Kara explores the dark side of worship when she discovers a religion devoted to her

By Sara Netzley
October 30, 2017 at 11:28 PM EDT
The CW
S3 E4
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Supergirl opens this week with a drunk jerk on a plane as it begins to plummet to Earth. In the chaos, he sees people holding each other and praying, and after a rocky landing, FBI Agent Alex Danvers hops up to assure everyone it’s going to be okay. Then he looks outside and locks eyes with a woman standing on the wing before she launches into flight.

Three years later, a woman with a spookily singsong voice approaches Samantha at Ruby’s soccer game to announce that Ruby is chosen. She gives Samantha a pamphlet and invites them to join their community.

Later that day, Lena takes Kara to Samantha’s office to discuss a big merger. The duo, who’ve apparently resolved the “you’re my boss, and I’m lying to you” tension, insist that Samantha come to girls’ night at Kara’s. Then Kara spots the brochure. Recognizing a religious symbol from Krypton, she takes it and decides to hit the meeting.

James and Winn tag along to soak up the creepy cult vibes. A young woman named Olivia greets them and describes her first meeting as “transformative.” Then the man from the plane steps to the pulpit. His name is Thomas Coville (Chad Lowe), and he refers to his flock as Children of Rao, intoning, “We are here, all of us, by her grace.” Whose grace, exactly? Why, Supergirl, of course.

We have a quick flash to Kara’s mother reciting the same words to Rao, and then Coville invites Olivia up to speak. She talks about drunkenly falling off a roof and getting rescued by Supergirl. James asks Kara if she recalls that rescue, and Kara whispers, “I remember all of them.” Then the congregation starts praying to Supergirl, and Kara’s buh-LOWN away and upset at how Coville’s twisted Rao’s teachings.

Later, girls’ night gets awkward fast. Samantha brings up Kara’s dating status and then refers to Alex and Maggie having kids someday. Kara watches Alex’s face twist as Maggie says they’ll be the cool aunts someday. Then a police siren pierces the night, and Kara “runs to get ice.”

After she rescues a man who’s about to plummet through the collapsing roof of a burning building, Olivia rushes over to congratulate him on joining the Children of Rao. Yikes. Kara realizes people are intentionally endangering themselves to be saved by her and asks Maggie to stop Coville, but Maggie reminds her that the First Amendment is still a thing.

So Kara dons her journalist attire and interviews Coville about his group endangering themselves. Coville calls it a test of faith and then asks if Supergirl is there to test his faith. Kara’s too shocked to deny it. Coville tells her that he looked into her eyes from his seat on that plane, and he knows that it’s her.

He promises to keep her secret and help her if she’s lost. Then he pulls out a Kryptonian relic containing Rao’s word, and Kara whips off her glasses to say that if she is a god, he has to do as she says: Stop the meetings, and quit putting people in danger. After she leaves, though, Coville walks into the next room, where he’s stashed a large, glowing alien object, and promises to serve Supergirl.

At L-Corp, Samantha’s too busy fighting off hostile FTC actions from Morgan Edge to help Ruby practice her song for the school recital, and by the end of the day, Samantha saved the merger, but Ruby’s asleep on the office couch. When Lena comes in, Samantha cries and says she feels like a terrible mother. Lena, who knows from terrible mothers, points out that not only does Ruby know she’s loved, but she fell asleep watching her mom work hard on a task that only she can fix. “That is how you raise a girl to be a badass,” Lena says.

At the same time, James and Kara bond over religion. Coville’s service reminded Kara of how important Rao’s teachings were to her, like church was for James. Kara admits that she doesn’t know how to combat Coville’s blind faith in her, and then James says something amazing: He met Superman (as opposed to Clark Kent) for the first time after he fell off a bridge spire while shooting photos. As he fell, he prayed for someone to save him. And suddenly Superman was there to grab his hand.

He says that Clark shows up, and Kara does, too. “You’re something that we can see, something that we can touch. How are you not a miracle?” Like I said, amazing, and perhaps the best James scene of the series.

He also points out that Kara has part of her culture back, then accidentally activates the obelisk’s recording. Kara realizes what it is and rushes to the DEO to ask Winn to track a Betahedron signature. Betahedrons powered the probes that Kryptonian scientists would launch into space full of records of their planet’s history, religion, and so forth so other worlds could learn their culture. Kara realizes that Coville must have one of the probes. (Next page: Alex faces a painful question)

Bad news, though; the probe is destructive enough to take out a city block. Coville has moved it to National City’s packed hockey stadium, where the faithful are gathered in the basement, prepared to shower the 15,000 people above them with a “baptism of light” on behalf of Supergirl.

Kara flies to the stadium, while Alex zips behind on her motorcycle. Coville is beyond excited when Supergirl arrives, even when she tells him that his plan is an insult to Rao.

Just as Alex is learning that they can never evacuate everybody in time, Kara realizes that there’s Kryptonite in the probe. She stumbles and intentionally cuts her hand, using her blood as proof that she’s no god.

Her veins and eyes begin to glow green as she begs Coville to deactivate the probe. He tries and fails, so when Alex makes it to the basement, Kara gasps out instructions for her to toss the Kryptonian soil sample as far away as possible. Kara’s too weak to fly the probe way, but she is able to burn a large hole into the ground so Maggie and Coville can push the probe in. This contains the explosion as Supergirl slumps unconscious at the edge of the hole.

The next day, Kara visits Coville in jail to ask if he’s going to reveal her identity. He tells her that he doesn’t remember the name she gave him at the rec center, not that it matters. “That’s not who you are.”

But he is worried for her. That night on the plane, he says her eyes were clear and free, but now they’re clouded with doubt and loss. He declares Rao’s purpose for him is to bring Supergirl back to clarity, purpose, and peace. “And so I will continue to pray to you. But I will also pray for you.”

I’m…honestly torn about whether this is creepy or touching. Because on the one hand, this level of devotion is unsettling and also how arenas get blown up. But on the other hand, as James points out, Kara is a miracle, but one who’s occasionally beset by grief and uncertainty. In light of that, I’m putting Coville’s statement at 90/10 on the creepy/touching scale. Please let me know if your ratio differs.

Anyway, Kara, Alex, and Lena sneak into Ruby’s school recital at the last minute, where they find a troupe of girls all dressed as Supergirl performing a dance routine. “They’re not worshipping you. They’re inspired by you,” Alex whispers. Awww! Me, puddle, floor. And then Ruby steps up to sing “Pure Imagination,” which moves Alex so much that she leaves the auditorium, Kara on her heels.

In the hallway, Alex wipes her tears and confesses that she wants kids, so the only way she and Maggie are going to work is if she lets that desire go. “I love her so much that it hurts,” she says, but then she lists all the experiences she wants to have as a mother: camping, star gazing, reading, teaching a kid how to throw a punch, exchanging cheesy Valentines, soothing nightmares. “I want to be a mom,” she tells her sister. “What am I going to do?” Chyler Leigh is gut-wrenching here, and Kara has no answers for her sister.

Then, as if we weren’t sad enough, “Hallelujah” kicks in as Kara kneels and recites the words to Rao along with the hologram of her mother.

J’onn joins his father in prayer as Kara says, “Rao binds us to those we love.”

Alex crawls into bed next to Maggie and starts to cry as Kara says, “He gives us strength when we have none.”

Coville prays in his cell as Kara says, “In the darkest place, he guides us.”

And then it’s back to her and the image of her mother as they say together, “Rao, protect us so that we might protect others. And we shall rise, a fire in His hearth, burning and free.”

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect an exploration of faith on Kara’s mother planet to be so moving. Besides Kara reciting holy words along with her mother, which is beautiful all on its own, Rao’s teachings reinforce how Kara lives as Supergirl, and they explain why she was horrified both to be held up alongside Rao and to see his beliefs twisted.

Finally, Samantha is getting ready for bed when she looks in her mirror and finds symbols all over her face. A cloaked figure appears, her face twisting between demonic and human, to hiss, “From Rao’s fire you are born. One day soon you will reign.” Samantha cowers on the floor until Ruby snaps her out of it and she finds the writing gone.

Then we hop back 22 hours to see the probe falling through the hole and hitting the water, activating various machines and a large, red illuminated tube, where something stirs and a hand slaps against the glass.

Snaps of the cape

  • Those mirror jump-scares get me every time!
  • The show offers us an interesting premise this week: How can those rescued by Supergirl not treat her with the kind of awe that we reserve for miracles? Obviously, the Children of Rao went about a million miles too far in their obsession, but the impulse to lift up Supergirl is understandable. The difference, as Maggie said, is inspiration, not worship. (And bombs.)
  • If you’ve been frustrated with the idea that Maggie and Alex haven’t discussed children before, Chyler Leigh recently told EW that their dangerous line of work makes the pair live in the moment and sometimes rush into decisions. Which, fine, okay, that makes sense, but wow, do I wish Alex had said something to that effect in this scene with Kara. Let’s keep these logical-ish explanations in-show, folks.
  • Is there a song more wildly overused and yet more consistently effective than “Hallelujah”? If so, what is it?

Episode Recaps


Kara (Melissa Benoist) steps out from her super-cousin’s shadow to become Supergirl and defend National City in the third Arrowverse show.

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