Supergirl – Season 3 Episode 7
Supergirl moves forward with Samantha’s story as Kara has to deal with the unexpected return of someone she thought was lost.
Samantha has been a welcome addition to the show this year. Odette Annable is infectiously likeable and fits in well with the ever expanding cast of engaging female characters. It’s no secret that she is being built up as the main antagonist for the season but the build-up is being handled very gradually.
This gradual development usually goes one of two ways. One is something The Flash is frequently guilty of; dragging out reveals beyond the point of frustration. The other is grounding it in the character and focusing on what it means for them. So far Supergirl seems to be doing the latter with Sam.
Ever since her introduction Sam has been dealing with emerging powers. It’s clear that she is more than a little scared by the prospect and has so far kept it to herself though this episode marks a turning point for her as she can no longer deny what is happening to her. She makes the smart decision for both herself and her daughter to look into this in case these changes prove dangerous.
This allows the show to drop some backstory for Sam by having her visit her adoptive mother Patricia (Betty Buckley) which plays out like a dark riff on the familiar Clark Kent origin. Her adoptive mother lives on a farm but it’s far from the nurturing environment of the Kent farm or Kara’s Midvale household as seen last week. We learn that she was kicked out when she became pregnant as a lesson in self-sufficiency which comes across as overly harsh.
Sam is understandably resentful of this because she needed a support system as a young mother. There is the implication of judgement attached to this but the episode never delves into that. Leaving that as an unsung point hanging over the conversation is very effective as it makes the relationship given very little time to develop feel a lot more real than it otherwise would have been. It would have been a bit much for this single conversation to fully explore everything between Sam and her adoptive mother so leaving some of it up to the viewer’s imagination is definitely the right move.
From a story standpoint the purpose of this conversation is for Sam to find out that she isn’t human. This is something she has had every reason to suspect but was unable to confirm before now. Patricia tells her that she found the ship and took her in. Odette Annable is excellent throughout and her interactions with Patricia are a definite highlight. She goes through a wide range of emotions in a really short time and lets the audience into Sam’s head. The uncertainty is clearly eating away at her and digging up the painful memories of being cast out to fend for herself are a necessary but less than ideal thing for her to do. Character driven details like this are what separate this from every other “person fears that they are becoming a monster” narrative that we have seen before.
The knowledge she gains from this conversation allows her to look into her past further in a way that will be familiar to fans of Superman stories; by following a crystal. There’s genuine intrigue associated with this despite the fact that I know the broad strokes of what this character is supposed to be. What I don’t know is how Supergirl will handle that transition so the anticipation of what the crystal will lead Sam to is very effective.
This leads to the really striking visual of Sam’s own take on the Fortress of Solitude being built. It’s made from the ground in the desert so has a sandy/rocky look to it. Even though Kara periodically uses Clark’s Fortress of Solitude this still works as a dark mirror as the imagery will be familiar to audiences. Sam gets everything that Clark and Kara have but with a darker edge. This is seen from her relationship with her adoptive mother and the symbol of her Kryptonian heritage being a corrupted version of the Fortress of Solitude dubbed the Fortress of Sanctuary.
From here there’s some exposition about what Sam is and why her powers have taken this long to manifest. She is apparently the product of centuries of mad science and her pregnancy stopped her powers from manifesting. This makes Ruby an even more symbolic connection to Sam’s humanity as she actively prevents Sam from becoming what she was designed to be. It’s clear that an element of her internal conflict will be the nature vs. nurture argument that crops up in so many things and Ruby represents the nurture side though in a slightly different way since Sam is responsible for raising her. Sam’s conversation with the mysterious hologram (Anjali Jay) is so clinical and emotionless creating a polar opposite from Kara’s experience. Kara’s contact with a hologram of her mother is warm and nurturing so the contrast is obvious yet effective. I like the way the hologram doesn’t look at Sam right away showing that it is just a computer program and that there is no emotion attached to it. It’s eerie and fits the atmosphere of the Fortress of Sanctuary.
It appears that Sam has been activated by the events of this episode though I suspect it will be more complicated than that given how early in the season it is. So far I’m invested in Sam as a character and interested to see how this plays out as well a heavily impressed by Odette Annable’s performance.
Elsewhere Kara is faced with the surprise return of Mon’El who doesn’t seem like himself. Kara pushes that aside and focuses on the fact that he’s back but it doesn’t take long for Mon’El to sneak into the artifacts room at the DEO and steal something.
Mon’El’s return allows Melissa Benoist to absolutely nail her performance. It’s really meaty material that takes advantage of her considerable acting talent. She convincingly plays Kara as happy but cautious before transitioning into hurt, confused and angry before the episode ends. Her standout moment is after Mon’El’s betrayal when she bares her soul to him outside his cell. I really felt for Kara in this scene; the flood of emotion came across as genuine and made sense given how much Kara has been bottling up since she lost Mon’El. Chris Wood is comparatively subdued which makes sense for Mon’El as he has no idea what to say at this point.
As good as it was to have Mon’El back I could have done without him lying to Kara about his return. He had no real reason to do so and the reveal of his motivation didn’t match up to his actions. It’s yet another example of a CW DC show manufacturing conflict through unnecessary dishonesty. It does little more than kill time until the reveal and add unneeded tension when there was already more than enough.
The reveal that Mon’El was transported to the 30th century and has been living there for 7 years according to his perspective was nicely handled. It has a very Twilight Zone sort of quality to it. How and why that happened are still unknown but left to linger as questions to perhaps be answered later but the important thing is that Mon’El spent 7 years in the future and is now back in his past -our present- for reasons unknown. One of the occupants of the stasis pods on the ship is Imra Ardeen aka Saturn Girl (Amy Jackson) who also happens to be Mon’El’s wife adding to the shock reveal of what Mon’El has been up to.
My immediate concern is that this is going to spark one of my least favourite things on television; the dreaded love triangle. Mon’El has had tome to move on and had clearly accepted that he will never see Kara again so has presumably found it within himself to fall for Imra. If all goes well then his feelings for Kara have transitioned into something else and it won’t be a problem but if all goes badly then he will find himself torn between his wife and the woman he was in a relationship with for a few months nearly a decade agao. For Kara the wound of losing Mon’El is certainly very raw and seeing him with a wife won’t really help matters since they only recently parted from her perspective. There is the potential for good drama in here but I’m concerned that it will play out in a really frustrating way with Kara resenting Imra and longing after Mon’El. Time will tell and there’s a good chance Supergirl is a better show than that so it all remains to be seen.
One exciting and likely prospect is that Supergirl is slowly going to introduce the Legion of Superheroes; a team of heroes from the 31st century previously teased with the appearance of one of their rings back in “Solitude“. How they will factor into the season is unknown though I imagine Imra will be their key representative.
J’Onn trying to make time for his father is something I could have done without. M’yrnn is a character that hasn’t been dealt with since he was rescued from Mars and I’m surprised that the best they could do is to play up the fact that J’Onn is a workaholic who can’t make time for pursuits outside of the DEO. It’s not new information about J’Onn and doesn’t deliver anything interesting about M’yrnn either so the whole plot line feels like filler. The one saving grace is that it ends with J’Onn realising that he has to reassess his priorities and trust other people to manage the DEO. Alex is more than capable so he should trust that he isn’t needed all the time. The apartment he buys/rents for he and his father to live in is a symbol of J’Onn’s shift in priorities and works well enough considering how dull the overall plot was.
A great episode that has a strong focus on character. The development of Sam is especially compelling as we learn more about the mechanical nature of her origins while exploring what that means for her as a person. Setting her up as being a dark mirror for both Clark and Kara by her having everything that they have without the loving and nurturing environment. She was kicked out by her adoptive mother who lives on a farm for teenage pregnancy, her Fortress is a darker version of the one used by Clark and the hologram she speaks to is very clinical with no affection. It’s clear that Ruby will be significant in tethering Sam to her humanity which makes the whole thing really compelling.
Mon’El’s return is well handled thanks to an outstanding performance by Melissa Benoist exhibiting the full range of emotions coming to the surface. The twist involving Mon’El spending 7 years in the future and being married works nicely though could create problems if the show goes down the love triangle route. One thing’s for sure, there was no need for Mon’El to sneak around and be dishonest other than to manufacture unnecessary drama. The scenes involving M’yrnn pointing out that J’Onn is a workaholic aren’t the best though the ending involving them finding a new way to explore their relationship is reasonably well done.
- insight into Sam’s origins from a plot and character perspective
- Odette Annable’s performance
- the dark mirror between Sam and Clark/Kara
- Melissa Benoist’s excellent emotionally driven performance
- the twist surrounding Mon’El’s return
- clear potential for a tired love triangle
- nothing interesting added from J’Onn and M’yrnn’s interactions
- manufacturing conflict through unnecessary dishonesty
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