[Review] Supergirl Episode 3×03: “Far From the Tree”

written by Dayna Abel and Cara Russell

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

At long last, we have an episode that encompasses what made Supergirl great in the first place – rich character arcs, feats of heroism, and the bonds of the Danvers family. It’s really weird how the producers managed to sneak so much dust into my living room, because there were all these tears in my eyes. Huh.

David Harewood is exceptionally gifted at facial acting, and he shines when he’s channeling J’onn’s anger, fear and pain. I can’t begin to imagine what J’onn was going through, having to work with rebel White Martians to fight the rest of their species and finding his father still alive after two hundred years. Fortunately, I don’t have to imagine it, because every flicker of emotion is writ large on Harewood’s face. M’yrnn rejecting J’onn over and over hurt to watch, until Kara gets M’yrnn to confess that if this was another White Martian trick, it would be like losing J’onn all over again. It would break him. Kara convinced him to literally open his mind so J’onn could prove his identity by sharing his favorite memory of his father and children together. M’yrnn finally accepting the truth in an outpouring of emotion was what honestly drove me to tears as father and son were reunited.

Acceptance as a theme did not go so well between the other father and child pair this episode. We learn more details about how callously Maggie’s father, Oscar Rodas, threw her out of the house when she was just fourteen. “Papi, what did I do?” she’d pleaded, only to be answered with “You shamed me.” Eighteen years would pass with those being the last words between father and daughter. And yet Maggie still desperately held out hope that her father would change, that he would see how happy she was, and earn back his love.

Oscar made an attempt to accept his daughter, even showing up to the bridal shower, but he couldn’t hide his disgust when Alex and Maggie kissed and stormed out. The subsequent confrontation between Maggie and Oscar reveals that Oscar was subject to hateful prejudice after he came to America, and he chose to suffer that so that his child would never have to. Ultimately, Maggie comes to terms with her father’s homophobia and rejects him, knowing she is still happy in her own skin and surrounded by love and acceptance.

It’s heavy stuff and I’m incredibly proud of Maggie, but the story there kind of rang false to me for two reasons. Firstly, I was estranged from my father around the time of my own wedding, and it lasted for four years. There was a lot to unpack between us when we spoke again, and ultimately we repaired our relationship. The initial reunion between Oscar and Maggie seemed far too light and casual for all the years of pain between them.

Secondly, there was this:

OSCAR: “They’re building a wall to keep us out because they think we’re rapists and murderers! The only thing they hate more than a Mexicano is a homosexual! The world has not changed that much, my dear.”

Although I do so very much love it when my superhero shows rip on our Bigot-In-Chief, this bit made zero sense within the continuity of the show. You can’t look me in the eye and tell me President Olivia Marsden would allow anything like this in her America. It was a good speech, believe me, but it doesn’t work on Earth-38.

Despite that, this was a densely-packed, excellent episode, and it’s the Supergirl I’ve wanted back since they kicked Mon-El off the planet. Amazing job all around.

-Dayna

* * *

“Daddy issues” is the name of the game this week, with Maggie reaching out to her estranged father while Eliza Danvers prepares a massive wedding shower, and J’onn heads back to Mars to save his father (played by Carl Lumbly, longtime voice of J’onn J’onzz in the Justice League cartoons) from imprisonment by White Martians.

On Mars, J’onn and Supergirl reunite with M’Gann M’orzz and the resistance, introducing several more key players in the warfront. They reveal that the father J’onn long thought dead is the lone captive in the last White Martian prison camp, as M’yrnn is the highest religious leader within the Green Martian community and last keeper of their secrets (most pertinently, a super-psychic staff of annihilation the White Martians are after). M’yrnn understandably thinks that J’onn’s return is a new form of torture and refuses to give up the location of the staff to the resistance fighters, triggering a do-or-die between J’onn and Till’all, who wants to take the information by force. It’s Supergirl’s intervention which convinces M’yrnn to give J’onn the chance to prove he’s the real deal, and reveals the secret location of the weapon just in time for our heroes to confront (and destroy) the White Martians who had gone to retrieve it.

On Earth, Eliza plays the role of over-involved mother while planning the bridal shower, much to Alex’s chagrin, and Maggie has conflicted feelings while seeing a family that cares for each other in action. After some convincing by Alex, she reaches out to her father to let him know what she’d done with her life, and to invite him to the shower. To his credit, Oscar does accept, and tries to meet the bare minimum to reconnect, but ultimately isn’t able to accept Maggie’s life choices in a heartbreaking scene. Oscar’s refusal isn’t rooted as much in homophobia as it is in the desire to see Maggie have an easier life than he suffered through, as a Mexican immigrant and child laborer in the American south. He sees her lesbianism as something Americans find more distasteful than her being of Mexican heritage, and indulging in it will prevent her from fitting in as he wants her to. He chooses to abandon her rather than stand by her side in an unjust world. Knowing that he hasn’t changed even though Maggie’s grown so much gives her some closure, though it gives me the unsettling thought that their circumstances would be different if not for the racism he experienced, or the fear of homophobic repercussion intersecting with racism.

This episode is another great marker to see just how the special effects budget has grown – J’onn has been keeping a spaceship that transforms into an unassuming, pristine condition classic model car, which transforms on-screen not once, but twice. In addition to being really cool, it’s such a Dad Car (and fitting for J’onn) that I’m embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it before. There’s also a flashback scene showing his Martian daughters, who are entirely CGI – as is every White Martian – and several licensed music pieces that we don’t typically hear in Supergirl. It’s possible that this is premature and they’ve just blown half a season’s budget for some bling, but I still feel very spoiled, and I’m enjoying it greatly.

-Cara

Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Dayna can be reached on Twitter @queenanthai and Cara at @virtualcara.

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