Supergirl’s move from CBS to The CW has meant some great things for the show this season. For one, it meant the series actually got a second season, and for another, it provided a much better DEO set, which has become an increasingly vital location this season. But there have been some downsides too, like the loss of Calista Flockhart, which left the CatCo side of the series unmoored, and the smaller budget, which has meant fewer and less impressive flying scenes. But there’s another factor at play too, one which is harder to categorize as either good or bad, and that’s the increasing “CW-ification” of Supergirl’s storytelling.
Supergirl has shifted focus in its second season, seemingly to better align with the general tone of The CW’s sexy genre lineup. One such shift has been an increased focus on romance. Of course, Supergirl’s first season featured unrequited love as a major theme too, but this season has upped the romance quota even more. Kara and Mon-El’s relationship has fueled much of the drama this season, not to mention the stuff with Maggie and Alex, Winn and Lyra, and even J’onn and M’gann. And it’s not just that those relationships exist, it’s that their trials, tribulations, and joys are a key part of the season’s storytelling.
The other big shift has to do with aligning Supergirl not just with The CW aesthetic, but specifically with the Arrowverse one (the corner of The CW made up of Greg Berlanti’s series Arrow, The Flash, and Legends Of Tomorrow). That Arrowverse realignment has expanded Supergirl’s scope from the story of one hero to the story of many heroes. Again, the groundwork for that was laid in season one. Kara’s always worked with the DEO, specifically Alex, on her missions, and J’onn’s been an invaluable ally since he revealed himself to be Martian Manhunter. But the focus of Supergirl’s first season was first and foremost on Kara leading a double life as both a superhero and a lowly CatCo assistant. This season, however, it’s become a show about the DEO working as a team to stop bad guys.
In addition to Alex, Winn is onboard the DEO as tech support, J’onn is free to join Kara at the drop of a hat now that he doesn’t have to keep his identity a secret, and Mon-El has been on hand as a superhero-in-training for most of the season too. Maggie is yet another character related to the law-enforcement side of the show and the most egregious example has been transforming James from an earnest photojournalist to a costumed vigilante. This Arrowversing has allowed the show’s ensemble to gel together in a lovely way (Alex and Winn have proven to be a particularly delightful duo), but it’s also lost a lot of what originally set Supergirl apart from the rest of the superhero TV landscape. Add to that the alien-as-minorities metaphor the show has been working with this season, and Supergirl feels like a very different show than it did when it premiered. Again, that’s not inherently good or bad, it’s just, well, different.
This episode serves as one of the most concrete examples of that CW shift. Given that she was fired, CatCo and Kara’s journalism career barely get a mention other than to fuel Kara’s “fun-employment” Game Of Thrones marathon. Instead “Star-Crossed” brings together the whole DEO team, including James and Maggie, to deal with a ring of alien art thieves. And it centers on the relationship woes of not one but two of the show’s main couples.
But this episode adds yet another twist to that CW genre tone: A healthy dose of ’90s flair. In fact, more so than The CW, “Star-Crossed” kind of feels like an episode that would’ve aired on The WB or UPN in 1998 (think Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed, etc.). It’s a little cheesy, a little soapy, and a little simplistic in its storytelling even as it maintains an enjoyably upbeat core. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it features two of the kings and queens of ’90s genre TV, Teri Hatcher (formerly Lois on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman) and Kevin Sorbo (formerly Hercules on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), as Mon-El’s long-lost parents.
Supergirl has always kind of felt like a cheesy ’90s throwback show, but this episode really ups the ante. It splits its time between two storylines that clumsily jostle for prominence: Kara grapples with the reveal that Mon-El is actually the Prince Of Daxam and Winn grapples with the reveal that his girlfriend is actually a conwoman and art thief. Neither story is particularly amazing, and this is just about the definition of a filler episode. But it’s also an episode well aware of its less-than-lofty goals. Rather than apologize for itself or pretend to be something it isn’t, “Star-Crossed” just tries to tell its simple story well, and that can be enjoyable to watch in its own right.
All that said, I’m a little annoyed that after all the angst it took to get them together, Supergirl has already split up Kara and Mon-El. On the other hand, I was surprised by how convincingly the show argued Kara’s point of view. I thought the writers would have Kara fall back on the old TV-show chestnut “I’m not mad about X, I’m just mad that you lied to me about it.” But while she’s clearly mad about the lie, she’s also genuinely pissed about Mon-El’s princely identity too. And she argues her point well: He was an active part of a corrupt system that both condoned slavery and manipulated its own people. How could she possibly ignore that part of his life, even if he’s reformed since then? Kara’s prejudice against Daxam has always felt a little underwritten, but her disgust with Mon-El and his lack of responsibility as a leader feels much more specific and goes a long way to justifying their breakup.
The Winn half of the episode is… well, it’s fine. The best thing about it is that it serves as a lovely showcase for Jeremy Jordan, who always brings his A-game when asked to on this series. Though he’s devastated to learn Lyra has just been playing him as part of a long con, he’s also willing to try to understand where she was coming from. It turns out she stole Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (I guess the one painting Supergirl assumed its audience would definitely recognize) as a way to pay off her brother’s debts and free him from the clutches of Mandrax, a Fort Rozz escapee (remember that place?) turned intergalactic art thief because, again, this episode wants to feel as ’90s as possible.
Winn’s empathy for and forgiveness of Lyra is juxtaposed with Kara’s inability to forgive Mon-El. But given that Lyra is such a non-character and the Mon-El/Kara tension is so overused at this point, nothing in it particularly feels like a revelation. Instead this is an episode best enjoyed for its ’90s throwback pleasures (like that stilted “we’re actors playing serious alien royalty” dinner party) and for that one scene where Teri Hatcher reminds us all that she actually is a talented actor. “Star-Crossed” is Supergirl on autopilot, but it’s hard to feel too disappointed about that when we’ve got an honest-to-god musical to get to. Bring on The Music Meister!
- Since it seems like a waste not to have her interact with Dean Cain, I think they should’ve saved Teri Hatcher for a different role later in the season and cast Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. Xena) as Mon-El’s mom.
- Winn references She-Hulk so I guess Marvel comics exist in this universe. Also Alex reveals Hamilton’s King George is currently being played by an alien, which may or may not mean Taran Killam is an extraterrestrial.
- I’m pretty sure tonight’s flashback to Daxam’s destruction is entirely different than the one we saw in “Survivors,” so I guess that one was supposed to be Mon-El lying about his past?
- Maybe I just have a really dark sense of humor, but Mon-El’s bedmate yelling, “Don’t leave me!” immediately followed by his bodyguard yelling, “Leave her!” made me burst into laughter.
- Remember kids: Tune in tomorrow night, same Supes-time, same Supes-place, for what looks to be an absolutely delightful musical episode of The Flash featuring not only Melissa Benoist but also Jeremy “Voice Of An Angel” Jordan.