The fifth season of The CW's Supergirl was a decline in many ways, including both ratings and critical success. While it has numerous high points (Crisis on Infinite Earths was truly great), it should have been better. With Supergirl Season 6 now confirmed going into scripting for the next season, due to begin airing in 2021, it's time to think about what we need to do.
1. Start with the Villains
I stand by the assertion that Supergirl Season 4 is their best season and the best season of any show of the Berlanti-verse so far. What made it great was an incredible, layered commentary on our times. This is mirrored by the layered nature of the big bads of the season. While Agent Liberty/Ben Lockwood (Sam Witwer) is the spotlight villain, it is revealed near the end of the season that Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) has been pulling the strings the whole time. We also have the appearance of Manchester Black (David Ajala) who begins as an ally, then in the transition from chaotic good to chaotic evil puts him directly in Supergirl's path.
Compare that with Season 5. You had Lena (Katie McGrath) who was set up to be a great antagonist but never quite got there. You had Lex in the Post-Crisis episodes. You had Andrea Rojas (Angela Gonzalo) and her story as Acrata. You had Leviathan and its various members, who never really coalesced into a menace worthy of the show.
What's the major difference? Season 4's villains were united in theme and social commentary that hit close to home. Season 5's villains were disparate, working at cross-purposes, always intent on not-so-secretly betraying each other.
If I'm pitching a villain for Season 6, it's very obviously Lex Luthor. But let's bring back Ben Lockwood, who is now leading the Sons of Liberty as their world's version of an Ammon Bundy. Maybe there's an alien virus that disrupts the planet and. . . too close to home? No, let's not do that. But very obviously, Lex and Lockwood need to be working together to divide people based around their hatred of aliens.
Another left-field idea? Make Brainy (Jesse Rath) the villain. We saw a version of what this could look like in the finale of Season 4 and it was scary. If you want to deliver on Season 5's premise of the problems of technology, why not infect much of the world's tech with Brainiac's code, so you can't know when or how he might be watching.
2. William? Yes. Supergirl's Boyfriend? No.
I've been outspoken from the beginning that William Day (Staz Nair) is a horrible match for Kara. It's especially bad because he was first introduced as a real jerk, constantly undercutting and negging Kara in her job at Catco. Even after his post-Crisis reboot as not a jerk, it's still the terrible trope of the mean guy getting the girl anyway. We tolerated this with Mon-El (Chris Wood) but it has to stop.
I like William's fresh incarnation. He's much less annoying and cloying. He could be a great sidekick. Indeed, if there was a running investigation he was pursuing about Supergirl, it might be an interesting running side plot.
But here's a novel idea: maybe Kara doesn't need a romantic interest this season. Maybe she takes some time for herself. Maybe she dates, but why the need to make some sort of romantic coupling?
3. The J'onn and Alex Show
J'onn (David Harewood) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) have been given a huge gift in freedom from the confines of the DEO. With a new, sweet lair and J'onn's new role as a private detective, he's where he always should have been in the first place.
They also have the ability to be something Team Supergirl and the DEO have never been: street level. Sure, they've tried to help out in the past. Indeed, much of what they had to do in Season 4 to protect various aliens from the Sons of Liberty was very much street-level. But this lets them continue to do this on a parallel track from Kara. This was one of the more effective pieces of the back half of Season 5 and they should continue to emulate it.
4. Give Dreamer More To Do
Nia Nal (Nicole Maines) is potentially the show's secret weapon. One of the better episodes and best moments of the season belong to her in "Reality Bytes" where Dreamer struggles with the ethics of vigilante justice against someone stalking the trans community.
Again, Supergirl is best as a show when it's proving some sort of commentary on our current here and now, and this was one of the few times it felt like they grabbed a bit of the zeitgeist. Dreamer is a key to this, especially as she doesn't have the baggage attached to her to be a scion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
As Maines herself explored in an interview, it's good to show trans characters not as "all good" or "all bad," but human just like all people. Letting Dreamer break out of the shell of being just an innocent hero-in-waiting and let her come into her own. Have her make mistakes. Have her disagree with J'onn or Supergirl and not have it be the end of the world. Let her grow.
5. Center the Show Back on Supergirl and Lena
Supergirl at its core has always been about the women in the cast. And the axis around which most everything revolved was Kara and Lena's relationship. With that relationship fractured at the end of last season, it left Season 5 somewhat in a lurch.
We need to see Lena learn to live with Supergirl, and indeed, see them build a new and different relationship. Again, if we're talking about Lex as a potential Big Bad for the season, then Lena being caught in the middle is clearly the fulcrum around which you want to build all of the dramatic tension. But can she successfully outmaneuver her brother by working with Supergirl, even though there is some missing trust there?
It should be about two close friends who had a major falling out but find the need to come back together because of the seriousness of what they're facing, then finding the things that made their friendship so strong in the first place. And don't let anyone ever tear that apart again.
6. Ignore the Crossover
I'm just going to say it: Crisis ruined Season 5 of Supergirl. They spent the entire first half of the season messing around, introducing things but not going anywhere because they knew they were going to get a big ol' reset button.
Do what DC's Legends of Tomorrow do and ignore the crossover. I'm not saying Supergirl doesn't have to be in it, but just don't worry about it. Build your own storyline, and if you have to cram in some crossover-service, then do it, but stay true to the themes and story you want to tell. The season will be better for it, I guarantee. Supergirl is scheduled to return with a Season 6 sometime in April of 2020, barring any further production delays.