Monday, March 27, 2017

"Distant Sun" Restores Supergirl To The Role Of Obvious Hero.

The Good: Some fun lines, Special effects are all right
The Bad: Very predictable plot, Melodramatic character moments, No stellar acting moments
The Basics: "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable Supergirl episode that is set up obviously and develops predictably.

When Supergirl moves to the CW, many people were very exicted because that meant it would be much easier (from a production standpoint) to do crossovers between Supergirl and other DC Television Universe productions. Unfortunately, most of us who were excited had no idea just how intrusive those crossovers might be to the continuing narrative of Supergirl. Every now and then, a Supergirl episode will have an entirely tacked-on ending that is incongruent with the rest of the narrative (and sometimes even the spirit of the show!) before Kara Danvers makes an appearance on (so far) The Flash. "Distant Sun" begins after one such lousy episode end.

"Star-Crossed" (reviewed here!), which preceded "Distant Sun," ended without explanation or relevant information of how the Earth-1 Music Meister appeared on the Earth of Supergirl. For those who only watch Supergirl and did not follow her to The Flash episode "Duet" (reviewed here!), Kara Danvers was last seen in Mon-El's arms, having just been apparently hypnotized by a metahuman and casting Danvers into some form of hallucination where she was stepping up to a microphone to sing. "Distant Sun," however, begins with Kara back on her Earth, having already forgiven Mon-El for his lying to her.

Kara wakes up to Mon-El making her breakfast, though she gets out of bed before he can deliver it to her. Before Kara can eat, however, an alien attacks National City. President Marsdin asks J'onzz for details on the Daxamite ship in orbit and orders the head of the DEO to not engage the ship. On the street, Alex and Maggie run into one of Maggie's ex's and Danvers invites her to dinner that night. At the DEO, Schott discovers that the alien Kara incapacitated is an alien bounty hunter and the bounty on Supergirl's head is incredibly high. Mon-El calls his parents down to Earth and confronts them with the accusation that they put the bounty on Kara's head. They deny his allegations and commit to waiting as long as they need to for Mon-El to return to them.

When Mon-El returns to Kara's apartment, he is taken over by a telepath. While Kara attempts to incapacitate Mon-El without damaging his body, Schott finds a way to incapacitate the telepath. Back at the DEO, J'onzz telepathically strips the information out of the alien who placed the bounty on Kara's head. Mon-El's parents are implicated, but J'onzz refuses to authorize an attack on the Daxamite ship in orbit. When Mon-El and Kara confront Mon-El's mother, Queen Rhea, in the Fortress Of Solitude, Rhea attacks Kara. Lar Gand seems legitimately shocked to learn that Rhea placed the bounty on Kara's head. When Mon-El makes a sacrifice to save Kara's life, Kara becomes determined to save him.

"Distant Sun" is the episode of Supergirl where fans are pretty much forced to ask, "What the hell happened to J'onn J'onzz?!" David Harewood's J'onzz is in "Distant Sun," but he is a virtually unrecognizable character in the episode. J'onzz is kind and soft in "Distant Sun" and while his character has been somewhat underused in the second season, the transition to an easygoing, kind guy feels unfortunately abrupt. David Harewood plays the emotional range of J'onzz well, but it does not feel like one is watching the same character in "Distant Sun."

Throughout "Distant Sun" there is a subplot involving Alex and Maggie and Maggie's ex-girlfriend. For a change, Alex's relationship subplot feels very forced and tacked on as opposed to engaging and organic. It is not until late in the episode that Alex and Maggie share a moment that is genuinely realistic and romantic. But, for much of the episode, Maggie lies yet again to Alex and Alex doing her own investigation feels more melodramatic than engaging.

Kara and Mon-El's relationship appears fully healed in "Distant Sun" and it is hard not to feel cheated by that. "Star-Crossed" might have had a painfully melodramatic fall-out for Mon-El's lies being exposed, but it was executed in that episode. So, the easy resolution of that emotional rift getting healed on The Flash cheapens the overall arc.

Lynda Carter is painfully underused in "Distant Sun." Carter's President Marsdin appears for only two scenes that does little other than set-up J'onzz being powerless to interact with the Daxamites and then punish the head of the DEO. For viewers too stupid to recall or too unobservant to notice from the first episode that Marsdin was in, "Distant Sun" provides a fairly pointless revelation of the character's true alien form. Given that Supergirl has not done any sort of compendium of alien races and that "Distant Sun" did not include a White Martian shapechanging, the revelation of Marsdin's alien race lacks real impact. Marsdin being an alien was already established; seeing what kind of alien she is without knowing what that means is fairly pointless.

"Distant Sun" is the latest episode directed by Kevin Smith and it is also the most problematic to date. For sure, there is a delightful Star Wars reference, but some of the direction is just terrible. When Teri Hatcher's Rhea takes a swing at Melissa Benoist's Supergirl in the Fortress Of Solitude, the shot is easily one of the most fake of the series. Some of the shots are truly baffling; J'onn J'onzz is stabbed while in another form and the fact that the weapon does not break his skin makes no sense. The Martian Manhunter does not have impenetrable skin. The episode climaxes with one of the weakest, most telegraphed, death scenes in recent memory and the net effect is a fairly painful anticlimax.

Ultimately, "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable script for a series of predictable or obvious events that the characters more or less trudge through; it is hardly the high point of season two of Supergirl.

For other episodes of television featuring alien bounty hunters, please check out my reviews of:
"Colony" - The X-Files
"Bounty" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Dead Or Alive" - The Flash

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Supergirl - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of the Kryptonian superheroine here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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