Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Supergirl 3x03 Review: "Far from the Tree" (Good Dad, Bad Dad) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Far from the Tree”
Original Airdate: October 23, 2017 

This week on Supergirl: paternal drama! More specifically, the paternal dramas of Maggie and her prejudiced, abandoning father and J’onn and his presumed-dead, doubtful father. The best part of “Far from the Tree” is its focus on supporting characters with some good stories to tell but not a whole lot of opportunities to tell them. Like, I would probably watch a whole show about J’onn J’onzz bonding with his dad and participating in a Martian revolution. Unfortunately, behind-the-scenes snafus (like the casting of a very much not Mexican actress to play Mexican-American Maggie Sawyer, whose culture is then given a prominent place in this episode, and not in the kindest of lights... oops) made half this episode uncomfortable to watch.


Maggie and Alex are having a wedding shower, thanks to Alex’s mom being ultra-enthusiastic about the wedding. During a meeting with Eliza Danvers and Alex, Maggie tells the full story of how she was abandoned by her family — essentially, they caught her with a girl when she was fourteen, her dad packed her a suitcase and dropped her off at her aunt’s, and the last thing he said to Maggie was that she “shamed” him. Later, Alex brings up that maybe the wedding/shower could be a way to mend some bridges. Maggie rejects the idea at first, but ends up calling her father (why did she even have his number?) and inviting him to the shower. To everyone’s surprise, except the viewers who saw promo photos of Maggie talking to her dad, he accepts the invitation and intense awkwardness ensues.

First bit of awkwardness: Maggie meets her dad, Oscar, at the bus stop. Her mother is noticeably absent, even though she’d also been invited. Oscar tries making an excuse but it’s clearly false, and Maggie stops him.

At the shower, Oscar starts off well by showing that he’s always carried a picture of Maggie in his wallet, but things go downhill when he sees Maggie and Alex kiss. Buddy, what did you think was going to happen at a wedding shower? Anyway, he storms off and Maggie storms after him, demanding an explanation. Here’s where the Maggie plot starts unraveling a bit: Oscar tells Maggie that when he moved from Mexico, he was harassed relentlessly for being an immigrant (even dropping a reference to “building a wall,” which either implies that President Wonder Woman is more Trump-like than we’d been led to believe, or someone in the writer’s room done goofed for the sake of being topical) and the only thing that might invite harassment and a difficult life more than being Mexican is being gay.

It’s all delivered as if the root of Oscar’s prejudice is fear and love for his daughter, and a need to see her live a safe, happy life — but none of that jibes with the backstory we’ve been given. As Maggie rightly says, a father fearing for the welfare of his child would not simply abandon her and cut all ties with her. I can’t even figure out why the writers made this Oscar’s excuse, since it’s an obvious lie and we’re definitely not supposed to feel for him at the end of the episode or wish for Oscar and Maggie to truly reunite. We’re supposed to applaud Maggie standing up to her father and disowning him right back (which we do!), so why the attempt for sympathy? Why try and make Oscar out to be anything other than what he is: a closed-minded, prejudiced non-father who really should have stayed as far away from Maggie as possible.


Before plotlines diverge, Kara and Alex are busy planning the wedding shower. So that she can properly help her sister with romance-related stuff, Kara has put on a happy face despite the Great Angst that Mon-El’s absence has left within her heart. Ah, yes. The Mon-El void. Smells vaguely of damp saltine crackers. Also, I just realized that this little exchange between Kara and Alex is the only time Mon-El is talked about or hinted at this entire episode! Huzzah!

Kara opens her apartment door to find J’onn J’onzz, who has decided to heed M’gann M’orzz’s plea for help in the previous episode and join her on Mars. He’s visiting the Danvers sisters because he wants to let them know what’s up, and to tell them to watch over the DEO while he’s gone. He doesn’t expect Kara to immediately volunteer to help, too. After a half-hearted protest, J’onn agrees to take Kara along with him to the Red Planet. Road trip!

I mean that more literally than you would expect, since J’onn’s main mode of interplanetary transportation is disguised as a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe convertible. Man, I don’t drive but I do love me some vintage automobiles — especially ones that can transform into spaceships and launch its passengers out of Earth’s atmosphere at warp speed. I hope the introduction of this car makes way for some more off-world storylines but, knowing this show, that hope is probably in vain.

The White Martian rebel force greets Kara and J’onn once they land. They all fit into the exact molds you’d think a rebel force would fit into: Till’All, The Angry One; N’keyy, The Idealistic One, and M’Gann, The De Facto Leader Because We Know Her Already. They’re looking to get their hands on a legendary staff before the evil White Martians get to it, but there’s only one person who knows where the staff is and he’s not telling. Also, that one person happens to be the father J’onn thought he’d lost to war hundreds of years ago. (Major shoutout to David Harewood for this entire episode, by the way — every bit of acting, from the second J’onn realizes his father is still alive until the very last interaction between the two, is brilliant.)

Of course J’onn wants to see his father, but the Rule of Drama insists that, in cases such as this one, the father can’t recognize the son until we’ve properly piled on the paternal pathos. M'yrnn J'onzz thinks J’onn is a White Martian trick and refuses to let down his mental guard — not only because doing so for a White Martian would be catastrophic, but also because allowing himself to think that his son is alive, then learning he was wrong, would be like losing J’onn all over again. Kara vouches for J’onn, winning M’yrnn over because she’s clearly not a White Martian and shares his status as one of the few survivors of a lost race. With Kara’s help, J’onn gets his father to mind-meld with him and shows him a scene from their past, in which J’onn’s daughters greet their grandfather on J’onn’s birthday. It’s a remarkably good scene, especially considering that it’s all acted by CGI Green Martians.

With his identity proven and the last members of the J’onzz clan properly reunited, M’yrnn tells the Resistance the location of the staff. In the nick of time, too, since the bad White Martians are making their move and the rebels cannot allow them to get their hands on such a powerful device. A fight for the staff breaks out, but not before Kara makes a grand entrance (i.e., distraction) by blasting some Britney Spears on J’onn’s car radio and adding in a nice Looney Tunes reference for extra cool.

Then Kara proceeds with some... pretty ruthless fighting, actually. That’s not normal, right? Anyway, the staff ends up in the hands of the good White Martians in the end, but they don’t want it. They think it’s too powerful to remain on Mars at all, which just seems silly. Whatever — the good guys win! J’onn invites his dad to return with him to Earth, which I hope means we’ll be seeing more of the character this season, because I really liked him

Other Things:
  • I guess it’s just a good habit for J’onn to call Kara “Supergirl” even when she’s not on Earth and doesn’t need to protect her identity, but it’s still weird.
  • M’yrnn lands on Earth and immediately picks a weed, then holds it like a treasured flower. He’s great.
  • So Alex and Maggie are probably going to break up over one wanting kids. That’s... whatever, show.


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