Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Supergirl 3x07 Review: "Wake Up" (Mon-El Part II: The Dullening) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Wake Up”
Original Airdate: November 20, 2017 

Hahaha, this episode is called “Wake Up” and it’s featuring the return of the character most likely to cause me to fall asleep at my keyboard. But hang on just a moment! This week doesn’t return the Mon-El you all know and... “love”? (sounds like a lie, but okay). Instead, the Mon-El in “Wake Up” is bearded, quiet, brooding, and... snore. Sweet merciful heavens, I thought he was boring before, but you add some angst to Mon-El and you’ve got anthropomorphic Ambien! Never again shall I be plagued by insomnia, for all I must do in order to slip off to the land of Morpheus is contemplate the heap of bearded porridge that Supergirl has gifted unto me. Bless you, Supergirl, and your creation of the most generic character imaginable.

Buckle up and get ready to slap yourself out of a boredom-induced haze, because it’s about to get very, very blah.


Winn informs Kara of a ship found that, according to the rock layers above it, has been on Earth for 12,000 years but is made of something not on the periodic table. They locate the ship and, rather than allowing Kara to just smash through a city sidewalk to get to it, J’onn phases Kara, Winn, and himself down because convenient superpowers. On the ship, they see people in stasis tubes. Their investigation is interrupted by a hunk of wet cardboard — oh wait! It’s Mon-El! Kara is overjoyed at the sight of him. I am not.

Kara seems more than happy to let Mon-El rejoin their life after some rest, but he’s got other plans — like beating up two DEO agents in order to steal something from storage. Kara catches him and throws him in a holding cell, then desperately asks what the heck is going on. Mon-El 2.0 only seems capable of frowning, moping, and talking in vague, useless circles. Compared to this version of the character, the Mon-El of last season seems downright delightful, and I would not say such a thing lightly. Even when Kara breaks down crying, telling her former boyfriend that she hasn’t been sleeping because she has visions of him dying or disappearing into the blackness of space, his expression doesn’t change.

Mon-El convinces Winn to break him out of the cell because Winn is stupidly easy to manipulate. They return to the ship with all the stasis pods, but before they can do much more than light up some walls, Kara shows up to take Winn back and return her ex to prison. Before she can do much, she notices that Mon-El still has the necklace she gave him and he confesses that he’s acting so weird because it’s actually been seven years since he and Kara said goodbye.

Then a lady falls out of one of the space tubes, and that lady is actually Mon-El’s wife. Her name is Imra. He just straight-up kisses her in front of Kara, even after that impassioned speech Kara gave him not half an hour previously. Earlier in the episode, James tried cheering up Kara by telling her, “I’ve never seen you more happy, and I know that he would never do anything to hurt you,” and I can’t tell if that was meant to be an ironic foreshadowing of Mon-El 2.0 essentially ripping Kara’s heart out of her chest and throwing it in the dumpster fire of his hideous personality, or if the show still just really, really wants to tell-don’t-show us into believing Mon-El is a wonderful person despite all evidence of the contrary.

Anyway, this love triangle plot is ten flavors of stupid.


Although still predictable (in that we all knew it was going to happen since self-spoiling is now a promotional technique for these shows), Sam’s storyline doesn’t earn nearly as much eye-rolling as the return of Mon-El does. Most of my issues with Sam’s plot come from the rushed way the show tossed her into the thick of everything without really allowing us to connect with her as a character. A better plan would have been to introduce Sam as a normal, everyday friend of Kara’s about midway through last season, then throw in the evil alien stuff this season. Then we might care a bit more about what’s happening to her and why her inevitable turn to evil is an unpleasant thing.

Sam visits Patricia, her adoptive mother, who had disowned Sam when she became pregnant with Ruby as a teenager. It’s actually a pretty great scene with some good acting, and if we’d gotten more time with Sam and more scenes like this one, I think the show would be in a better place with this character. But we didn’t.

The reason Sam is there is to ask about her birth mother, but Patricia has no answers. They fight and Sam confesses that she’s freaking out because she got shot and never felt a thing, so Patricia is forced to confess that she never adopted Sam — she found her. In a spaceship. Which Patricia now keeps in a barn. People who find space babies sure like keepin’ the ships they came in in barns. Doesn’t seem like a terrific plan (people can walk through barns, you know) but sure.

After Sam takes a crystal thing from the ship, she returns home to tell Ruby she’s going on a trip. She heads off through the desert in another pretty nice sequence that perfectly encapsulates how lost Sam must feel, even with something like an answer. The ship piece guides her to the middle of nowhere, then calls forth a very ugly Fortress of Solitude made of dirt. Man, that’s a bummer. Nice hot/cold (desert/Arctic), earth/water, Reign/Supergirl dichotomy parallels, though.

Because yeah, Sam is Reign. Her evil version of an AI tells her that — despite Sam’s rather charming hope of being a superhero like Supergirl — she’s destined to be a Worldkiller, and “burn the world of man.” Then the AI activates her powers and Sam stops being Sam at all.

Here’s the issue: We know that Kara will have to fight Reign. We know Kara will have to win, unless the show wants to go really dark next season, but the tension of the fight should be the idea of Kara fighting a friend of hers, someone she knows and doesn’t want to hurt. A bit like her fight with her aunt Astra, maybe, but with the knowledge that nothing Sam does as Reign is really Sam’s doing, since the episode makes it clear that Sam gets “activated” as Reign rather than getting convinced that being a Worldkiller sounds like a jolly good time.

And that “I don’t want to fight you” dynamic? Therein lies the rub, since Kara is perfectly okay with Sam, but she’s not exactly best friends with her. They’ve hung out maybe three times all season, which means the ultimate fight between Supergirl and Reign will be less of a struggle between Kara’s human compassion for a friend (thus contributing to the season-long thread of Kara coping with her humanity) and more like a generic situation in which Kara, a hero, doesn’t want to needlessly hurt anyone. Reign becomes just an extended villain of the week.

Also, I predict that Ruby/Sam’s love for Ruby is what’s going to knock her out of Reign mode, because there’s no way the show isn’t leading up to that.

Other Things:
  • I’m not really sure why, but for some reason I seriously liked the Patricia/Sam dynamic. Patricia was only in two scenes, but she managed to come off as a fully formed, morally human sort of character, and the moments she shared with Sam managed to say a whole lot about their relationship using very little. Why can’t the show be this subtle all the time?
  • Also enjoyable: J’onn’s storyline with his father.
  • Speaking of which, I had no idea J’onn apparently lives at the DEO? Where does he keep his retro spaceship car?


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