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Love is in the air (in more ways than one) in this week’s episode of Supergirl. But like many of the themes and plotlines from this season, the execution leaves something to be desired. I could start by mentioning the poor timing of scheduling a Valentine’s Day themed episode a week after the rest of the country celebrated the holiday. But I could forgive the infelicitous timing—after all, chocolate and flowers are always good no matter the occasion, right?—if the show were able to consummate storylines in ways that would satisfy audiences. Instead, Season 2 of Supergirl seems determined at times to leave us all high and dry.
Nowhere has this frustration been more evident in the relationship between Kara and Mon-El. We last left the two budding lovebirds at the precipice of a kiss before Mr. Mxyzptlk (this week’s featured villain, in case you couldn’t tell by the episode title) appeared. I was someone who delighted in the slow burn of their courtship, but that last scene epitomizes how their relationship—and by extension, much of Season 2—has gone off the rails after some initial promise. When Mon-El was first introduced to the Supergirl universe, he was a charming, cynical rogue who served as a needed antidote to Kara’s equally charming (yet sometimes grating) optimism. But by degrees Mon-El’s bad boy edge has been sanded down to the point where he pines for Kara as if he were stuck in a bad romantic novel. But it’s not as if Kara has come off looking much better either. As her relationship with Mon-El has progressed, she’s been made into an indecisive heroine who simultaneously won’t acknowledge her feelings of attraction for Mon-El while also refusing to reject them completely. It would’ve defied cliche to deny them a storybook happy ending but that’s exactly where things were heading—that is, until Mr. Mxyzptlk appeared.
To their credit, the Supergirl showrunners do their best to upend expectations of viewers expecting to see a derby hat wearing imp and more power to them in the attempt. After all, let’s face it: that version of the character is probably too interminably goofy to be accepted by mainstream TV audiences. Some comics creators have gotten good storytelling mileage of peeling past Mxyzptlk’s cartoonish veneer to reveal his true form, a being far more dangerous than even Superman imagined. With that said, it’s hard not to cosign with Paul F. Tompkins and wonder why he had to be made fuckable in order to seem credible. The problem isn’t in Peter Gadiot’s performance as Mxyzptlk—he does a fine enough job with the character as written on the page. But why use the name of a character that’s practically the definition of silliness to tell a story in which the same character stalks Supergirl across dimensions? Surely a character created out of whole cloth with similar abilities could’ve served the same purpose. It also makes one wonder: if Supergirl is facing foes like Mxyzptlk and Metallo in their first appearances, then who has Superman been fighting all along?
In keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme of the episode, Mxy has come to Kara’s dimension because he’s fallen in love with her and wants to marry her. Naturally, Kara isn’t on board with this plan but it’s hard to dissuade a being from the Fifth Dimension. The only way to get Mxy to leave is to get him to speak or write his name backwards (one of the few holdovers from the comics). But before they can get him to do that, Supergirl and Mon-El first have to stop him from destroying the planet. This leads to some comedic moments like Mxy showing up in a Superman outfit to help Supergirl and Mon-El defeat the Parasite—never mind the fact that he conjured him up in the first place—and a Hamilton-inspired duel between Mon and Mxy after the former attempts to defeat the latter alone. Not only does the brute force approach fail, it ticks Kara off that Mon-El doesn’t trust her to resolve the problem on her own. Kara’s frustration with Mon-El results in her rejection of him and forces her to take the only path she sees for saving her adopted planet: accept Mxyzptlk’s marriage proposal.
Of course, it’s easy to see this seeming rejection as a ruse (particularly if you’re a fan of Silver Age Superman comics). Recognizing that Mxyzptlk is too powerful to subdue physically, she resorts to faking her acceptance of his offer of marriage so that she can lure him to the Fortress of Solitude away from the civilian population of Central City. Supergirl’s plan hits a bit of a snag when Mxy animates a giant-sized ice sculpture of her Uncle Jor-El but she’s able to overcome that obstacle. Ultimately, she’s able to get rid of the Fifth Dimensional troublemaker by tricking him into spelling his name backwards in order to stop the self-destruct sequence that would blow up the Fortress and thereby kill her. The lesson we as the audience are supposed to gain from this is that it isn’t right to force others to love you. A fine lesson indeed, but not quite enough to make Mxy’s appearance in this episode necessary.
As it so happens, Kara and Mon-El get to pick up where they left off and have the kiss they were denied last episode. Despite this review’s focus on the merits and pitfalls of their relationship, episode writers Jessica Queller and Sterling Gates make sure to complicate the love lives of other Team Supergirl members as well. They provide Winn with an alien romantic interest from a planet named Starhaven (a locale likely to be familiar to some DC Comics fans). They also introduce some drama and tension to the love-dovey courtship of Alex and Maggie by revealing that the latter’s antipathy towards Valentine’s Day is steeped in a traumatic coming out experience on that holiday. Though the Alex and Maggie relationship has experienced some diminishing returns since they officially became an item, it was nice to see the show stay committed to complicating matters. As the Bard wrote, the course of true love never did run smooth—hopefully the Supergirl writers continue to keep that in mind before they wind up turning Kara and Mon-El into the perfect (and therefore boring) couple.