea of the fetch quest any better -- collect the first totem so you can get the next totem, and then the next, one per episode -- it does at least make the act of collecting them and using the totems more meaningful. Again, the character moments are the best on this show and this episode gives us a great character beat for, of all people, Nyxlie.

I haven't warmed to Nyxlie this season. She's never firmed up as a character for me, acting more as an idea of a villain but never really becoming a character. Part of that problem is the fact that she's so powerful that she can do anything she wants. It's too big, too much, and that renders her threat somehow too big for a human brain to comprehend. "She can end the world" is a concept that's horrible but it doesn't have the gut punch of "she'll squish this character until there's nothing left but a ball of flesh." Nyxlie could do either thing but only lex could do the latter with a smile and make you like him for it.

What we need from Nyxlie isn't power or threats but to understand her as a character. The totem, which Supergirl and Nyxlie break, giving each a piece that they have to try and use, requires its user to go through an "emotional gauntlet". As this first totem is the Totem of Courage, each character had to find their inner courage and defeat a moment that tested them. Supergirl fails in her moment, reliving the day she came out as Supergirl and attempting to help every single person in the city (which she ignored before out of fear). Apparently, though, this wasn't the courage she was supposed to exhibit (and we don't learn what her solution was this episode, presumably because we'll learn it at season's end).

Nyxlie, though, goes through her own moment: the day the coup she plotted, with her brother, is revealed and her father has her thrown in prison. Her brother is forgiven because... boys? All the blame is thrown at Nyxlie, and the save his own skin her brother goes along with it. On her first attempt at the gauntlet Nyxlie kills her father but that's a failure. That wasn't courage, just her acting out of her hatred and fear. Instead, the next time through, she tells her brother all the things she's feeling, opening up and really explaining how the betrayal hurt her. That's true courage of spirit and Nyxlie wins the totem.

This was a great moment for her for two reasons. Firstly, it actually lets us into her head-space as a character, a needed moment of showing, not telling, that works really well. It also, though, has the effect of forcing Nyxlie to grow a little as a character. I'm wondering if the totems are going to do Supergirl's job for her and force Nyxlie to grow up, giving up her quest for power once she's going through all seven parts of the gauntlet. That would be a bold choice and I support it.

The superheroics on the show are dumb, as always -- the big threat is a powerful storm caused due to a scientist getting a burst of courage when the totem is initially broken, and that storm threatens to destroy the city, and then "technobabble here's a solution, oh look it's solved" -- but that's to be expected with the show at this point. I like the character moments this episode and I really liked that it managed to make the villain more interesting than she was before. More of that and maybe we can pull this season out of its deep tailspin.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse

  • After Yolanda bailed on being Wildcat last episode, Stargirl then deals with Eclypso going after her other two friends -- Rick (Hourman II) and Beth (Doc Midnight II). The villain has more success with Rick, taking the young hero down a path of pain that leads to him battling Grundy only to realize he's been beating his uncle right into a coma (because Eclypso screws with people's minds). Beth, though, doesn't give into the fear the villain peddles and fights him off, earning the right to be Doc Midnight. This is a great follow up episode to last week and really pushes out characters. Every week this show is getting better and better this season and I'm really impressed.
  • Titans gave us yet another dumb episode as Scarecrow is somehow so easily three steps ahead of the heroes even when there no conceivable way for him to pull it off. With one video, that he somehow broadcasts to every phone, TV, computer, and everything else in the city, he says, "the Teen Titans are bad people," and everyone believes him. Like... there are so many issues I have with this plot device, and then everything that happens afterwards is all about the heroes being as stupid as possible and the show just lets it happen. God, this show really sucks.
  • Doom Patrol, meanwhile, turns all its heroes into zombies and has a grand old time with it. Really, that's the gist of it and that's all we need to discuss. It's hilarious and dumb in the best possible way and this show remains a watchable treat.