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Mon-El is Supergirl’s Kryptonite

Kylie

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Not Kara Danvers—the show.

Supergirl is something you hear mentioned a lot around here, and that’s because from the get-go, it has blown many of us away with its unbridled enthusiasm and positive takeaways. While there have been stumbles here and there, Kara’s optimism and staunch refusal to be infantilized, along with a rich cast of supporting characters each battling their own demons, more than earned its top spot on our “best of 2016” list.

It’s therefore with the utmost love and respect that we, Gretchen and Kylie (‘Grylie’ of course), have to discuss a problem with Supergirl’s second season. A major problem, in fact. One that is actively dragging the narrative down and undercutting the show’s otherwise feminist messaging. We’ll give you three guesses who we’re talking about (though you probably only need one). That’s right, this guy:

Meet Mon-El. He’s Kara’s season 2 love interest/recently-turned-boyfriend from the Kryptonian colony of Daxam, the Zeta Beta Tau of the (potentially) Andromeda galaxy. And to be clear, we weren’t opposed to the idea of him at the beginning. In fact, we saw a lot of exciting potential in another alien survivor with superpowers on the show, especially since it put Kara in the role she had always intended to fill with Clark, yet never got the opportunity.

Here’s the story of a man named Mon-El

Like his Kryptonian pod, Mon-El landed in Supergirl with a lot of hype, but without making a huge impact. (He was unconscious during the first two episodes of this season.) Kara almost immediately recognized both his planet of origin (Daxam) and that he was someone of prominence. The Hatfields and McCoys-esque planetary rivalry between Daxam and Krypton set Kara up to challenge her own prejudice.

As befits our girl of steel, once she got over her knee-jerk reaction, she urged Mon-El to use his superpowers to help people. But, for the first few episodes he appeared in, Mon-El wanted to party, lay low, and be generally lazy and privileged. He seemed poised for a ‘learn how to be a hero’ arc with Kara as his mentor, while serving as a potentially interesting foil for The Guardian, a human with no powers who had chosen to keep his own superheroing a secret rather than work as part of a team.

Mon-El’s hesitation made a certain amount of sense early on. He’s the prince of a privileged culture that still uses slaves. He probably hasn’t worked a ‘real job’ in his life, at least by Earth standards. Plus, laying low on a new planet with a foreign culture after realizing you suddenly have increased physical power isn’t a bad idea. He needed to get his feet under him. And depending on what kind of relationship he had with his parents (who are actively looking for him across the galaxy while he lies about being related to them), he may have wanted to keep a low profile. Fair enough.

He also comes from a culture with a lot of baggage, specifically baggage about male privilege and men’s relationship to women. In 2×05, he pawns his work off on Miss Tessmacher and, when confronted by Kara, claims he did so because: “She wanted to please me. On Daxam, when a woman wishes to please a man—”. Yikes. We’ve never been more grateful for Kara interrupting someone.

He also seems to believe altruism (and/or job satisfaction?) = selfishness based on how he responds to Kara’s desire to help people.

“Okay, I may have your powers but I don’t have this, this innate desire to go leaping into trouble. But that doesn’t make me a bad person, all right? You’re no saint, Kara Zor-El! You fly around, rescuing people like you’re just pure of heart. But that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless. And you’re no hero.”

Mon-El further projects his own desire to stay out of trouble and the limelight onto her. He encourages her not to be a hero or go ‘looking for trouble’ because he wants to stay ‘safe’ and not get involved. To him, his survival is no more than luck and merits no reflection or compassionate reflex. His privilege gave him a simplistic approach to life, and he prioritizes personal physical safety. Beyond that, he’s content to uphold the status quo, party on, and skip work whenever he feels like it.

And skip HR seminars.

This is a problematic head-space to live in, no question. He’s privileged, entitled, selfish, pleasure-oriented to the detriment of others, and interprets kindness and compassion as acts of self-centeredness. That’s a heck of a lot of societal baggage to unlearn, and it makes sense that he wasn’t ready to jump into being a superhero thirty seconds after he lands on Earth. We appreciate that this gave Kara a chance to face down the way she projected her urge to mentor onto him without taking his desires into account. She gets a chance to apologize and back off, like the respectful person she is. After this, the tone quickly shifted from mentorship to one of potential romance.

But before we dive into that, it’s worth taking a look at his arc as it’s been set up thus far. He’s a privileged white male from a toxic culture with a need to reform his toxic mindset. His arc is ‘douchebag becomes a decent guy’, to put it crassly. Which is…fine, we guess? It’s not a bad story to tell, even if pretty stale at this point. But this season already has an arc concerned with breaking the cycle of violence, overcoming an ingrained toxic environment, and shedding problematic cultural frameworks: M’gann.

If you count Lena’s arc pushing away from her family’s villainy to become her own hero, we actually have two. This is on top of Kara’s ongoing exploration of her own mixed Kryptonian heritage and Alex learning how to make space for herself within a much more positive, but still constrained, familial dynamic. The hints we’ve gotten of Maggie’s backstory seem to imply a similarly troubled family history. We could even include J’onn learning to forgive M’gann and let go of his (very understandable) hatred for his persecutors. Heck, the main plot of the season revolves around an organization that seeks to legalize and enact bigotry and violence against refugees. It’s safe to say that the ‘overcoming toxic ideas about others’ arc is well covered this season.

With that in mind, we feel compelled to ask exactly what Mon-El contributes to this narrative that is not otherwise dealt with by any of the other arcs that touch on this same topic. His own arc does specifically involve sexism and entitlement, but is that enough to justify his inclusion, especially when this aspect gets buried under his role as Kara’s love interest?

And it does get buried. Mon-El’s character development does not follow a linear trajectory once his role shifts from potential mentee to potential love interest. Prior to him canonically expressing romantic interest in Kara (which happens in 2×07), the most negative thing one could say about him was that he was a selfish douchebag, which honestly made sense due to Daxam’s toxic culture.

It’s only after he expresses interest in Kara that the most troubling aspects of his personality manifest: his protective paternalism and repeated failures to listen to or respect Kara’s agency. Episodes 9, 10, 13, and 14 all include at least one example of Kara giving Mon-El point-blank instructions that he just as pointedly ignores. Usually because he believes he knows better than her about what the best thing to do is.

We know.

Whether Supergirl intended his behavior to be read as a result of his upbringing is almost beside the point. Canonically, it’s because he likes her. It’s right there in black and white. He blames being an asshole on his feelings for her.

“I also wanted to say I’m sorry. For acting like an ass. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I have realized that you are my Kryptonite…I mean, my feelings for you. I’ve never felt like this about anyone in my life… I didn’t know that there were this many feelings to even be had. My emotions, I guess they made me kind of crazy.”

How does this explanation make his behavior any better? If anything, it’s worse because it reads as an attempt to romanticize a lack of basic respect for Kara as an individual.

Kara Who?

Speaking of Kara as an individual, there’s a reason why we’ve started off talking about Mon-El’s place in this arc instead of hers. As unhealthy as we find Mon-El’s behavior, he at least has a canonical reason for his interest in Kara. Although he questions her superheroing, he admires it too, and wants to be like her. Though the resulting narrative does look uncomfortably like he only wants to be a hero so he can get in her pants.

But while we’re not thrilled about that, it’s at least a reason that we know exists. Kara? We spent almost half an hour just trying to discern that she likes Mon-El, apart from Alex basically telling her she does.

Seriously. Kara evinces zero perceptible interest in Mon-El prior to 2×12. Kara rejects the very idea that he likes her when Eliza brings it up in 2×08. When he confesses his feelings for her in 2×10, she fails to deny his statement that she doesn’t feel the same way about him (not that she can get a word in edgewise with Mon-El talking at and over her). 2×11 opens with her admitting they’re not a good match and she would never date him.

Kara: And even if I did have time to date someone, I wouldn’t date someone like… Someone who is…

Mon-El: An intergalactic bartender?

Kara: Yes! No. It’s… Because it’s not your job. It’s… It’s the way you are.

“It’s the way you are.” This is what she spit out without thinking, too. How much clearer can Kara be that she’s not interested in him? She basically just said, “It’s not you, oh wait it is you.” So excuse us if we’re more than a little confused when Alex tells Kara, “maybe the reason that you made such big plans with me was so that you didn’t have to think about how you actually feel about him” at the end of this very same episode.

Where is Alex even getting this from? Maybe the reason Kara wanted to spend time with Alex for her ‘Earth Birthday’ is because this is a hugely important day for Kara that she’s always celebrated with her sister? You know, the canonical reason Kara gave Alex at the beginning of the episode.

And yet, this conversation is the basis for Kara’s ‘change of heart’, or ‘realization’ if you want to put it that way, about her supposed feelings for Mon-El. She’s been absolutely clear about her lack of romantic interest in Mon-El up to this point. And no, facial expressions don’t count, though to us Melissa Bonoist came across as consistently confused at best. Just look at how awkward Kara’s physicality is with Mon-El whenever he’s in her space:

 

Romance??

Alex’s assertion that Kara has feelings for Mon-El came completely out of the blue. Kara had only ever said she doesn’t like him that way. To go from “I don’t like you because of the way you are” (2×11) to “I thought you were thoughtless and selfish. And I kept writing you off, and you kept proving me wrong. And it just got me thinking. Maybe I can have it all.” (2×12) makes zero sense. First of all, we’d like to see the receipts for how Mon-El “kept proving me wrong”. From what we can tell, he hasn’t made consistent or lasting change since he first began exhibiting lack of respect for Kara due to his romantic interest.

Secondly, say we accept that somehow Kara is interested in Mon-El despite her never saying so until Alex throws that idea out there. Why does she like him? This is a genuine question we have, as it is nowhere stated in canon other than what Kara says to Mon-El about how he “proves her wrong.” Contrast this with the repeated explanations of and emphasis on her feelings for James Olsen last season.

The most likely possibility we came up with is that she’s attaching herself to Mon-El out of a fear of abandonment. Alex dropped the truth bomb on Kara in 2×02 that Clark abandoned her with the Danvers family, and she’s been resisting that truth ever since. The additional truth about her father’s experimentation with bio-weapons (2×08) only heightened her sense of isolation from her heritage and family.

Plus, Kara’s arc this season has been increasingly focused on her isolation from her friends. James has the Guardian and Winn, Winn has Lyra and the Guardian, Alex has Maggie, J’onn has M’gann. Visually, the frequent shots of Kara alone on screen juxtaposed with characters like Alex being comforted by others cannot be an accident.

But if this is the case, why do we not see this dealt with more specifically? Are we just supposed to assume her desire to date Mon-El stems from her fear of abandonment? Or from her trying to establish a connection with someone, though without any specific statement to that effect? And if so, why have Alex of all people be the one to tell Kara how she really feels? Alex’s relationship with Maggie makes up a significant part of Kara’s isolation arc. Alex has been spending most of the time with her new girlfriend, so where does this sudden insight into Kara’s unspoken interest in Mon-El come from? It almost felt like Alex just wanted that needy, single sister of hers off her hands. Or like she had read the script and knew Kara was going to date Mon-El.

Are we meant to see a misplaced attraction for Clark? This started off as kind of a joke between us, but the longer we thought about it, the more sense it began to make (this is how desperate we are for an explanation, guys). More than once, the narrative draws explicit parallels between Mon-El and Superman; even Mxyzptlk dresses himself up in a parody of Clark’s superman costume when he tries to prove himself a suitable hero partner to Kara. There’s no denying that Kara’s mentorship of Mon-El is the exact dynamic she never got to have with Clark, and that missed opportunity is something we’ve seen her struggle with before.

Also, Kara’s first instinct for a day job for Mon-El is as an intern at CatCo, complete with Clark Kent glasses and journalist outfit. So…does she secretly want to date her cousin? It’s weird to think about and definitely not what the writers intended, but at least it’s *some* kind of reason.

Let’s not do this.

But this wild train of thought brought up an actual issue in Mon-El’s arc: the conflation of hero-ready with boyfriend-ready. The narrative especially conflates Mon-El’s desire to be a superhero with his desire to be Kara’s boyfriend on his side. He only makes the decision to try and become a superhero after realizing he wants to date Kara, and specifically right after seeing her get tazed to protect humans. Because he needs to see her physically suffering to kickstart his hero arc. It’s two clicks away from manpain, really.

On Kara’s side, she perceives Mon-El as being a compatible boyfriend when he begins to progress in his desire to be a hero. It’s not a bad reason to want to date somebody, but not a overly compelling one either, especially given how limited that progress was. Actually, what was his progress? He finds a job that’s a better fit? He improves in their sparring sessions?

It’s particularly strange since at the same time Kara is training Mon-El to be a good boyfriend hero, James Olsen is toiling away in the background as The Guardian completely of his own volition. If all Kara wants is someone to partner with her in her superheroing, the boyfriend she had at the beginning of the season already fit that criteria. And she didn’t have to drag him along kicking and whining either. Granted, James is much squishier, being a human instead of a superpowered alien. Unlike Mon-El, James is physically vulnerable and could get hurt, and not just from the bad guys. Kara can punch a car without flinching; dating a human being would come with potential hazards for them if she got too…amorous.

Which is actually a point in Mon-El’s favor. She can fuck him without danger of hurting him. Unlike Adam or James, Kara need not worry about her powers injuring Mon-El because he’s almost as powerful as she is. We’d actually buy just this if that’s what we got on screen. Kara’s got physical needs. If all she wanted was a fuck buddy she didn’t need to worry about breaking, we’d support her. You get it girl.

But at the end of the day, that’s no more than a honeypot, albeit a reasonable one. After talking around in circles for almost two hours (or was it three?), we had to finally admit that as much as any of these might make some sense, none of these explanations made it onto our screen. And most required us to ignore multiple scenes that’d work against them.

The fact is, in between Kara telling Mon-El she doesn’t want to date him and her telling him she wants to make it work, only two things happen: 1) Alex tells her she likes Mon-El, and 2) Kara learns Mon-El has been drinking club soda lately.

As absurd as that sounds, the scene in 2×11 where she discusses club soda with M’gann is the only physical flash of potential interest from Kara in basically the whole season. She’s sitting at the bar when M’gann comes by and asks her what she wants to drink. Kara tells her she’ll drink what Mon-El is drinking, to which M’gann replies, “he’s been drinking exclusively club soda for the week.” Kara’s “Really?” reads as both surprise and, weirdly, interest. We say “weirdly” because why the heck would his drinking choices make any difference in how she feels about him?

Kylie’s totes profesh timeline to help you visualize the meaningful progression

We suppose it could be an attempt to address his frat boy culture and drinking issues. Club soda is the go-to for non-drinkers at a bar. But Mon-El’s drinking has never been a canonical reason for Kara’s lack of interest. She cites their cultural differences frequently, but never specifically calls him out for his drinking. So why would a change in that behavior specifically trigger a positive response from her? Is it just meant to be a sign that he’s shaping up in a more general sense? If so, Supergirl dropped the ball, since this hasn’t manifested in any other way for Mon-El. Not to mention he’s enjoying a margarita in 2×14 and was more than happy to provide a stressed Winn with a drink in 2×15 since, “Zakarian Ale always takes the edge off.”

Point being, it’s simply impossible to connect M’gann’s line to any sort of growth in Mon-El, even just related to his alcohol consumption. So does Kara really just want to date a dude who drinks club soda too? We suppose those wholesale prices can’t be beat.

Crack theory though it be, it makes more sense than Kara’s explanation that “Every time I put myself out there, it backfires” (2×11). Uh. Footage not found, Kara Danvers. As we recall, you did the breaking up with your two canonical love interests because you wanted to focus on your career and thought you’d be better as friends. Unless maybe it backfired when Adam and James ordered tonic, because she wanted to split a bottle.

We’ll stop.

Seriously though. We understand that relationships can make you feel vulnerable. Putting yourself out there can be hard if you’re afraid it won’t work out. But Kara has never actually given a relationship a chance to get further than first date and first kiss (until now). Her lived experience, as depicted on the show, does not merit the explanation that every relationship “backfires.”

All we’re left with at this point is that Kara likes Mon-El…because Alex tells her she does.

Us too, Kara.

Mon-El who?

It ought to be clear at this point that the writers seem to have invested far more energy into giving Mon-El a backstory to explain his general douchebaggery than they did in giving Kara a reason to even be interested in him. He was shoehorned into her arc to the point where there is no canonical explanation for her interest in him, because her agency didn’t matter as much as him learning how to be a decent human being. She’s became little more than a love interest in her own story.

We might mind this less (though only slightly) were it an actual adaptation of the source material. But Mon-El in the comics has nothing in common with the Mon-El on our screens. We don’t have time to go into details, but you can look it up yourself if you want to understand the various permutations of this character over the years. To be brief, Daxam in the comics is not a misogynistic, slave-holding race of frat boys and privileged partiers. They’re xenophobic and tend toward isolationism, sure, but that’s about it. Mon-El is not the heir to a sexist, toxic culture who learns how to be a decent guy and caring romantic partner in the comics. He’s basically just Superman 2.0.

In short, this is not an adaptation. Mon-El was a blank slate that the Supergirl writers did what they wanted to with, simply using a familiar name to establish him. (Even though the whole “El” thing kind of makes no sense in this context.) To be fair, it’s not the first time they’ve done this. But it does mean that there’s no justification for Mon-El’s arc this season, romantic or otherwise, other than “this is the story they wanted to tell.”

And we actually know they wanted to tell this story and tell it this way. In an interview with Chris Wood (who plays Mon-El) for Sci Fi Magazine’s April 2017 issue, Wood describes how the showrunners wanted Mon-El to have a hero’s journey, and “a good starting point for [Mon-El] is something that is the opposite of a full hero, which is a frat boy and selfish and self-centered.” The rest of the screen shots of the interview make it pretty clear that Mon-El’s arc from frat boy to hero was intentional from the beginning.

What’s more troubling are Wood’s comments regarding how the mentorship and romance aspects of the arc complicate the characters and give Kara “a lot to react to.” Troubling because Wood does not seem to realize how much Mon-El has not just taken up screen time in but taken over Kara’s arc. And ‘complicated’ might be true, but we have other choice words to describe what intertwining the mentorship and romance arcs has done to Kara’s story this season…

So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper

Just to recap here: We have a completely original character that has cannibalized screentime to the point where the series protagonist and titular character doesn’t have much of a discernible arc, and did so through a series of contrivances that have no possible Watsonian explanation outside of a shared Schweppes predilection. And yes, we have to point out that it’s a female lead getting the shaft in favor of this new male character. Though there are more women-led TV shows now than ever, we are not at a point where representation is good enough for this to be ignored.

As we said, we did see potential in Kara being able to fulfill the mentor role she was meant to with Kal-El. The chance to explore Mon-El’s shared trauma with Kara over the destruction of their planets could have been incredibly poignant for both characters, especially if explored alongside the unpacking of Mon-El’s toxic culture.

Further, M’gann’s storyline showed us how breaking through cultural conditioning and the cycle of violence can be incredibly moving and impactful. Given Daxam’s description, Mon-El pushing against his own culture would have inherently required a white male character to come to terms with his own privilege—a potentially powerful story in today’s cultural context. Honestly, the way Daxamites are portrayed is so over the top that Mon-El ran the risk of being a kind of misogynistic strawman for Kara to rip into, which could have easily felt too pandering or heavy-handed. It would have been understandable in Cat’s absence, who was rather famous for dismantling sexist ideas with her long speeches, but we can’t say we’re upset that didn’t happen.

Yet what did happen, as we said, was that the Supergirl writers decided to use Mon-El’s romantic interest in Kara as a catalyst to spur his growth. Similarly, Kara’s romantic interest in Mon-El at least somewhat fueled her desire to mold him into a superhero. The thing is (as Mr. Mxyzptlk of all people pointed out): this didn’t really happen. Instead, given Mon-El’s previous bad behavior, his newer displays of basic decency and minimal competence were framed as acceptable romantic behavior in a partner, and good enough for Kara.

Kara it’s fine! He’s perfectly adequate!

This is why we keep joking about club soda. Even if it was just showing Mon-El’s increased capacity for responsibility, all it really meant was that he managed not to get drunk on the job for a week. That’s it? That’s the bar he needs to clear?

The answer is “yes” because at its core, this is the “fixer-upper” trope. In some ways it should be the 101 example of the fixer-upper trope, unless we want to whip out Belle and Rumple from Once Upon a Time (though even with that, there’s so many scenes of Kara explicitly training Mon-El on how to behave that it might win out). While this does tie back to the show’s conflation of “ready-for-action superhero” and “ready-to-date”, it more closely relates into the uncomfortable gendered implication of Mon-El’s foregrounding over Kara in the first place.

The thing is, the fixer-upper trope is sexist, because it plays out in a specifically gendered way. Its employ forces women to take on a man who’s substandard in some way and put in the work to ensure he becomes a suitable romantic partner. It’s Spike and Buffy, or Marge and Homer. The only genderbent example we can think of is She’s All That, and the “fixing” Rachael Leigh Cook required was to look more fuckable by taking off a pair of glasses. So…kind of hard to call that a feminist masterpiece.

Relationships are work, sure. But this particular dynamic is quite evocative of the Nice Guy™ trope for a similar reason; there is a complete devaluement of a woman’s feelings and emotional needs, not to mention it leaves no space for her to have her own problems. When there’s a Nice Guy™, the woman is supposed to see his value because he’s, well, nice. That’s the bar, and it sets up the demonification of women who rejects any man that clears it.

The fixer-upper trope is similarly rooted in male entitlement to a woman’s affections, though in this case it’s even worse. The woman is required to suffer the man’s bad behavior until she can get him to understand, because the only thing that can motivate a man to change is romantic interest in a woman.

She’s literally dying right here…

There’s just…so many issues with this line of thought, not the least of which being the compulsory heterosexuality. It’s not constructive for men to feel that they’re incapable of reform, or growth, or the ability to strive to be better people without the help of women. It’s sure as hell not constructive for women to feel that they have to put up with bullshit to bring about that growth. In fact, that underlying mentality is what leads to a culture where women are more likely to stay in unhealthy or even abusive relationships. If the man errs, it’s the woman’s fault for not being better at fixing him, just like a cheating man means a wife who failed to satisfy him. A woman who leaves a fixer-upper is “giving up” on the man, when her love could “save” him.

Though we could write ten thousand words on the ways this line of thought pisses us off, nothing sums it up more than an amazingly on-point speech from The L Word—an often times amazingly off-point show, especially as it has aged.

“Oh, fuck off, Mark. It’s not my job to make you a better man and I don’t give a shit if I’ve made you a better man. It’s not a fucking woman’s job to be consumed and invaded and spat out so that some fucking man can evolve.”

Kylie shared this scene in which Jenny Schecter rips into her male roommate, who had violated her privacy and trust in a big way, with Gretchen the day after “Homecoming” aired. Apparently others made this connection to Mon-El as well, enough so that it resonated with over 13,000 people and counting. Because while we concede Mon-El needs fixing due to his cultural baggage, why is it Kara’s job to “fix” Mon-El and not, you know, his own? And why is this being so prioritized in the season’s narrative?

If this were simply in the context of Kara molding Mon-El into a superhero, that would be one thing, but again, the fact that he becomes her boyfriend adds layers to our discomfort. We were treated to multiple scenes of him not listening to her, or flat out undermining her, and yet she still makes the decision to enter into this relationship.

What’s worse is that Mon-El, though not the world’s greatest action hero, didn’t start ignoring what Kara was telling him until after he made it clear in a conversation with Winn and James that he wanted to pursue her romantically. Like we said, he already needed fixing given his inherent entitled approach to life as a Daxamite, but is this how they demonstrate romantic interest? With scene after scene of him refusing to listen to her, the woman he is supposed to care for?

Just as a refresher…

  • Kara tells Mon-El to buzz off; he pesters her instead (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to ‘keep his mouth shut’ when they meet up at Catco; he immediately starts talking in the elevator (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to go get the DEO for help; he follows her through the portal without contacting the DEO (2×09)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to protect the cops and let her tackle Livewire’s henchmen; he abandons the cops and they would have died if Guardian hadn’t shown up (2×10)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to let her handle Mxy; he challenges Mxy to a duel to the death instead (2×13)
  • Kara tells Mon-El not to tell the DEO they’re dating; he does after about three seconds (2×14)
  • Kara tells Mon-El to be give her dad the benefit of the doubt and get to know him; he instead makes rude remarks at the family dinner (2×14).
  • In response to ^, Kara demands that Mon-El stop and say something nice; he continues to confront and accuse Jeremiah (2×14).
  • Kara tells Mon-El he needs to learn that what she says matters; he goes to get advice from a male colleague instead of listening to her (2×14)

And okay, let’s say that yes, this is how Daxamites are conditioned to behave in a relationship. But it’s sure as hell not how Kara is. Fixer-upper tropes are terrible, but at least the problems are usually fixed or the issues are subsiding before the woman dates him! Instead, Kara is more or less plunked into this relationship where her needs are dismissed, which is the opposite of shocking since his actions prior to them dating fell into this pattern too. It’s also worth mentioning that she calls him an “arrogant dudebro” four seconds before she goes to kiss him for the first time. Well, first time where neither of them are on drugs. So she is aware of these issues, and seems to want to date him in spite of that.

This is one of our biggest struggles, as you could probably tell, while we searched for some explanation to explain Kara’s interest. At the end of the day, what is it that they’re going for here?

If the Supergirl writers truly believe Mon-El has grown as a result of all his time with Kara, they’re going about showing that growth in an incredibly unusual way. In “Homecoming” (2×14), the first episode where Kara and Mon-El operate as an official couple, Mon-El is more or less at his worst. Heck, he ignores her request for privacy so quickly that it’s framed as a joke in a jump-cut. It actually seems like it’s supposed to be endearing, just like when that gosh darn rascal followed Kara through the portal and jeopardized both their lives.

Given the number of times this happens, Kara willingly entering into a relationship with him is not the most comfortable thing in the world, especially since she realizes when he’s not respecting her and tends to yell at him for it. Her acknowledgement, and we guess dismissal, of his issues are often evocative of a battered girlfriend. We’re not saying that’s what this is. But what we are saying is that as women, each time we watch Mon-El promise to change and Kara forgive him, only for there to be zero lasting impact, it’s a dynamic we’ve seen before. And it’s a dynamic that lessens the impact of Kara standing up for herself each subsequent time, since she looks more and more like a fool for believing it and him.

This was never the case, so why did you think it could work?

This is just…bad. There’s no other word for it.

“Homecoming” is by far the worst offender of the season, especially since the narrative exonerates Mon-El in the end for his dismissal of Kara’s emotional needs. He was right about Jeremiah being compromised, and shame on everyone else, including a goddamn mind-reader, for not seeing it! Then, the final scene of that episode was supposed to demonstrate that Mon-El is a supportive boyfriend because of his willingness to listen to Kara. What’s weird is that this was framed as this huge, momentous thing that he was doing, to the point where it required his narration to confirm that yes, he is going to extend Kara this very basic sign of respect.

“Hey, today was a, a little, I just want to (*sighs*) I’m not I’m not gonna talk. Hmm. Why don’t you…Why don’t you tell me what you need? I’ll listen.”

She is sitting, sobbing on a couch. After her father betrayed her whole family and the DEO. This is not a difficult situation to parse out. Why the fuck did we need to hear him pontificate on how he’s willing to listen while she has to provide a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of comforting someone?

What do you think she needs right now? A fucking tailor??

We’re left simply dumbfounded. Were we supposed to find his line romantic? Coming right on the heels of a scene where Maggie instinctively supported Alex in the way she required with no hesitation? Especially given that despite Kara asserting her need for him to listen to her in very certain terms, he still had to seek out the advice of Winn because he felt he didn’t know what to do? All this scene showed us was that Mon-El needs to be hand-held and validated through the most basic attempts at emotional intimacy with his girlfriend. Wow, what a winner. Sign us up.

It’s been pointed out that in the most recent episode, he seems much more supportive of Kara, responding to her confusion regarding whether or not to post the article on Cadmus with a “do whatever you think is best.” It’s nice he supports her, but could he maybe, we don’t know, ask her what she’s feeling conflicted about? Talk her through her decision-making process? Be a sounding board for pros and cons? Yes, his penchant for undermining and questioning Kara’s decisions troubled us, and we do appreciate positive growth. But he’s swung so far in the other direction that he now just tries to pacify her, and is basically useless as a dialogue partner. In some ways, it’s almost patronizing. Besides, more than anything, it’s too little, too late.

The only feeling this is truly imparting on us is “why?” Why is Kara saddled with this guy? Why is she attracted to him at all? Why did there need to be a romantic component to this relationship in the first place? Why was James Olsen abruptly sidelined for this? Why has this relationship taken over Kara’s arc this season?

Dear Supergirl Writers

We have no answer to these questions, and it’s making justifying Mon-El within this season incredibly difficult. Frankly, Mon-El as a love interest is difficult to justify within this show. From what we we saw prior, it was not the type of program that would allow for these horrible implications about what kind of romantic behavior women should tolerate, or even expect.

Not to mention, Mon-El isn’t the main character here! We could keep going on about the fallacy of his hero’s arc and the horrid implications inherent, but at the end of the day, he is supposed to be a supporting character. So what the hell does his presence in Supergirl do for Kara? If this is about seeing her desire to mentor someone play out, why was the romantic component shoehorned in, and why aren’t we privy to how Kara feels about both him and her new role? Why couldn’t Kara have had this arc with James, given how he is willingly putting himself in danger, just like she wants Mon-El to do? Most importantly of all, why is Kara relegated to playing the babysitter of someone else’s mono-myth on her own damned show?

It’s frustrating to see this play out, it’s frustrating to see how it took the narrative off-track for a good number of episodes, and it’s frustrating to see Kara almost turned into a straw feminist that asserts her wants and expectations of Mon-El repeatedly, only for growth to be back-dialed so that she can run into the same exact issue again. Is the point that she’s supposed to learn a mediocre man really is good enough?

Kara, do you have a source for that?

At this point, we’re really struggling to see how there’s going to be any sort of positive takeaway from this. Oddly, our biggest glimmer of hope came at the end of the last episode, immediately after Kara was fired from her job.

Kara: Reporting is my calling. I help people.

Mon-El: You know who else does? Supergirl.

Kara: You know, it’s just, when I write, I don’t need a yellow sun. It’s just me. Supergirl is what I can do. Kara is who I am. I really loved that job.

Mon-El: Hey. You have so much to offer this world. So don’t let Snapper or anyone else tell you differently. Okay?

Kara: You know something? Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough.

This exchange did two things: firstly, it established that Mon-El is not very in-tune with who Kara is and what drives her—what makes her feel complete. Her struggle with identity was the beating heart of the first season, and certainly a focus at the start of this one between Clark’s appearance in National City to help her, and her decision to finally become a reporter. It’s entirely possible Mon-El was just being used to give Kara a reason to explicate this distinction to the audience, but it also could mean that the Supergirl writers are aware of the disconnect between the person Kara is and the person she’s currently chosen to be with.

We admit this is a stretch.

However, the second result of this exchange is something we cannot believe is unintentional. Kara musing that maybe being Supergirl and dating Mon-El is “enough” is meant to be challenged. It was said three seconds after she had just explained how fundamental being a reporter was to her sense of purpose, not to mention, we were treated to a scene last season where Cat tackles this exact mentality in Lucy Lane’s behavior.

Unless the entire writing staff sustained head injuries, we staunchly believe that Kara will find that her words do not ring true. Especially since Clark point blank told her that being Kara was as important as being Supergirl (2×01). She needs a human side as well as a superhero side. In a season that began with Kara professing, “Last year was all about figuring out how to be Supergirl, and now it’s time I figure out how to be Kara,” her blasé acceptance of the lack of a fulfilling career is ripe for deconstruction.

But where does that leave Mon-El and the fixer-upper trope? Well, if they’re setting up Kara to have a comeuppance about this scene, it’s possible that will play out on an even bigger level. That there is supposed to be a discomfort in watching Kara put up with so much from Mon-El over and over again, and perhaps this will be tied into her canonically established abandonment issues more explicitly than it has been thus far.

Yes, this doesn’t exactly address why the writers forced this incredibly contrived romance into being without adequate explanation or exploration from Kara’s perspective. Again, we couldn’t come up with a single reason as to why she would date this man that made sense with how everything unfolded. But it’d still be a hell of a lot better than if we’re supposed to seriously view this as an earnest, romantic love story.

Now that’s what we call romantic satisfaction!

Because sorry, it’s not. It is not the job of a woman to date a guy with a million red flags because she feels she can elicit change in his behavior, and it’s certainly not her job to stay to see that through when the guy continues to disappoint or fail to meet her own emotional needs. Men don’t need a woman’s love to grow or strive to become a better person; that’s offensive to men and oppressive to women. It’s for this reason that we feel the “fixer upper” trope needs to die. To see it played straight on Supergirl would be disappointing, to say the least.

But at the same time, this is Supergirl. This is the show that when it’s good, it’s *so damn good*. The show that has subverted a number of sexist tropes before, and no matter what we think of the follow-through so far, has given Kara the narrative space to ask to be respected and listened to by Mon-El. This is at least recognized as a need by the writers if nothing else. Mon-El has been a stumbling block, there’s no question. Any character that pulls a narrative off its track this much would be. The Supergirl writers can potentially be our heroes in the end, taking this opportunity to consciously tear down the idea that fixer-uppers are entitled to our time and efforts.

However, to do that, the writers need to realize there’s a problem. They need to see that on a show that was supposed to be about a woman becoming the hero while struggling with her sense of identity and place in the world, a man is now subbed into that role. A man with no basis in the comics, a man that the audience never asked for, and a man that is not nearly as “reformed” as they currently seem to think he is.

Mon-El is not a hero—he’s Supergirl‘s kryptonite. And the writers need to do something before he irreparably harms the show.


Images courtesy of the CW

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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Morty
Guest
Morty

This man’s complete and utter lack of distinguishing traits continues to unnerve me. But that’s probably the point, to make him a blank slate self-insert.

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Blandsome has never been a more appropriate moniker.

Morty
Guest
Morty

Yes, “tall, dark and blandsome” is good enough to steal and use somewhere. It’s a very apt description of a particular kind of character.

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

It’s one of those perfect descriptors that I’m kind of annoyed I haven’t had for years. There are so many characters it fits.

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

Wow. This. THIS. If I ever feel the compulsion to point out to people why I don’t like Mon-El for Kara, I’ll just redirect them to this excellently written work right here. (The amount of people who don’t find this dynamic problematic troubles me a lot).

I wonder if a girl can hope that maybe this is like Book 2 Mako-Korra where they break up in the end? maybe? hopefully?

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

I wrote a piece for my own website about how similar Mako is to Mon El a few weeks ago (based on a conversation Kylie and I had about it), and I keep hoping that’s what they’re setting up. The parallels are too strikingly similar to ignore, especially after Mon-El’s pacifying attitude this past episode.

Mon El Is Mako, and That’s Not a Great Thing for Kara

Thomas Hayes
Guest
Thomas Hayes

Damn Korra Season Two!

Good lord I can’t believe I’m there with another show again three years later. I thought LoK had completely derailed in the middle of that season, I didn’t think Book 1 was great but man Book 2 was so rough for the first half. Book 3 felt like a different show as soon as it began, I was so relieved.

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

So maybe I’m not grasping at straws that hopefully, they’re headed for the same trajectory? I mean, not that I think Mon-El being compared to Mako is a great thing for Mako either (Mako’s way better. If they’re going for selfish to selfless, Mako’s self-sacrifice at the end was done way better) but the parallels are indeed there and I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees them. (Mako: I guess you should what you think is right. I support whatever decision you make. –went through my head as I was watching the blog scene in the last episode.… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Mako also starts his trajectory in a very different place than Mon-El and experienced a level of deprivation and need that Mon-El, being the prince of a party-oriented culture did not. Mako’s fear of being insignificant and desire to protect makes much more sense given he was an orphan, lived on the street, and literally raised his younger brother. In that sense, Mako’s behavior, while still not excusable, is much more sympathetic. Funny you bring up that Mako quote to Korra, Kylie and I literally talked about it after we watched that episode and as we were writing about Mon-El… Read more »

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

I, too, am hoping that the writers are with it more than we realize, and that the troublesome Mon-El “romance” is only set up to fail as part of making a later, more healthy romance the true end goal. There is something that gives me more hope for this being the case. During the first two seasons of Flash, there was one little incorrect detail that just annoyed me to no end. It was fairly minor, and I don’t want to name it for possible spoiler purposes for those who plan on catch up on the series, but it annoyed… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

Looks like Mon-El and Kara are here to stay though. And I don’t really see them addressing the other issues here. If they make Lena evil I’m out.

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

well, out as in I’ll probably wait for the dvd release so I can pace myself watching. stop if I get annoyed or something.

Laís Ramos
Guest
Laís Ramos

Honestly, I didn’t think about the paralels between Makorra and Karamel ’till now…It makes sense, but only to a certain extent, because there are some differences that need to be emphasized I guess the main differences are a) Korra’s personality is more similar to the one Kara has in comic books, Superman: The Animated Series and both Justice League animated series, which means she is way more defiant and comfortable with her anger than TV!Kara is and therefore more prone to resist Mako’s attitude towards her and b) Mako’s paternalistic and patronizing attitude towards Korra comes from the fact that,… Read more »

Shhhh
Guest
Shhhh

This article is incredible, you’ve basically outlined every thought I’ve had about why the Mon-El character isn’t working. And, as you both have mentioned, the problem isn’t Mon-El, in and of himself, or the idea of Kara and Mon-El together – it’s that the show has done zero work to set up the relationship. It’s somehow even less than lazy. Personally, I’d be interested in watching Kara knowingly enter into a toxic relationship with Mon-El because she was afraid of forgetting Krypton. Really, I’d like the show to pick a reason (ANY reason) for their relationship, besides the fact that… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Kara entering into an unhealthy relationship to preserve her memories of Krypton could actually work in theory. Exploring her psychology that way, if done well, would have been a compelling story about grief, loss, and the sometimes unhealthy choices we make for ourselves when we fear losing important pieces of ourselves. It would play into her abandonment issues well, too. But you’re exactly right. They haven’t given us any reason other than that they’re both attractive people who occupy the same physical spaces. It looks worse and worse the longer it goes on. And we didn’t even dig into how… Read more »

Aydrian
Guest
Aydrian

This was a fascinating read. Fantastic work. Also, I feel like far too much of Mon-El’s attitude is excused by his upbringing by the fans who like him. Doing something out of ignorance is one thing, but doing something out of disregard is another. Doing something on Earth that’s unacceptable because it was right to do on Daxam and he didn’t know is ignorance. Outright ignoring Kara’s wishes, like not telling people they’re dating and disregarding her two seconds later, is disregard. His upbringing isn’t causing him to do that. Kara told him not to and he did it anyway.… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Exactly. Mon-El not listening to Kara once is ignorance. Twice could maybe be a mistake, or even three if I’m feeling generous with the writers. Four or more times that a character exhibits a specific type of behavior is a pattern/established character flaw, not upbringing or ignorance. Especially when Kara outright confronts him about it, explains why it is hurtful, and he admits he understands it is wrong and will change. I fail to comprehend how viewers can excuse behavior that the character himself understands is a problem and promises to change. And not just once, multiple times. He blatantly… Read more »

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Mon El chooses not to listen to Kara simply because he doesn’t respect her. He doesn’t respect her choices, her decisions, her feelings. Nothing. And with all the negative qualities she’s pointed out to him repeatedly, she doesn’t seem to respect him either. Also, I’m still really irritated about Kara being guilted into liking him. She said and quite emphatically that she didn’t feel the same way he felt about her and why to suddenly, and by suddenly I mean the end of the episode, she’s randomly got feelings for him just because her sister said so? That’s some of… Read more »

Bo
Member

Great stuff here. It feels to me like they should have picked between Mon El as a love interest and Mon El as someone Kara mentors the way she was meant to mentor Clark. Combining those two storylines was always inevitably going to lead to the way things are playing out now because you can’t do both without ruining both. Mon El’s reasons for avoiding the hero profession are exactly the reasons the relationship comes across so poorly. And if he doesn’t oppose being a hero, well, why does he need a mentor at al? Mixing them guarantees he ends… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Agreed, and I think they should have gone for mentorship and left Kara without a love interest this season if it wasn’t going to be James. Dropping James and then moving this direction looks terrible for the show, even if they didn’t intent it to. Kara finding out that her mentee had lied to her from the beginning after investing all of her emotional energy into training him to be a hero? That’s huge emotional payoff. Adding the romance angle only complicates the dynamics in an unwieldly way. We don’t need romance to make the pain of Mon-El’s lies hurt… Read more »

Bo
Member

Adding romance calls Mon El’s entire motivation into question, as you brought up. Especially now that they’re an established couple, because it does make Mon El look like he only “improved” in order to get Kara in bed. Whatever the intent, that’s the image the show projects.

And yeah, that’s without even discussing the racial implications of dropping James as a love interest and replacing him with this dude. No offense to the actor, because it has nothing to do with his ability as an actor.

Sarah Grace Zabel
Guest
Sarah Grace Zabel

Combining the mentor relationship with the romantic relationship also feels weird to me. There are dynamics in power and trust in a mentor/mentee relationship that are contrary to a the equality I would like to see in a romantic relationship. Of course, it seems to me that the mentorship waned as the romantic relationship waxed, so they aren’t engaging with that conflict. Almost like Mon-El was uncomfortable being in the lesser power position of being the mentee, and defensively tries to establish a romantic relationship (where he expects to be in the superior position). That Kara has different expectations for… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

The power dynamics would be different in a mentor/mentee relationship vs a romantic one for sure. Given the trajectory of the arc, one could come away with the implication that Mon-El’s discomfort with Kara’s position of relative authority made him uncomfortable, and he sought to establish a dynamic he was more comfortable with. I don’t think the writer’s intended it, but I can see that interpretation being possible with what we have on screen.

Sarah Grace Zabel
Guest
Sarah Grace Zabel

When Alex met Maggie in 2×03, I interpreted their first scene together as a Meet Cute, the first scene in a romantic arc, the same as I’d seen with opposite sex characters a million times. I was uncertain, however. I thought it was, and I wanted it to be, but I had been burned by disingenuous wlw relationship beats before (I’m thinking of The Librarians). I was surprised and delighted when the show followed up on the romantic relationship beat it established. Consequently, I believe that the creators’ use of the language of visual storytelling is purposeful. When we get… Read more »

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

It’s like this article pointing out that the reason Mon El even wants to be a superhero is to get into her pants. That’s his whole motivation and that’s been made abundantly clear by the writers who love to point out that his character wants nothing to do with anything that doesn’t personally benefit. For crying out loud, he said to Kara that she isn’t a superhero. It’s obvious there’s a lack of respect here on his part and it’s made even more glaringly so with every fight they have. You can’t have a feminist icon in this superhero only… Read more »

Catarina
Guest
Catarina

Oh wow. I’m so glad I’m not the only one thinking all of this. I stopped watching after the Mxy episode. And I was so shocked to see someone else think of Jenny from L Word.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Hey newsflash you are watching a SUPERHERO SHOW!! Mon-El is on a journey to become the hero from the comics

XanDany
Member
XanDany

THIS. Everything about this. I have tried to break down why Mon-El upsets me so much and I think you did a great job of doing that. I introduced my niece to season 1, but I am super uncomfortable having her watch season 2 because of the message Mon-El and his relationship with Kara sends- which makes me sad because I really want her to see the Sanvers stuff. I question WHY Mon-El was needed this season. Because frankly, he really wasn’t. They already added some great characters with M’gann and Maggie (after losing Lucy ad Cat) but for some… Read more »

Caro O'Blivion
Guest
Caro O'Blivion

This was everything that bothered me about Mon-Ew but never could put into words, thank you!

Felicity
Guest
Felicity

I am actually a huge fan of the couple, but you definitely brought up some interesting points that I hadn’t really thought of. I think they definitely need to show Mon-el growing outside of Kara’s influence and taking longer strides in being the selfless hero we know the writers are aiming for with his character. I suppose I may have got swept away by the chemistry the actors share and I do still believe the relationship has a lot of potential if the writers work out certain kinks in the story. His ignorance can only go on for so long… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

I hear what you’re saying, totally. Wrestling with and overcoming problematic cultural structures takes a lot of work and time. I tend to be less sympathetic with ignorance, especially in the relationship dynamic, mostly because Kara has been very clear about what she expects from Mon-El since before they started dating. He can only claim ignorance once. After she’s explained how his behavior was both hurtful and disrespectful and he’s acknowledged it both as a problem and one he wants to overcome, he can no longer claim ignorance. And they had precisely this interaction early on when he first began… Read more »

Stay Pressed
Guest
Stay Pressed

Do they have chemistry though? If we’re just being honest for a second… Do they?

BruisedEggo
Guest
BruisedEggo

I certainly don’t see it. It actually makes their kissing and amorous scenes kind of cringeworthy. I mean, I see them trying, but it just looks inherently awkward and never really has the spark that draws me in.

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

No. They have ZERO chemistry.

It’s even more painfully obvious when compared to how the camera seems to light up whenever Melissa and Katie McGrath are in a scene together.

Felicity
Guest
Felicity

Yes they do, unfortunately just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Yes Kara and Lena look good together as friends, but I and a lot of others don’t see their relationship as anything but platonic. You may disagree but if we’re honest, they don’t do anything for each other that a really good friend wouldn’t do and of course there are no romantic feelings to even build on.

S4S010
Guest
S4S010

If you look at your best friend the way Kara and Lena look at each other… Oh girl, have I got news for you.

(btw, Melissa was extremely close to her (soon to be ex) husband when he was on the show, but they didn’t have onscreen chemistry either. So it doesn’t matter how “close” they are irl, it simply doesn’t translate to their characters. The scene in which they have the best click is the one in which they go check out the place that ends up being a portal to shitsville, and that was some sibling levels of chemistry.)

BruisedEggo
Guest
BruisedEggo

I feel like the problem is that most people don’t know what onscreen chemistry really looks like. They claim so see it all the time in places where it’s truly nowhere to be found, like this pairing. Maybe chemistry is subjective, but honestly, if I recoil and grimace while watching romantic embraces in which I actually like both actors respectively who are engaging in them onscreen, it means there’s something that just doesn’t translate from script to screen and that something is actor chemistry.

S4S010
Guest
S4S010

I agree. Every person defending him (which is all they really do, they don’t give a flying f about Kara) usually ends up being a 14 year old girl who’s been fed this nonsense since she first got hold of a remote control. Girl meets boy, boy strangles girl, boy stops being violent, boy doesn’t wanna use his strength for good, boy discovers love and lust on earth are different from his home planet, wants to become a hero to get into girl’s pants, boy doesn’t listen to girl when she tries to help him become something she already is,… Read more »

Felicity
Guest
Felicity

You’re being completely reductive about the fans of the couple, but go ahead, whatever floats your boat. I’ll just be over here, not being resentful and bitter about a couple that I was determined to hate from the get go, which is what you clearly were. By disrespecting Kara’s choice, you are implying that she is somehow deficient which is of course typical, but you are debasing her character as a whole. Her happiness, her choice, are all in her control and as for your argument, maybe it would have a real shot if Kara was miserable with Mon-el, however… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

that’s probably the frustration (the generalizing fans stuff). I mean, I’m frustrated too with how they portray the relationship and I feel like bashing my head in sometimes (or theirs) when they don’t address these things properly. I’m not sure about onscreen chemistry since that can be subjective at times. A lot of people here might not see it (I see Kara light up more with Barry, honestly) but I might just see things differently. But I can point out things I didn’t like: how they broke up in the latest episode (and got back together). It should’ve been a… Read more »

Felicity
Guest
Felicity

But that’s the thing, you see that and I don’t, I most likely never will. The thought of their relationship would make no sense at this point and if you’re suggesting their ‘looks’ are anything but Lena’s complete reliance on Kara as the only person who doesn’t hate her, than it doesn’t really make sense. If anything that is neediness because she is desperate not to lose the only person she has, especially when she does not even have her own family behind her. She is rich, beautiful and powerful with a hint of darkness so I understand why you… Read more »

S4S010
Guest
S4S010

“If you’re recoiling at a couple, actually displaying a physical reaction, then all that suggests is that you are projecting your issues on to them, because I and a lot of others enjoy their interactions.”
Sure, I’m projecting my issues on them. Let’s leave it at that.
I don’t have any issues, but I’m definitely projecting them on Kara and tall dark and blandsome.

Jasmine Wallace
Guest
Jasmine Wallace

Can we just…. send this to all the writers? We need a way for them to see this

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Seriously. This and the part where they mention Melissa and Chris’s lack of onscreen chemistry should be pointed out to the writers.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

You are a freakin tool nobody is gonna listen to hypocritical manhaters like you. And Chemistry lmao its so natural with these 2

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Go somewhere and mature a little because no one here is going to stoop to your level to engage your juvenile attempts to grate on nerves.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Shut up hypocritical manhater wow you must hate all men especially Bond, Stark, star Lord ect.. and newsflash Mon-El is not even fully developed yet.

Lee Cox
Guest
Lee Cox

Misandrist much? And by the way, Mon-El DOES have a basis in the comics. Ever hear of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or of Superboy, which is where Mon-El was first introduced during the comics Silver Age? You might want to do a little research before going off on your next feminist diatribe.

Thomas Hayes
Guest
Thomas Hayes

This just in: Lee Cox didn’t read the article and is trying to waste everyone’s time.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Oh he read it alright and its full manhate. The one that wrote that article must really hate James Bond, Tony Stark, Star Lord ect.. another crazy person from the LGBT Community ruining another fandom with hypocritical manhate

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it’s been made extremely clear by CW and DC that the characters on the CW shows are entirely separate from the characters in the comics. There is NO GUARANTEE than Mon-El grows up to be anything of note. There is no guarantee of the LSH even existing at this point in the continuity of the CW shows. The article also goes to great pains to explain exactly WHY Mon-El’s character as portrayed on this tv show and his ongoing behavior is insulting and a problem; in no way does this article say or even imply,… Read more »

luvthejem
Guest
luvthejem

Yes to all of this. There are so many troubling things about the relationship, but perhaps the most troubling is the number of people who defend it. They excuse his behavior because of his culture. I’m sorry, but no. M’gann came from a culture of genocide, no one had to teach her it was wrong. She was a good enough person to know that on her own. Lena Luthor was raised in a house with violent xenophobes, but she’s a good person. No one had to teach her how to be better than that. She has put herself in direct… Read more »

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

more bull from a manhater. And newsflash Mon-El was a spoiled Prince on Daxam he is already evolving. He is on a journey to become the guy from the comics

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

This is a disgusting and ignorant response to an eloquent and accurate assessment of the goings on of this particularly problematic aspect of this show.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Accurate ??? Only in manhaters view. You must really hate heroes like Bond who is a womanizer and Tony Stark, Star Lord. And you are so blind you dont even get that Mon-El is on a journey to become the famous Mon-El from the comics

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

Actually, the CW has repeatedly made it clear the characters on the TV shows are distinct and separate from the comics characters. So there’s no guarantee that CW Mon-El is going to be anything significant.

And the article is indeed factually accurate and well-constructed. Gretchen and Kylie are both very good writers. Truth is truth, regardless of personal opinions.

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Hey, I can see you disagree with a lot of the comments being made about Mon-El, and with the piece. That’s totally fair! If you’d like to have a conversation about what you disagree with specifically, we’re more then comfortable with that here. We appreciate constructive disagreement.

I’d like to ask that you keep your comments constructive, and on point, though. We do not appreciate using loaded language to respond to people who are trying to engage in a productive dialogue.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Your whole article is toxic as hell. And there is so much wrong with it. Funny you dont hate on any woman. I wonder why

Lori
Guest
Lori

Oh, my gosh. This exactly. There’s a reason the writers of this article are fascinated with Mon-El’s sudden preference for club soda: It’s really the only time he’s ever seemed to have an epiphany. (ie. Maybe I’ve been drinking too much.) Every other life lesson he has supposedly learned has been spoon-fed to him with all the subtly of an ABC after-school special…and even then, he shows an incredible knack for unlearning those same lessons. How is such an individual supposed to be capable of being on a “hero’s journey?” One other thing that really bothered me? If someone came… Read more »

Jennawynn
Member
Jennawynn

Did the season 1 writers come with the show to the CW? Anyway, I’m glad someone else picked up on the “accepting Mon-El because she can’t fuck her cousin” feeling I’ve talked about myself. Wanting someone durable, (see breaking up with Cat’s son, being mad at James for being Guardian, the line about breaking boys’ noses when they kiss) but the only ones available are her Space Dad and cousin. lol Me? I fully support ace!Kara. Her disgust with finding both Winn and Mon-El doing the do at work? The fact that she can’t last more than one date with… Read more »

Gretchen Ellis
Guest

Right? It’s kind of a weird implication (Kara/Kal), but the show does draw visual parallels between the two, so it’s hard not to think that’s a part of it at some level.

I support ace!Kara, too! Even when I ship her with James or Lena (or Lucy, or Livewire…), I’ve typically headcanoned her as ace given precisely those situations you point out. It makes so much sense to me.

Star-Lord
Guest
Star-Lord

Hey hypocritical manhater. You are toxic and newsflash Mon-El isnt even fully developed yet. He is evolving into the Mon-El from the comics.

Michael
Guest
Michael

I don’t know why the writers thought giving Mon-El so much screentime would be a good idea. He came out of nowhere and is suddenly everywhere on the show. It certainly can’t be because of Chris Wood’s acting abilities because those are pretty mediocre. The only explanation that I can see is that Chris Wood seems to have a contract that guarantees him work on CW shows for several years. Containment was cancelled, TVD was ending so they tried to shove him into a new CW show. And when trying to write a character for him that was important for… Read more »

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

I think it has less to do with Chris Wood, who just so happened to get passed around the CW, and more to do with the writers’ erasure of anything in Kara’s life outside of him. As it is now, she’s unfairly and unjustly shunning her friends for wanting to save and help people, her sister is in a relationship that takes up whatever time she has outside of work and now she’s lost her job. Kara literally only has being Supergirl. It’s the isolation trope. Alienate her from everything save for one aspect of her personality and this relationship… Read more »

windleopard
Guest
windleopard

So basically they turned her into Bella from Twilight? I know, I know, it’s a cheap shot, but I can’t help but look at it that way.

Leah
Guest
Leah

I really appreciate this article! I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts about Mon-El, so it’s nice to see others who have the same opinion. I really wish they’d kept Mon-El as a mentee, as I feel like that storyline could’ve been really interesting – it never seemed to me like they fully finished that arc, either, and instead just kind of let it drop while they changed his focus to romance. I think what’s bugging me most about the show right now though is that Kara barely has any screentime with anyone but Mon-El. I can’t even consider… Read more »

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

“she’s fighting with James over him being Guardian (and not always making a lot of sense, either)” THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL!

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

“she’s fighting with James over him being Guardian (and not always making a lot of sense, either)” THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL! When she was yelling at him about being human and pointing out to James that he shouldn’t be The Guardian because he could get killed I felt like she basically invalidated all of the cops and firemen other people who constantly choose to be in the line of fire because they want to help people. She was pretty much saying that as a human, he’s not good enough to protect people and it irritated the daylights out of… Read more »

Leah
Guest
Leah

Yeah, I personally got confused by her wanting James to be safe but then after he said that he was going to be The Guardian whether she supported it or not she still refused to work with him. If he’s going to do it anyway why don’t you work with him! It gives him a better chance of staying alive if they’re working as a team, surely Kara would know that. I just don’t really understand the purpose of their fighting over this when it didn’t seem to result in anything in the end.

windleopard
Guest
windleopard

“When she was yelling at him about being human and pointing out to James that he shouldn’t be The Guardian because he could get killed I felt like she basically invalidated all of the cops and firemen other people who constantly choose to be in the line of fire because they want to help people.”

Not to mention her own sister who has no powers herself.

Hinkypunk
Guest
Hinkypunk

I’m so glad you wrote this article, it articulates everything that’s been bothering me about the character and the so-called romance between him and Kara. The writers using Alex as a mouthpiece to tell Kara “You like him, you just don’t know it” infuriated me! On a character level, how would Alex know about Kara’s so-called feelings for Mon-El if she’s been spending nearly all her time with Maggie? On a writing level, making one character flat out tell another how they feel is horrible, lazy writing. That’s not even touching the fact that they had Kara break up with… Read more »

That Which Dreams
Guest
That Which Dreams

What if Mon-El is controlling Kara’s mind? Subtly. That’s why she keeps going back on her tirades, and she immediately changed track to “Maybe being Supergirl and having you is enough.”

Mary Clark
Guest
Mary Clark

Such a BRILLIANT article. I hope the Supergirl Staff sees this because it has everything we’ve been complaining about and saying all season in such concise, smart and logical facts. WONDERFUL job!

Stay Pressed
Guest
Stay Pressed

Great article. Really enjoyed reading this, while not enjoying it at all cause it reminds me of all the shitty parts of the show.

Also really appreciate how this doesn’t bring up Melissa’s chemistry with Katie, cause a lot of people who do like Mon El tend to yell “YOU JUST DON’T LIKE HIM CAUSE YOU SHIP SUPERCORP!!!” at people who have very legit reasons to not like the guy.

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

This is a great point!

It’s ENTIRELY possible to dislike Mon-El and his behavior WITHOUT shipping Kara/Lena. His actions and disrespect toward Kara are harmful and denigrating without having to compare the Kara/Mon-El interactions with Kara/Lena, Kara/James or Kara/anyone-at-all.

I freely admit to being a Supercorp supporter. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But the lessons this show has been communicating with Mon-El are toxic all on their own, and Katie and Gretchen laid those bare very nicely in this article.

BruisedEggo
Guest
BruisedEggo

I don’t ship Supercorp and didn’t even know it was a thing coming into the fandom, but I hate that you can’t claim to dislike Kara/Mon El without someone trying to throw Supercorp into the pit of excuses why. I just don’t like the relationship, what it’s doing to Kara, the isolation aspect of it, what it’s doing to the overall show, and the fact that it’s taking so much away from what Supergirl is supposed to be about. I also don’t like how CW/Mon El is so front and center considering he’s only series regular and is billed lower… Read more »

JoPayne
Member
JoPayne

Yes, it seems very odd all around. The whole situation regarding Mon-El just doesn’t FEEL right. That’s another thing that makes me think he’s just going to be a feint of some sort.

BruisedEggo
Guest
BruisedEggo

Honestly, it just feels like they’re trying to replace James/Mehcad as the male lead and it’s very unsettling. Last season he was in every episode and now he’s lucky if he gets more than 30 seconds of time on screen. The show as a whole has been affected and not positively. I don’t get it.

Divide By Zero
Guest
Divide By Zero

The Article: This is a great analysis of Season 2 and Mon-El’s arc. I don’t have anything meaningful to add. I was very confused when this guy appeared in the pod. I wished it was Astra who somehow survived (got near the sun maybe?), but alas, it wasn’t her. Some of the comments: I’m a man. Misandry is a real issue in modern media. There are some ugly stories, which I’m not going to mention here. And yet it is laughable to think this article has ANYTHING at all to do with ‘man-hating’. There’s been plenty of toxic female characters… Read more »

trackback

[…] on Supergirl recently, small scenarios and interactions can quickly get lost in the shuffle. The dominance of one particular character especially has taken focus away from minor characters. One such character I […]

trackback

[…] the more modern adaptation of that is “behind every reformed fuckboy is a very tired woman.” No, it isn’t Kara’s job to fix that, and her breaking up with him was a staunch assertion of that fact. He got a humongous […]

Octavia
Guest
Octavia

Mon-el is so incredibly infuriating. I hate him I hate HIM. The writers of Supergirl did what I worried they would do when I first heard they were introducing Superman at the start of the season, but didnt do, and instead did it with someone who is misogyny personified. Mon-el has completely taken over Kara’s own show. And after last nights episode of The Flash? The way that episode played out? How Kara was ‘taught a lesson?’ Theres no way hes leaving now. Theres no way that Kara is ever going to be free of him. And it makes me… Read more »

trackback

[…] between Westallen (a long-standing, established, supportive relationship) and Kara/Mon-El (a relationship of only a few weeks that has been full of disrespect, miscommunication, and arguing) seemed forced. […]

MrsT440
Guest
MrsT440

I think the story of a good person falling in love with a charming but toxic personality is a fascinating story to tell. Think of Mon-El as an addict on step 2 – and Kara IS his step 2. You make an eloquent case that there’s no good reason for Kara to be attracted to him in return. Let me count the ways. 1. They’re both effectively orphans due to the same catastrophic event. I think that is a legitimate basis for friendship. 2. They have mutual memories of vacations on planet “Sedenach” [sp?] and the Bismuth mountains. Kara’s whole… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

Hey. I think what they’re getting at (well, this is how it was for me) is that there are a lot of things that Kara could like but its never explored by the show through Kara as to what she likes specifically in him as more than a friend. The list you had could be played just as platonically as you could romantically. And there’s never an explicit play that Kara likes those things in a romantic partner. And even if you accept those things as played romantically, she’s denied anything between them thrice. Between her saying that they weren’t… Read more »

MrsT440
Guest
MrsT440

I’m not saying a toxic relationship is a good thing. I don’t “value” it. I’m saying toxic personalities are interesting to watch. What’s more intriguing is when they’re evolving. Mon-El IS evolving. I agree with you – staying in a toxic relationship ONLY because you foolishly think you can fix someone stupid, and it is not a good message to send. But I really DON’T think that’s what is happening between Kara & Mon-El. I think she takes him back because she sees him evolving in ways that you don’t give him credit for. He starts to show an interest… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

There is a difference between becoming hero-ready and becoming date-ready. Mon-El wanting to become a hero does not mean boyfriend material.With regards to heroics, 2×06 would’ve probably been the turning point of his hero arc. But then they started making it romantic and that just messed up the messages. I mean, he already had issues from the start, like not doing proper work and taking advantage of Eve Tessmacher in 2×05 then devaluing Kara’s heroics in 2×06 and actually harming others for money. By the end of 2×06 I thought that was his turning point as a hero was. Then… Read more »

MrsT440
Guest
MrsT440

You know, I agree that it would be helpful for the show to do a more in-depth retrospective on how Kara & Mon-El have gotten to be the way they are. I also agree with your assessment that muddling the romance with the mentor/mentee relationship is causing problems for Kara & Mon-El. I think Kara understands this, and that is part of the reason why she has NOT been as demonstrative about her feelings as he has been, although she HAS been the one driving most of the turns this relationship has taken. This lack of opening up emotionally has… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

Being ignored and talked over and demeaned is not a good thing. Being a leader doesn’t mean ignoring people. Actually, part of being a good leader means learning how to listen. and huh? You think Kara wants a white knight or something? How is that empowering? Isn’t it about time the women finally get to be hero? Isn’t that what this show is about? Be your own hero? She doesn’t need saving, she needs someone who is an equal, a partner, someone who respects her, someone who supports her wholeheartedly. Whether or not Mon-El has a good reason (arguable) for… Read more »

MrsT440
Guest
MrsT440

I agree – ignoring people is no way to be a leader. In the Homecoming example, neither is strong-arming someone who is not practiced in the art of social lying into saying something nice about someone he doesn’t trust! You’re just asking for trouble. Mon-El tried to be as polite as he could without also being insincere. But then Alex & Kara pushed the issue…. So I see that situation a little differently than you do. I’ll concede, Mon-El could’ve handled that situation much better. Needing Winn’s feedback as a catalyst to finally instill in Mon-El the importance of listening… Read more »

Isabel
Guest
Isabel

Personally, I can only believe in his redemption/hero arc if Mon-El is allowed to explore his own reasons outside of Kara for being a hero. Like maybe making up for the slavery. Because even until the latest episode, his first go-to reaction is still running away. And his reasons for being a hero? Is still because of Kara. He still only cares about himself and Kara and he’s still coming off as only doing things because it’ll impress Kara or end with her approval. There needs to be a stop to the “doing good things because I’ll be rewarded with… Read more »

trackback

[…] have much to say about Mon-El. The romance still isn’t working for me, but it’s far from the sloppy, unmotivated mess that we’ve gotten most of the season. He’s finally evincing behavior that I can pinpoint as […]

Marysocontrary
Guest
Marysocontrary

Says a lot about what I’ve felt about the character. I’m not so sure that Mon-El will be around past the end of the season. We know that Queen Rhea is going to come back and she will do anything to get him back. There’s at least four ways this could go. 1. He dies and Queen Rhea stops her attack, if she isn’t also killed. 2. He agrees to go with her just so she will leave National City and Earth alone. 3. He gets lead poisoning by being shot while trying to protect/save someone and is sent to… Read more »

MrsT440
Guest
MrsT440

I tried to exit this conversation gracefully. I really did. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, your thesis is specious. Supergirl’s relationship with Mon-El is a straw man for the real problem with her as a role model for young women, and it started long before Season 2! Kara never has been, and never will be a good role model. Mon-El is just one small symptom of a much larger problem with her. She is a magnet for trouble. She is so eager to meet it head-on that she might as well have a death… Read more »

Sakura
Guest
Sakura

Excellent, well-thought-out and articulated piece! Thank you for voicing out what has left many of us so frustrated with this season. Supergirl was my favorite new show last season, but I had to take a break from season 2 because it was leaving me so frustrated and upset. I want to believe that the writers are being purposeful and that they have a clear idea of where they’re going with this, but it’s really hard. Thank you!

KaraIsNotIntoGirlsSorry
Guest
KaraIsNotIntoGirlsSorry

“facial expressions don’t count” -Um, YES, they do. This isn’t a book, it’s television. Dialogue comes second to everything you SEE on the screen. Many times, scenes work best when the actors have less to say and more to emote. You might not have been able to see Kara’s struggle in opening up to Mon El, but others did. She rejected him in the beginning, because, like she said herself, she is not great at being vulnerable; and that’s how he makes her feel. You might not like Mon El, and that’s okay; you’re not dating him. Kara is. And… Read more »

trackback

[…] March 14, Kylie and Gretchen of the Fandomentals stated Mon-El is Supergirl’s Kryptonite […]

Amber Sanchez
Guest
Amber Sanchez

Yes! This article expresses perfectly how I feel. Thank you! I hope the writers listen. I almost stopped watching this season because of the Mon-El storyline. Hopefully, he stays gone next season and the writers give her a better romantic interest.

trackback

[…] enough to open up about his past (i.e., being a slaveholder). The same team for whom there were literally zero consequences for Mon-El being a slaveholder who lied about it so that his would-be girlfriend wouldn’t not […]

Analysis

Game of Thrones 2×04 Rewatch: Garden of Groans

Kylie

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Good fortune and tidings as we return to The Wars to Come! We can’t wait to dive into yet another chapter of our Game of Thrones rewatch series, seeking to explore the path that took the show from engaging and competent to…wormholing ravens and confusing trials. This week we’re in for a special treat: the only woman to ever grace this show’s writers’ room, Vanessa Taylor, is credited as penning “Garden of Bones.”

While Kylie, Julia, Danzie, and Griffin can’t wait to discuss what’s clearly going to be a jump in quality, we first need to go over the events for anyone who missed.

Episode Recap

Things are grim and grotesque in the riverlands! Robb earns himself a victory on the field against the Lannister forces, yet after the battle we see many injured. He helps a field-nurse from Volantis name Talisa amputate a man’s foot, and she points out to him that the smallfolk are the ones paying the price for his war.

Meanwhile, Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and their fellow travelers arrive at Harrenhal as prisoners, only to discover that the guards have been selecting one a day to die. They witness the torture of an unlucky man, who has a barrel containing a hungry rat strapped to his chest. He is asked questions about “the brotherhood,” but cannot answer any. The Lannister guards hold a torch to one end of the barrel, giving the rat only one place to go… Gendry is selected the next day for this grisly fate, but is saved just in the nick of time by Tywin Lannister’s arrival. He immediately chastises his guards for wasting good men, and once recognizing Arya as a girl, selects her to be his next cupbearer.

Down in King’s Landing, Joffrey is not behaving a whole lot better. First, he reacts to Robb’s military victory by ordering Sansa to be beaten by his kingsguard. Tyrion intervenes and put a stop to it, even giving Sansa a chance to ask out of her situation. However, she tells him she is loyal to her “love.” Bronn and Tyrion discuss Joffrey’s disgusting behavior, and Bronn suggests getting him some sex workers to work frustration out on. Tyrion does that, but Joffrey instead commands one of the sex workers—Ros—to brutalize the other as a message to Tyrion.

Tyrion receives another message from Lancel, who asks him to release Pycelle on Cersei’s behalf. However, Tyrion quickly turns the tables when he corners Lancel about being in a sexual relationship with Cersei. He promises not to tell anyone so long as Lancel reports to him on the queen’s comings and goings.

Other royalty is busy over in the Reach. Littlefinger arrives in Renly’s camp, but the self-fashioned king holds no love for him. Yet if the time should come when Renly reaches King’s Landing, Littlefinger makes it clear he’s willing to flip sides. He then meets Margaery Tyrell, who he attempts to grill on the details of her marriage to Renly. This queen doesn’t reveal much. Littlefinger finally gets to speak with Cat, who is furious with him. He does manage to present her with Ned’s bones, and slips in a lie about the Lannisters holding both Sansa and Arya.

Renly and Stannis treat with each other, and despite Cat trying to encourage them to get along as brothers, neither will step aside to acknowledge the other as king. Stannis tells Renly that he has one night to reconsider. Later, Stannis asks Davos to smuggle Melisandre for him. Turns out it’s so she can give birth to a shadow in the caves below Renly’s camp.

Finally in Essos, one of Dany’s bloodriders returns with a gift from the Elders of Qarth, called “The Thirteen.” Her party turns to head there, understanding that outside the walls are referred to as the “garden of bones” thanks to all the skeletons from those who had been turned away. She meets the Thirteen, and when she refuses to show them her dragons, nearly gets refused from the city herself. However one of the Thirteen, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, invokes “soumai,” vouching for her and taking legal responsibility for her party. The uncertain group head into the city.

What will greet them in Qarth? What is the shadow that Melisandre gave birth to? And is there gold hidden in the village? We’ll find out next week, but first…a discussion of what we saw.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: I had to triple check that this was written by Vanessa Taylor and not D&D. And yes, I know that it’s a writers’ room, and individual credit only goes so far, though I’d argue that with GoT, we can usually tell notable differences and the process comes across as more siloed than it does for other shows.

Still. The first half hour of this was easily as bad as Season 5, with a small exception that the words spoken in between the gay/fart jokes, the torture, the abuse of sex workers, and the gore were mostly shaped by George R.R. Martin’s prose. The best I can say is that the second half of the episode became moderately passable, albeit still lacking in the tension as discussed last week.

Julia: Yeah, this episode felt like it had all the worst aspects of GoT all shoved together, especially in the first half hour, and I came away with the feeling that I was just watching trash. A few ‘fros and bell bottoms and it could have been a 70s exploitation movie.

Even this rewatch write-up is so painful because I feel like I had nothing to say beyond, “god that sucked.” And explaining in detail why things are bad is kinda my thing!

Danzie: Lordy, what a pile of crap that was. I had blocked everything but the Stormland’s scenes from my memory. You really get the full GoT dumpster fire potpourri here, though. Juvenile humour, sexual violence, torture porn, disappearing and reappearing medieval patriarchy, hammy acting… the list goes on. It’s a handy little episode to use as evidence to back up the claim “Yes, this show really is that bad. No, I’m not overreacting, Shannon!”

I am going to use this gem to win so many arguments.

Griffin: All of this. It was gratuitous. Gratuitous and bad. I kept waiting for it all to end. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to say, or what was supposed to be appealing about this show after this.

Highlights/lowlights

Julia: Oh boy, oh boy. A highlight. The first thing that springs to mind is a little weird because it’s not usually me, but… I think I really liked Renly this episode? I’m a sucker for any time someone tells Littlefinger what a slimeball he is, and that ham line was genuinely clever and even a little funny. It’s painfully obvious how much more the writers like him compared to Stannis, but hey, maybe he’s not so bad?

As for a lowlight, um, everything else?

Griffin: I’d honestly have to go with the one singular moment that had me cracking up: cutting straight to the throne room with Joffrey aiming a crossbow down at Sansa. The framing of it was just so ridiculous and weird that it honestly looked like self-parody. The more they took it seriously in the scene, the funnier it got. What the hell was he going to do? Just start shooting people with a very slow to reload weapon and not expect to get gutted by, like, the third Kingsguard he cuts down?

As for lowlights, again, the crossbow. Really should have cut away from that “let’s mutilate some sex workers aren’t we trendy???” scene when he started screaming “harder”…and before he got the garden weasel looking thing out.

Kylie: My highlight was the burrito dress. I screamed and clapped. I wish I had a non-ironic highlight, but this is truly what warmed the cockles of my heart the most.

It’s so hard not to pick the Joffrey & sex workers scene as a lowlight, especially knowing what that “sets up” in Season 3. But there’s plenty to go around. The general levels of gore were really distressing for me, since I’m already not great with that. The Talisa cutting off a leg scene was one that I didn’t look at, but thank the gods her feminist candor was spoken clearly.

I don’t know—the protracted torture scene at Harrenhal? So glad we had a full five minutes of the guy we never met before getting eaten by a weasel. Do we think these Lannister folks are bad news, or something?

Julia: It was a rat, Kylie. God. Clearly all your criticisms are invalid now.

Danzie: One of my favorite chapters in the entire book series was (lucky for me) the only truly decent scene of the episode. Renly is at his best in the entire run of the show here. I’ve always said that I could watch Renly troll Stannis for hours and not get bored. It’s his social intelligence that I love about him. He understands exactly what it is that the masses love about him and hate about Stannis. I’d like to have seen the inclusion of the peach, and for him to have been unarmed, but other than that, yeah, this is peak Book!Renly.

However, my other Baratheon darling didn’t shine here like he does in the books, and that’s a shame. Loads of good personality things they lost out on here, like Stannis showing up to the parlay exactly on time and having to wait around for his self-centered little brother to finally feel like showing up. Also missing is Stannis promising Catelyn to try and reunite her with her daughters as soon as he is able. But most importantly what’s missing is Stannis’ guilt over killing his brother, an act that near mentally destroys him in the books. It’s minor stuff now, sure, but it’s things like this that go on to utterly destroy any chance at Stannis’ likability.

Lowlight: The shadow baby. Okay, I know there was loads of stuff that was worse in this episode, but I really feel like I need to point this out.


Davos rowing Mel ashore makes no goddamn sense under these circumstances.

The reason he does it in the books is because she is trying to kill Cortnay Penrose. However, because he’s inside Storm’s End (which has magical wards within its walls), Davos has to bring her in underneath the castle via his old smuggling run. It’s then that he puts two and two together about Renly’s death and she admits that Renly was much easier to kill because he was totally unprotected (from magic anyway) at his camp.

So why does she have to do this from shore? Why do we need to be in this tunnel? Where is this random tunnel? In fact, where even are we right now? The Reach? The Stormlands? Renly certainly isn’t in Storm’s End.

Julia: My random quibble: who were those 4 women following Sansa around and why do we never see them again?

Quality of writing

Kylie: I’m sorry, Vanessa, but the extended gay joke with a fart punchline is about as bad as it gets. Maybe I shouldn’t hyperfocus on it, but there was something about this episode that was so unrefined, that it comes across as utterly amateur.

Julia: Like I said in my initial reaction: it was just trashy this week. The “humor” was on par with the worst of seasons 5-7 and it revels in all the abuse and torture that’s going on.

Griffin: It kind of felt like an entirely different show to me. I mean, with the exception of that one episode Martin wrote, and to a lesser extent 2×01 (which was helped considerably by the fact that very little needed to be established, and they could just go) this show has never been written that well from my point of view. But still, this was a new level.

Danzie: There’s just not much that is salvagable here, and (all jokes aside) I’m someone that really tries to liberally give snaps to the stuff I like. In so many ways I think this was the first major warning sign of what was to come. I still prefer this to seasons 5-7, because at least at this point they still sort of care about telling a story, but damn. This is the first episode of this rewatch where I actually felt ashamed for liking this show once. It’s made me question my entire relationship with this show.

(This picture belongs in a museum, though.)

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Julia: Pass. Unless you count “everything sucks and aren’t we edgy.”

Griffin: How about, “Everything sucks and aren’t we edgy and also surprise feudal feminism!!!!”

Kylie: I love how those concepts seem like they shouldn’t go together at all, but they sort of represent the building blocks of this show.

Okay, I’m going to make an earnest attempt: everything comes with a cost. Talisa kind of delivers it to Robb in a neatly packaged thesis statement. Granted, this theme doesn’t really mean anything. The cost of Robb’s war was Sansa being brutalized, the cost of Tyrion sending sex workers to Joffrey were the sex workers being brutalized, the cost of the war in the riverlands were the brutalization of the prisoners…

Um. Typing that out, the theme was maybe just brutalization. And also the titular “garden of bones” didn’t really tie into this, because Dany didn’t get any sort of negative repercussions for violently threatening The Thirteen of ”Kwarth.” I guess the more central point of this episode is that…violence is a necessary part of this world? Which is more a feature, but damnit, Vanessa Taylor isn’t giving me much to work with.

Then we have the inserted ~feminism~ of Talisa, and I’m starting to suspect Ms. Taylor is not the world’s best sensitivity reader.

Julia: I think maybe the theme is “Damnit, Vanessa Taylor!”

Danzie: I want to somehow tie Renly’s line of “a man without friends is a man without power” to something. Robb makes a new friend in Talisa. Dany has trouble getting in to Qwarth (sic) because she doesn’t have a friend to vouch for her. Stannis’ power comes from his gal pal, Mel. Tyrion thinks Joffrey having some “adult friends” will help him chill out. LF wants to be friends with the cool kids, but they all tell him to fuck off.

The Garden of Bones is also a metaphor for friendship.

…okay, not really, but this episode broke me in a way I wasn’t expecting and quite honestly I’m just tired of trying.

Kylie: We are all bones in the garden now. The title fits!

Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)

Julia: The cracks are just the plaster coming off the wall in sheets in this episode. The scene with Joff and the two sex workers is as bad as anything in season 5, and that rat torture scene is as bad as Theon in season 3 so… congrats, you’ve reached peak GoT.

Kylie: Then there’s also the worldbuilding. We discussed the magically disappearing patriarchy (in so many terms) with the sexually liberated Margaery last week as a crack. Well, Talisa is the fucking Kool-Aid man busting through. Julia and I have joked so many times about the “unchaperoned field nurse sass-talking a king” that the phrase almost means nothing to me, but…yeah, it’s a fucking high-born (I think?) woman walking around alone on a battlefield, sass-talking a king. The patriarchy is truly destroyed here.

Of course, it will magically reappear when there needs to be a justification for violence against women, or random bullshit like making Lyanna Mormont’s stand against socks seem very Progressive™. In my mind, this hole in the wall is everything that becomes wrong with Game of Thrones, because it certainly connects to the brutalization Julia just mentioned too.

Julia: Just, like… let’s think about this character for half a second.

She’s from Volantis. (Show-only peeps have no idea what that is, but it’s a giant city in Essos that has slavery and thinks highly of itself.) For reasons of being so sassy and feminist and ahead of her time, she decides that slavery is bad and that healing people is good. Okay. So then she thinks her best plan is to go to this fairly barbaric and benighted part of the world and be a field nurse. Like, was she already a traveling healer type around the riverlands and just thought this war was an excellent opportunity for more service? Did she hear about the war and come running from Essos? Her mastery of the Common Tongue suggests she’s been chilling there a while. Where did she get her supplies of opium and silk bandages? Is that family money she’s using to buy them, or does she have a local benefactor? Where did she gain this medical expertise?

Why do I suspect this is more thought put into this character than the writers had?


Danzie: I like to think that it was all a mailing error. Talisa was supposed to be the sassy new resident doctor on a medical drama but the character pitches got mixed up and now Grey’s Anatomy has a mild-mannered girl from the westerlands.

Kylie: Another crack in the plaster is the torture porn, which only gets more and more drawn out as the series goes on. Edginess is a distant horizon they’re constantly chasing, I guess.

Remember adaptation?

Griffin: I remember Davos being a much, much more sympathetic and likeable character. Now he’s…just sort of there? I dunno, but he seems pretty one-note and flat to me so far. I’m pretty sure that Melisandre was supposed to be that in the books, so it works here (I guess?) but…that birthing scene. With the shadow.

I’ve seen some stupid things in my time, but I’ll admit that there was just no good way to shoot that. Seriously, I feel like that’s something that just was never going to translate well to the screen no matter what they did, since you can’t cut away from it or it doesn’t work. Maybe if they’d done the sequence more like a monster movie? That might work.

Kylie: The best I’ve ever seen a shadow of death translated was in the Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments. I think it was watching the literal squeezing out of the shadow that made it so odd. And it kinda gets a face next week…

Alright, I have to bring up Tough but Fair Grandpappy Tywin. Because he’s apparently so awesomely awesome and Fair that he will reward a random peasant girl for disguising herself as a boy. Yes, Tywin of the books wouldn’t have wasted working bodies on senseless torture. But the idea that he’d give a shit about any one of them, let alone enough to call Arya “smart” and select her as a personal cupbearer, is ridiculous.

Julia: I mean, it was really dumb of them to kill blacksmiths. Tough but Fair Grandpappy needs to be frugal; I would say why, but that would spoil the cleverest twist D&D ever pulled off.

It’s almost weird saying this, but so far they’ve done alright with Renly. And Stannis is still perfectly salvageable. Obviously the gay punchline stuff was horrible and out of place, but PLOT wise, it’s all pretty here? Like, Stannis has the best claim, legally speaking, but no one likes him. Renly’s claim is bull, but he’s popular. That’s minimally sufficient at least, which is more than we get in later seasons.

What do we think of the direction they’re going with Qwarth so far? It’s a change from the parade they threw her in the books.

Danzie: I dunno, but I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of whoever played the Spice King. He seemed to be the only actor who knew the ridiculousness of the show he was in. He was just having so much fun!

Julia: It’s a sense of awareness we won’t see on the screen until Ian McShane’s Ray in season 6.

Kylie: If I can seriously try to answer Julia’s question (though agreed about the Spice King), I think it’s part of D&D’s general misunderstanding that struggle is necessary in every facet of a journey to make any end triumph meaningful. Maybe this is thinking it through too much, but I’m just remembering the way the summarized Jon’s arc in Season 6 as, “well he began the season dead and now he’s king, so he’s doing well!” Keeping in mind they bend over backwards to aid Ramsay at every turn. It turns into “no one is nice to anyone anywhere,” and I honestly do think these are the beginning signs of it.

Or maybe they just didn’t want to spend money on a parade.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: Poor Cersei/Carol, she was only mentioned this week. Sending Lancel to Tyrion could have been a move by either of them. So, I say we skip this section for this week.

Julia: Joffery’s actions do suggest Cersei’s parenting, though.

Kylie: Sure, even if the more Carol comes out, the less that much tracks.

Danzie: Another question is was it Carol or Cersei who commanded the Lancel sexytime? I wanna say Cersei, because Carol, as we know, wouldn’t dare sleep around on Larry.

Julia: Yeah, but Larry’s in jail and she’s SAD.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Kylie: Jorah got to explain Qwarth and the Garden of Bones! He must have been so happy!

Griffin: Yeah, that was like, literally all he did in the episode. I remember saying something along the lines that his description of the Garden of Bones isn’t really different from any other city with walls and gates. If they only had graveyards surrounding a massive city, with no suburbs, okay, that would be pretty freaky and one hell of an image, but…nope. Just a desert. Why not make it a point to mention sandstorms? Maybe they kick out prisoners or beggars or something into the sandstorm when it goes so they can die in the desert.

I think the rest of it was mostly fine; nothing really stands out to me as particularly egregious, though everything with Littlefinger was kinda “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M DOING THINGS!!!!”. I don’t know if that’s just who he is in the show, or silly. Is it both?

Kylie: He overstates the case a ton on the show, and is also the official expositor, so it’s kind of hard to tell where the character ends and contrived writing begins. I think it read fairly organically considering some of his other scenes, and it helped that both Renly and Cat were not about to give him the time of day.

Julia: Speaking of overstating the case, Dany. God she likes to yell about all the people she’s going to kill. I wouldn’t blame anyone who wrote off this character as an annoying, entitled asshole.

Danzie: Yeah, she really does just yell and stomp her feet… which I guess Xaro found charming? Because it’s only after this that he decides to let her in.

Julia: Ah, arbitrary laws and oaths based on cutting your hand with a sword. I was wondering when the blatant Orientalism would show up.

How was the pacing?

Julia: I think it’s pretty safe to say there were a few scenes that dragged on too long.

Griffin: Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup.

Kylie: Griffin is understating his reaction to this, I might want to point out. He was next to me yelling, “Why is this still going on?” in at least three different spots.

To say something vaguely nice (?) the second half of the episode moved a lot better. Or at least, I wasn’t viscerally uncomfortable and mentally begging the scenes to end in my mind.

Danzie: The actual script on paper was way shorter than other episodes. A big chunk of what made up the screen time was just people being beaten or tortured.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Kylie: The sexworker scene was so horrible that I feel as if we’re not even willing to talk about it. Yes, Bronn suggesting Joffrey needs sex workers was in the books. Actually making us watch a scene of him ordering Ros to beat up her coworker while he sits and grins for as long as we did was just plain gross. We get it. We would have gotten it had the scene ended three minutes beforehand, too. We don’t need this insight for Joffrey, and it pushed into gratuitous somewhere around the belt smacking.

Danzie: The scene just flat out wasn’t needed. Joffrey is a monster, and as you said, we get it. We have tons of examples of it already. We don’t need a scene of Cruella de Vil drowning a cat to know she’s evil when literally all she does is try to kill puppies all movie long.

The only thing I can think of is that now we are supposed to feel even more terrified for Sansa? “Be worried that Joffrey will brutally rape Sansa, audience!” Good thing she eventually gets out of King’s Landing so she is safe from that sort of thing.

Oh wait.

Kylie: Thank you, I’m mad all over again. Great analogy though.

The other sex was the off-screen Lancel and Cersei sex that Tyrion calls out. Lancel is like, clearly being coerced, right?

Griffin: Yeah, that sexworker scene, as I mentioned above—what even was that garden weasel thing? Half of a candle stick? Very disturbing and way, way, way too long

I’m pretty sure Lancel is supposed to be…are we supposed to sympathize with him for being coerced? I’m not totally sure that we are since Tyrion makes a point to explicate that Lancel clearly didn’t hate shtupping his sister. Doesn’t make it better, but it’s kind of hard to see the merit of that sequence aside from Tyrion being by far the most entertaining character on the show. Maybe it was just a showcase…?

Julia: I’m mean, it’s not rape if you enjoy it. Especially if you’re a teenager and she’s a hot 30-something.

What is there to say? I think the last time we saw sex between two people who liked each other and both wanted to be there was Ned and Cat cuddling in episode 1. Renly and Loras too, I suppose.

Kylie: Hey now, the ship captain’s daughter seemed to be fine fucking Theon. And his view on it was clearly free of issues…

In memoriam: 2 homophobic Lannister guards, 5 Lannister Men for Every 1 of Ours, random prisoner, and Stafford Lannister

Julia: Does Stafford Lannister count? He died off screen and we never even met him. I’m still not done mourning for those 2 homophobic guards, though. What a loss to the art of comedy.

Kylie: The site that has this list put him down, so he counts! But in terms of who we saw die, I guess the tortured prisoner eaten by a weasel was the most…effective? Which again, we did not need to see all of. We knew they were dying from the first scene with that old lady.

Talisa has sassy words to say about 5 Lannister Men for Every 1 of Ours. Death is bad! The smallfolk are the ones paying! I mean, she’s not wrong, but I’m kind of remembering when Weiss tried to get all deep after Shireen’s death, saying audiences were hypocritical for caring so much about that moment, but being okay with Stannis killing people in “Blackwater.” There’s a dang narrative, Talisa!

Honestly though, most of my annoyance there is that they’ll float the plight of the smallfolk as an edgy, messed up feature of the world, but then not bother to give their point of view any consideration.

Danzie: Silly Kylie. Sex workers and smallfolk are only there to get tortured and killed. Getting their perspective wouldn’t be dramatically satisfying.

Julia: That random old lady earned her SAG scale, though.

Wow, this is shorter than usual. We really hated this episode.

Kylie: No argument from me. But what about everyone in the comments? Was it really, truly this horrible? And what the hell, Vanessa Taylor? Let us know your thoughts, and next week we’ll get the good ol’ boys back as the writers, continuing The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

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Analysis

Tragedy in Lady Knight

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Image courtesy of Random House

The dedication to Lady Knight reads “To the people of New York City, I always knew the great sacrifice and kindness my neighbors are capable of, but now the rest of the country knows, too.” It’s a somber beginning to a book about the tragedy of war. Obviously, it talks about the events of 9/11, and the book was published in 2002, barely a year afterwards. It’s the grimmest of Pierce’s books so far, but like the dedication, it also shows the most kindness.

Spoilers for Pierces previous work. Warnings for mentions of abuse and the murder of children.

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Analysis

Friendship in a Time of Blood and Ice Cream

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Edgar Wright’s Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, also known as the Cornetto trilogy, is a trio of movies that stand in a league of their own. Each movie is its own story and any of the three could stand on its own without the others. Yet they’re all linked by their craftsmanship, themes and, of course, Cornetto. They’re all top class comedies, while also being well-executed character-driven action movies. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End each focus on the friendship between their protagonist and deuteragonist (each time portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively). They delve into the deeps of friendship and the aspects, both negative and positive, that can exists in relationships.

It’s not you, it’s the Zombies

Before the zombie apocalypse, Shaun was living aimlessly, while Ed, his best friend, loafed around on his couch playing video games all day. Shaun had a serviceable job, a stable relationship with a girl he loves, good friends, and pub to go at the end of the day. He was hardly living a full life, but he was living. Sure, he had plans for the future—get a better job, commit more to his relationship, and get Ed off his couch—but he never acted on them. He made promises to his girlfriend that he’d do better, but had no follow through. When anyone pointed out that Ed was a hindrance to him, Shaun would always defend his friend.

Ed’s antipathy to development is even worse than Shaun’s. He doesn’t have many expectations for himself. Instead, he’s content to let Shaun defend him while he plays games and does a whole lot of nothing. Ed only helped keep Shaun stagnate.

It’s almost like a visual metaphor for something standing in-between their relationship.

Everything changed when they found zombies in their backyard. It takes the z-word to get Shaun to act on his plans. With the undead knocking at the doors, he firmly decides what’s important to him and sets out to protect it. He finds not only is he good with the follow through, he naturally assumes the leadership role, adjusting quickly on the fly to keep his friends and family safe when their lives are on the line. When disaster strikes, he makes decisions no one should ever have to make, zombie apocalypse or not.

And Ed, well, actually, Ed doesn’t change all that much. He’s more interested in getting to drive the cool car than he is about the zombies in the street. In the few minutes, Shaun takes to get his mom and stepdad he manages to crash the car. When they’re surrounded by a horde he nonchalantly takes a call (from a guy he occasionally sells drugs too).

Shaun’s willing to forgive and ignore Ed’s apathy until this moment. It takes the world ending and their lives at stake to Shaun to finally confront his friend. The apocalypse becomes the catalyst that pushes Shaun to making decisions. One of those decisions is letting go of a friendship that had been holding him back.

But it’s not all sad; Shaun gets the girl and still finds time to play games with Ed occasionally.

Nevermind Ed’s a zombie.

They’re not Bad Boys

Nicolas Angel is kind of cop who’s good at his job. Every part of his job, including the paperwork, but everything else in his life suffers. He breaks up with his girlfriend. The other officers are all too happy to get rid of him because he makes them look bad by comparison. The only constant in his life before moving to Sandford is his Japanese Peace Lily.

They even make the paperwork cool.

Danny, on the other hand, is the kind of cop who never had to be good at his job. He lived his whole life in a small village where the most work the cops had to do was deal with ‘accidents.’ His father is the inspector. Everything he learnt about his job was from action cop movies.

Friendship in Hot Fuzz goes in a different direction. Nicolas and Danny aren’t the lifelong friends Shaun and Ed were. In fact, a drunk Danny almost runs overs Nicolas when they first meet. Danny actually learns what it means to be a cop from Nicolas. Nicolas learns there’s more to life than the service and there’s more to service than enforcing every law. For Nicolas, Danny becomes the person he cares about more than the job.

By learning more about Sandford from Danny, Nicolas becomes more willing to let smaller infractions go when working to keep the greater peace. By the climax, he even enlists the help of some vandals he’d been suspicious of on his first night in the village. Danny, on the other hand, learns that being a cop isn’t about the big action shootouts, and even when the big action shootout happens, he and Nicolas fight their way out while only using non-lethal takedowns. In this view of friendship, each one makes each other a better cop and a better person.

The Crowning Glory of the End of the World

Gary King is the king in his mind and every king needs a court. For Gary, his court is made up of his friends or, to be more accurate, his enablers. Like so many, Gary found his adulthood paling in comparison to the glory of his youth and has been trying to regain that feeling. The height of his youth had been trying to conquer the Golden Mile, a twelve pub crawl with four of his best friends. They never finished the Mile, but that night still left a mark on Gary. For him, it never got better and that’s where the problems start.

He keeps searching for that same high in the substance he linked with the first: alcohol. Never finding it, he makes one last ditch attempt to regain his crown by reclaiming the Golden Mile and finishing what they’d started all those years ago. He rounds up his old friends, who have all grown up and progressed in their own ways. Among them is Andy Knightley, who used to be Gary’s right hand but has been sober since the very night Gary is trying to reclaim.

Amidst the discovery that their hometown has become a hub of alien activity, Andy learns just how deep Gary’s addiction goes. Of the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, Gary King is the most tragic protagonist. His addiction sends him on a dark spiral. Even as he tries to regain his youth with his friends, he keeps them at distance emotionally. He thinks he needs drinking buddies more than he needs true friends who will help him.

Gary’s inability to say no to a drink inevitably leads to the World’s End, both the name of a bar and the actual end of the world. But when he hits rock bottom and realizes Andy was willing to follow him there for his sake, that’s when he finds the strength to stop living in the past.

It’s another visual metaphor.

Be it the heartbreak of losing good friends, the surprise of finding friendship in the unlikeliest of persons or wanting to help a friend who’s not ready to help themselves, the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy portrays the complexities of platonic relationships. Best of all, it shows how they evolve as we grow and change.


Images courtesy of Universal Pictures. 

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