While last week’s episode found a way to tie all the subplots together, “Far from the Tree” felt disconnected. Two overarching plots this week and only one of them landed the emotional punch it was supposed to. Kara felt like Supergirl again in her passion to help Mars, J’onn suffered emotionally after finding out his father was alive, while Maggie had to deal with her estranged dad. With the episode carrying a lot of daddy issues, J’onn’s story is the one which felt the most authentic in an unbalanced episode.
I’ve missed this Kara. The Kara who wants to genuinely help people, not because it’s all she has or because it distances her from her human persona, but because she doesn’t want to see another planet destroyed and loves J’onn enough to stand beside him no matter what. Of course, it’s not expected that she’ll be completely fine all of a sudden, but this episode showcased the spark that’s been missing from season three thus far. After all, the show can only be as strong as its lead character. And even though she played support this time around, Kara’s hope was back and she shined the whole way through.
David Harewood really tapped into his emotions this episode and his scenes with Carl Lumbly’s Myr’nn were especially a standout. J’onn went through a myriad of emotions and Harewood nailed it. From surprise to anger, fear, and hope, J’onn was faced with the disappointment of his father believing he was a coward for having left Mars (after at first believing J’onn was actually a White Martian). Their moments re-centered the episode and deepened J’onn’s character with new information about his past. When J’onn took his father back to their old home, it was hard not to feel sad and then elated following their real reunion. When Supergirl chooses to focus on characters in this way, it brings far more depth and an emotional impact to the overall story.
M’gann was back and it was great to see her reunion with J’onn. Their interactions have always been wonderful and to see J’onn drop everything to help her was noble. The story of the resistance is both intriguing–because it’s nice to know what’s happening on Mars after M’gann decided to leave Earth–and also a bit frustrating because we didn’t get to see much of what was happening before J’onn relocated his father to Earth. The resistance’s efforts and hearts are in the right place, but now that the staff of Kolar has been found and moved, the real question is what happens to the resistance afterward? Do they continue fighting an endless war? Now that the last of the Green Martians are gone, how do they move forward in their fight? Could the resistance win and rebuild? It’s a fascinating story, but one that feels incomplete in the larger scheme of things. This is mostly due to the fact that we’ll probably never go back to Mars to see how it all plays out, unless they somehow tie it in to the overarching storyline for the season (something that hasn’t quite been defined as of yet).
Less exciting this week was Maggie’s attempted reconciliation with her father, Oscar (Carlos Bernard). For all the ways this show has gently taken care to ensure that Alex’s coming out story was done well and with tact, it’s the complete opposite with Maggie. As an individual, she hasn’t been well-developed outside of her relationship with Alex. Also knowing that Floriana Lima has a reduced role this season doesn’t help matters. But what made the story between her and her estranged father much worse is the continued attempts to convince the audience that they were both Latinx when they’re not. This is deceiving and problematic, especially when representation is still very much a problem in Hollywood. It’s something that should be more relevant given the fact that the show has largely failed to represent women of color.
In “Far from the Tree,” we find out Maggie’s whole backstory. Oscar drove Maggie to her aunt’s house at fourteen after finding out she told a girl she liked her and he never looked back. The show had an opportunity to showcase a parent’s shame and a child’s need for acceptance and pride in the eyes of her parents and failed at both. Instead, they make Oscar’s inability to accept his daughter being a lesbian about his own struggles coming to this country as a Mexican immigrant (which, again, he’s not). Life was difficult for him and he was always mistreated. Naturally, he didn’t want for his daughter to be unfairly treated in society because of her sexual orientation. So… he goes and does the exact same thing and makes her life worse by shunning her? That doesn’t make any sense at all and only served to make matters worse. He may as well have just said he thinks being homosexual is a sin and left it at that. It would’ve been more believable because it’s still unfortunately how many feel.
His excuses of being unfairly treated are just a roundabout way to bring in culture and the immigrant experience into the story without also acknowledging Oscar’s personal issues with his daughter. His reasons are incredibly hypocritical and instead of having any closure, it only made the situation cringe-worthy. Why continue to insist that Maggie is Latinx to begin with? In this episode, it was blatantly obvious that she wasn’t and it’s disrespectful of the show to continue to make it a big point for the sake of the story. It only made it feel even more inauthentic.
Even worse is to have Maggie’s father show up after almost two decades of not speaking to her and have him leave without making any progression in their story. In addition to that, using two non-Latinx actors to portray Mexican characters and pretend they know what that struggle is like is offensive. It didn’t need to be thrown in there when Maggie’s ethnicity was only vaguely mentioned after being first introduced (meaning she never stated she was Mexican before). Narratively, it also felt like a waste, even though it’s nice that at least Maggie got to tell him everything she’d probably been wanting to say for years. Still, it’s hard to be completely invested knowing the Alex and Maggie have a ticking clock on their relationship (the kids argument was brought up again and we know where this is going, unfortunately).
Ultimately, “Far from the Tree” didn’t land as strongly as probably intended. There was a distinct disconnect between what was going on on Mars and what was happening on Earth. The absence of Lena, James, and even Samantha also had a negative impact on the overall episode. Although Supergirl dealt with two instances of father issues, there were no major parallels between them and they operated under very different circumstances. J’onn’s story with his father was more emotional and impactful, whereas Maggie’s story with her dad fell flat for several reasons. Maggie gets some kind of closure in the end, but the entire storyline’s execution wasn’t worth the outcome.