Supergirl Season 3 Reviews: Episode 3, “Far From the Tree”
So when this season of Supergirl started, we were ready to hold onto our hankies based on season teases from showrunner Andrew Kreisberg. We both thought episodes one and two were emotionally devastating in their own ways, and then figured we could handle anything else this season threw at us.
Then “Far From the Tree” happened, and we’re drowning in an Olympic-sized pool of feels. We are buckling in and going for gold in feels-processing. Starting this week, we’re going to approach the recaps a little differently. Kori will be handling the recaps, and Elizabeth will be handling the analysis. Let’s get to it!
We open this episode with more Danvers sisters banter. Alex and Maggie are holding their wedding shower the next day, and Eliza (Helen Slater) is apparently going to leave no stone unturned in her quest for the perfect shower for her daughter. In fact, when there’s a knock at the door, they think Eliza’s shown up early.
Nope, it’s J’onn come to let them know he’s received a cryptic distress call from M’gann (Sharon Leal) and is leaving for Mars that night. Alex and Kara are understandably not okay with J’onn going back alone, and both insist that Kara goes with him. It’s a touching moment of two adoptive daughters expressing love and support for their adoptive Space Dad, and not letting him face his demons alone. J’onn finally relents and he and Kara head to Mars in a snazzy retro car/spaceship that can apparently shapeshift just as well as Martians can.
Head’s up for our queer readers, the b-plot for this episode has the potential to be incredibly triggering, so please be careful if you haven’t watched the episode yet, and while reading the rest of this review. We cut to Alex, Maggie, and Eliza having dinner together when Eliza asks Maggie why she’s never heard much about her family.
Maggie opens up, and we find out her being kicked out by her father was even harsher than what we learned back on Valentine’s Day. Not only did her father kick her out, but he also said Maggie had shamed him, packed two of her suitcases and dumped her on her aunt’s doorstep. She was 14. Our hearts.
Eliza, being a good and decent parent, affirms that the only shameful behavior in that scenario was Maggie’s father’s reaction. It’s a touching moment of validation and affirmation after a heart-wrenching story, and this is something Supergirl is really careful to use as contrast. Before bed, Alex sees that Maggie is still conflicted about her father (as many children of homophobic parents are) and suggests Maggie try to invite him to the wedding shower. Maggie does, and Oscar (Carlos Bernard) accepts. Oh boy.
Back on Mars, J’onn and Kara meet M’gann and the rest of the resistance fighters. The two most featured are the warrior Till’all (Dewshane Williams) and newest member, N’keyy (Louriza Tronco.)
We find out they called J’onn back because they raided a still operational prison (read concentration) camp and found a remaining prisoner. J’onn’s father.
David Harewood is masterful this episode, as is Floriana Lima. We’re a little Kara-lite, but that happens with ensemble shows. Besides, the last two had Benoist pulling a lot of heavy lifting. “Far From the Tree” gives Harewood and Lima a chance to show what they can do, and both actors deliver in spades.
J’onn is understandably overwhelmed, but we learned there’s more to the store. His father, M’yrnn (Carl Lumbly) was actually the high priest of the Green Martian’s religion. Apparently, not even the White Martians would dare to kill him. That or they wanted the legendary religious staff that turned out to be a real, deadly psychic weapon and not a myth.
M’rynn knows where the staff is, and now the White Martians are digging for it, and when they find it, they’re going to wipe out M’gann’s resistance. The problem is that M’rynn has been kept imprisoned and tortured for centuries, and he’s completely closed his mind to any kind of mental communication.
J’onn goes in and tries to reach him, but M’yrnn assumes it’s another White trick. He says the real J’onn would never be such a coward and run away and goes back to praying. At this point, Till’all is willing to invoke a rite that would let him try to force his way into M’rynn’s mind, potentially killing him, to find the staff’s location. M’gann orders him to stand down and implores J’onn to reach his father.
We get a lovely moment between J’onn and Kara, about what would happen if they could meet their parents after all this time. J’onn is shaken by his father’s words, but Kara reminds him that he spent centuries fighting to ensure what happened to his people never happens to anyone else.
So Maggie and Oscar. Let’s go ahead and focus on this, because painful with a side of agency, but feels. Maggie is there to greet her father (Carlos Bernard) as he steps off the bus. It’s just as awkward and stilted as you’d expect, but Maggie tells him she’s a damned good detective, and it’s because she remembered what he taught her as a kid. He seems both surprised and touched that she remembered all of that.
Oscar makes an attempt at the wedding shower, but for some reason, he seemed to have thought Alex was a man and not a woman (denial is a powerful drug, folks), and it is just as awkward and stilted as you imagine it would be. He eventually leaves. Maggie follows him and confronts him, only to have her father say she is spitting in his face.
He says when he was a kid he worked alongside racist white men who beat him regularly. He worked and worked to win their respect, and when he grew up, they elected him their sheriff. He screams that he endured that hatred for his children, so they would never have to endure that ugliness, and so they would belong. Maggie counters that she is accepted, that the world is different now.
Oscar counters that a wall is being built to keep them (Latinos) out, because to the white population, they’re “nothing but rapists and murderers.” He can’t accept Maggie’s homosexuality, because to him, it’s the only thing white people hate more than Mexicans.
Ultimately, Maggie meets him at the bus stop before he leaves, and gives him back a photo of herself as a child. She tells him she’s no longer the little girl waiting on the side of the road, desperate for her father to come back for her. She’s a grown woman, she’s good, and she’s surrounded by people who love her.
She thanks him for coming to her wedding shower and giving her that gift of being able to see that. She walks away, with the final word, rejecting her father’s words and inability to see beyond his own experiences, choosing herself, her new family, and her life in National City.
Okay, let’s finish this with J’onn. When his second attempt at reaching his father fails, Till’all knocks M’gann out to force the information out of M’rynn. Kara is able to knock him back and give them time to flee. They go to M’yrnn’s old home. Still unable to believe J’onn is real, M’yrnn is heartbroken to see his home and tells J’onn that the Whites have succeeded in breaking him. Kill him, but his last act of resistance will be to keep them from finding the staff.
Kara talks to M’yrnn, telling him that she is from Krypton, a dead planet, and a dead people. It’s enough to have M’yrnn listen to her, and she implores him to have just a little faith, and give J’onn a chance.
J’onn shows him his favorite memory, from when his daughters were alive, and M’yrnn left worship early to surprise J’onn for his son’s birthday. In this telepathic sharing, Kara gets caught up in the memory as well and gets to see J’onn’s daughters for the first time.
The memory is both loving and poignant, and absolutely gut-wrenching as a reminder of what the last two Green Martians have lost. But finally, finally, M’yrnn realizes that he has his son back, and they embrace. If the memory didn’t do you in, this will. Kara looks on, noticeably moved, as father and son are reunited. There’s not much time, however, as M’gann and her resistance find them. M’yrnn says it’s okay; he’ll take them to it.
We see the Whites gathered around the staff and chanting, and then we’re treated to a moment of absurdly funny levity in an otherwise heavy episode. Using J’onn’s ship, now converted back to looking like a retro car, Kara wheels in blaring Britney Spear’s “… Baby One More Time” as a distraction.
Kara, J’onn, and the resistance manage to defeat the Whites and reclaim the staff, saving their movement and giving them a chance to build a better world for Mars’ future.
Till’all insists that J’onn take the staff back to Earth. It’s too powerful for either side to have (since you know Kara was able to use it to literally vaporize the Whites like it was nothing) and insists that if they’re going to win their fight, they have to be better than their enemies.
Back on Earth, M’yrnn is looking wide-eyed at this new planet, and Kara and J’onn hug before she takes off. M’rynn and J’onn then go to J’onn’s new home.
It took me several drafts to even start to write this week’s analysis, because precious few things have ever hit as close to home as this. I almost gave up on it because it was so overwhelming to process, but I am determined to power through.
Regular readers may recall that I have talked before about how I was outed in high school like Maggie was. While I wasn’t kicked out over it, I had all of my belongings searched including notebooks and sketchbooks, and was put into therapy for it. Needless to say this sort of treatment had some really severe and longstanding psychological effects on me, and while I am on speaking terms with my parents, I wouldn’t call our relationship ‘close.’ Some bridges just can’t be mended.
I actually had to stop watching this episode at several points because I was so overwhelmed by how real it was, so consider this a warning if you think this content will be triggering to you. I still think it was brilliantly done, and I’m glad I was able to power through it via multiple sittings, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch.
I’ll admit I’m feeling a little smug for calling exactly the circumstances that would make Maggie call her family. However, this stark realism is a double-edged sword. Everything about this is eerily familiar, because either I’ve gone through it myself, or I’ve dated someone who has gone through something similar.
Remember last year when we said that television shows need queer consultants to do these stories right? This is what ‘right’ looks like. There is no way this wasn’t thoroughly researched and consulted, and the end result is something that is so good, it puts almost all other queer media I’ve seen in the past few years to shame.
One of the best things about Supergirl’s writing is that it pulls no punches for both the good and the bad. The contrast between Eliza and Maggie’s father is night and day, and both are heart wrenching to watch in how they interact with Maggie. Eliza seems almost overwhelmed with sympathy when Maggie tells her and Alex the details of when she got kicked out of her house, and it spills over onto the viewer. Maggie’s father screaming at her was so horrible I had to stop the scene a few times to get through it.
Now, if you think this doesn’t sound fun to watch, you’re right. It’s not fun, but that’s because it’s very very real. Look, I know some queer people prefer pure escapism in their media, but I am not one of those people. If a character doesn’t struggle with their queerness, I have a harder time relating to them, because so much of my identity is tied up with that struggle.
But I also believe these stories must be shown. We can have our utopias, but we cannot stop doing these realistic storylines as well. To do so would imply that these things just don’t happen anymore, and that is absolutely false. I am the same age as Maggie. I deserve representation just as much as those who are younger than I am, or who didn’t get outed. These stories matter.
Reconciliation isn’t always possible with family. Sometimes what they’ve done to you is unforgivable. Sometimes they never change. I’m glad that Maggie’s father didn’t come around in the end, because I really don’t think that would have felt authentic. A show doesn’t feel grounded if the heroes always win. Not that I don’t consider this closure to be a win, I absolutely do. But I’m glad that Maggie was able to stand up to her father. Maggie is an excellent role model and I’m going to miss her very much when she leaves the show.
One last note on Maggie and Alex: I want to give kudos to is that the show is not afraid of the word “lesbian” and uses it freely, in addition to “gay” for both of them. They use it for themselves and others use it for them. I know it’s a real low bar to set to ask for lesbians to be called lesbians, but I’m thankful that Supergirl took a running jump over that bar instead of tripping on it. Labels do matter, and ‘lesbian’ is one that shows are often hesitant to commit to. Good job Supergirl. You’re making us proud.
Alright, let’s close on a positive note. J’onn’s story of survival has been one of the show’s most powerful emotional anchors since season one, especially with David Harewood’s phenomenal acting. I was deeply worried that we wouldn’t be hearing from M’gann and her revolution this season, or that it wouldn’t be shown directly and we’d only hear about it in exposition. Thankfully, I was wrong. This episode is an absolute treat for fans of J’onn and M’gann, and for nerds like me who wanted to know more about the Martain lore and people.
I enjoyed the Cain and Abel type origin story for the White Martians, and I also liked the symbolism of M’gann’s rebellion refusing to keep the staff. To reject the mistakes of the past is a very hard thing to do, and these White Martians are making good on their word to do better. While nothing can bring the Green Martians back, it’s good to know that their legacy won’t be forgotten and that there is hope for a better Mars. One that learns from the mistakes of the past and makes a better world.
The contrast between Maggie and J’onn’s arcs in this episode really made both of these plots shine. I know I say this every week, but this really does feel like one of the strongest episodes of the show’s run. Something that Supergirl is remarkably good at is continuing to exceed your expectations week after week. I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table next Monday.
Elizabeth: I have a question; did Kara hook up her phone to the car’s stereo system to play that Britney Spears song, or did J’onn have the CD in the car already? Curious minds want to know.
Kori: Last season when we met M’gann, she was nothing like her comic counterpart. N’keyy, however, seems far closer to Miss Martian of comics canon, and I hope we get to see more of her this season along with the regularly marvelous Leal.
We get a nice look at Martian lore and history in this episode, including why Greens lived on the surface and Whites were banished underground. I love when this show world builds. It’s also a clever way to get them out of so much CGI work. It’s a Martian custom to take the shape of a guest, so now we know why all of M’gann’s resistance look human.
Trivia time! If M’rynn’s voice sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that. Carl Lumbly was the definitive J’onn Jonzz aka Martian Manhunter for the DC animated Justice League series and movies for years.
See you next Tuesday, everyone!