Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E17 - 'Distant Sun'

So, in the end, it seems that the whole point of the musical cross-over episode of The Flash was simply to bring a quick, and decisive, end to the romantic difficulties that both heroes were currently going through. By the end of that episode, Barry had been moved to propose to Iris once more – and, with this episode of Supergirl, it seems that Kara and Mon-El's issues have also been resolved. While, in the previous episode, it had seemed as though the sense of betrayal Kara felt at being deceived about Mon-El's true identity had created an insurmountable obstacle for the two, it now seems that Kara's recent experiences have given her a new-found perspective (I do have to wonder who all of this would come across to someone who only watches Supergirl – but, it's become increasingly clear that this just isn't a concern for the creators).

While I don't have any real issue with the whole idea of this latest romantic conflict being resolved so quickly, I to have to admit that I am a little disappointed by the fact that the interesting moral aspect of the whole dilemma has also been brushed aside. For me, at least, the revelation concerning Mon-El's true identity, as the prince of Daxam, also raised some interesting questions concerning exactly how culpable Mon-El actually was in how that corrupt society was run, and the extent to which he benefited from it. It's possible that future episodes might focus a little more attention of that aspect of Mon-El's background, of course – but, it certainly doesn't happen in this episode.

Instead, what we get is a relatively straight-forward plot-line, as it seems that Mon-El's parents have placed an impressively large bounty on Kara's head – with the result that a series of intergalactic bounty-hunters now seem to be making their way to Earth. This basic set-up provides the audience with some reasonably entertaining moments, early on – with the telepath who takes control of Mon-El, and forces him to take on Kara on his behalf, clearly standing out as the most fun. Unfortunately, though, the episode doesn't actually do very much with the whole bounty-hunter plot-line.

It isn't very long until Queen Rhea (Teri Hatcher) is revealed to be the one behind the bounty, in the first place – and, with that revelation, comes the abrupt transition from the somewhat sympathetic (or, at least, understandable), though still morally ambiguous, figure she had been to a much more overtly villainous figure. This sudden shift in focus would have been a bit of a disappointment, on its own (since the whole idea of a series of outlandish intergalactic bounty-hunters showing up to fight Supergirl sounded like it could have been a lot of fun) – but, this abrupt transition in Rhea's characterisation also has the result of making her a much less interesting character.

Teri Hatcher does seem to be having fun with the overtly villainous role, at least – and, in the role of the calmer, and seemingly more understand, of Mon-El's parents, Kevin Sorbo does have a couple of well-played scenes. Despite this, though, I was still left feeling that this sudden transition was a mistake. There had seemed to be some potential for an interesting dilemma, here, with Mon-El finding himself torn between his new life on Earth and his old life on Daxam – but, that was lost with this episode.

It also didn't help that the episode, as a whole, just felt poorly paced, and incredibly rushed – with the potentially interesting 'bounty-hunter' plot-line essentially over by the end of the episode's first act, as we move into less interesting territory. Mon-El's decision to, essentially, 'sacrifice' himself by agreeing to return to Daxam in order to save Kara transitioned into a desperate rescue a little too quickly for me – with Kara's emotional plea for aid coming across as a little hollow.

Beyond that, there was also the fact that it all culminated in an awkwardly staged, poorly edited, and very underwhelming, action sequence aboard the Daxamite ship which didn't manage to convey any of the sense of tension or drama that it was clearly supposed to (although, I will admit that Mon-El's sudden Star Wars reference when Winn shows up to release him from his cell was genuinely funny). In the end, the entire plot-line just felt underwhelming, to me – and, even the promise that the episode's central conflict isn't actually over does not do much to get me invested.

Along with this, the episode also managed to devote some screen-time to an incredibly awkward sub-plot involving Alex and Maggie having a chance encounter with an ex-girlfriend of Maggie's. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the writers using this sort of thing as an opportunity to put some focus on the current relationship, of course – but, the way that they went about it just struck me as very strange. For one thing, it actually struck me as a little odd for Alex to push Maggie toward this attempt at reconciliation, in the first place – and, it came across as very inappropriate when Alex practically stalked Maggie's ex-girlfriend to demand an explanation for why she didn't show up to the dinner that they had arranged. I get that the entire point of the sub-plot was to provide the two with an opportunity to become closer (and, I was very relieved when it was actually used in that way, rather than the source of angst and conflict that it could have been), but it didn't come across very well.

Also, I have to admit that I'm a little bothered by the way in which Maggie seems to have been pushed into a very conventional 'love interest' type of role – with her only seeming to exist as a romantic partner for Alex. Sure, it's a same-sex relationship, this time – so, I suppose that it still counts as somewhat progressive. But, Maggie had seemed set to become a fully rounded member of the show's supporting cast when she was first introduced – so, hopefully, we can get some more of that, eventually.

Another lingering issue, for me, is the way in which James Olsen is currently being used. With Kara no longer working for CatCo, even James's new position as the current CEO has been pushed into the background – leaving him with nothing else to do beyond the occasional appearance, whether simply as a member of Kara's social circle or in costume as Guardian. The problem is that neither of these feel like a particularly worthwhile use for such an important character – and, it's really just another example of wasted potential. This is a character who has had all sort of adventures with Superman before the series even began – and, who was originally asked to act as something of a mentor for Kara by Superman, himself. But, the series has never done anything particularly interesting with that aspect of his character – and, with his very brief appearances in this episode, it has become increasingly obvious that the writers simply have no idea what to do with him. It's frustrated – and, at this point, I'm just left wondering how long it's going to be until he is written out of the series, entirely.

So, basically, the season's seventeenth episode is one that left me feeling disappointed, and unsatisfied, in a variety of ways. It had its moments, sure – and, it was clearly intended to set up the conflicts that would carry the rest of the season. But, it also didn't manage to do anything to actually get me feeling invested in those future conflicts. Admittedly, the brief return of Lynda Cart, as President Olivia Marsdin, was a little more interesting (as was the clear indication that the current President of the United States actually is a disguised alien). So, I suppose I will just have to wait and see how things turn out for the rest of the season.

Hopefully, this episode will prove to be little more than a misstep, in the end.

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