Supergirl – Season 3 Episode 14
“Schott Through the Heart”
Supergirl returns from an extended hiatus with a rare Winn focused episode and a plot that largely stands on its own.
It has been a while since this show has been on. The decision to put Supergirl on hiatus to return when DC’s Legends of Tomorrow wraps up its third season has had a mixed reception among fans. I personally didn’t mind as it lessened my workload while keeping it consistent.
The problem with this approach is that there is definitely a loss of narrative momentum. None of this is the fault of the producers as they presumably had no choice over when the show would return so wouldn’t be able to plan its comeback with an episode that delivers answers viewers have waited weeks for.
That said the opening of this episode was the perfect way to return to the show. A charming and hilarious karaoke scene is the perfect reminder of how great this cast are together and it very much feels like the last quiet moment before the intensity of the season ramps up in a big way. Bookending the episode with karaoke is also a nice touch as it becomes the consistent image of normality in the world of the characters and it lets us see them completely at ease. It’s also refreshing to see characters just having fun in a CW Superhero show as none of the others seem to indulge in that any more. It really does make a difference.
Unfortunately viewers are robbed of Winn’s rendition of A-Ha’s “Take on Me” when he sees a convenient news report informing him of his father’s death so the episode quickly transitions to a funeral followed by Winn’s family drama. It has been a long time since Winn had an episode dedicated to him and it’s long overdue. Since season 2 began Winn hasn’t received a lot of development as he has been relegated to the one liner tech support guy which functions in the world of the show but doesn’t tell us a lot about him. Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t always the best served in season 1 but he definitely had more to do.
He has a lot to deal with this week with his father’s death and the unexpected return of his mother, Mary (Laurie Metcalf) who wants to get back into his life after a 20 year absence. This stirs up old resentments that he thought he had moved past and all he wants is for Mary to leave so that he can get on with his life.
This episode is all about Mary and Winn’s Mother/Son relationship so it’s good that it’s very strong. Jeremy Jordan and Laurie Metcalf are great in their scenes together crafting a complex pained relationship through their scenes together. A particular highlight is Winn’s tragic story of him being a young boy waiting for his mother to pick him up after his father was arrested. Jordan does an excellent job conveying how painful it is to revisit that memory and the hatred he feels for Mary after she abandoned him when he was at his most vulnerable.
Of course it isn’t as simple as Winn has chosen to believe. It turns out that his father threatened to kill Winn if Mary ever got involved in his life so she leaves him out of a desire to protect him. This isn’t something Winn is initially prepared to accept because he has a lot of pain that he has to work through before he can think rationally about the situation. It may be resolved within the space of a single episode -as it pretty much has to be- but the transition feels organic thanks to creating moments where Winn gradually comes around to the idea of accepting his mother being around. One such example is when she shows her own technical chops which sends the message to Winn that they may not be so different. He takes gradual steps towards acceptance until finally being in a position to want to build a relationship with his mother.
James takes on the expected best friend role by making it clear that he’s there to support Winn if and when he needs it. At no point does he tell Winn what he thinks the right thing to do in this situation is. I really liked this adult approach as James keeps a respectful distance with the understanding that it isn’t his place to get involved so all he does is make his presence felt, listen and offer impartial advice without ever overstepping his bounds. It’s a great showing of the friendship that has built between these characters.
One issue the episode has in general is that there is a lot of dialogue and not all of it sounds natural. The scene between Winn and Mary at the end just before they sign themselves up for karaoke is especially wordy and comes across as a release of information rather than a conversation between a mother and child. The talented cast is more than able to sell the emotion which makes it even more apparent that this level of dialogue isn’t needed. This issue shows up in the other stories as well. It isn’t the first episode of Supergirl to have this issue but it’s definitely a prominent example and it lifted me out of the episode a little.
The episode does allow for some really fun action sequences. The flying robot monkey attack on the DEO is impressively staged even if nobody is in any real danger. Kara even admits that it’s only a 2 out of 10 on the danger scale so it’s clear that the threat is never meant to overshadow the family drama and sometimes that’s fine. Throwing in an action sequence as a distraction can sometimes be effective as it is here. The sequence where Kara almost gets turned into a life size action figure and Mon’El takes on a robot T-Rex with “cape tricks” is also impressive.
Things become somewhat muddled when Jacqueline Nimball (Brooke Smith) is revealed as the mastermind behind the flying monkey attack. The reveal has no weight to it because the character isn’t significant in anyway way. If she had some prior connection to the Schott family it might have been a little stronger but as it sits the character feels superfluous. The episode is also lacking in any sort of closure to Winn’s relationship with his father. This makes sense given that the character is now dead but his previous appearance in “Childish Things” suggested that there was more to explore in that relationship.
It seems that tragedy is ahead for J’Onn and M’Yrnn judging by Alex figuring out that he’s suffering from the early stages of the Martian equivalent of Dementia. So far this is handled with a great deal of sensitivity with the reveal being given a light and morbid touch. M’Yrnn’s reaction to Alex confronting him about it feels spot on for a man who prides himself on his inner strength and ability to deal with difficult situations. His main desire since coming to Earth is to not be a burden on his son who has done so much to help him and now he has to deal with an illness where he will have to rely on J’Onn even more than he already does. Based on all of those factors yelling at Alex and demanding that she leaves is on point because she’s challenging him with facts that he has to accept and he isn’t ready to face that.
Alex telling J’Onn that it isn’t her place to tell him the reason behind what happened is a great example of how much respect there is in that relationship. For all the talk of surrogate families and Alex being like a daughter to J’Onn she still knows that there are boundaries and doesn’t want to involve herself in what amounts to an internal family matter. It is M’Yrnn’s responsibility to tell J’Onn when he is ready to do so and Alex won’t accelerate that process out of her own discomfort. Moments like this show how good this show can be at building its internal character relationship and provides a distinctly adult approach to managing conflict. It remains to be seen how this storyline will play out but based on what has been delivered so far it could very well be a very moving portrayal of a proud man slowly losing what defines who he is.
J’Onn and M’Yrnn’s dinner with Alex also tackles race in a really interesting way. Both of them have chosen to wear the face of a black man despite being able to choose what they look like. This episode goes into the reasons behind that when J’Onn explains that he likes wearing Hank Henshaw’s face and takes pride in what he has accomplished under that identity. It would be easier in a lot of ways to display the face of a white man but he’s of the belief that he should work to make the world a better place rather than change his appearance to make intolerant people more comfortable. It’s a simple and noble sentiment that is informed by both common sense and intelligence. M’Yrnn also wears the face of a black man in order to support his son in his goals.
So far the love triangle that I feared would consume the show has been relatively understated. The previous episode featured Imra confessing something to Mon’El about their true mission in the past. What Mon’El was told isn’t revealed until the end of this episode and it’s an underwhelming reveal not worthy of such secrecy but the surrounding character interactions are interesting. Firstly Mon’El finally undersands why Kara was so upset about being lied to now that he has experienced it for himself. It may come a little late but she definitely appreciates his sincere apology so Mon’El experiences personal growth on the back of this. Secondly this allows Kara to draw a defined emotional boundary between them when it looks like he wants advice on relationship issues from her. She doesn’t see that as her place and admits to feeling uncomfortable with the idea of talking to Mon’El about his marriage. It’s a reasonable reaction and Kara brings herself across well showing a great deal of self respect as she makes it clear how inappropriate she finds it.
It may be an example of crossed wires as Mon’El wanted to bring her in on the mission rather than get advice on his marriage but he takes the point and seems to understand the boundary. Once again this shows personal growth as Mon’El clearly realises how his actions affect others and takes the feedback about his vagueness on board so that he won’t make the mistake again. It’s unclear if having them work closely together will result in a lot of tension but I really hope not as I’d rather the characters approach an awkward situation reasonably while still acknowledging that it’s difficult. That would be clever writing where a love triangle wouldn’t be.
A strong stand alone episode that finally allows Winn to take the spotlight and receive much needed development. His relationship with his mother is portrayed really well despite some clunky dialogue. Jeremy Jordan really shines in his scenes and his arc that ends with him wanting to get to know his mother comes across as natural despite taking place within a single episode. James taking on the best friend role without overstepping potential boundaries is also great and shows how strong the relationships are in this show. The villain reveal is underwhelming as there is no real weight behind it but the overall idea of her being a distraction with the important story being the Winn/Mary dynamic works well.
J’Onn and M’Yrnn have a lot of strong material this episode with the strong handling of the beginnings of the Martian version of Dementia. Alex recognising the familial boundaries and choosing not to get involved by telling J’Onn what she knows is excellent characterisation that makes great use of a strong connection. Mon’El’s personal growth when he apologies for lying to Kara after experiencing what it really feels like is well handled as is Kara setting emotional boundaries because she doesn’t want to be involved in his marital troubles and doesn’t feel comfortable discussing it. The reveal of the Legion’s true mission is underwhelming but the character beats created by it are excellent.
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