Welcome back all you Supergirl fans. Season three is now three episodes old which means that I can declare, in only the most official and statistically sound capacity, that it is finally more than 50% good. Yay! So, without further ado, let’s get into my thoughts. And, as always, some spoilers are ahead.
1. Twin plots
This week’s episode was split between two different plots, both set up in the previous episode, and both, funnily enough, dealing with fathers. Coincidence? Thematic writing? You make the call!
But, snark aside, because of these two plot lines, this might be up there for me with the Livewire episode from season one as one of my favorite Supergirl episodes. Both were emotional in their own ways, dealing with a father’s inability to believe in his child and being stuck in their own conceptions of the way the world does, and should, work.
The narrative symmetry isn’t 1:1 but in its broadest strokes works. I’m not 100% sure if they work together though. Whenever we transitioned between the two plots, I was reticent to change over, which is a testament to the strength of each of the plots but doesn’t make for a cohesive episode. There was also one transition that was just ill placed, when going from an emotional scene between J’onn and his father to the start of the wedding party. It was such a tonal whiplash that it sucked me right out.
2. Good guest stars
There is such a thing as a wasted guest star (I’m looking at you Mr. Mxyzptlk) and thank goodness that doesn’t happen here, especially not when we’ve got two great ones. Carlos Bernard of 24 fame as well as Carly Lumbly, the original voice of Martian Manhunter, and my favorite version (sorry current J’onn, your CGI scares me).
They are the fathers of Maggie and J’onn respectively and both turn in wonderful performances. Carlos captures the uncomfortableness of a father who is loves his daughter but cannot accept who she is, leaving only rage at her for the things he perceives to be an affront to his world while Carly turns in a subdued but equally strong performance when he’s not couched in CGI.
The writing this week also took a step up when it came to the emotional scenes. J’onn seeing his family in memory in the ruins of his house with his father is heartbreaking and Maggie’s speech to her father as they part is equally heartbreaking, but for different reasons. I also really appreciate that the writers chose to make Maggie’s father, not sympathetic, but not just a stereotypical homophobe. It could have been too easy for him to just be this villain to boo and hiss at for his attitudes towards his daughter and all those who love in ways that are not familiar to him. Instead, he has a logic for why he feels the way he does and it’s birthed from a complicated history that is intertwined with the Mexican immigrant experience in America and the twisted way he is trying to protect his daughter from the kind of hate he faced when he was a child.
It doesn’t make it right by any means and the show, as well as Maggie, makes that position clear but it does make him a more complicated figure. The same goes for fact that we don’t end on him suddenly accepting her. That isn’t the message of Maggie’s arc; the message is about her accepting herself in the life she has created, surrounded by those who genuinely love her instead of loving an old photo that pretends to be her.
Speaking of Maggie…
3. Maggie. Just Maggie.
This had to be its own section (even if it isn’t long) because Floriana Lima kept turning in great scene after great scene. I keep talking about that final speech because, from a character standpoint, it’s a point that moves Maggie forwards and continues the arc she started when she and Alex got back together. It is well acted and completes what should have been a longer arc dealing with her desire for the love of her father. I say should have because this was an arc introduced and solved in just this episode, even if it does fit into her larger character growth.Continued below
4. Wooden acting? In my CW show?
Yeah, so as much as I praised the principal cast’s performances, as well as Carlos Bernard and Carly Lumbly, I have to comment on the very wooden acting that came out of the barren Martian soil. Maybe because of Carly and Carlos but it was very apparent that many of the other guest characters just weren’t that engaging, especially T’lall (I think that was the angry white Martian’s name). He got better as the episode progressed but that first scene was hard to watch. It doesn’t help that his character is righteous fury man who will do whatever it takes for his cause to win.
5. CGI could be season one levels
This is not a compliment. Even though CBS had a much higher budget for CGI, it always seemed to look really fake and rubbery (especially the flying/landing animations for Kara). The CW has done a much better job of utilizing it but this episode, due to the Martian antics, really needed to use it and, unfortunately, it didn’t always work. J’onn’s mouth never seemed to really match his speech and the gaggle of Martians (that’s the technical term, right?) all looked like they weren’t there with Kara.
The fight scene felt like it had no weight to it and those were the parts I was least invested in. Giving J’onn and his father the ability to act with their human faces was the right decision because it gave them the ability to really crank up the emotions of their reconnection. Also, the ship looked a little silly but that’s par for the course here on the CW. They all have that Kia Juke bullfrog look which I don’t care for but that is an aesthetic problem, not a technical one.
I’m glad we left the DEO and Cat Co. behind for an episode. It lets them recalibrate what they want it to be and hopefully they’ll give Jimmy something to do again. He’s wasted there! Same goes for Winn. I missed his many jokes.
Also, Space Car from the 50s. I kind of hope this means we’re going to be John Jones, Private Investigator, soon but we probably won’t. Until then, I’ll just curl up with Darwyn Cooke’s “DC: The New Frontier” and enjoy TV detective J’onn.
Let me know what y’all thought of the episode and if I’m totally off base with any of my thoughts. Next week, we got…something. I don’t usually watch the promos before I write these. Whoops. Until next week then, y’all.