Supergirl: 216 “Star-Crossed” Review
Reviewed by Ben McClure.
At the start of this season of Supergirl, we met Mon-El, the young survivor from Krypton’s sister planet, Daxam. Over the course of the season, we’ve gotten to know this character and slowly learned more about his world. For about half of the year we’ve also been watching some enigmatic and potentially violent aliens track Mon-El across the galaxy, coming closer and closer to earth each time. At the same time, Mon-El himself was becoming increasingly invested with life on earth and with Kara herself. We knew that all these elements were going to come to a head eventually. And this is the week that they did, in episode 16 of the year, Star-Crossed.
The results re sadly underwhelming, centering around an awkward dinner conversation where parents are rude to their child’s romantic partner or vice-versa. You know this bit, because you’ve seen it dozens of times before—Spider-Man, Shrek 2, etc. So there’s nothing knew here, except for the general frustration that something more engaging isn’t happening. Having the parents played by famous science-fiction / fantasy heavyweights isn’t enough to pull the story out of the doldrums. I mean, I enjoy the CW’s stunt-casting as much as anyone, but watching Mon-El fail to communicate with his parents is just not all that interesting, even his Mom is played by Teri Hatcher.
Now, I realize that this storyline is not over, so there is the potential that it will grow into something more fun. But so far, the show has done little to inspire confidence that it will not do this in fits and starts. Supergirl is good at developing plots worthy of multi-episode arcs, but regularly spreads them out in a way that strains credibility. It’s all well enough to say that our heroes are going to keep looking for Alex’s father until they find him and bring him home, but what we actually see is that they seem to forget all about him until he conveniently shows up somehow, and in the meantime they’re going to hang out at an alien bar and play pool.
Supergirl spends lots of time on soap-operatic relational subplots, I believe because the writers feel that’s the way to keep us emotionally connected with the characters. But often the romantic dynamics going on amongst the cast have been distracting more than anything else. I mean, a scary spaceship just appeared over National City with Mon-El’s presumed dead parents, and it turns out Mon-El is a secret prince. Isn’t that interesting enough? Do we really need to spend precious screentime around the fact that Kara is grouchy that he lied to her, and Mon-El distraught that he may be losing the only person he ever really loved? Did that in fact have to be the emotional centerpiece of the entire episode?
If you’re going to do a story about a break up, or about romance at all, then at least let’s try to say something interesting about relationships in the process. At least, let’s put the two people involved in the conflict on some sort of equal footing, where they are genuinely are working through their differences. Instead we have a one-sided story, in which a more-or-less beautiful and perfect girl is with a handsome bad-boy who worships the ground she flies over, because he finds her absolute goodness just so darn inspiring. And while I like the chemistry between the actors, this has been the dynamic between the characters for episode after episode, and so when it’s not written well, it’s tiring.
What makes it worse, of course, is when you realize that really the only reason they break up at all is so we could have the story of them getting back together in the “event” crossover on The Flash that aired the next day. It’s shallow storytelling devoid of motivation, and definitely makes one long for the days when Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant would surprise us week by week with genuinely insightful comments about life.
Meanwhile, over in the subplot, Winn discovers his perfect girlfriend is really an art thief. He is able to forgive her, though, in order that this storyline serve as a counterpoint to the other. Guardian and Alex get to beat people up, and Maggie gets to actually do some police work. It’s an odd little plot for this show and certainly overstays its welcome, especially when one feels there was so much more that should have been done with the main story. But I guess we couldn’t get Kara too deep into any real drama if she had to go and hang out with the Flash right afterwards and be focused on nothing but her boyfriend.
Of course, there are always good and fun things to be found as well. Melissa Benoist, Chris Woods, and Jeremy Jordan all deliver good performances. It is fun to see both Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo turn up. And the sequence where Supergirl confronts the spaceship is genuinely great – exciting visuals communicating the sort of high-powered super feats that keep us all coming back for more. Indeed, overall the series is inviting with its grand storylines and light-hearted characters, it’s just disappointing it cannot consistently back these elements up with solid pacing and drama.