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It was only last episode that we were praising Supergirl for its fleshed out supporting cast, particularly when it comes to women, and Far from the Tree, Season 3’s third instalment, is another strong reminder of that generous ensemble approach. In fact, Supergirl is almost barely in the thing.
Chyler Leigh’s Alex has long been the series’ MVP, so it’s nice to have half of this hour devoted to her and Floriana Lima’s Maggie. If the revelation last episode that Maggie doesn’t want kids – Alex very much does – was a dramatic enough obstacle for the soon-to-be-married couple, Episode 3 throws another in the couple’s way, this time in the form of Maggie’s father.
Oscar Rodas, we learn, hasn’t been in touch with his daughter, ever since her family cast her out for being a lesbian – and only now, as she prepares to marry Alex, do they make an attempt at reconciliation. Played with a disapproving yet warm presence by Carlos Bernard – aka. 24’s Tony Almeida! If you thought Dean Cain’s guest appearance was thrilling, wait until you get a load of this – Oscar allows Supergirl to explore issues that will be familiar to some of the show’s viewers, and is sadly reflective of what many young people have to face when they come out.
His ultimate inability to accept Maggie the way she is makes for a believably sad conclusion. But, and this is what makes Supergirl Supergirl, the series does it with an empathy and subtlety that doesn’t force Carlos to be a two-dimensional villain: one quiet moment where he takes out a baby picture of Maggie and sticks it on the photo memories board at their engagement party is surprisingly touching.
Lima’s Maggie is endearingly resilient, informing her absent father that she doesn’t need him, because she has a new family – and, as if to prove it, the episode also sees our group of Super-Friends rally around another member: J’onn.
He, if you recall, just received a message from M’gann telling him to get his butt to Mars, and he does so with Supergirl by his side. While they’re preparing for battle, though, they actually find themselves in a more delicate situation, as M’gann and her resistance fighters announce they have found J’onn’s father, M’yrnn.
It’s a big revelation for J’onn, who has long felt he was the only one left of the Green Martian race, let alone his family. David Harewood handles it brilliantly, raising his voice and getting worked up without losing his credibility during quieter moments – considering he’s a shape-shifting, telepathic Green Martian, it’s full credit to Harewood and Supergirl for being able to sell these more grounded emotional moments without descending into cheap melodrama.
M’yrnn is played with stubborn conviction by Alias’ Carl Lumbly, and refuses to acknowledge him as his son, believing his the whole family were wiped out and that this is a White Martian interrogation plot. Why the interrogation? Because My’rnn was a religious leader on the planet and apparently knows the location of the Staff of Kolar, a psychic weapon that the government could use to defeat M’gann’s resistance.
It take a little longer than you’d expect for two telepathic beings to sense the truth and share some old memories, but the episode doesn’t over-milk the scenario. Melissa Benoist, meanwhile, serves as the Winn to J’onn’s central character, providing some delightful comic relief, as she rocks up on Mars in J’onn’s spaceship, which is disguised as sky blue 1950s convertible. Throw in some Britney Spears and you have a stellar bit of scene-stealing.
The Staff retrieved and used to destroy the persecuting government forces, it’s taken back to Earth for safekeeping by J’onn and Kara – and they’re joined by M’yrnn, not only allowing the show to address issues such as genocide (plus being an immigrant alien in America through fresh eyes), but also giving J’onn and M’yrnn a chance to bond properly; in an already packed supporting ensemble, it’s nice to see that Supergirl is willing to spend an episode devoted to J’onn and Alex, while still maintaining wider momentum with personal dilemmas. And, of course, the more we see of Carlos and M’yrnn, the more developed the show’s core cast becomes.
The result is a neatly paralleled dual episode about fathers and their children, as always focusing on the importance and positive affects on communication and the example that can be set by those who won’t sink to their enemies’ level. The only criticism is that we don’t have longer – perhaps over two episodes – to really delve into each character’s depth. But with Samantha and Ruby waiting in the wings for future episodes, Supergirl’s sincere study of parenthood isn’t over yet.
Supergirl Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Monday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 14-day free trial is available for new subscribers.