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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Supergirl S2E14: Homecoming

Series 2, Episode 14

I recommend reading the entire article, both because it's entertainingly written, and because it highlights one of the big problems with Mon-El's character: He's a Mary-Sue, through and through. A particular bad example of a Mary-Sue, and a particularly baffling one -- why is he in this show? I could hazard a guess, but I'm not sure I would be correct. My guess is that the CW, shy of the idea of a series not aimed at least somewhat at young men, insisted upon his presence to make the story more palatable to young men.

Maybe I'm completely wrong there. Maybe I'm not. Still, having talked about Mon-El as a character -- an unavoidable conversation, because for all that this episode purports to be about Jeremiah, Kara, and Alex, it is absolutely about Mon-El -- I'd like to talk about his relationship with Kara as shown in this episode.

It is unsettling. It is deeply unsettling. There are a lot of pairings on television that I don't like, either because I see them as needlessly dramatic or, on the flip side, I see them as boring. Even the ones I do like will sometimes fall foul of bad writing, because that's just how television works, and I can usually shrug and move on. But Kara/Mon-El, as it was presented to us early in this episode, unnerves me.


The episode opens on Mon-El waking up to find that Kara is gone and immediately assuming it's because of him -- either because he was so bad in bed, or so good -- without thinking for a moment that she might be getting ready for work (she is still a reporter, after all, they traditionally get very early starts) or that she might be out doing superhero work. So far not great, but not unsalvagable either, and when Kara gets back they are somewhat cute at each other, and Kara asks him to keep their relationship private -- cut to him announcing it to the entire DEO while Kara is visibly uncomfortable.

The episode continues on much the same lines: Kara sets boundaries, Mon-El oversteps them, Kara gets angry, Mon-El assumes it must be her fault, Kara does her job, Mon-El assumes it must be secretly about him. If this was meant to be an unhealthy relationship, that would be fine, I'm not against stories about unhealthy relationships, but it's not. It's meant to be Standard Relationship Problems.

Hank and Jeremiah.

The crux of the episode revolves around this pattern, and moreover, several characters are gutted in order to make Mon-El squarely in the right, and 'vindicate' his behaviour: As the team manage to rescue Jeremiah Danvers in suspicious circumstances, they are overjoyed -- apart from Mon-El, who finds himself immediately wary of Jeremiah, and who attempts to convince the others that there's something wrong, only to be brushed off. Before long, Jeremiah is revealed to be an agent of Cadmus, and as he launches an attack on the DEO to get his hands on a set of files, the characters must rush to stop him.

First of all, this is a storyline that would have worked better with Alex and Maggie, and I'm not just saying that because I prefer them as a pairing. Since Maggie is a shrewd detective who is naturally prone to be suspicious of people, it would make some sense for her to be wary of Jeremiah, and since Alex knows that Maggie has issues surrounding her parents, it would make sense for her to maybe dismiss that wariness as Maggie just having been burnt before.

But second of all, in order for this storyline to work with Mon-El at all, everyone involved except him has to be an idiot. Alex and Kara can maybe get passes because they're close to Jeremiah, but Maggie has no reason not to detect that something's wrong, and Hank, for some reason, never bothers to read Jeremiah's mind until near the end. In order to elevate Mon-El, other characters are dragged down, which is practically the textbook definition of a Mary-Sue.

The gang's all here.

Third of all, while Mon-El's suspicions are vindicated at the end, the show expects that to also be a vindication of his methods: Which basically involve loudly accusing Jeremiah of being evil at every opportunity, and then going and sulking about how everyone is wrong except him -- instead of, say, quietly taking Hank to one side, or asking Winn for help, which would have been more pragmatic and less like he's trying to assert dominance.

But the reason the show has Mon-El being so openly suspicious is that it wants to conflate two separate behaviours: Mon-El's suspicion, and Mon-El's boundary crossing. In a kind of tacit recognition that Mon-El is a terrible boyfriend, the show attempts to link the two behaviours, so as one is vindicated, the other follows suite by extension. It doesn't work. At the end of the episode, Mon-El still feels as unpleasant and noxious as he did at the start.

Interestingly, while other episodes have had B-plots and C-plots, this one is all A-plot. From start to finish, it is forty minutes of Mon-El being intolerable, and for that reason and because an interesting episode plotline (Jeremiah being evil) has been kind of ruined, this is my most hated episode of Supergirl.

Next episode looks like it'll be more about Kara and Alex fighting Cadmus and coming face to face with Jeremiah a few more times, so that should be nice, at least.

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