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SUPERGIRL Lets Its Female Villains Be Villains

SUPERGIRL Lets Its Female Villains Be Villains

Editor’s Note: this post contains major spoilers for Monday night’s new episode of Supergirl. Read at your own risk if you aren’t caught up with the season!

Last night’s episode of Supergirl, “Distant Sun,” was pretty much an exercise in deception and betrayal as played out via the royal family of Daxam. Since their arrival on Earth, King Lar Gand (Kevin Sorbo) and Queen Rhea (Teri Hatcher) have made no secret of their intentions to bring Mon-El (Chris Wood) back to Daxam so that he can assume his true place as ruler, but their demands aren’t merely a result of familial desire for their son’s success—and Queen Rhea’s feelings towards her son’s new romantic partner, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) don’t stop at mere dislike. In fact, Rhea goes to some pretty evil lengths against the Girl of Steel as well as her own family, and the best part is that she does so unapologetically, which has made the Daxam story arc one of the most unexpectedly entertaining plots this season and Rhea one of its most exciting new villains.

Supergirl -- "Star-Crossed" -- SPG216b_0328.jpg ñ Pictured (L-R): Teri Hatcher as Rhea and Kevin Sorbo as Lar Gand -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

As we saw in Monday night’s episode, Mon-El’s mother was willing to go as far as putting out a contract hit on Kara to ensure that she wouldn’t interfere in a twisted version of “family business.” After defeating a series of alien bounty hunters, Kara attempted to meet with Rhea face-to-face to get her to call things off—but she didn’t exactly get the response she was hoping for, as Rhea proceeded to stab Supergirl with a pair of kryptonite blades with the obvious intention of, well, killing her. Yet it seemed that this was still just a warning sign of what was simmering beneath Rhea’s cool exterior.

At the very end of the episode, after Lar Gand intervened to assure Mon-El and Kara’s safe return to Earth, Rhea turned around and killed her own husband for what she viewed as a betrayal of their family, essentially solidifying her status as a mustache-twilling villain for the latter portion of season two. Lar Gand’s death was jarring, but it accomplished something far better: it was the evidence that Rhea has reached her tipping point. Now that we know she’s willing to murder her own family, it looks as if she’ll stop at nothing to ensure her plans succeed.

Supergirl Luthors Lillian

It’s not the first time Supergirl has doubled down on its villains by having them ascend (or more accurately, descend) to a brand-new level of evil. Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong), who operated under the mysterious title of the Doctor from the season two premiere until her identity reveal in the fifth episode, “Crossfire,” serves as the head of Supergirl’s pervasive enemy, Project Cadmus. Over the course of the second season, Cadmus has been responsible for some of the show’s most intimidating and recognizable characters for fans of the comic source material—including Metallo and Cyborg Superman—and has had a significant hand in causing many of the problems faced by Supergirl and her team at the DEO. From anti-alien viruses to equipping street gangs with alien weapons, Lillian has been orchestrating those events like a glorified puppet master, escaping the DEO’s attempts to apprehend her on multiple occasions.

What makes Supergirl‘s female villains like Lillian and Queen Rhea work so well (aside from the sheer number, because there have been many of them and they’re as different in their goals as they are in their personalities) is that the show allows them to fully lean into their villainy. In a storytelling world where so many bad guys experience the tried and tired redemption arc that somehow hand-waves away all of their terrible behavior, it’s a welcome change to watch a show where there’s no expectation that the evil-doers will suddenly have a moment of clarity, or recognize the good that was inside them all along. And because we see it so often, the redemption arc has almost become a narrative cop-out, a means of changing direction that minimizes the impact of evil in retrospect.


There’s also no question that when it comes to villains, it’s often the female characters who are given bigger opportunities to make amends for their destruction—which is why it’s thrilling that two of Supergirl‘s biggest bad guys are mothers. (Jury’s still out on the possibly-maybe bad Madam President, alien usurper.) The combination of protective maternal instincts and the need to act in what they believe to be their children’s best interests allows for motives that are more complex than the need to create chaos, and characters like Lillian Luthor and Queen Rhea of Daxam are proof that older women can be just as much forces to be reckoned with as some of the most terrifying baddies around.

What did you think of last night’s Supergirl? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: The CW



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