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'Supergirl' 6.03 Review: Phantom Menaces

"Phantom Menaces" packs an emotional wallop not to be forgotten.

Katie McGrath and Jesse Rath as Lena Luthor and Brainiac 5 in Supergirl "Phantom Menaces"
(Image: © The CW)

Our Verdict

"Phantom Menaces" is the kind of episode that reminds you why you're watching Supergirl

For

  • 💥Remarkable performances from Katie McGrath and Jesse Rath.
  • 💥The team finally reconciles with the realization that they've lost Supergirl.
  • 💥

Against

  • 💥It takes a minute to get rolling.

This post contains spoilers for Supergirl "Phantom Menaces"
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last review here

The phantoms are out of the Phantom Zone and wreaking havoc on Earth! Their presence comes with a bit of a one-two punch. Not only does their existence outside of the Zone pose a clear and present threat to National City, it also means that Supergirl’s family has no space to grieve their failure in getting her back. This doesn’t just mean double duty for the heroes; it also means a huge amount of friction between a bunch of folks just doing their best.

Understandably, it’s Alex (Chyler Leigh) and J’onn (David Harewood) who are hit the most by Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) absence, but everyone’s having a no good very bad time in “Phantom Menaces.” The emotions put on display by the entire cast is most certainly some of the best work of the series, but it’s Lena (Katie McGrath) and Brainy’s (Jesse Rath) rage that seems to connect the most. When Lex (Jon Cryer) burns down the children’s ward of a hospital in response to Lena besting him, our two sometimes unlikely heroes grapple with the fact that all they want to do is murder the man responsible for all of their pain.

Brainy doesn’t just think about the murder, he has a whole plan on how they’d scatter Lex’s body parts across the solar system. He and Lena are forced to acknowledge the fact that their emotions cannot live in tiny boxes. The result? A breakdown from Brainiac-5 that every viewer can relate to.

Somehow, Lex Luthor burning down a children’s ward in response to losing some money ends up being the secondary story this week. While Lena and Brainy are forced to reconcile with their emotions, M’gann (Sharon Leal) finds herself on the receiving end of a Phantom scratch. Silas’ (Claude Knowlton) run-in with the Phatoms makes it evident that her future involves becoming a Phantom herself in J’onn and team aren’t able to do something but, luckily for her, she has something Silas didn’t: a bond with J’onn that includes part of her soul that enables the team to save her.

I do hate you. I just love me more.

Lena Luthor

No one wants to compare emotional reactions, as the entire spectrum of responses we see in in “Phantom Menaces” are all valid. But it is hard not to acknowledge how far ahead of the game Jesse Rath and Katie McGrath are in their performances. Thankfully, McGrath gets to take things a step further in her final moments in the episode. After her discussion with Brainy, she finds herself stuck on what her next move may be. The real answer? No move at all. Lena realizes how much her hatred of Lex has consumed her over the years, and she knows he’s willing to go to lengths that she never will. Sometimes, the answer to a petulant tantrum is to stop acknowledging it. Supergirl and her team will still take Lex Luthor down, but Lena’s done with their chess match and it clearly hurts her brother more than anything she’s ever done. It’s one of the youngest Luthor’s strongest moments, and it’s hard not to be proud of her. Lena resigns from Luthor Corp, giving up her fortune and her life’s work with a smile on her face.

Kara’s story gets more interesting this week as well, largely thanks to the introduction of Myxlgsptinz (Peta Sergeant). Myxl, a princess imp with powers akin to Mr.Mxyzptlk, was spurned by her father and banished the Phantom Zone. The woman we meet at the beginning of the episode is devoid of hope, but Kara’s reminder that she isn’t useless inspires her and results in the breaking of both her literal and metaphorical shackles. With her power, the El family just might make it out of the Phantom Zone after all. (They will absolutely make it out of the Phantom Zone, we know what show we’re watching.) 

“Phantom Menaces” is the kind of episode that helps remind you of the foundation of the series. Even at its worst, Supergirl is still a show about hope and all the messy emotions that come along with it. COVID-19 may have resulted in a shaky season opener, but this week’s episode really feels like a return to form for the series. It makes you feel that familiar pang of sadness that Kara and her friends’ story is soon coming to an end, which means it’s absolutely doing its job.