SUPERGIRL Review 2.16 “Star Crossed”
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Every show has its breaking point, wherein even the most ardent of viewers finds themselves scratching their heads, wondering things like “What?”, “Why?” and “What the hell?” For many, “Star Crossed” might be that very landmark. While the show is still far from irredeemable, it’s hard not to see it as fundamentally directionless, in an episode putting all the season’s weaknesses on display like some sort of museum of flaws. It may even be the first of the show’s thirty-six chapters that I’ve outright disliked from start to finish.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
The casual, cutesy chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood does an immense job of keeping the Kara/Mon-El relationship afloat. When they aren’t talking about trust, superheroics, or, you know, actual things, their sweet nothings are a tender joy. That dynamic is thrown off balance when an alien broadcast shows up all over everyone’s televisions, demanding Earth turn Mon-El over. It’s beamed from a massive intergalactic vessel hovering just over the Earth’s atmosphere, and despite Mon-El’s efforts to keep Kara safe from it, she flies up to investigate. Shots are fired, and when Supergirl finds herself trapped in a bubble, plummeting towards the Earth, she refuses all help from her co-heroes, wanting to be fiercely independent as always.
When Mon-El decides to turn himself in so nobody gets hurt – a seemingly noble gesture that soon reveals itself to merely be getting over his cowardice – Supergirl decides to beam herself up with him. There, she finds out the truth about his lineage (He’s the prince of Daxam. Surprise!), and we enter yet another cycle of Mon-El’s pig-headed dishonesty coming back to hurt Kara. Even Barry and Iris on The Flash feel less repetitive at this point. While seated at the table with Mon-El’s parents (Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo, given very little to work with beyond vague arrogance), Kara learns how Mon-El really got off Daxam before the Kryptonian cataclysm. Where his original fib had him working as a royal guard before being saved by a noble prince, the truth not only paints him in a starkly different light, but plays out in a manner that feels horrendously tone deaf. We see Mon-El’s royal guards save him from certain death, but we also see him ignore the cries of doomed, desperate women (one of whom he’d just slept with) as the world crumbles around him.
Here’s where the season hits its first major roadblock, having clearly written itself into a corner. If one ignores the whiplash of seeing Mon-El heartlessly leave damsels to die but also showing remorse in the moment (which one is it?), Daxam was this supposed cruel theocracy, where people lived under royalty’s boot heel. Kara has vocalized her issues with its oppressive class structure numerous times, but none of this has ever led anywhere. All of Mon-El’s development as a character has centered around personal habits, under the audience assumption that he was a product of his environment. As the prince he still is, but his role in the dynamic is also markedly different, and from the standpoint of character trajectory, he’s done nothing to confront this part of his past, wherein he wasn’t a pawn, but a purveyor. And yet we see him come to the conclusion that he’s moved on from all that… Where? When? What led him to reject his role in the planetary hierarchy, let alone recognize it? One can certainly assume being near a hero like Kara helped open his eyes (he even says as much), but the complexities of rejecting and atoning for the perpetuation of oppression feel uncharacteristically absent so the show can give us a momentary “Gotcha!”
And sure, this means Kara is justified in her “I’ve-had-enough” response to her Daxamite boyfriend, but the narrative places equal weight on Mon-El’s perspective, one wherein this is just any other dishonesty. It isn’t, but it’s treated as such. I’ve got nothing but love for both characters, and I can empathize with Mon-El wanting to hide these parts of his past, yet he feels conceptually disconnected at this point. This dilemma should not be complicated. It shouldn’t be a dilemma at all, and yet it’s focused entirely on the “He lied to me” aspect of Mon-El’s character without once approaching the “He’s done nothing to prove he’s no longer a perpetuator of oppression except saying so.” Instead we’ve spent sixteen episodes watching him unlearn personal selfishness without once getting his perspective on systemic oppression, when said oppression has been the crux of the entire season.
Hearing his mother say “We’re going to make Daxam great again” and responding “Daxam was never great” is brave a contemporary metaphor, but it does nothing for him as a character. He’s learned to treat women better – or rather, learned to treat Kara better – but this huge revelation about him being the Uday to Daxam’s Hussein family places him in a distinctly ugly position that show hasn’t bothered addressing. Perhaps it will in the future, but given the lip-service it pays by having him reject the throne and his parents’ way of life, it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.
They’re literal slavers, which means so was he, but he’s only ever been dramatized as kind of a frat boy.
Kara’s shaken trust is mirrored by the goings on with Winn, whose over-enthusiastic alien beau Lyra finally lets the other shoe drop. She cons him into museum sex so she can steal a priceless Van Gogh, and she has the best possible alibi: not being there at all since she doesn’t show up on camera, leading to Winn being arrested by Maggie. The revelation of Lyra’s brother being caught up in gang activities leading her to steal art to pay his captors is all well and good, but the issue with this half of relationship mistrust week is Winn’s continued and mindless devotion. He does initially question the reality of their relationship, enlisting the help of Guardian (and then the DEO) to uncover the truth and help find Lyra’s brother, but his reason for sticking by her, that any girl who lies through her teeth to save someone else is probably worth it, is downright head-spinning.
On one extreme, we have Winn instantly forgiving Lyra for conning him into a relationship and leaving him to rot in prison, and even getting back together with her the very next day. On the other we have Kara’s dilemma, which has the texture of being about whether or not this latest dishonesty is truly final, but drops the ball massively when it comes to any questioning of or investigation into what was actually being lied about. Once again, Benoist and Wood deliver stellar performances during their break-up, avoiding eye-contact despite their proximity and holding back every ounce of emotion waiting to burst forth, but I do wish their scenes were in service of something more narratively sound.
Maybe this is finally it, and we can go back to watching a show about how Supergirl relates to the world around her. Or maybe it’s the start of yet another cycle of Mon-El trying to win her back. I’m almost afraid to find out, but hey, at least we have that musical crossover with The Flash to look forward to, teased sort of haphazardly and out of the blue in an episode where “haphazard” feels akin to a through-line.
Come on, Supergirl. You’re better than this.