Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E16 - 'Star-Crossed'

As someone who has never really been a fan of the way in which relationships, and romantic drama, has been handled on the CW's DC shows (or, if I'm being honest, on CW shows, in general), I can't say that I was all that thrilled about an episode that devotes itself not one, but two, plot-lines centred around romantic conflict. The overly melodramatic angst that usually results when the focus is placed on relationship drama has often been a source of frustration for me, in the past, after all. I suppose you can think of it as a personal bias of mine – one which I readily acknowledge.

Here, for example, we have a primary plot-line placed firmly on Kara and Mon-El – who, after sharing managing to share an entire scene of romantic bliss (as they binge-watch Game of Thrones, while eating ice cream), find their still relatively new relationship test, once more, by the arrival of Mon-El's parents. In a development which has already been hinted at, and which probably would not have been much of a surprise anyone in the audience even if it hadn't, it turns out that Mon-El isn't actually the palace guard whose life was spared by the prince of Daxam – he is, in fact, the prince of Daxam, himself.

This is a revelation which, naturally enough, causes a fair bit of strain when Queen Rhea and King Lar Gand (Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo) arrive on orbit over Earth, demanding that Mon-El be turned over to them. It's not just the fact that he lied to her that causes so much drama, though – but, also, the nature of the lie, itself. Daxam, based on what we have been told, was a planet which openly supported slavery – and, Kara has already made the moral outrage she feels toward the planet, and its people, very clear. She may have been willing to overcome her prejudices for someone she thought to be a regular Daxamite citizen – but, finding out that Mon-El is the son of the rulers of the planet seems to be too much for her.

More than anything, I think that it is this aspect of the drama that allows it to work as well as it does. Kara has, in the past, been portrayed as stubborn and judgemental (to such an extent that there have even been times where it has make her unlikable) – but, this is probably the first time in which her extreme reaction is truly understandable. At the same time, though, Mon-El's development over the season, and the clear contempt that he seems to have develop for his former home, now that he has experience life away from Daxam, suggests that he has definitely changed – so, it may not be entirely fair to judge him too harshly for his past.

So, rather than only being a source of romantic angst, this revelation about Mon-El's true identity actually serves as the basis for a reasonably interesting moral dilemma – which is something that I find to be much more interesting. Honestly, I just wish that the episode could have spent a little more time exploring this point.

Unfortunately, though, the episode also feels the need to devote a fair bit of screen-time to a sub-plot concerning Winn and his alien girl-friend, Lydia. It's great the the series decided to try to do something interesting with the character, of course – and, the revelation that she is actually an thief, running a con on Winn, is interesting enough. But, it also feels like an unnecessary distraction.

It is clear that the episode wants to draw a parallel between Kara and Winn's current romantic woes, of course. With the revelation that Lydia's true goal is to secure the release of her brother, currently held hostage by a notorious crime-lord, it is clear that there are extenuating circumstances which may explain her current behaviour – just as there is with Mon-El's decision to lie about his past. The episode even goes out of its way to draw attention to that potential parallel, at various points – as Winn chooses to support Lydia, in the end, while Kara is unable to get over her feelings of anger and betrayal.

Unfortunately, the focus on Winn's sub-plot meant that there was less time for any real focus on the King and Queen of Daxam, and whatever plans they may have for their son. This, sadly, meant that Kevin Sorbo and Teri Hatcher felt a bit underutilised – though, since this clearly isn't the last we are going to see of them, I suppose that is forgivable.

What isn't quite so forgivable, though, is the fact that Winn's sub-plot just wasn't terribly interesting. For one thing, Lydia just hasn't been given the time, or attention, to develop into a terribly interesting character, in her time on the series – so, her sudden betrayal ended up feeling a little hollow. I will admit that the whole thing was well-played by Jeremy Jordan, though – and, Tamzin Merchant was able to make the most of the material she was given (which makes it a definite shame that she wasn't given much of value to work with before now). So, it had that going for it, at least.

It's only at the very end of the episode that we get anything that resembles the first part of the musical cross-over that was advertised – and, really, it amounts to little more than setting up the next episode of The Flash. I have to admit that the whole sequence struck me as a little strange, too. The Music Meister (Darren Criss) makes an appearance on her Earth, only to allow himself to be taken into custody by the DEO – where he hypnotises Supergirl, grabs Cisco's portal creating device (which he happens to know about, and which just so happen to be on-hand when he arrives), and makes a hasty escape to Earth-1.

The whole point of all of this was obvious to create the circumstances which would lead the cast of Supergirl to Earth-1, so that they can take part in the real, single episode, cross-over – but, it just wasn't a very well staged scene. It felt awkward, and a bit contrived – and, I really wish that the writers could have come up with another way to introduce the Music Meister.

So, in the end, we have an episode which feels a little disjointed, and unfocused. In what may very well have been the first time in which I was ever genuinely interested in the drama between Kara and Mon-El, we had an episode that was too fractured to truly make the most of it – instead, given choosing to devote time to a sub-plot which would have been perfectly entertaining in another episode, but which just felt distracting, here.

Even worse, though, is the fact that the episode managed to fumble its part in the musical cross-over – both by not actually being a true part of the cross-over, while also giving us a contrived, and unsatisfying, introduction to the villainous Music Meister. Here, though, I can at least hold on to some hope that the next episode of The Flash will prove to be as entertaining as I have hoped it would be.

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