Supergirl stumbles upon a new religious group, the Children of Rao, for a compellingly deep dive into Kara’s faith in ‘The Faithful’.
Supergirl season 3 has so far explored the dichotomy of Kara Danvers as a native Kryptonian raised as a human on Earth. It gives her a much different perspective on both Krypton and Earth than her cousin Clark Kent, aka Superman, since he doesn’t remember much of their home planet. Kara, however, has plenty of memories of Krypton – everything from her family and friends on her planet to the religion that brought their community together. Ever since Kara made the decision in the Supergirl season 2 finale to infuse lead in Earth’s atmosphere and effectively ban all Daxamites from the planet – including her boyfriend Mon-El – she has been questioning her humanity.
The result has been Kara leaning more heavily on her Kryptonian side, which has included her shouldering more of the life-saving as Supergirl and distancing herself from her friends because they represent her human side. Last week’s episode of Supergirl, ‘Far From the Tree’, took a much-needed break from this darker, conflicted Kara in order to focus more on J’onn J’onzz and the state of the Martian people. But, ‘The Faithful’ returns viewers to Earth, where Kara’s faith in herself is tested in an altogether new way. Supergirl stumbles upon a new religious group, the Children of Rao, for a compellingly deep dive into Kara’s faith in ‘The Faithful’.
‘The Faithful’ starts off by introducing a jaded man on a plane – Thomas Coville (Chad Lowe) – who is changed dramatically when Supergirl saves his plane from crashing. It turns out, as viewers will recognize as a cool and surprising callback to the show’s pilot, Thomas’s plane is the same plane Alex was in in the first episode of the series – and the first time Supergirl appeared to the world. Two years later, Kara is drawn to a meeting held by Thomas for people who have been saved by Supergirl, and using distorted teachings of the Kryptonian god Rao, has formed a religion of his own around the Girl of Steel.
Of course, Kara doesn’t believe herself to be a god, especially since she understands it’s merely her Kryptonian biology reacting to the Earth’s yellow sun that gives her abilities like flight, heat vision, etc. But Thomas’ belief cannot be swayed or discouraged, though throughout the episode he believes Kara’s doubt to be a test of his own faith. Instead, ‘The Faithful’ dives into Kara’s faith in not just herself, but her purpose as a hero in National City.
Throughout season 3, Kara has struggled to come to terms with her decision at the end of season 2, which ultimately led to Mon-El needing to escape Earth in a Kryptonian pod. As Supergirl explored in ‘Triggers’, Kara’s time in her own pod was a traumatic experience that is impacting how she deals with the role reversal of being the one to put Mon-El in a pod. The guilt of her actions has weighed heavy on Kara, and that guilt is especially present in ‘The Faithful’, particularly when a young man puts himself in harm’s way in order to be saved by her – for the simple reason that he wants to join the Children of Rao.
Although ‘The Faithful’ goes a bit out of its way to include a threat-of-the-week in relation to Thomas Coville – with an overly contrived plan to use a Kryptonian artifact to blow up an ice hockey arena in order to prove Supergirl’s strength – Kara’s emotional conflict between her Kryptonian heritage and her human life is compelling. Additionally, though the episode doesn’t dive too deeply into Krypton’s religion, the hints that are revealed add further depth to Kara’s history and character.
The climactic moment of ‘The Faithful’ is also compellingly different to a typical Supergirl episode, as it’s Kara’s weakness as a Kryptonian that actually helps save the day. Since there is Kryptonite within the artifact, which is about to explode, Kara is greatly weakened, and it’s this weakness that finally convinces Thomas his plan was ill-conceived. It may not be a major game-changer, but Kara being forced to confront her physical weakness no doubt affects her ongoing emotional conflict. Plus, Thomas lays out explicitly how Kara has changed from her first adventure as Supergirl to now: She’s lost sight of her purpose. She’s lost her faith in herself.
Season 3 has so far taken a look at the effects of the season 2 finale on Kara from seemingly every angle possible and though it’s tough to say whether the test of faith that arrived in ‘The Faithful’ will be the start to a path of healing, last week’s episode of Supergirl certainly made a case for why the show shouldn’t continue depicting Kara as darker and more conflicted for too long. In fact, while the juxtaposition between Kara in the Supergirl pilot and in ‘The Faithful’ was no doubt intentional on the part of the show’s writers, it may have the unforeseen side effect of also making viewers wish for the more optimistic Girl of Steel to return.
Still, ‘The Faithful’ forces Kara to confront how she has changed since she saved Alex’s plane and, indirectly, the choices that have led her to this point. The incorporation of religion – both with the mythology of Rao and the fanaticism of Thomas – is an interesting spin on the comic book lore that provides a different kind of one-off conflict. Though, of course, with Thomas simply in jail and continuing to pray for Kara, we’ve likely not seen the last of him or his Children of Rao on Supergirl.
Supergirl season 3 continues next Monday with ‘Damage’ at 8pm on The CW.
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