Supergirl among the many shows forced to end her 2020 season earlier, now Season 6 debuts ahead of schedule due to the production problems of Superman & Lois’ COVID-19. “Rebirth” has the unfortunate burden of ending the loose ends of season 5 and starting the final year of the series. It is good that the focus is mainly on the first.
Season premiere or not, “Rebirth” definitely plays as the end of the 5th season that we should have in 2020. In fact, part of the episode was filmed last year, making it a cohesive fusion of old and new scenes. Lex Luthor came to the end of his plan to make the world love him and become a literal god in the process. Billions of lives are at stake, and the odds are very bad against Team Supergirl. Not bad for a final confrontation between good and evil.
Few would say that Jon Cryer’s Lex is not one of the best additions to the series in its entire execution. Arrowverse never had the biggest history of nuanced villains in the first place, and that has always been a particular weakness with Supergirl. The Leviathan plot of season 5 was no exception, unfortunately. It is difficult to say what it is specifically about Supergirl that encourages these exaggerated and exaggerated performances by the actors in these villainous roles. That is why it is a relief to see Leviathan and characters like Gamemnae take second place in favor of Lex in his great moment of triumph.
Not that Cryer doesn’t chew some scenarios in this episode. That stupid montage showing Lex revealing his apparent victory is definitely the most enjoyable moment of the debut. But with Lex, this nonsense is counterbalanced by a real sense of threat and absolute malice. In many ways, this is the most faithful version of Lex in comics we’ve seen in live action. He is a greater than life genius of evil, but he has just enough humanity for you to understand why he does what he does and why, in the end, he fails. Lex’s Achilles’ heel is the fact that he assumes he is too smart to be fooled or flanked. This is something that this episode plays very well. It also offers a firm limit to Lex’s entire 5th season arc. He may have helped save the crisis multiverse, but purely out of self-interest. And here in the end, we see him coming dangerously close to becoming a new Anti-Monitor.
This episode also successfully tied up a number of other loose ends from 2020. Alex finally gets a superhero name suitable to match his power and fantasy. CatCo is back to being a respected news outlet, rather than a cog in a corporate conglomerate. And Brainy, despite the same Wrath of Khan quality as that opening scene, is saved from death and given a chance to repair his relationship with Nia. This last subplot fits well with the long-awaited Kara / Lena reconciliation and the idea that secrets are needed, but so are honesty and transparency. It will be interesting to see how the very important Kara / Lena dynamic unfolds in season 6, now that Kara will no longer have to play the fickle reporter for her best friend. Are they still friends at this point?
As well as everything is tied up in this episode, there is an uncomfortable feeling that everything is resolved a little too quickly and easily. With Leviathan defeated and Lex becoming public enemy number one again, there is a sense of “going back to the status quo” with the ending. It would have been nice to see Lex’s master plan in action for more than one episode before the series turned into true season 6 territory, with one episode focusing on the race to destroy its satellites and the next expanding the final confrontation between Lex and Kara . On the one hand, with Lex so fixated on remaking the world into one where he is loved by everyone, it is a real missed opportunity not to turn the tables and see him firsthand as the world sees him now.
It is hard not to wonder if the decision to shorten the scope of Season 5 by two episodes (which happened before COVID, mind you) may have played a role in making the ending seem more hurried than it would have been otherwise. There is also the question of whether Cryer participated in the second round of filming for this episode, or whether director Jesse Warn was forced to settle for Lex’s existing footage last year. This may be another obstacle to the “Renaissance”.
Still, while this episode looks to redefine the status quo and drag Lex offstage, it does give us a significant turnaround in the script for season 6. Kara is now trapped with the other lost souls within the Phantom Zone, leaving only a few incomplete recordings of herself behind. An intriguing development that could theoretically take a while. Whatever is to come in the coming weeks, the series will face an uphill battle, overcoming the stories of Lex Luthor over the past two seasons.
“Rebirth” is the premiere of the season in name only, as this episode is really the appropriate conclusion for the 5th season that we did not reach in 2020. As is so common lately, Jon Cryer’s hammy, but terrifying, Lex Luthor is the star of the show, chewing on scenery and cleaning up Leviathan’s bad taste in the process. Despite the tension in this final battle, the ending is somewhat clean and organized for its own sake. Still, it’s a fitting conclusion to a season that offers a small but exciting taste of what’s to come in the final Supergirl season.