How Supergirl revamped the story of Superman IV and made it work

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Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Supergirl Season 6, Episode 15, “Hope For Tomorrow”.

the Super girl Season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow” expands the story of the Superman film Superman 4: The Search for Peace in every relationship. Superman 4 is the final film with Christopher Reeve as Kal-El from Krypton and is widely considered to be the worst of the classic Superman films. Given that, it would be virtually impossible for Supergirl to rework, rather than improve, The Quest For Peace, but the episode “Hope For Tomorrow” successfully addressed almost every common complaint about the film.

In the central plot of the second half of Supergirl Season 6, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) competed with the exiled Princess Nyxly (Peta Sergeant) of the 5th Dimension for control of seven magical totems, which are transmitted to the seven cosmic forces of Hope, love, courage, humanity, dreams, fate and truth. Each totem required its bearer to pass a test demonstrating mastery of any force. The test of hope in the Supergirl season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow” proved particularly difficult as the winner had to “awaken a hope that burns longer and brighter than the sun”. While this would normally have been an easy task for Supergirl, this test came at a time when nuclear war between the nations of Kaznia and Corto Maltese seemed imminent and hope was scarce.

The story of Superman 4: The Quest For Peace is also based on the fear of nuclear war and Superman acts to end the threat after receiving a letter from a worried boy. Unfortunately, the movie did so badly that it lost any chance of a Superman 5. While the story of Superman 4 went to great lengths to address a serious issue, the film suffered from budget cuts and editing issues that eliminated most of the film’s more reflective moments in favor of recycled flight scenes and nonsensical padding. Supergirl Season 6 Episode “Hope For Tomorrow” takes most of the story elements of Superman IV and builds on the basic concepts to create something much better.

About halfway through the Supergirl season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow,” Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) asked the same question as the worried boy in Superman 4: The Quest For Peace; Why can’t Supergirl just take all the nuclear weapons away and throw them in the sun? Kara gave the same basic answer as Superman in the film, saying that she was “forbidden to interfere in human history”. However, Kara went on to explain to her friend Lena Luthor that the human nations must be free to determine their own destiny without an almighty alien forcing their beliefs on them. Kara also pointed out that even if she could get rid of all of the world’s nuclear weapons, it would not resolve the conflicts that lead to war. (Ironically, Kara had to throw multiple nuclear missiles in the sun before the episode ended.)

That point was driven home by another scene in which the US diplomat overseeing the Kaznia-Corto Maltese peace talks asked J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood) to use his telepathic powers to guide the leaders of the move both delegations to sign a peace treaty. The Martian hunter refused, saying that while he was glad to use his powers to reassure the two leaders after Nxyly used the Totem of Courage to scare them into looking weak during the negotiations, he refused to control their actions directly. Both Supergirl scenes showed a lot better why heroes have a responsibility not to use their powers than any speech Superman made on this point in Superman 4: The Quest For Peace.

The Supergirl season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow” featured a subplot that revolved around Esme, a foster child adopted by Alex Danvers / Sentinel (Chyler Leigh) and Kelly Olsen / Guardian (Azie Tesfai), and the efforts the Super Friends, the young girls get used to their new home. A victim of an abusive situation in her previous nursing home, Esme was shy and afraid of being sent back to the group home she had been in. Restoring Esme’s hope in the future was more than a test of Supergirl’s ability to inspire hope, and became a test of the whole team and a central part of the Hope For Tomorrow theme. In contrast, although Superman was the inspiration for Superman’s efforts to end the nuclear war in Superman 4: The Quest For Peace, the boy who wrote to Superman disappeared from the film after Superman took him to the United Nations for around to hear him speak.

Originally founded as a romantic interest for Kara Danvers in Supergirl season 5, reporter William Dey (Staz Nair) was one of the divisive characters created for the Arrowverse, and Kara agreed to be just friends in Supergirl season 6. Comparisons could be drawn between William Dey and Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway), whose sole purpose in Superman 4: The Quest For Peace was to act as a hostage and have an unconvincing love triangle between them, Lois Lane and Clark Kent. However, the Supergirl season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow” saved William, who was anything but a passive character, after he was captured by Nyxly. In fact, it was Williams’ quick thinking that enabled the Super Friends to take Nyxly’s totem of courage away.

While legendary actor Gene Hackman returned as Lex Luthor in Superman 4: The Quest For Peace, his role in the film was anything but extensive. Aside from creating the monstrous Nuclear Man, Luthor had surprisingly little to do with the plot of the film, and most of its scenes were comedic non-sequels. In contrast, the Arrowerse Lex Luthor does not appear in front of the camera in the Supergirl Season 6 episode “Hope For Tomorrow”, but still had a huge impact on the final scene of the episode.

When Hope For Tomorrow came to an end, Supergirl decided to toss the Hope Totem in the sun, knowing that Nxyly needed all seven totems as part of her plan to defeat Supergirl and the Super Friends. Shortly after Nxyly learned what Supergirl had done, a box fell through a portal in front of her. The box contained a watch and a note from a secret admirer who told her not to lose hope. When Nyxly put the watch on, it formed one of Lex Luther’s signature armored Lexo skeletons around her, cleverly revealing the identity of her mysterious new ally. It was certainly more subtle than most of Gene Hackman’s scenes in which Superman is trolling Superman 4: The Search for Peace. This, along with the other connections throughout the episode, underscores how Super girl was able to successfully revive the story arc of the failed film.

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