This week’s Supergirl, “Far From the Tree”, was all about dads. Fathers and children and a little bit of thinly veiled race metaphors.
Picking up right from last week, they wasted no time getting Kara and J’onn to start their trip to Mars. J’onn took Kara to his secret garage where his sports car / spaceship is stored. It was an amusing gag having Martian tech be capable of shapeshifting but I’m betting there will be no more example of this every again; it was just a cheat to have a CG ship in one shot and a practical vehicle in the next. Oh, and I appreciated how they legitimately explained why a portal wouldn’t work this time. Nice of them to cover potential plot holes for nitpickers like myself.
Once they got to Mars we met what would become the weakest element of the episode, the White Martian resistance. M’gann was a pleasant presence but she barely has anything to do this time. She hugs J’onn and gives some exposition here and there but aside from that she’s largely absent. When she is around she got drowned out by her fellow resistance fighters, focusing mainly on one who plays the cliché role of headstrong militant. You know, that one guy fighting for the good guys but too impatient and quick to do the wrong things for the right reasons. He somehow ends up getting J’onn’s respect by episode’s end with no real discernible reason. Plus a line about “The Whites” (Martians) trying to kill J’onn was a bit too on the nose. I get the whole race / class social metaphors thing about White Martians but it felt like they were a tiny bit tone deaf with some of the wording used.
Eventually J’onn finds out they whole issue is the White Martians are about to get ahold of a mythical staff that could psychically kill all the resistance fighters. The only way to get to it is the sole other Green Martian found alive on the planet, coincidentally J’onn’s father, thought long dead. Okay, this is terrible coincidental writing. Much better would have been a small group of Green Martian’s who had hid themselves and he was one of them. Anyway moving past that, the stuff between father and son was very moving. Both in the beginning when his dad wouldn’t believe him and through to when he finally proves his identity by sharing a beloved memory from when their family was whole. Some beautifully staged stuff even though the CG was iffy here and there.
Playing J’onns father was Carl Lumbly, veteran actor and as I always think of him, the star of the short lived series M.A.N.T.I.S. (how’s that for a deep cut!?) but also the voice of J’onn J’onzz in the animated Justice League series from 2001. Once again, DC excels at paying respect to past actors. Great job from both J’onns old and new!
The whole Martian story ends with a strong fight, tons of CG, some good, some so-so, and great joke with “hit me baby one more time.” Just a ton of fun punctuated by some emotional beats.
The B story this week was dealing with Maggie’s daddy issues. We got a much more detailed account of the heartbreaking way her family reacted to her coming out. Eventually after being encouraged by Alex, Maggie reaches out to her dad, inviting him to her wedding shower. In a great juxtaposition to the Martian story, we get a different take on a family reunion and a father’s struggle with accepting a child’s identity.
Much different from the sweet tearjerker on Mars, this earthly reunion was awkward… Very awkward. Now I mean that in a good way. This section felt real, it felt weird and uncomfortable and not perfect. For a hot second it looks like her father is going to have a cliché change of heart, even sweetly showing he still carries her photo with him. Until he sees Maggie and Alex kissing and then storms off.
I was kind of glad he was still a jerk. Not everyone can magically change their prejudices and it’s important to show that reality as well. When she confronts him it gets weirdly political, her father bringing up the border wall and how their people are seen as rapists. The Trump stuff was unnecessary in an already packed episode, but in the end Maggie makes it clear she doesn’t need his approval anymore and her father walks out of her life.
So as J’onn ends the episode bringing his father to earth, reunited, on the other side we see a father and child part ways. One family bond healed while another one torn apart. Just a great episode barring a few contrivances here and there. My biggest complaint I saved for last. I know why the Martians stayed in human form most of the time (money) but the excuse that they choose their guests form to make them comfortable was really thin.
Other than the limits of a television budget this was a great outing for the show that managed to pack serious emotional growth with action and some silly bits along the way. A super episode!
What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below.