TV reviews

Supergirl 3×03 – ‘Far From The Tree’ – Review

The third season of Supergirl continues to prove that it was not only a good choice for the CW to pick up a cancelled series, but that it works incredibly well within their shared multi-verse, able to tackle some serious and emotional storylines without losing the sense of fun that makes the series enjoyable.

Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) herself, and most of the rest of the cast, took a back seat for this episode so that J’onn (David Harewood) and Maggie (Floriana Lima) could take centre stage. Whilst the show (and the other CW DC Universe series) often benefit from having a larger cast to draw from, it often means that certain characters don’t get a chance to shine. Taking the time to focus on one or two of the supporting characters like this is a good choice, and is hopefully one that the show will continue to make throughout the rest of season 3.

Following the receipt of a psychic message from M’gann (Sharon Leal) telling J’onn that he needs to come to Mars as soon as possible, Kara volunteers to join him. Whilst he initially thinks it’s better for her to stay on Earth to take part in Alex’s (Chyler Leigh) wedding shower both women tell him that he’s a part of their family, and that if Alex could go with them she would too. This is a nice moment, one that adds to the idea that Alex and Kara see J’onn as a father figure; which is a theme that will be very important in this episode.

Travelling to Mars, in a shapeshifting 1950’s convertible, Kara and J’onn learn that M’gann called them to Mars because they had found another Green Martian survivor, J’onn’s father M’yrnn, played by the voice of Martian Manhunter from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoon series ,Carl Lumbly. On Earth, Maggie must also confront a father that she believed to be forever gone from her life, when she decides to try to reconnect with her estranged father Oscar (Carlos Bernard).

We learn more of Maggie’s tragic backstory this week through conversation with Eliza (Helen Slater), where she discloses that after her father found out that his teenage daughter was gay, drove her off to her aunts and left her there, simply telling her, “you have shamed me”. It’s a moving moment, and one that was genuinely difficult to listen to. Unfortunately, despite some initial appearances that the two of them may reconcile their differences by the end of the episode, it doesn’t play out that way, with Oscar walking out of the bridal shower.

We discover that this isn’t just down to straightforward homophobia, but due to some deep trauma that Oscar himself has experienced in his life. He tells Maggie that he was racially abused as a child, and had to fight for acceptance, but despite appearances the world hasn’t changed that much. The moment when he says ‘they’re building a wall to keep us out because in their minds we’re nothing but rapists and murderers. The only thing they hate more than a mexicano, is a homosexual’ is so deeply shocking because it feels out of place for Supergirl’s world, but so relevant for our world.

Despite the negative emotions in this scene, despite it talking about very relevant prejudices and hates that people face day to day in their real lives, this is one of the most beautiful scenes the series has ever done. It’s powerful. It’s emotional. It’s important. People watch shows like Supergirl to escape from the real world, so when it incorporates the real world in such a powerful way it’s jarring, but in a good way. Yes, it does feel out of place for the world of the show to be building a wall between Mexico and America, especially as the America of the series has welcomed aliens with open arms; but it’s that important a discussion that it kind of needs to break that fourth wall and talk about real life.

Back on Mars, J’onn has to go on a similar emotional journey to reconnect with his father, to prove to him that he’s not just a White Martian trick. The moment when J’onn shares one of his most loved memories with M’yrnn, of J’onns daughters plotting with M’yrnn to surprise J’onn on his birthday is surprisingly touching, especially as it’s a scene where everyone in it is cgi. Fathers are an important part of this story, and it gives two very different outcomes; one where a father embraces their son in an emotional reunion, and one where a father pushes his daughter further away because of the fear and hatred he has experienced in his own life.

Despite these heavy moment, the episode manages to provide a number of lighter touches, though mostly based around J’onn’z car. The moment when Kara slowly rolls into the White Martian base asking for directions whilst Britney Spears plays on the radio is utterly ridiculous, but provides a genuinely funny touch to an emotionally filled story.

‘Far From The Tree’ shows that Supergirl is able to not only focus on its hero, but can provide deep and fulfilling stories for its side characters too. It also manages to include so much of the lightheartedness and hope that have come to be an important part of the series. Hopefully this will be the tone of the rest of the series to come.

Supergirl airs on Sky in the UK every Monday. Let us know what you think of the season.

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