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A focus on familial ties has been a running theme for Supergirl the past two seasons, so it’s no surprise that it would be the through line for “Far From The Tree.” In many cases, the series depicts maternal relationships—examples include Kara’s relationship to her Kryptonian mother Alura, Kara and Alex’s relationship to Eliza Danvers, or even Mon-El’s relationship to Rhea. This episode takes a slightly less traveled path by exploring two sets of paternal relationships: J’onn J’onzz and his long-lost father and Maggie and her estranged father. “Far From The Tree” attempts a tricky balancing act between the two concurrent storylines, but while the narrative extremes from sci-fi allegory and earthbound drama doesn’t always work, the attempt is still praiseworthy.
At the end of last week’s episode, J’onn receives a distress signal from M’gann. Since we last saw her, M’gann has gathered up a band of White Martian insurrectionists to overthrow their brethren. Supergirl accompanies J’onn to Mars for moral support and to lend her superpowered muscle in the inevitable fights with aliens. As it turns out, J’onn has a classic convertible that doubles as a shape shifting spaceship—as he tells Supergirl in nonplussed fashion, if Martians can shape shift, so too should their vehicles.
J’onn and Supergirl meet up with M’gann and her merry band of Martians when J’onn is hit with another shock: his religious leader father M’yrnn is revealed to be alive. (Incidentally, My’yrnn is portrayed by veteran actor Carl Lumbly who, among his various credits, voiced J’onn J’onzz for the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series.) The rebels need M’yrnn to reveal the location of the Staff of K’lar so that they can defeat the White Martians. However, M’yrnn, traumatized by centuries of torture, is convinced that J’onn’s appearance is another trick by the White Martian masters to break his will. J’onn struggles to get through to his father while coming to grips once again with the grief of losing his family and people.
Meanwhile back on Earth, Maggie has daddy issues of her own. Maggie’s issues might seem prosaic compared to a Martian civil war, but more audience members—particularly queer ones—are likely to relate to her troubled relationship with her father, Oscar Rodas (played by Carlos Bernard of 24: Legacy fame). For the first time, Maggie reveals that her mother and father disowned her when she was a teenager, after discovering she was a lesbian. Her fiancée Alex wants Maggie to reestablish contact with her father, who she hasn’t communicated with since he dropped her off at her aunt’s home at fourteen years old, but Maggie is resistant to the idea at first. But she later decides to invite her father to her bridal shower in hopes of rekindling their relationship.
While Maggie and Oscar’s reunion at the bus stop is awkward, it’s clear that the bond between father and daughter remains strong. Oscar expresses an interest and even deep knowledge of Maggie’s police career, while Maggie tells Oscar that she still recalls lessons he imparted that helped her in her career. Oscar comes to the bridal shower and meets his daughter’s fiancée and the rest of her friends. However, as soon as he sees Maggie kiss Alex he immediately bolts. It’s then that we find out the source of Oscar’s homophobia: to his mind, Maggie is betraying him with her “different-ness” after overcoming anti-Mexican racism to make a better life for his family. The racial politics of this scene are frankly ham-handed—the show offers its weekly rebuttal against Trump by referencing his infamous “rapist and murderers” line—but to the show’s credit it makes a sincere attempt to depict Oscar as more than a two-dimensional bigot, which makes his final rejection of Maggie all the more heartbreaking.
If Maggie’s paternal storyline can be said to have a downbeat ending, the one between J’onn and his father is more bittersweet. Perhaps the most emotionally affecting scene in “Far From The Tree” is when M’yrnn finally consents to a mindmeld with his son and sees that he isn’t a White Martian agent because he remembers J’onn’s deceased daughters (and his granddaughters). The scene doesn’t pull any punches from a writing, directing, or acting standpoint as we witness the extent of the loss shared by these two men, as well as their emotional reconciliation. But just when you think things might be getting mushy, we see Supergirl roll up to the White Martian lair in J’onn’s classic convertible with Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time” playing on the radio. This leads to a climatic fight scene which ends with Supergirl and J’onn seemingly killing several White Martians (?!?) and with the rebels securing the Staff of K’lar, which they promise to use responsibly. Also, M’yrnn elects to go to Earth with his son and Supergirl, thereby allowing J’onn to retain a semblance of his former life. After all, it’s true what they say: nothing is more important than family.