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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 jerk on his feelings for her.

“I also wanted to say I’m sorry. For acting like an *ss. 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 sleep with 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 sex 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 sexually appealing 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 bs 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, f*ck off, Mark. It’s not my job to make you a better man and I don’t give a sh*t if I’ve made you a better man. It’s not a f*cking woman’s job to be consumed and invaded and spat out so that some f*cking 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 an actual 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 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 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 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 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 […]

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[…] 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

Image Comics “DIE” is an Instant Dark Fantasy Masterpiece

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There are so many factors that have come into play when I first heard about Image comics newest release, DIE, that it is hard to pinpoint the real reason it intrigued me so heavily. Who am I kidding, it was all the reasons. Most importantly the staff on it.

For one, it features two of my favorite Image Comics alum. The first being Kieron Gillen, the mastermind that gave us the brilliant comic The Wicked And The Divine,which is one of the best ongoing comics at the moment. On the art work is the incredibly talented Stephanie Hans whose realistic and beautifully shaded and colored panels were also featured in The Wicked And The Divine‘s 1831 one shot as well across other comic distributors such as DC with Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. The two coming together again like in 1831 is a match that builds this comic up to be really something special.

Image, in the last few years has really been producing some special and important books in the past few years, among them being The Wicked and the Divine, some of the more acclaimed include Saga, Blackbird, Paper Girls,and Infidel, the company takes a proud departure from Superheroes that dominate the comic industry and opt for more fantasy or science fiction stories with adult and political themes.

Lastly, the plot was incredibly unique and original. When it was advertised as Jumanji meets It, I was instantly interested. While not being a player of table top games myself, I can certainly see the crowd this book is trying to reach while also showing the fun about these games with an added horror twist that is sure to be remembered after the first issue.

The story really does follow a similar timeline to the mentioned Stephen King novel since it follows a group of friends during two periods of their lives: as teenagers and as adults. As we are introduced to each member of the group, we notice nothing in particularly strange about their characters, other than a shared love for table top games and science fiction and fantasy themes. The group has gathered together to celebrate the birthday of their friend Dominic by playing an apparently hard to find game called Gormenghast.

We learn a little about each character based on their choice of created characters. Dominic himself creates a diplomat woman that’s apparently a cross between Cleopatra and Machiavelli, the Dictator. Matthew, a magical warrior of empathy, the Grief Knight. Angela, a cyber punk, Neo. Isabelle, an atheist with gods as pets, Godbinder. Chuck, a lazily created every-man. And Sol the dungeon master with D20 die.

As the game begins the comic cuts to two hours later as Sol’s mum comes to check on them and they have disappeared. Fast forward again and it’s two years later and the group suddenly appears on a random road nearly getting hit by a car. Angela is missing her arm and we can’t really make out what happened, they are now only known as the Stafford six a group of teenagers who went missing two years ago. Sol is the only one missing from the group.

The comic again goes in time to 25 years later where we get to see how this tragedy has affected the rest of their lives. Apparently they had all made a promise never to speak about what happened, not even to one another. Sol’s mother even after so many years pesters Dominic about the fate of her son, to which he avoids. Using brilliant dialogue we see just how dark this has made their lives. Dom seems not to keep in touch with all the others except his sister who has gone through a string of divorces. They have made the best of living with their memories but it is all destroyed when Dom receives a package at a bar, a bloodied D20 die.

It’s at this moment that he decides to reunite the group. After so much time, some have changed completely while others not at all…I’m looking at you Chuck. While some have new companions and some less. They decide as a group to finally discuss what happened that night and where they were for two years until the die calls out to them. The Grandmaster threatens the realm and a hero is needed it calls as they are all sucked into the die and land into a desert ruin. It’s apparent that they have all become their characters…why does Chuck look like Varric.

With the end of the issue the group bickers among themselves about being back in the game, something they’ve repressed for nearly half their lives until Sol appears as the new Grandmaster. What I took from his dialogue is that he was trapped by the previous one and during these long years he’s fought a war to survive or escape and eventually defeated him and became the Grandmaster himself. It’s not clear whether he’s sane or not at this point but it points to the latter as he tells his friends that they are not leaving until the game is over.

This first issue was great at establishing its main cast. While I kept most of those details out of this review, the book really fleshes them out individually and gives life to each of their personalities. Anyone who has read The Wicked and the Divine will know just how well Gillen handles diversity among characters as well as conflicting attitudes. They actually feel like a group of friends you might have been a part of in high school. I really loved this book and I can’t wait to see what adventures await us.


Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Analysis

Conclusion to Stumbling Beginnings in Summer Knight

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It had to happen sometime. I talked last book about how much Butcher had improved on his shaky start. Published in 2002, Summer Knight brings the shaky opening to a conclusion. It also opens up a new phase of storytelling for the series as a whole. In case you couldn’t tell, I really like this book. It brings so much to the series, and features one of the more iconic moments of the series for Murphy. Let’s get into it.

Spoilers for Summer Knight and all previous books in the series.

So, What Happened?

Summer Knight opens with Harry and Billy investigating a rain of toads. Harry grumps around and alienates all his friends because of his grief over Susan. Afterwards, he goes to a meeting Billy orchestrated, which turns out to be with Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae. She bought his debt from the Leanansidhe, and wants him to clear her name for a murder. Harry refuses and goes to the White Council meeting. We meet several other wizards, and a vampire offers peace between the White Council and Red Court if they turn over Harry. At the conclusion of the meeting, the wizards agree not to sacrifice Harry if he makes Mab cooperate with the Wizards.

Harry discovers that the murdered man, Ronald Reuel, was the Summer Knight, the human intermediary for the Summer Court. The power he wielded disappeared, destroying the balance. Which, eventually, leads to war between the Courts. Elaine, shows up as the Summer Emissary. Harry attends Reuels funeral, and runs into several teenage, changeling acquaintances of the knight who are concerned over the disappearance of Lily. He visits the Winter Lady, then contacts Murphy. They fight several monsters in a Wal-Mart. He goes to the Summer Lady after finding Elaine beaten by his car.

Harry visits the Summer and Winter Mothers in the Nevernever. The Winter Mother gives him an Unraveling. Aurora, the Summer Lady steals it from him and reveals she orchestrated everything to remake the seasons in her own image. She trapped the power inside Lily. Harry objects to this. Harry, the Alphas, and two of the teenage changelings go to the Stone Table. They interrupt the fight between seasons, steal back the Unraveling, and kill Aurora, saving Lily, the one holding the mantle. In the conclusion, Lily becomes the new Summer Lady.

Best Moment – The Wal-Mart Fight, Organization to Conclusion

There are so many good things about this scene. There’s finally communication, Murphy’s first moment of awesome, and plot hooks perfectly combined with character catharsis. Over the course of this unlikely placed scene, Butcher manages to bring several elements of the early series to a conclusion.

The first, of course, is that Harry finally tells Murphy everything about the supernatural. She even gets in one last one-liner about being kept out, a start to their banter for the rest of the series. “‘I know I’ve kept things from you.’ … ‘Yeah’, she said, ‘I know. It’s annoying as hell.’”(299). He tells her everything. About the Red Court, the White Council, the Fae, and Chicago Supernatural Politics. Now, we won’t have the cheap conflict from Storm Front where they work at cross-purposes again.

Immediately afterwards, we have the fight with the chlorofiend, the Tigress, and the mind fog. At the conclusion of that fight, we also have Murphy’s first major impact since the Loup-Garou. “Murphy tore through them with the chain saw, … then drove the blade directly between the chlorofiend’s glowing green eyes.” (345). Chainsaw with cold iron, vs Fae Creature. Murphy wins.

The way that the plot interacts shows improvement from the previous book. There, Butcher attempted to tie together the antagonists with the chain spells. Here, we see the ghoul, the summoned monster, and the mind fog from two different people. The Tigress also capitalizes on Murphy’s trauma from the previous book. But everything makes sense, and the conclusion of the fight ties together various plot threads, since Ace sent the Tigress, Aurora the fog and fiend, and Murphy starts to recover from Kravos’s attack.

Most Improved – Harry’s Attitude

While some of the previous books focused more on the change to other people, here we have Harry change. He has a character arc that comes to a satisfying conclusion by the end. Harry starts the book depressed over Susan, and he alienates everyone. Billy points it out. “I don’t need to be a wizard to see when someone’s in a downward spiral. You’re hurting. You need help.” (25). Given that Billy previously espoused the theme of the series, his reintroduction here is significant. Eventually, Harry accepts the help Billy offers, both in scheduling meetings, and with the fight at the end. After the fight, Harry even goes over to hang out with the Alphas, and plays a barbarian in a Dungeons & Dragons spin-off game. He quotes William Shakespeare jokingly, and says, “Meep, Meep” to a deranged Faerie Queen. (489).

It is not only the Alphas that help change Harry’s mood. His reunion with Eileen, his teenage flame, who he thought he killed alongside Justin also helps. Finding out he didn’t kill her brings him closure. But through the book, when she nominally serves as an opponent, the Summer Emissary to his Winter, her presence reassures him. Even when she ‘betrays’ him to Aurora, and binds him, she still helps him. “I’d been right. It was the same binding she’d used when we were kids.” (433). Her meddling enables him to escape Aurora’s death trap, by using their childhood bond.

At the conclusion of the book, she gives him advice regarding Susan that builds to the catharsis detailed above. “Stop thinking about how bad you feel—because if she cares about you at all, it would tear her up to see you like I saw you a few days ago.” (510). That help sends him in a new direction.

Best Worldbuilding – The Fae Courts

While the information on the White Council is delightful, the Fae Court proves more valuable to the main plot. And we learn a lot about the Courts here. Lea makes an appearance, where she ‘helps’ Harry by distracting him and a Fae from fighting and guiding him to the Stone Table. She mentions again how she believes her actions last book only helped him as well. It gives insight to the alien nature of Fae morals.

We also can draw conclusions about the structure of the Courts given all the information on how they organize themselves. Through the book, we learn about the Winter and Summer Courts, each with three Queens. The Mothers, the retired queens. The Queens, the current ruler. And the Ladies, the heir for the future. Their Knights that do their will in the mortal world, and the Emissaries chosen on special occasions.

Also informative is the phrase, “If Winter came here, Summer had to come too, didn’t it?” (219). It implies certain checks and balances on each other’s behavior. That only highlights how serious a problem it is that the Summer Knight is dead, and the mantle gone. Lea’s information about the Stone Table reinforces that. Beyond being a reference to Narnia, it also guarantees great power to whoever holds the table, and whoever sheds blood on it. So, the peaceful transfer of the table from Summer to Winter and back with the seasons preserves their equality. Aurora’s plan only serves to show how important it is to keep that balance, less there be another Ice Age, or worse.

In showing us all this, Butcher expands his universe so much further, and sets the ‘table’ for future stories. Ones that will lead to the eventual conclusion of the series, yet to come.

Worst Worldbuilding – The Conclusion of Meryl’s Story

Given all that we know now about the Fae, it comes as no surprise that the worst worldbuilding also comes from that section of the story. Butcher’s take on Changelings is innovative, being half-human, half-Fae rather than the traditional version. The problems arise from how the narrative treats her, and the results of her half-Fae heritage.

The problem with Meryl is that Meryl dies at the end of the story. She is the first person explicitly allied with Harry to die. The only previous person that was not an antagonist that died was MacFinn, and he attempted to murder them all because of an uncontrollable curse. Meryl dying in and of itself is not the entire problem. Butcher directs the series in a darker direction, so deaths will come eventually. The issue that I have with the conclusion of Meryl’s story is that Butcher could have done so many things with her. As a Changeling aligned with Winter, dearest friend of the new Summer Lady and Knight, the possibility of an inter-Fae alliance or Court would develop.

She even said, “[Winter] Calls,’ Meryl said. ‘ But I’m not answering.’” (459). The Changelings provide a glimpse of the Fae outside of the manipulation, outside of Court politics. Meryl could have been symbolic of that. But no. Meryl Chooses to save Lily. She Chooses and she dies and all that hope with her. It’s a story brought too soon to a conclusion, one that broke off threads that could have continued.

Moment of Regression – Ye Old Wandering Eyes

I will admit, this is a sticking point for me. I talked about my dislike of Harry’s voyeurism in Storm Front. I brought it up again in Fool Moon. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too often in the following books, but here we see this again with a vengeance. And it doesn’t even make sense in character this time.

After a Susan-vampire nightmare, Harry thinks.

“But I had been used to a certain amount of friendly tension relieving with Susan. Her absence had killed that for me, completely—except for rare moments during the damned dreams when my hormones came raging back up to the front of my thoughts again as though making up for lost time.” (176).

So, theoretically at least Harry’s libido takes a break. I understand that part of this nightmare and Harry’s symptoms comes from the dangerous way he’s punishing himself for Susan’s condition. But, still. Even before this dream we have moments where he stares at Mab’s ass. He knows she’s the Winter Queen, and he still ogles her when she leaves. At Maeve’s court, Butcher spends a good deal of time describing Jenny Greenteeth, a Fae seductress. He could have emphasized the alien way she moves, the details that make her decidedly not human, and dropped a one-liner about her being naked at the end. It would have been in character for Harry’s blasé kind of humor. Instead, Butcher flips that script, focusing on the nakedness, with the inhumanity coming as an aside.

Call it my own personal soapbox, if you will, but that doesn’t sit well with me, especially when the last book did so much better with Harry’s gaze. (Not perfect, of course, but better. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to keep improving.)

In Conclusion

Overall, Summer Knight showcases the best of Butcher’s work so far. While the choices were somewhat limited compared to last book, the plot hangs together much better. That cohesive plot lent its voice to each category, and the worst moments were nitpicks and could-have-beens.

The way that Butcher brought this story arc, and Harry’s character arc to a conclusion proved satisfying. His mastery of plot improved, with the motivations of the antagonists and the number being reasonable, instead of overwhelming. The knowledge about the Fae, about the Council, and about Elaine all help set up this next phase of the series. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Am I being too nit-picky in the ‘bad’ categories, or is it just proof of concept that the problems can be reduced to nitpicks? Was the White Council more fascinating than the Fae, or was Harry’s arc disjointed? Let me know if I’m being too harsh on the series, if you had a different idea for a category, or if you have any comments about the arc of the series as a whole. I look forward to hearing from you.


 

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Analysis

Game of Thrones 3×10 Rewatch: Mediocre

Kylie

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We’ve done it! We’ve made it through three seasons of Game of Thrones here with our rewatch project The Wars to Come. And with that, we’ve also made it through the most bearable parts of this series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D). While last week brought some mixed reviews, it seems that this week, Kylie, Julia, and Katie are leaning more towards jeers and boos in “Myhsa.”

Episode Recap

Picking up from last week’s morbid end, it’s a slaughter outside the Twins as the Frey troops finish off Robb’s forces. Arya, escaping with Sandor, oversees her brother’s body being paraded about—now with Grey Wind’s head on his shoulders. The next morning, Walder Frey chats with Roose Bolton about their improved stations, now that Roose has become the Warden of the North. Roose reveals that his bastard Ramsay was the one who got the Ironborn to surrender Winterfell, and the one keeping Theon hostage now. Arya and the Hound, meanwhile, pass a group of Frey soldiers who brag about aiding in sewing Grey Wind’s head onto Robb’s body. Arya slips off Sandor’s horse and kills one of them, with Sandor killing the other two to protect her.

We check in with Theon and Ramsay, the latter of whom is still torturing the former. Theon asks to be killed, but Ramsay points out he’s not useful to him that way. He decides that Theon’s new name is ‘Reek’.

At some point, Ramsay had sent a box containing Theon’s castrated penis to the Iron Islands, with a letter telling the Ironborn to withdraw from the North. Balon and Yara receive it, and though Balon seems completely indifferent to Theon’s suffering, Yara decides that she will take her best fighters and rescue her brother.

Despite the massacre at The Twins, things seem rather peaceful in King’s Landing for a moment as Sansa jokes around with Tyrion about ways they can prank those who speak poorly of him. However, that is soon dashed when he attends a Small Council meeting where it’s revealed what happened to the Stark forces. Joffrey is gleeful and says he wants to show the corpse of Robb to Sansa, but Tyrion tells him he can’t torment her any more. This leads to an unpleasant confrontation, which Tywin puts an end to by sending Joffrey to bed. As everyone else clears out, he reminds Tyrion that he must impregnate Sansa now that she’s officially the heir to Winterfell. That might prove difficult, since when Tyrion sees her next, it’s clear she heard about her family and is incredibly sad.

Later, Varys tries to bribe Shae to leave Westeros, since he believes Tyrion can help the land and Shae is a distraction to that end. She refuses. Tyrion, for his own part, passes his time by drinking with Pod, until Cersei comes in and tells him that he really should impregnate Sansa, so that she can have some joy in her life, just like Cersei’s children brought her. Much later, Jaime arrives back in the city, and meets a stunned Cersei.

Up at The Wall, Bran and the Reeds take shelter in one of the abandoned Night’s Watch castles. Bran tells them it’s haunted because of the ‘rat cook,’ a man who killed his guests under his own roof and was cursed into the form of a rat. Gilly and Sam turn up at the same castle, and Sam recognizes Bran as Jon’s brother. He gives Bran and the Reeds his dragonglass to help protect them as they set out north of the Wall.

Sam and Gilly make their way back to Castle Black, where Sam makes the case to Maester Aemon that Gilly is worthy of their protection given their vows extend to the “realms of men.” Gilly names her baby after Sam, and Aemon, after learning what they had seen, commands Sam to send out all the ravens with this news.

They’re not the only ones to make it back to Castle Black; Ygritte finds Jon washing his wounds. He tells her he loves her, but he has to go home, and says he knows she won’t hurt him. That bit turns out to be wrong since she shoots him with arrows three times, though Jon still manages to ride back to the castle where he is greeted by Sam and Pyp.

Down at Dragonstone, Davos struggles with Gendry as a prisoner. The two talk, and Davos reveals that he too was lowborn and from Flea Bottom. Later, Davos reads through Stannis’s mail having made great strides in his literacy. He comes across Maester Aemon’s letter and is shocked. However, the news arrives that Robb has died, which means Stannis wants to sacrifice Gendry, since they now have a sign that the leech magic worked. Davos tries to argue against it, but it’s hopeless.

Davos instead breaks Gendry out and sneaks him into a rowboat, giving him guidance on how to get back to King’s Landing. When it’s discovered that Gendry is missing, Davos is correctly accused by Stannis and Melisandre. He’s sentenced to die, but Davos quickly pulls out Aemon’s letter and tells Stannis the real fight is to the north. Melisandre agrees with him, and tells Stannis that Davos has a part to play still.

Finally, in Yunkai, the now freed slaves come outside their gates to meet Danaerys. Her Unsullied guards are wary, but when the freedmen begin calling out “Mhysa” to her (meaning “Mother”), she realizes that no one will hurt her. She leaves the protection of her Unsullied to walk among the Yunkish.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: I’m really not able to type well, because I am still cringing from the crowd surfing scene. And especially knowing the script fully intended for Dany’s whiteness to be the focal point…ugh.

Trying to think about this episode as a whole, there was so much that just straight up annoyed me, but then the numerous Davos and Bran scenes somehow were well-placed enough that I’d calm down. It’s not that they were even that amazingly done (seriously, how would any show-only like Stannis at this point?), but the rest was just…very clearly not the show we began with in Season 1.

Katie: I was happy to get to jump on this rewatch because I always am interested in tenth episodes of Game of Thrones’s seasons. The big climax has just occurred and then there’s so much wrapping up and scene-setting to establish what comes next. They’re so often good barometers of how the show is doing. This one was a roller coaster for me. It reminded me of a lot of the things I genuinely enjoyed about the earlier seasons of the show, but then Sansa would be sidelined, Ramsey would monologue, or oof, that whole last scene.

Julia: All of this episode was mostly a need to set things up for the coming seasons. Sometimes this makes perfect sense, like setting up Stannis going north, but sometimes I was just scratching my head going, “Why are they digging this whole even deeper?”

Okay, that was mostly the scene where Shae rejected those diamonds. Like, did they have a different plan for her at that point? Why?

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: I actually think my highlight was Walder and Roose talking, since you can clearly see just how odious they are, and also how that chip on Walder’s shoulder came to define a war. Roose was a bit hypocritical with his, “Robb didn’t listen to me ever” and also, “here’s how the situation with my bastard unfolded that Robb sanctioned,” but that’s not exactly an issue since we’re not meant to be convinced by these two. At least I don’t think so.

My lowlight is a very personal annoyance, I know, but Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion and not knowing the word “shit” was pure sheep shit in and of itself. Also how many times did Arya possibly stick poo in the mattress that Sansa was no doubt sharing with like, Jeyne Poole?

It’s just, come on. I get that the sun rises and sets out of Tyrion’s ass on this show, but can’t his prisoner wife at least be a bit distant to him? You know, her whole thing in the books with her armor of courtesy. The way the show makes it seem, she was well on her way to liking this marriage, and then the death of her family made her sad for a few days (during which will be her escape, since that’s coming in two episodes). So frustrated.

Katie: That’s a good highlight, it’s always nice to see David Bradley cackle his way through his lines. And you know, I actually really considered Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion as a lowlight too? Not because the scene itself is particularly bad (I’d forgotten how nice it is to see Sansa look happy about something, anything!). But because her emotions in all her scenes this episode are 110% about Tyrion. First to make him look like a great guy, which is par for the course. But it gets even worse later when it turns out that Sansa heard the news of the Red Wedding off screen, and her sadness is not her own, instead is simply given the narrative function of bumming out Tyrion a bit more. It’s a good pick for highlighting all of the generally… bad writings tendencies of the later seasons.

That said, I have to pick the closing Mhysa scene. It’s probably the point when I turned hardest on this show when I originally watched it? It’s such a thematic, narrative, and directorial failure, bad for the story and gross in all its racial implications. There were a lot of bad scenes in this episode, but this was the one that made me most actively angry.

Kylie: Yeah, it’s completely tasteless and the last taste you get of the show for the season. It may actually have been the worst closing shot of any season, now that I think about it.

Katie: My highlight is probably the Small Council scene, before it’s whittled down to Tyrion and Tywin? I’ve always liked the dynamic of more competent people having to deal with Joffrey’s kingship and deciding whether to be deferential or confrontational. It’s also a scene that’s not overly talky, and lets the (good) acting speak for itself. Honestly, though, I probably just enjoy seeing Charles Dance belittle Jack Gleeson. Honorable mention to Davos and Shireen hanging out and reading together, because it was very sweet.

Julia: Jack Gleeson is such an easy highlight to pick. He was just so happy and bouncy. And it helped that it was more or less just a book scene acted excellently. But I’m going to take your honorable mention and turn it into my highlight. Remember when Davos actually did stuff? Remember Shireen’s School for Conveniently Placed Illiterates? I used to love both these characters so much, and they have such great chemistry together. So even though this scene triggered a spiral where I was thinking what the Westerosi equivalent of Dutch speaking printers that would result in there being a “g” in “night” would be, or if they even have standardized orthography in Westeros, and what a trick that would be without printing, and if the maesters as an institution would be enough of a centralizing force to have standard orthography make sense…. I still really liked it.

I honestly think the “pork sausage” scene is not only a lowlight of the episode, it might be a lowlight for the whole series, even given all the stuff they’re going to do later. It was just so long and so… Am I going insane, or did they play it for laughs? Maybe they were going for some kind of Deadpool-esque black humor, but whatever Ramsay dangling a sausage was supposed to be, it wasn’t funny.

Katie: It’s so bad! I think they are playing it for laughs, at least kind of? Ramsay’s whole shtick seems to be “he’s so evil and so wacky! Isn’t it crazy?!” The cavernous abyss between the obvious delight D&D have in writing Ramsay and the terrible way it plays out on the screen and drags down the story is a… not great sign of things to come.

Kylie: Also speaking of what’s to come, Ramsay and eating becomes like, a thing, sort of similar to Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s 11. I guess it’s because they found this sausage scene suitably off-putting or something? But it leads to a full-on dramatic moment of Roose telling him to stop eating in Season 5.

Quality of writing

Katie: It is the lowest of low-hanging fruit, but can we talk about the Ramsay-Theon scene for a sec? The first shot of Theon in this episode is just a lingering shot on his crotch. We have an endless Ramsey monologue as he eats a pork sausage (get it?), and then Theon gets punched in the face a lot and cries. This show, guys. “Do eunuchs have a phantom cock?”

Julia: Yeah, the dialogue is cringy, but in terms of writing, the bigger question is why this scene, or this plotline even exists. GRRM puts a lot of disturbing stuff on the page (far too much according to many people) and even he chose to leave most of this stuff as implication. Perhaps they should have asked themselves why that was.

Kylie: I guess just so we could see the “transformation” into Reek more clearly? Like, they wanted him to be called ‘Reek’, but didn’t think that would track. Why they left the nickname in is beyond me, since they cut out Ramsay posing as Reek, and all that rather confusing backstory that came with it.

Even if they felt like we couldn’t have understood how broken Theon was without showing at least some torture, we certainly could have gotten by with half as many scenes, and none needed to be quite so explicit or drawn out. This one in particular was endless.

While we’re talking about the sausage though, I actually liked the dialogue given to Balon when he reacts to all of this. It was very on-point for the Iron Islands attitudes.

Katie: It was also undercut a bit by the fact that it makes the adoption of Reek seem kind of arbitrary rather than an eventual outcome of Theon’s torture. Theon’s obviously not in a great place at the start of this scene, but there’s not much of an indication that he’s really lost his sense of self. He seems eager to hold onto his name when he first gets hit in the face. Because of that, the fact that he takes up the name at the end seems less like a culmination of a character arc than an admission that he’ll do what Ramsey says if he gets punched sufficiently.

Agreed about the Balon dialogue. I also didn’t mind Cersei’s mom monologue (momologue! oh, gross, I’m sorry).

Julia: Like Walder Frey’s obnoxious misogyny last week, Balon’s horribleness felt like it was actual there to serve the world and the characters. I’m not sure why Ramsay’s antics feel so different, especially from Frey’s stuff. Maybe it’s just the absurdity of the sausage wagging.

Kylie: They just feel very out of place. The dialogue doesn’t sound like anything that’d be in ASOIAF, and I don’t just mean because of some strange anachronisms, like talking about “phantom limbs.” No way Westerosi would have coined that term.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Katie: Tough to pick a theme in an episode that had roughly 36,000 plot lines happening at the same time. The closest I could come to was the emphasis on tension between valuing the Family Name and valuing family members themselves. The clearest example is Tywin’s long speech to Tyrion about how he wanted to kill him as a baby but HE WAS A LANNISTER so he kept him around, but it’s also evident in Balon’s indifference to Theon once he’s a family liability (and Yara’s pushback). I suppose it works with Stannis and Gendry as well, with Davos playing the Yara figure. If we want to be kind and stretch this theme to its breaking point, we could also include the Davos/Gendry scene about Flea Bottom, and the Shae/Varys scene, both of which demonstrate how those without a family name often have to play by different rules. That still leaves out most of the episode?

Julia: That’s an excellent effort. There’s something there maybe about obligations. Like, Jon has one to the Night’s Watch, and Tywin had an obligation to not kill his own child, (the cross he bears is heavy) and Guest Right is an obligation, but that just seems like a less insightful version of what Katie said.

Title? Dany is a mother to all the freedmen, and motherhood is also what Carol’s content is about. And the Rat Cook is a parent too…it’s totes a theme.

Kylie: Gilly is a mother to the baby she just named Sam! Honestly, the title is feeling pretty peripheral to me.

Katie gets full marks though, for sure. The three Stark kids kinda have a mutual loss of innocence (not than any of them are fully innocent at this point, of course). Sansa learns about her family’s fate, Arya kills her first man, and Bran heads north of The Wall. That one is kinda weaker, but given this is a season that ends in the middle of a book, it’s more of a parallel with them than I’d have expected.

The Butterfly Effect (cracks in the plaster)

Kylie: I don’t want to keep harping on the Sansa/Tyrion scene, but I think this is one of the clearest butterfly effects at play. Tyrion is made a really, really, really nice guy who the audience loves, so any character we are meant to like must love him too. In this case, Sansa. So take the whitewashing of his character that’s been there from the start, and two seasons later his prisoner child-bride is joking around with him, and Varys tries to set Shae up for life across the Narrow Sea, because Tyrion is apparently the only man who can save Westeros and he needs to be less distracted.

Katie: Agreed. I was shocked at how openly Sansa was used as an emotional prop in this episode.

Julia: Ugh, I feel like I can rant about Saint Tyrion for hours. In fact, I’m quite sure I have. I would argue that the changes to Tyrion’s character have the most butterfly effect of any decision in the show, maybe more than the decision to age up the kids, or the one to take out most of the supernatural elements. Tyrion’s characters flaws in the book drive the plot quite a bit, after all. And make his actions make any kind of sense.

At this point, I think many intelligent show-only watchers would be surprised to learn that Sansa is a POV character in her own right. And that Shae isn’t.

Katie: Also, this is a very small detail, and nit-picky, but I think it illustrated well the problems the show increasingly ran into down the line. I am not at all a fan of the choice to open the episode with… the mass slaughter of Northern extras. It’s supposed to serve as a carry-over from the climax of last episode, I suppose. But the reason The Red Wedding works as an emotional gut-punch is because it’s so intimate. It’s a shockingly and terribly personal moment.

As y’all noted last week, it’s a climax the show keeps trying to recapture, and it keeps trying… badly. In large part because it keeps aiming for grand scale over the emotional horror of individual moments. Michelle Fairley did such a good job of selling those last few seconds of emotion in The Red Wedding. Opening this episode with anonymous extras screaming and dying is literal overkill: it takes what should be the center of the scene—Arya seeing Wolf-Headed-Robb—and confuses and muddles it. Rather than a clear, stark (sorry), emotional moment, we get a frenetic, busy, overly-complicated scene. Clean it up! Bombast isn’t always best. It’s not a big deal, really, but it’s a wasted opportunity, and so indicative of what the show is going to prioritize as it goes along.

Julia: At least it gives the aforementioned hypothetical intelligent show-only watcher the tools to call bull on Tywin’s later line about all he did was kill a few dozen men at dinner, and what’s so wrong about that?

Kylie: True, though I’ll agree it was very visually busy. There’s that shot of Roose that opens it, and the way he walked to look out reminds me exactly of this one shot in Return of the King with an orc charging into battle. It was a wonky way to open things (also it was pretty damn dark), and given the effectiveness of the Walder and Roose scene later, I don’t think it’s a very necessary one.

Worth noting something that’s about to turn into a butterfly effect: the Night’s Watch vows. Sam found the “loophole” to make a case for Gilly staying (a compelling one at that). Next season we get the sex loophole, and I feel like we had one more at that too. Maybe the implicit loophole that allowed Jon to quit? It’s also symptomatic of D&D chasing a good thing, or something that lands. This is still pre-chicken joke GoT, remember.

Remember adaptation?

Julia: Well, this section is getting harder and harder.

Um. Gendry fits rather seamlessly into Edric Storm’s role in this episode. Minus the way he bonded with Davos, I guess. They bonded in both cases, but not in the same way.

The small council scene about the Red Wedding was pretty good, at least until it became about how awesome Tyrion is for not raping a 14-year-old, but other than that the stuff from KL was not super faithful.

Kylie: Not at all. Though let’s chat about the adaptational decision with Yara. Is it that D&D just don’t plan more than one year at a time? Because I don’t think it’s about them feeling like we needed to check in with her and trying to come up with a great Season 4 plot for her specifically; we didn’t check in on the Iron Islands at all this year, and there’s nothing that necessitates putting the theater in next year either.

Even if they did plan, does that mean they purposely set up Yara for a completely futile, one-off failed mission? Because god knows they wanted Theon to be in his ADWD plotline, no matter what woman gets shoved into Jeyne’s role… I guess I’m just not getting what they were even trying for with this. False hope of Theon’s rescue?

Katie: Such big chunks of these finales focus on laying the groundwork for future plots. But in practice I think that sometimes bleeds over into just… setting up potential drama or tension? It wouldn’t surprise me if they just wanted another rousing (“rousing”) speech or set up for potential action next year, regardless of whether it would matter at all in the long run. The more generous part of me wants to say that there was some level of awareness that the Theon/Ramsey scenes were floundering and needed the (false) promise of some kind of narrative development before the end of the season.

Julia: In retrospect, though, it does seem cruel of them to set Yara up like that. As cruel as setting Shae up like that was. I think being even more generous is presuming that they had different plans for both these characters—they wanted Shae in particular to do something different during the trial and for Yara to maybe do something like her book plot with Stannis maybe–but audience reaction, or budget, or lack of writing skills made it impossible?

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: This is the most Carol Carol who Carol’d all the way to Carolville in her Carolmobile.

Katie: She reminded me of a mom who has been to so many grinding, exhausting parent-teacher conferences about her terrible kid. She knows the teacher is right, but she has to keep her game-face on? She’s just trying her best.

Julia: Imagine another hypothetical intelligent person, who only ever sees this episode of GoT, being told that Carol is supposed to be the villain.

Also, what on earth was that sleeveless number she was wearing in the last scene? And why was she looking at a seashell of some kind and smiling sadly?

Kylie: She was smiling sadly at seashells. She and Jaime used to sell seashells down by the seashore, or something. I feel like I remember that context being explained to us (was that something they talked about in the pilot?) but damn if I remember.

Julia: They talked about jumping off a cliff once.

Why was her scene with Tyrion even there? Like I say, it’s an odd thing to do with someone who’s supposed to be a villain. Was it all just so Tyrion can seem like a nice guy for not wanting to impregnate Sansa?

Kylie: Or to make it clear that once Cersei’s kids are gone, there goes the only good piece of her. Yay! Either way, there’s no debate this week:

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Kylie: Tywin’s exposition seemed good, albeit horrifying. I guess Bran is technically expositing with the rat cook, too, though that’s really just telling a fairy tale. I don’t know, the things that jumped out to me as clunky in this episode were not exposition in nature.

Julia: What, talking about phantom cocks was not exposition? Maybe Ramsay should have asked a cock merchant, I’m sure they would know all about that.

Feel free to be annoyed at me, but the way Tywin said, “I raised you as my son, because you are a Lannister,” to Tyrion probably gave a lot of fuel to the Tyrion the Secret Targ folks.

Kylie: That was also following him saying “since I cannot prove you’re not my son” in another episode this season too, I think. Maybe Charles Dance is a Tyrion truther.

How was the pacing?

Julia: D&D seem to have more trouble with pacing within scenes even than the pacing of episodes.

Kylie: I’d agree with that. The entire episode stops dead at the sausage waving, and frankly Davos and Gendry’s conversation didn’t exactly get to a point.

Overall the episode just struggled from that spottiness we’ve been seeing all season. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse that they were trying to give so many characters a stopping point. Often jumping around helps break things up, but it sure didn’t feel like that this time.

Another week of no sex, baby

Katie: You know, given the number of scenes where people tell Tyrion to have sex with Sansa, maybe “no sex, (no) baby” is the theme.

Kylie: And now his watch begins, after all. He hasn’t seemed to be getting it with Shae either, now that I think about it. I guess she’s struggling with her maybe!jealousy still over Sansa?

Julia: No, no Kylie, she’s outraged that people would dare treat Sansa this way, since she loves that girl so much and would kill for her.

Kylie: Until she decides that whatever, let’s just implicate Sansa in a bunch of crimes. I can’t believe we have another season of Shae…

In memoriam…those Frey soldiers

Katie: In memoriam of the last time Arya’s character arc was interesting! Sorry.

Kylie: Ain’t it the truth. We’re about to get a full season of her and Sandor doing nothing, and talking about how nothing is nothing, and frankly that’s a highlight compared to Braavos and her arc quite literally iterating. Though…Arya in Season 7 was not boring. Many other things, but that’s one charge she gets away from.

Is this where we should talk about her kills in the book getting thrown in at random times and in random contexts?

Julia: I remember there being a chart.

This season’s been fun. I think I get people still having patience with this show after this, but in retrospect, it’s so totally off the rails already.

And I just remembered, the Pornish are coming soon!

Kylie: OH MY GOD.

Well, for us at least, the Pornish won’t be coming until 2019. We will have the Season 3 rewatch podcast out to you in the next couple of weeks, and then Season 4’s rewatch will start January 8th.

Thank you all for following along this season. We’re curious to know what you thought of this episode specifically, though. Did D&D leave a tantalizing endpoint, or are things just sloppy to the point of distraction? Let’s discuss that below, and we wish you both a happy new year and good fortune in The Wars to Come.


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