Supergirl: 3.07 Wake Up
This is an odd episode of Supergirl. It would be unfair to say 'nothing happens', but not much happens and what does happen, happens over a stretched period of time...
The two big plot points this week are Mon-El returning and Sam discovering her roots. Both these aspects have major floors in how they're realised. However, with the former at least, there is some excellent acting on show.
Huge kudos to Melissa Benoist who, I'll confess, has been boring me this season. Her chirpy turned grumpy routine has been tedious and unlikable and I've not enjoyed Kara's darker storyline. However, her performance this episode and Supergirl's reaction when she first sees Mon-El again, redeem a lot of this as it's a genuinely beautiful and subtle moment. Unfortunately once he's back we get very quickly into people not telling other people simple information to create drama territory. I despise forced drama; I was extremely loyal to Smalville but it was a terrible show for this habit. The Berlanti shows have been generally pretty good at avoiding this tactic but The Flash season 3 and now Supergirl have been guilty of it.
There is actually no reason for Mon-El to be secretive in this episode and even once the truth is revealed, no reason is given as to why he didn't just explain at the beginning. Maybe there will be more to the story later but right now, it just feels like lazy drama in what is simply a chess move episode.
We also get to see Sam discovering her origins. I’ve found the Sam storyline very hard to engage with; forced friendships, obvious reveal moments and lots of cliché have made it rather forgettable for me. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fact the show and writers are putting a lot more effort into character building this year's villain. Villains have never been Supergirl’s strong point and while I may find this one a bit tedious (can Ruby stop pouting for five minutes because her single mum has to work and just do her bloody homework?!?) it’s a step in the right direction for strong antagonists. There are a few parallels with Smallville's Doomsday plotline, though I suspect Supergirl would never have such a satisfying sting in the tail as that storyline.
Sam’s actual journey is fun enough this week, the Superman parallels (more so than Supergirl if we’re honest) work, along with the contrasting Fortress of Solitude and I like the fact she gets excited, believing she is about to become a hero, like Supergirl. I wasn’t totally convinced by her adopted mother; I can’t quite get on board that this woman would have the compassion and dedication to take in this alien baby with all the risks involved, only to kick her out when she becomes a pregnant teen? Again, felt like a dash of drama for drama’s sake.
I did really enjoy the most inconsequential story strand this week, which was J’onn trying to bond with his father. After some advice from Winn – who went from worst character to best character to totally underused and never appears on screen or does anything anymore character – J’onn tries to reconnect with his Dad. This gives us a couple of gentle scenes of the two men being awkward together, J'onn trying to get his Dad interested in old man stuff like chess in the park and walks to the coffee shop (or C’o Off’ee, as he pronounces it). The gentle tensions and distance between the two bubbles along in a couple of scenes and results in J’onn getting a new apartment that they can share. I don’t know if the addition of J’onn’s father adds anything to the show as a whole but it does allow for some exploration of J’onn himself and I am a big Martian Manhunter fan, so I’m always glad to see things revolve around him for a while.
By the end of the episode Sam may or may not have turned to her dark side and Mon-El is back, with a certain someone from the Legion of Super-Heroes by his side. As a comics fan it was quite cool to hear the name Imra used, though the general drama it creates in the show was not only low charged by this point but also entirely predictable. I feel like the show is trying to kick things into gear (the big crossover is next week plus the mid season finale is fast approaching). Lots of Things happened this week but really, nothing much happened. For such a plot heavy, active episode I found it really quite boring and plodding. I just hope the back half of this season can bring things back…