Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

Last week I talked about how this season of Supergirl has felt relatively scattered compared to the first. Case in point: Remember when the show revealed Jeremiah Danvers was living as The Phantom Of The Cadmus and then never really mentioned it again? After dropping that thread almost entirely for the past seven episodes, Jeremiah (not to mention Dean Cain) finally makes his glorious return tonight. And while his daughters couldn’t be more thrilled to have him back, Mon-El is the first to note that his return is awfully convenient. Is it possible Jeremiah isn’t quite as innocent as he seems?!?

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If you’ve ever seen an episode of genre TV before, odds are you knew Jeremiah would turn out to be some sort of double agent long before the majority of the characters did. “Homecoming” doesn’t even put a particularly new spin on the old “mysteriously returned character is secretly a baddie” genre chestnut. But what the episode lacks in originality, it makes up for in cohesion. Supergirl has felt a little scattered in the second half of its second season, but Jeremiah’s return is a big enough event to anchor the episode. And his ties to Cadmus and their latest anti-alien scheme will hopefully give the show a new focus moving forward too.

Unsurprisingly, the best scenes in “Homecoming” are the ones that feature Alex and Kara processing Jeremiah’s return. At first his daughters are fiercely, blindly defensive of their father because they’re so overjoyed to have him back. The sisters bask in their happiness at Jeremiah’s welcome home party, which is allowed to play out as one of the extended, low-stakes hangout sequences that have been a welcome addition to Supergirl’s second season. This episode is relatively light on action, but that just gives the character scenes more room to breathe, which works well for such an emotionally heavy story.

Mon-El is the first to call into question Jeremiah’s all-too-easy return, which sends our surprisingly naïve group of heroes into a tizzy. They balk at Mon-El’s suggestion that they should maybe vet a guy who just spent 15 years being forced to work for an evil alien-hating terrorist organization before they give him the keys to the DEO. (I buy Jeremiah’s daughters being fiercely loyal, but J’onn just seems like an idiot here.) After some contrived back and forth, Kara eventually grows suspicious as well. But blinded by her love for her father, Alex refuses to see the warning signs in front of her until it’s too late. In fact, she lashes out at Kara as cruelly as we’ve ever seen her, literally drawing a familial line in the sand over her faith in her father.

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So while the reveal of Jeremiah’s true allegiance doesn’t work as a twist, it does work as an emotional beat. Chyler Leigh is the MVP of this episode, giving the kind of dramatically rich performance she last put to use during Alex’s coming out story in the beginning of the season. If Alex’s blind devotion to her father almost beggars belief, her emotionally raw fight with him in the forest more than makes up for it. Leigh gives the episode more emotional weight than its arguably earned. And though her wordless breakdown with Maggie at the end of the episode is short, it sells the emotional fallout of everything she’s been through. Yet rather than grapple first and foremost with the Danvers sisters and their reactions to their father’s return and betrayal, Supergirl makes the curious decision to put Mon-El front and center yet again.

For whatever reason, the Supergirl writing staff have clearly chosen to make Mon-El a major player and point of view character this season, frequently giving him more focus than J’onn, Winn, Alex, or poor James, who hasn’t even appeared in the past two or three episodes. Indeed we spend more time tonight watching Mon-El process Kara’s feelings about Jeremiah’s return than we do watching Kara have those feelings in the first place. I would argue it’s a choice that has thrown off the balance of the series, both because Supergirl has lost the original female-centric narrative it began with, and, more importantly, because Mon-El pulls focus from the characters I’m more invested in. I like Mon-El well enough, but I’m pretty much always going to want to watch Kara more than I want to watch him.

Thankfully “Homecoming” at least finds a slightly new spin on its Mon-El material. One of the problems Supergirl has had lately is a tendency to repeat the same plot points over and over again. The majority of recent episodes have featured some sort of variation on the “Mon-El and Kara are chummy, Mon-El ignores Kara’s wishes, Kara is mad, Mon-El apologizes, they make up” arc. And while “Homecoming” features those same beats yet again, the episode at least uses them for some genuine Mon-El character growth.

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After watching Kara pull away from him for the umpteenth time over his overbearing demeanor, Mon-El finally begins to realize that he might not actually be the best romantic partner in the world. So he seeks relationship advice from the newly coupled-up Winn, who must have read my review from last week because he tells Mon-El, “Kara’s a badass. She doesn’t need a protector or someone to show her off.” What she needs, Winn advises, is someone who will ask her what she needs and then actually listen to her answer. By the end of the episode Mon-El has finally taken that advice to heart, reaching out in a genuinely moving scene to provide the comfort Kara needs, not the protection he thinks she wants. All of which means that if the whole DEO agent thing doesn’t work out, Winn should definitely consider getting a job as a couples counselor.

Given Supergirl’s tendency to return Mon-El to square one each week, I’m a little nervous about whether this latest bit character growth will stick. But for the first time in a while it at least feels like Supergirl has a clear path forward. Armed with the National Alien Registry, a cyborg Superman, a Winter Soldier knockoff, and some kind of alien craft, Lillian Luthor is hell-bent on getting rid of aliens once and for all. That puts her directly at odds with our diverse group of alien-loving heroes. Giving Supergirl an enemy that’s both metaphorically rich and emotionally resonant is a great choice for the tail end of the show’s second season. So here’s hoping Supergirl lets Mon-El compliment that story, rather than overshadow it.

Stray observations

  • As frustrated as I often am with Mon-El, Chris Wood still manages to be insanely charming in just about every scene he’s in. I’m still laughing at his delivery of, “Yeah, Kevin’s great.”
  • Jeremiah threatens Mon-El by telling him he knows who he really is and that Kara wouldn’t like it very much. In other words, keep that Prince of Daxam reveal countdown going.
  • Is J’onn’s exasperated “Why can’t I read your mind?” a reference to Lois’ monologue in Superman: The Movie? Also why wasn’t J’onn more suspicious of his inability to read Jeremiah’s mind from the start? Also why didn’t Alex’s medical examine reveal that her dad literally has an arm made of metal? The DEO needs to invest in some better X-ray machines.
  • It didn’t really go anywhere, but I liked Eliza pumping the brakes on Jeremiah’s attempt to pick up their marriage where they left off. She’s maybe the most rational person is that entire episode.
  • Though it’s a character-focused episode, “Homecoming” makes the most of its few action sequences. There’s a thrilling sense of momentum and some stylish use of slow motion in the early truck rescue sequence. And Kara’s train track reconstruction, though simple, is one of my favorite heroic setpieces of the season.
  • Speaking of which, here’s a great behind-the-scenes shot shared by Supergirl writer Derek Simon.

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Next week: Dean Cain returns… again!