Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - J'onn and Maggie Have Tense Reunions with Their Fathers in 'Far From the Tree'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 3.03 "Far From the Tree"

Eliza throws Alex and Maggie a wedding shower, which causes Maggie to reach out to her estranged father. Supergirl joins J'onn on a personal mission.

There's a lot going on throughout "Far From the Tree." As such, there are many plot points that feel underserved. Helen Slater returns as Eliza and basically only has three lines of dialogue. This episode introduces the religions of Mars as well as the resistance that M'Gann has formed on the planet. Those don't truly amount to anything that will have much bearing on the future of the season. And yet, "Far From the Tree" is a phenomenal episode of the show because of its focus on two supporting characters and their relationships with their fathers. That thematic link between the two stories provides this hour with a strong emotional hook to it. J'onn and Maggie never thought they would see and interact with their fathers again. J'onn because he believed M'yrnn to be dead alongside the rest of his family and the Green Martians. Maggie because Oscar kicked her out of the house at 14 after she came out to him. But here, these reunions are powerful and poignant. Sure, the overall themes and messages of these stories aren't all that subtle. Supergirl tends to deliver its message in as blunt a way as possible. But that doesn't decrease the power of the sentiment either. These are very compelling stories that reveal new depths to these two supporting characters. It's enjoyable to just let Kara and Alex take the back seat for the week as they allow these two people they care about to deal with these complicated situations. They are there for emotional support. They are there to continue offering a loving family no matter what happens. But this hour succeeds because of David Harewood and Floriana Lima.

This episode was already going to be poignant and emotional because it featured J'onn returning to his home planet of Mars for the first time since his race had been wiped out by the White Martians. His romance with M'Gann last season started strong but did fizzle out as the narrative got distracted with other concerns. And now, the two of them being reunited isn't that big of a deal at all. There's no sense that they still desire to be a romantic couple. M'Gann sent a message to J'onn last week that he needed to return to Mars. He could tell that it was a message of urgency. Kara understands that she must go with him for support both emotionally and in battle. The two are walking into a war zone. Yes, the show gets to have a lot of fun with the means of transportation required to get them there. An old convertible is able to transform into a space ship. That's a cool visual. Plus, the vehicle gets to play an important part in the eventual battle between the resistance and the White Martians as they fight over a mystical object with powers that could turn the tides of this war. All of this provides the episode with its big moments of action. And yet, the action really isn't where this episode does its best work.

J'onn's story gets really significant once he discovers that M'Gann and her group have liberated a Green Martian prisoner who happens to be J'onn's father, M'yrnn. It's a huge discovery. One that immediately creates hope within J'onn that other members of his family have survived. That's such a devastating moment. J'onn has made peace with the destruction of his people. But in this moment he's desperate for more because his father has returned to him. That's all that he has though. And now, he needs to get his father to cooperate with the resistance or risk the destruction of the entire planet. And yet, M'yrnn has been tricked and interrogated for over 200 years. When J'onn first reunites with him, he doesn't believe it's actually him. He believes it's just the latest illusion to get him to share his secrets. He holds true to his beliefs. He refuses to hand over any of his precious information to White Martians. But all of this is not a trick. It's really J'onn. It takes a long time for him to accept that. It's only because of Kara's help that he is finally able to. J'onn and M'yrnn are able to share a beautiful memory about the family they once had together. It's so beautiful and touching. It's moving while revealing the pain that they've lost together. It's miraculous that they've found each other again. J'onn has changed. He doubts that his father will see him as a hero because he fled his home. But by the end of the episode, M'yrnn is on Earth as well. This family has been reunited. That's a touching moment as well that opens the season up to a number of possibilities. J'onn has frequently been seen as the father figure of the show. And now, his father has been introduced and will be sticking around for awhile. It should be fascinating to see how he adjusts to Earth.

It's inspiring to see J'onn's story come to a happy conclusion. There's the hope that the same will happen with Maggie down on Earth. Her story with her father, Oscar, is much more grounded than the space adventures happening on Mars. But it's just as surprising and emotional as well. It starts simply enough with Eliza coming to town to throw Maggie and Alex a bridal shower. It's a celebration of their love and pending marriage. It's a happy occasion. But the memories of their pasts are very lopsided because Maggie has no true pictures or belongings from her childhood. Alex didn't come out until later in life. But her parents have been very accepting and loving of who she is and who she loves. She's had this honest and real connection with her family. It means so much that she constantly has them for support. She provides that for them as well. The only reason she doesn't go to Mars with Kara and J'onn is because she wouldn't survive on the planet. Maggie has found that love with this new family she has formed with the other regular characters. She's happier than she has ever been with Alex. But it's still devastating to think about not having her real family there to support her during this happy occasion. Eliza presses for more details about Maggie's parents. She shares the story of Oscar driving her to her aunt's house never to see her again after hearing about her liking girls. It's enough for Alex to suggest that perhaps her parents have changed after all these years. It's enough to get everyone's hopes up preparing for the best. What happens next shows just how complicated these family situations can often be.

Maggie is trying to rationalize what Oscar did long before he shows up in National City. She's telling Alex and Eliza that he was a complicated man who grew up in a certain time. But there's still the genuine hope that he wants to be her father again because he has been admiring her career from afar. The two of them can bond over police work. She still values the wisdom he gave to her as a child. He's curious about how she was able to crack cold cases that no one could seemingly solve. There's admiration there. And then, Oscar shows up at the shower. He meets Alex and gives Maggie a picture of her as a child. It's a sweet moment. But he immediately leaves after seeing Alex and Maggie kiss. He just can't be as supportive and loving as he wants to be. He sees his daughter being gay as a way to further discriminate herself. He counters Maggie's suggestions that the world is changing and improving. He says that the world is just as racist and vile as it has always been and that they need to work so much harder just to be noticed and respected as human beings. He sees Maggie choosing to live this way as her putting an additional burden on herself. He's trying to protect her from this bigoted world but not realizing that in doing so he is a bigot as well. It's a tragic moment in the story. It's enough for Maggie to realize that she no longer needs to imagine the life of being her father's daughter anymore. She has a happy life and no longer needs to speculate about the life that could have been. This is who she is and she's happy. And if Oscar can't be supportive and loving, then he doesn't deserve to be in her life. It's such a heartbreaking moment. And it doesn't take long before new issues arise between Maggie and Alex. But it's so empowering in the moment too. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Far From the Tree" was written by Jessica Queller & Derek Simon and directed by Dermott Downs.
  • J'onn, M'yrnn and Kara bring the Martian scepter back to Earth with them because M'Gann and the resistance think it's too powerful and corruptive a weapon to use in this war. Plus, they see Kara wield it with relative ease. Is this a plot point that will become more important across this season? Or will it quickly be forgotten after this hour?
  • An explanation is given as to why all of the martians from the resistance appear in human bodies. It's apparently customary to appear in the form of the guests. But in reality, it's just a cost effective decision for the production. There are pretty of White and Green Martians in this episode. But the show makes sure to not over-extend itself either. It just means casting a few more actors to fill out the ranks even though those characters don't have much personality or purpose.
  • That convertible rolls into this battle with the White Martians blasting "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears. It's such a random and jarring musical selection. I wish that it scored more of the actual battle and not just Kara's efforts to distract the martians. But it's easily the comedic highlight of this episode as well.
  • In the end, Maggie doesn't even keep the picture her father gave her. Even that is a reminder of the childhood she has left behind. She is no longer aspiring to be that little girl. So, she has no use for it. Meanwhile, Oscar will because he's carried it around all of this time. He still wants her to be that way even though she's not going to be the one to change in this relationship.
  • And so, the tension between Alex and Maggie regarding kids continues to escalate. Alex wants them and Maggie doesn't. Maggie has this wonderful moment where she talks about feeling fulfilled and loved. She can imagine her life with Alex but it doesn't involve kids. Alex says she's understanding of that. But it seems pretty obvious that this has the potential to be a real divide between them.