‘Supergirl’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 2 Episode 17: ‘Distant Sun’
Welcome to Supergirl Talk, our regular feature breaking down the highs and lows of The CW’s Supergirl TV show starring Melissa Benoist in the super smiling title role. Your travelling companions on this journey are Superman super-fan Chris Haley, and intrepid reporter, Katie Schenkel.
This week, Supergirl is back from her cross-dimensional musical adventure, and Mon-El’s guest star parents are still floating above the earth in their big spaceship waiting to ground him. Also, Alex meets one of Maggie’s exes! “Distant Sun” was directed by Kevin Smith from a script by Gabriel Llanas and Anna Musky-Goldwyn.
Previously, on Supergirl Talk…
Katie: I am definitely planning to talk about the crossover episode before we recap our actual Supergirl episode next week. My main hope is that 1. The musical numbers are fun and 2. They resist getting Mon-El and Kara back together through the magic of Kara’s magical dream on a totally different show.
Chris: Ohhh.. I hope you’re ready to be disappointed, because I can definitely see that happening.
Katie: I have hope, Chris. I have hope in the magic of music and the equal magic of the Barry/Kara friendship that they won’t screw this up for me.
Chris: So, how are you feeling about that musical crossover, Katie? Did they screw this up for you like I predicted?
Katie: Hahahaha. I hate being right.
Chris: You were so hopeful.
Katie: To be fair, they absolutely gave me the magical friendship stuff I was hoping for. Barry and Kara both sort of leaning into the musical (because it turns out they both loved watching musicals as kids) was perfect, and they had a whole song about how super their friendship is. While it needed to be longer, and I’m hoping for a real two episode musical crossover next year, everyone was absolutely charming and got to show off their musical skills. I got to see several of my friends flabbergasted on Twitter that Jeremy Jordan can sing, so that was delightful.
Chris: It is fun to flabbergast friends.
Katie: That being said, I was also totally right about them using the musical to get Kara and Mon-El back together. It does feel like the writers set up Kara putting her foot down last week just so love could save her in a parallel to how Iris’ love saved Barry in the musical (the latter was earned more, but as someone who watched The Flash, I can confirm the drama from that relationship was also speedily fabricated specifically for the musical to solve it). All in all, I was frustrated by the ending, but the majority of the episode was such a delight that it still made me happy.
Chris: And then you had to watch this week’s episode. How long did those happy feelings carry over?
Katie: This might be a controversial opinion in this recap, but … Rao help me, I think I liked this episode? Even though it focused so much on Mon-El? And yeah, it still had some stuff we’ll get into, but it felt like a vast improvement on recent episodes.
Chris: I did not hate this episode either, though it certainly had some moments that drove me crazy, but, as you said, we’ll get into all of that. What do you think was different about this episode that made it more enjoyable for you even with it’s focus on your blood-enemy, Mon-El?
Katie: So, I’ve said it in earlier recaps, but Chris Wood is trying really hard to bring some charisma to the character. But there’s only so much the guy can do when his dialogue has him saying really crappy things and Kara just ignoring or letting the crappy comment go. And there’s been a lot of Mon-El making progress, but then the very next episode stepping back two paces and having to re-learn the same lessons about being a good person and trusting Kara’s abilities over and over. This episode finally read like the lesson he just learned had stuck, and the character was a lot better for it.
That being said, it sort of makes the frustrations of past episodes that much more aggravating. This was sort of like watching an episode from a better plotted season where Mon-El’s character development had felt slow and steady over the course of how many weeks. I don’t want to besmirch the show for finally writing Mon-El to be less frustrating (especially if they keep this going for the rest of the season), but his choices in this episode don’t feel quite as earned than they would if his arc had been stronger.
Chris: Much like last week’s Arrow, I feel like this week’s Supergirl really benefits from being a little more focused on fewer people. It’s fun to have these big regular casts (unless you’re the guy that’s playing Jimmy Olsen… sorry, buddy), but the shows often feel like complete messes when they’re trying to pay too much attention to too many characters. You care a little more as a viewer when you’ve got a little more time to spend with one story, and this episode focusing mainly on the A plot of “Mon-El’s parents will stop at nothing to get him to leave Earth” was a good thing.
Not a great thing, but a good thing at least.
Katie: I went into this episode knowing Mon-El and Kara were back together, so being prepared for that probably help curb my expectations. Maybe the only really head-desky moment was when Mon-El makes Kara breakfast, which in itself is nice, but then Kara goes, “Oh, you have changed!” I just … Kara. Kara. A boy making you breakfast does not a redemption arc make. I don’t care that he included bacon. And while Mon-El’s behavior this episode on the whole much better, there’s still this sense that Kara is being written to give Mon-El way too much credit for basic decent actions.
Chris: But there’s also the thing this episode where Mon-El is talking about how much he admires Kara for always giving people a chance, but then just last week, she was talking about how she couldn’t do this anymore. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have said that last week, but my issue here is the same thing I find myself complaining about over and over and that’s a lack of consistency in how these characters are written. It’s maddening!
Katie: Like I said, this week’s episode was well-written but it feels like it was written for a season where all the characters were better written throughout.
Chris: Whoa, whoa, let’s not get too crazy here and say it was “well-written”. Being better than normal does not immediately qualify for “well-written”.
Katie: At the very least it was more enjoyable. What were some of the parts that worked for you?
Chris: Well, like I said, I appreciated that the episode was more focused on (mostly) telling just one story, and… nothing else is coming to mind. What am I forgetting? It was kind of neat seeing Supergirl having a Kryptonite-Fu fight with a former Lois Lane, right? Even if I was fairly dubious about a lot of the logistics of that and angry that at no point did Mon-El just try to get those Kryptonite sais away from his mom.
Katie: So I’m going to jump off of that and say that Teri Hatcher is hands-down the MVP of this episode for me. She’s also the MVP of my heart.
I was hoping we’d get to see more from her as the haughty space queen after a pretty good introduction, but I’m so happy the show not only gave her great moments in this episode, but set her up to be a bigger bad as we head into the end of the season. She just looks like she’s having so much fun, too.
Chris: I’m partially torn on this, because it feels so cliche to have the evil, manipulative, backstabbing queen/mother (not terribly dissimilar from Lena’s mother just a few episodes ago), but at the same time, I like that the show seems to really try to keep things as centered around female characters as possible, so… I guess I don’t know how I feel about it. Does that make sense? As a female viewer, I will defer to your judgment here.
Katie: I’m okay with it. If anything, Rhea is a different flavor of sinister mother character from Lena’s mom, because Lena’s mom doesn’t care about her daughter, while Rhea seems to genuinely love her son a lot, even if it feels conditional on him doing what she says because “she knows what’s best.” And unlike Lena’s mom, you can kind of see Rhea’s point of view there at the end. She’s still wrong, but when she has that scene with her husband where she states his actions as betrayal, her motivations make total sense for her character… which is more than we can say for many characters this season.
Chris: Yeah, I’ll take any motivations over none for sure.
Katie: It also occurs to me that Hatcher has done great playing a sinister controlling mother before in Coraline, so besides the former Superman actor stunt casting, she’s really good at this archetype. I’m actually excited about her being set up to return probably before the season is over.
Chris: Oh wow, was she the mom in Coraline? I remember precious little from that movie because when I saw it in the theater, the 3D gave me such a headache that I was just dying for it to be over. My recollection is that the mom was decidedly eerie and sinister, though, so this is a good point you bring up.
What about our other returning, non-Daxamite guest star this week, Lynda Carter? Is it fair to say that as much as I enjoy her here, she does not seem to be trying too hard to act like a real person? And if you agree that that’s a fair assessment would you chalk that up to a choice or her not feeling like the material requires a nuanced take?
Katie: I’m going to tentatively say it’s a choice? I mean, we know from her last appearance and this one that she’s not human, so her trying to conceal her feelings, especially around J’onn who can sense when things are off (at least when he’s written well) could justify her being stiff. Also, her country did have a weapons-equipped spaceship filled with passive aggressive space royalty on it, so her seeming stiff wasn’t exactly an invalid choice. Look, it could also be that I just find an American president actually wanting to use caution against potential military threats in 2017 to be refreshing.
Chris: Yeah, I’ll take it. I will also say I thought it was really funny that it seemed like all of Lynda Carter’s scenes were going to be shot over Skype, which, in my mind, was so she didn’t have to have that awkward moment where Kevin Smith told her about how attracted he’d been to her as a teenager.
Katie: Pivoting away from that terrible image, let’s talk about Alex.
Chris: Okay, let’s. I would sincerely love for a single episode of this show to go by where there wasn’t some melodramatic scene about someone not trusting someone about something.
Katie: It’s a really good thing you don’t watch The Flash, Chris. Your brain would explode from how much stupid secrets are kept for no reason on that program.
Chris: That said, I thought all of the Alex and Maggie stuff was pretty good this week.
Katie: It’s good to see Maggie getting some layers. It would have been very easy for the show to keep her as this cool, confident detective. Showing that she has insecurities and is inclined to smooth out the edges of her life story to fit a narrative to new people in her life feels very real. I also liked that while Alex was upset about Maggie not being upfront about her past, Alex 1. Wasn’t personally threatened about the infidelity in Maggie’s past and 2. Didn’t herself fall into her old habit of seizing up emotionally. It’s nice to see characters learning from specific mistakes and being proactive in being better.
Chris: Yeah, we give them credit for this and it’s earned, but they continually try to do their best with Alex and Maggie’s relationship. That moment where Alex said she didn’t care about what had happened previously was amazing if for no other reason than that it was absolutely not the regular TV show way to handle a moment like that, and it says so much about the trust Alex is willing to place in Maggie and in her and Maggie’s relationship.
Katie: Definitely. So far this season they’ve done a good job of giving that relationship a mix of cute stories, stories where they work together to stop bad guys, and then more serious episode focuses like this. It’s not all angst, which helps the actual emotional talks feel like they matter more.
Chris: For sure. I think the only other big thing we need to discuss this week is that ending with Rhea murdering Space Hercules. Do you think she’s who Kara will be dealing with for the rest of the season or, at the very least, towards the end? Were you at all surprised by what she did?
Katie: I wish I could say I was surprised, but I was watching the episode on DVR and I had already been spoiled on it around the last commercial break. That being said, if I hadn’t been spoiled, I think I would have figured it out in the middle of her monologue with him. She had that look about her. Sorbo did okay with this role, but I liked Rhea’s slow ruthless descent into a formidable villain. And I really liked how clear it was in Hatcher’s performance that this wasn’t an act of in-the-moment rage. No no, this was a decision made calmly and with all certainty.
I’m putting bets on her being the big confrontation at the end of the season. It could be a double whammy with Dr. Mom Luthor showing up at the same time, which would allow the show to get Hatcher and Dean Cain acting in the same room again, and I don’t know if the writers could resist that temptation. In any case, unless they decide to bring Chris Wood back as a regular in season 3, my guess is that Rhea will be killed in the season finale and Mon-El, finally really recognizing that he has the capacity to do great good like Kara, will decide to go to Daxam and lead his people into democracy.
Chris: Yeah, that’s certainly a scenario I could see happening, and it’d certainly make for a somewhat satisfying arc for the characters. Though with Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood dating in real life, I could certainly see her wanting to have him around the production more, so who knows? We’ve got a bit of a break before the next new episode to think about it all and theorize, though.
Katie: Random last thought: why didn’t Mon-El try to win his parents over to a parliament? “Mom, you can still have all the money and title and the crown and corgis, but none of the legislative responsibility! It’s a WIN-WIN.”
Chris: Would she still be able to have people killed or thrown in cells for years with impunity?
Katie: I mean, I’m sure they could have worked something out.