Monday, October 23, 2017

Tormented Relationships For The Supergirl Characters Who Fell "Far From The Tree!"

The Good: Wonderful performances, Good plots, Good character moments for the primary characters
The Bad: Thematically muddied, Directing issues
The Basics: "Far From The Tree" returns the Martians to Supergirl with a decent story that is overshadowed by Maggie's b-plot.

Supergirl fans have a lot to look forward to in the wake of the end of the Daxamite invasion from the second season. The final shot of the second season implied heavily that there was another Kryptonian on Earth, one destined to take over the planet. By the third episode of the third season, "Far From The Tree," the smart money is on Samantha Arias or her daughter to be the Kryptonian who will evolve into Reign. But, instead of focusing on that, "Far From The Tree" takes a side trip to the Martian plotline in Supergirl.

"Far From The Tree" was preceded by "Triggers" (reviewed here!) and featured a scene in which M'gann M'orzz appeared to J'onn J'onzz to implore him to return to Mars. That thread is picked up in "Far From The Tree," which features more pre-wedding tension for Alex and Maggie in the b-plot.

Opening with Alex and Kara working on Alex's shower, J'onn stops by to tell them that he needs to go to Mars. Kara volunteers to go with him and when they get into what appears to be a classic convertible to leave Earth. Over dinner, Eliza asks Maggie probing questions about her childhood and her lack of a relationship with her parents. On Mars, J'onn meets M'Gann's soldiers in the underground. There, J'onn learns that his father is still alive in a White Martian prison camp. M'Gann and her lieutenants inform J'onn that the White Martians are using Myrnn to find a mythical staff.

While Maggie reaches out to her estranged father, J'onn meets with his father, who is convinced that J'onn is just a White Martian psychic trick. J'onn meets with his father again in order to appeal to him, but when Till'all threatens to break the mind-wipe on Myrnn, Supergirl steps in to extract J'onn and his father. When Oscar shows up for the wedding shower, it seems momentarily like he is supportive when he brings out a picture of Maggie as a little girl that he has had in his wallet. But when he sees his daughter and Alex kissing, he freaks out. On Mars, J'onn finally manages to convince Myrnn of his identity and together the team goes to recover the staff before the White Martians.

"Far From The Tree" starts with a delightful bit of logic in the form of J'onn's space ship. As J'onn explicitly states, a race of shapeshifters would, logically, have shape-shifting technology. The moment that Myrnn J'onnz is shown on screen, the viewer has to ask, logically, why J'onn takes at face value his father's image without any other proof. After all, White Martians are shape-shifters, too, so creating a video image of him seems like a pretty obvious trap.

Floriana Lima does an excellent job with her arc as Maggie. Maggie's backstory was briefly explored in the second season when she finally revealed to Alex that her family was not at all supportive when she came out. In "Far From The Tree," she gives more details, which makes Maggie seem more realistic and tormented by her personal history. Lima makes the expository scenes seem like a personal confession as opposed to something more bland. Her storytelling ability early in the episode is matched by her incredibly stiff and uncomfortable body language when Maggie meets her father. When Maggie stands up, Lima gives an impressive and emotive performance that allows her to portray more range than she is usually allowed and she rises to the occasion.

"Far From The Tree" stumbles mightily on the thematic front. First, Oscar Rodas references a wall being built between Mexico and the United States. That might seem clever and timely . . . except that in Supergirl, the President is not Donald Trump, she is a liberal woman and the idea that she would support such a wall is ludicrous. Similarly, Oscar's argument basically boils down to "everybody hates gays more than they hate Latinos." But he makes the argument right after a bunch of people are celebrating his daughter's love. The only person hating on the gays in the episode is the Latino man . . . so it doesn't track logically to illustrate the point the character is attempting to make.

Carl Lumbly is wonderful in "Far From The Tree" as Myrnn. Lumbly is able to realistically portray and stretch out the Green Martian's fear that he is simply in a White Martian trap. Lumbly has amazing facial expressions to emote elation over Myrnn seeing a plant and it is unfortunate that Dermott Downs does not focus more on the actor's expressiveness.

Similarly unfortunate is the rising tension in the Alex/Maggie relationship. Maggie has done a very good job of expressing that she is child-free and Alex is clearly not comfortable with that. Alex's dishonesty is a relationship-killer and is being set-up as a dealbreaker in their relationship. Building in such an obvious break-up point into the relationship is frustrating - even if Maggie is killed off in a different way ultimately (i.e. Alex's reaction to such a death would, by necessity, be one blurred by love goggles).

Despite the few issues, "Far From The Tree" does a decent job of making a compelling character struggle to overshadow the somewhat obvious super hero story elements. Supergirl utilizes its supporting characters exceptionally well for a change, making for a very good episode.

For other works with Sharon Leal, please visit my reviews of:
Supergirl - Season 2


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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