Sam wrote us an email, sharing some thoughts about the Season 3 finale episode, “Battles Lost and Won”!
Hey Super Ladies,
Well. That happened. I have thoughts.
Before I get into the episode itself, I thought I should talk about the nature of Sam/Reign and the so-called Reignforest, as I understand it.
First up, this is my understanding of the Reignforest, based on bits and pieces of dialogue from the last eight or nine episodes. According to Lena, the Reignforest is not just in Sam’s mind, but is another dimension. It is a physical place that can be traveled to in body or in mind. Whoever travels there has a physical form there because it is a dimension that bridges the physical and the spiritual/mental (take your pick). It is not that far removed from some depictions of the Phantom Zone. Smallville‘s depiction of the Phantom Zone had bodiless minds inhabiting it as well as physical beings. At some point in the future, this show may even suggest that the Reignforest and the Phantom Zone are somehow related.
Also, the correct name for the Reignforest, according to the show is the Valley of Juru. This is not the Valley of Juru as depicted in the comics, but the show’s take on it.
I think it helps to make sense of the Worldkillers and the Valley of Juru if we remember that this isn’t just a matter of advanced alien science, but advanced alien science mixed with magic. For anyone who reads fantasy and science fiction like myself a lot of the elements of this season make sense in a fantasy context.
The first touchstone for comprehending the Reign/Sam storyline for me would be the Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. One of my favourite books as a child.
WARNING! BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!
In A Wizard of Earthsea, the cornerstone of magic in this world is Naming. Everything has a True Name and if a magical being or magical practitioner knows that True Name, they have power over it. Therefore, people in this world have two names. The name they use in their day-to-day and their True Name. The main character, Ged, is a young man who leaves his small island to study at the world’s greatest magic school. Early on in his education, he gets into a showing off contest with another student and performs a forbidden spell that summons a demon that attacks him. The demon flees the school grounds and the rest of the book is about Ged traveling the world and trying to set right his mistake. However, he is terrified of the demon and always running away from it because the demon knows his True Name. The only way he can defeat the demon is to discover the demon’s True Name.
At the end of the book Ged realises the truth, that the demon is a part of him – his shadow self – and that the reason the demon knows his True Name is because that is the demon’s name. In their final confrontation at the end of the book Ged speaks the demon’s name and the two of them merge to become one again.
This isn’t a direct parallel to the Reign/Sam story, but there similarities.
END OF BOOK SPOILERS.
There are any number of fantasy books I’ve read that involve another plane of existence such as a Dream dimension where everybody’s dreams co-exist and is a place that people with magical ability can open a physical portal to. I think Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book series touched on this. Dimensions of planes of existence that bridge the mental and the physical and where both can exist combined or separate from one another.
Once you’ve read enough of these kind of stories, stuff like the Reignforest/Valley of Juru doesn’t seem so outlandish.
Second up, is the issue of Sam/Reign and the Worldkillers in general, the nature of their existence and how they were created. This is mostly conjecture/extrapolation on my part, but this is how I wrap my head around the subject.
Sam was born a Kryptonian and made into a vessel for the Worldkiller Reign by the Voodoo Science of the Dark Kryptonians aided by the use of the mysterious element Harun-El.
Reign was an artificial construct implanted in Sam to be carried until it was time for her to emerge. Reign was basically a parasite and Sam was the host. Reign grew up in the Valley of Juru and presumably, somehow could see through Sam’s eyes all that time. When Reign was finally strong enough to fight her way out of the Valley of Juru and into the world, she and Sam started switching places. Neither of them was strong enough to stay in the world permanently, though.
Sam was clearly Kryptonian by birth. Obviously, the Dark Kryptonians tinkered with her DNA so that she would appear human (not manifesting her Kryptonian powers) and possibly even pass a DNA test by the looks of it. Which is quite a feat unless Kryptonian and human DNA isn’t that different.
After Reign and Sam were separated, they were still connected, but the alterations to Sam’s DNA began to come undone and she started reverting back to being Kryptonian. The reason Sam was getting weaker was because she and Reign were still connected and Reign was draining her life-force.
This is why I find the ending so frustrating with Sam ending up just being a normal human at the end. Her true nature is Kryptonian, not human. The only way I can make sense of why she ended up human again is that she and Reign re-combined. Reign was sent back to the Valley of Juru to be imprisoned and this somehow, reset the original Vodoo Science that made her human (or human passing).
It’s too neat and tidy. It would have been more interesting if Sam ended up with her full Kryptonian nature and powers, but didn’t want them. However, she was stuck with them. Unlike Kara, she just decides to live a normal human life with her daughter and not run around in a cape and tights.
Regardless of Sam being physically human, both she and Ruby have Kryptonian heritage. It would have been nice if Alura had offered to take them to Argo City to find out more about themselves and where they came from. I know some people don’t care about where they came from, but I’d expect Ruby to be curious, at least. She’ll never get to meet her Kryptonian grandparents, but at least she could see a bit of the world they came from.
On to the finale episode itself. I don’t think it was terrible. I actually think it had quite a few goods moments. My biggest problem with the episode is that some character decisions and turnarounds seemed to come out of nowhere and it felt like the characters were pieces on a chessboard being rearranged. I actually liked where a lot of the pieces ended up. It was how they got there that was the problem. The execution was the issue, not the outcome.
Earlier this season, I postulated that J’onn’s secret that we never found out was that he had abandoned his faith. Given that his father was the High Priest of H’ronmeer and that they had just been reunited, it would have been difficult to confess. I could be wrong, but I think J’onn fell into despair after escaping to Earth three hundred years ago – believing that everything he knew and loved and been destroyed by the White Martians. As a result, he lost his faith. Don’t forget the episode where J’onn was supposed to reveal his secret was called “The Faithful”. It had many of the characters talking about what religion meant to them, except for J’onn. At the end of the episode, we saw J’onn going to pray with his father. What if there was a cut scene or two where he had been asked to pray with his father and backed out, only to later confess that he hadn’t prayed to H’ronmeer in three hundred years.
If my theory is right, I think you could make a strong argument that J’onn’s entire arc this season has been about him rediscovering his faith and the values his father taught him. He has journeyed from warrior to priest. In this context, his desire to move away from using lethal weapons at the DEO and ultimately, resigning make so much sense.
For the record, I support the idea of the DEO moving to non-lethal weaponry with a few caveats. I think lethal force should never be a first resort, but I am not opposed to it being used in some circumstances.
That aside, I think most viewers of this show agree that when it comes to aliens with different powers and levels of invulnerability the definition of lethal is subjective.
I could be wrong, but I think we’ll be seeing the DEO use some kind of stun gun next season. I don’t know if it will be some kind of laser like the Phasers on Star Trek or something more like the Icers on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I never thought Winn’s personal shield device was meant to be the only equipment he was going to give DEO agents to go out in the field. It was the first step in building a non-lethal arsenal, not the last one.
On the topic of Winn, I thought his storyline in this episode was very well done and nothing felt out of character or half-baked. I think it’s funny that viewers honestly believed that Winn was only a 1.47 intellect. I was sure that Brainiac-5 was lying. I don’t know if Winn is a 12th level like Brainy, but I’m pretty sure that he is at least a 10.
I think Brainy was running down Winn’s intelligence to make himself look good which is some pretty petty BS. However, it’s not always out of character for Brainy 5 to be a bit of a #^&^# in the comics.
I wonder, though, was Brainy running Winn down in previous episodes just a bit of competitive teasing/ribbing or did it cross the line into bullying/gaslighting? How much damage did Brainy do to Winn’s self-esteem before building him back up in this episode?
One major problem I had with Winn’s storyline in this episode is that he had a better goodbye scene than Kara did when she was leaving for Argo. It made me realise something and this may seem obvious but every episode should be treated like it’s the season final/series finale. Everything that happened in “Not Kansas” was rushed and handled hamfistedly. From Reign’s defeat to Kara’s decision to up sticks to Argo and departure hencewith. None of the story beats were given any dramatic emphasis or handled like they were permanent because everyone knew there were still two episodes left of the season.
If done better, I could have believed that “Not Kansas” was a season finale even though I knew intellectually that it wasn’t.
Let’s talk the Mon-El and Kara relationship. I don’t actually have a problem with Mon-El returning to the future and leaving Kara for good. I’m pretty sure Mon-El and Imra’s marriage is over, though. He chose Kara over Imra (and Imra knows it). He is only returning to the future out of duty to the Legion not out of love for Imra.
Mon-El leaving is fine. He and Kara drawing a line under their relationship is also fine. Even so, I would have liked to hear Kara tell him how she felt about him romantically before he left. They both know it’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean they can’t express what they would have liked to happen one last time.
Lena is acting shady with the Harun-El. MISS TESCHMACHER!!
James is out as the Guardian. So much for people who hoped they would kill off the whole Guardian storyline this season. It will be interesting to see what the consequences of this decision are. Wonder if he’ll lose his job at CatCo?
Alex is director of the DEO and looking to adopt. Maybe she’ll adopt an alien teenage girl with superpowers. Would a boy be more interesting because of the gender dynamics? We’ve seen sisters, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, father and son, but not really much in the way of mothers and sons on this show. Unless you count Cat Grant and her two sons’ brief appearances in the first season. I suppose there was Rhea and Mon-El, but I was thinking of a more positive relationship.
Maybe Alex will get nicknamed Director Bones because she used to go to medical school.
One last thing, I completely forgot about until now was the defeat of Reign. This was another one of those chess piece issues for me. I didn’t have a problem with Kara going back in time and fixing things. My problem was with her whole line of thinking that led up to that decision. I just couldn’t follow her reasoning that everything went to fecal matter because she killed Reign instead of finding another way.
If Kara had traveled back in time because she was so distressed by the death of Mon-El and her mother – which we didn’t see much evidence of by the way – I would have been right on board. Kara’s logic seemed to be that if you kill the bad guy, your mother and ex-boyfriend will die as well. Like killing bad guys leads to bad outcomes. No matter what decision you make you can never be 100% sure how things will turn out and hindsight is always 20/20.
The only reason things worked out was because Kara got a do-over. If Kara and her friends had gone in the first time around with a non-lethal plan to defeat Reign, there is no guarantee it would have worked or that no-one Kara cared about would have died. It was Kara’s experience the first time around that gave her the knowledge she needed to defeat Reign in the do-over.
Quick explanation for anyone who didn’t get how Kara traveled back in time. At the end of last season, Mon-El’s space pod got sucked through a natural space-time distortion to the future. Brainy and the Legion use their ship to scan for this naturally occurring distortions and travel through them to go back and forth in time. Kara asked Winn to scan space for one of these distortions and then flew through it wearing the Legion ring for protection.
The only problem with this explanation is why weren’t there two Karas? I have no answer for this. Just go with it. Future Kara traveled back in time and merged with her past self. Done.
Oh well, not a bad episode. I quite like the way some of the chess pieces have been rearranged and am very interested to see how these new character dynamics play out next season. Brainy at the DEO with Alex in charge, for starters.
In terms of Kara and romance, I don’t think it suits her to be perpetually single. She is a healthy heterosexual (bi?) woman who likes the company of men. What I think I’ve had enough of is big dramatic romances that suck all the oxygen out of all her other relationships and issues. If anything, I think it would be good if Kara was either just casually dating a guy here or there next season or seeing one guy who isn’t in every episode and isn’t a grand passionate romance, but just someone she likes to spend time with. Maybe have her dating a guy and talking about him, but we never actually see him. He just shows up in casual conversation like telling Alex, “Bob and I are going out tonight.”
Hope you guys liked the season finale. Looking forward to your podcast.