Supergirl took a break from the day-to-day main plot of the series for Season 3’s flashback-centric episode, “Midvale,” which sent viewers back in time to The Danvers Sisters’ high school years for what amounted to an extended Smallville homage (teenage superhero mystery-solving, a nod to “Clark’s friend Chloe” and her “Wall of Weird” and a sharp cameo by Erica Durance) and a quick way of re-setting the duo’s dynamic for a post-“Sanvers” era: Alex is apparently over her “mean drunk” post-breakup phase, but Kara is still stuck on the idea that losing Mon-El was a sign that she needs to embrace her alien-ness and forego human things.
While it looks like Supergirl is in no rush to throw Alex directly into another relationship story, Kara’s story, at least, seems to be a direct set-up for something that’s going to start paying off in very short order. The trailers for next week’s episode, “Wake Up,” reveal that the tease of the sunken alien(?) ship full of people(?) in pods seen at the end of “The Faithful” is going to be paid off – and Mon-El is going to show up (possibly as one of the pod-persons?) and get involved somehow.
Given the timing, it’s probably a safe guess that this “return” is either going to go very wrong for everyone involved and that it probably won’t be a return at all. The dubious plot mechanism that exiled him from Earth in the first place is still present, mainly, and the trailer itself is all-but-confirming that the characters whose job it typically is to give Kara tough words of caution (which she will then ignore in order to learn the lesson of the week and/or season) are already sounding the alarm bells that something isn’t right here. But whatever happens with Mon-El, fans are also hoping (based on slivers of previous evidence) that the episode will herald the arrival of fan-favorite DC youth heroes The Legion of Superheroes.
Whether or not The Legion turns up in “Wake Up” (or what form they’ll take when they do), their presence in some way has already been confirmed by the casting of characters like Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 announced during the series’ Summer 2017 break. Turning up as lifepod-sleepers in a crashed spaceship certainly wouldn’t be the most unusual way The Legion has popped into the continuity of a DC-adjacent property before, especially given their ever-shifting history as characters and the constant upheaval of their place in the DC Universe. In fact that only highlights just how many questions about them Supergirl is going to have to answer… not just in terms of its own story, but for viewers who might not have heard of them before.
Originally introduced in a 1958 Superboy story (during the Silver Age “pre-Crisis era” where Clark Kent was adventuring as a teenage hero in Smallville before moving to Metropolis as an adult), The Legion were a team of alien teenagers from the future who had taken up the “lost art” of superheroics as an act of rebelliousness against their decidedly unheroic future society with “legends” of Superboy as their inspiration. Intended as a one-off story with a twist ending, the characters proved so popular that they made regular reappearances and ultimately became stars of their own fan-favorite series. Though never exactly as popular as the “A-list” heroes, The Legion maintained a devoted following that persists to this day.
It’s not hard to see why they were so popular. For loyal readers who preferred the DC Universe as their superhero continuity of choice, The Legion offered a DC-flavored answer the “teenage counterculture” heroes being popularized at rival Marvel Comics. While they maintained the same old-fashioned aesthetic and 50s-style “bright tomorrow” outlook that characterized the majority of DC titles in the Silver Age 60s and 70s, The Legion were allowed to grappled with the kind of youth-centered issues of growing pains, lashing out at the older generation, romantic angst and general sense of finding one’s place that perpetually-adult heroes like Superman and Batman were largely “above” in their respective books. Romance and sexuality (while tame by today’s standards) were also much more a part of the story for The Legion’s ever-expanding roster of heroes and heroines, with famed superhero artist Alex Ross famously describing their appeal as “the superhero team as college fashion show.”
Unfortunately, being pre-set as being the “true future” of the main DC Universe, The Legion found themselves frequently battered by the powerful forces of continuity; stories playing out in the “present” would often mean having to re-write or “retcon” certain eventualities that Legion stories had already set, and when Crisis on Infinite Earths decided that none of the Superboy stories had ever happened, period (rebooting Superman’s entire backstory in John Byrne’s Man of Steel series – which also eliminated Supergirl herself from existence for decades) their world was placed in a flux that continues to this day. They’ve been rebooted officially at least three times, shunted off to pocket-dimensions and reimagined more than a dozen times over since in an attempt to make them still fit.
What will they be for Supergirl, in this context? It’s impossible to know until the characters actually show up. The presence of a Legion Flight Ring among Superman’s artifacts at the Fortress of Solitude has already teased at their existence, but it’s not known whether that was meant as an official preview of things to come or merely an Easter Egg for fans (see: Thor: Ragnarok casually dismissing the Infinity Gauntlet previously seen in Odin’s treasure vault as “a fake”). At least one possibility might be that The Legion’s usual status as coming from the future could be a way to lead Kara out of her post-breakup funk (i.e. finding out that things will eventually “work out”), but it also feels a little early to make use of such an extreme plot device – to say nothing of the Pandora’s Box of “why didn’t they just…?” plot-complications that type of time travel introduces.
Whatever becomes of them, if and when they do show up the Legion characters will be entering a Supergirl series (and a CW DC continuum) that’s very much picked up their mantle as a forward-looking superhero series with a special focus on young people. Whether they stick around is anyone’s guess, but it’s plausible that there’s never been a better spot for them.
Supergirl season 3 airs Monday nights, @8pm on The CW.
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