Supergirl 2×17 Review: ‘Distant Sun’

It’s a question we hear often, whether it’s in our daily lives or in a fictional medium. A question that seems all too simple to answer. Because it is. And it isn’t. But at the same time, it’s a concept that’s a lot easier said than done.

Can people really change?

On a superhero show where we’ve seen characters evolve from selfish to selfless and where we get teases of good characters with the potential and motivation to go bad, it’s a question that practically lingers over the entire series. It’s always a threat, and it’s always a possibility.

“Distant Sun” was the perfect answer to this question. “Can people really change?” The answer is yes. If they want to.

Redemption is a common theme in superhero stories. It’s a common theme in our own lives, as well, which is what makes this theme such an important one. Supergirl continues to delve into real world lessons and messages that define our world. And redemption is an important lesson that we should all be aware of.

It’s important to know that no matter what you’ve done, who you used to be, or what you’ve been tempted to do, redemption is possible if you choose to accept it. Not only accept it but fight for it. It’s not something that’s thrust upon you. It’s something that you actively seek every day of your life. Ultimately, it’s that fight that passion that determination that ultimately drives you to become a person worthy of being saved.

Not only did Supergirl address the theme of redemption in this episode, but it presented us with an interesting parallel that also served to progress several storylines. Mon-El and his mother Rhea were locked into a personal battle all their own as she fought to control her son and he fought to control his own destiny.

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When you examine the situation you have to remember that this is the woman that raised Mon-El. Everything he used to be back on Daxam, including the terrible, was inspired by Rhea and his upbringing. So I’d imagine it was shocking for Rhea to find her son again only to find him unrecognizable.

Despite this unwarranted hatred for Mon-El, his storyline this season hasn’t been about becoming a hero. His journey has been about becoming a better version of himself. Sure, that might one day lead him to become a hero. But that’s not the focus this season. So as we watch Mon-El make mistakes, as we watch him try, fail, and try again, we’re reminded that this is the image of a man that is trying. He’s trying to change. He’s trying to do right by himself.

Given this version of Mon-El that we glimpsed briefly and heard briefly, we know that Mon-El has changed significantly since coming to this planet. Mon-El wasn’t proud of the person he used to be back on Daxam. In fact, he despised that person. And it took coming to Earth and meeting Kara and seeing how her hope, optimism, and faith inspires others to inspire him.

Sure, Mon-El fell in love with Kara along the way. And we love him for it. But he didn’t decide to change just so he could be with Kara. He decided to change for himself. That doesn’t get the recognition that it should. Kara has inspired him to be the best version of himself. But that’s something that he had to decide to do for himself. People change people. And Kara and Mon-El have certainly changed each other for the better.

So while this episode continued to shine a light on Mon-El’s character development, it also showed us that change isn’t possible if you’re not open to it. Kara, being the amazing person that she is, always thinks the best of people. She’s always willing to give them a chance to do better. She did it with Mon-El, and it certainly paid off.

But when she tried her approach on Rhea, it completely backfired. Rhea’s obsession with her son returning to Daxam has nothing to do with love and everything to do with control. If that wasn’t evident when she killed her husband in cold blood at the end of the episode then I don’t know.

We saw Rhea attempt to manipulate Mon-El into agreeing to come back to Daxam to lead. And it worked after she threatened Kara’s life and Mon-El sacrificed himself to ensure Kara’s safety. It was almost too easy for her. But we saw that Rhea, who was hiding behind false protective instincts, wanted to control the situation and control Mon-El. She didn’t want him to return because he was her son and she missed him. She wanted Mon-El to return to Daxam because it was what was expected of him. It’s what she demanded of him. I’m sure on some level that Rhea cares for Mon-El (he is her son after all), but this was always about control. And it still is.

I loved how Supergirl approached this as an opportunity to show it from both sides. To show someone who wants redemption and continues to fight for it every day and then to show someone who has no desire to change.

So the answer to the question – Can people really change? – is both simple and complex. Sure, people can change. But the complexity lies in their desire and intention to actually do so. Actions speak louder than words. So if you want to change, you’ll show it.

Supergirl continues to rewrite the superhero narrative. Where love almost seems like a sin on other superhero shows, Supergirl continues to embrace it for its significance. It continues to thrive in its brilliant execution, action, romance, heart, and mind games as we continue to wonder exactly who is the Big Bad this season.

Given Supergirl’s descent into this grueling month-long hiatus, I really couldn’t have asked for a better episode to take with me.

Let’s break down our two love stories (Karamel and Sanvers) of the episode, which both taught us important lessons about love.

Love is About Sacrifice

When it comes to redemption and second chances, Mon-El knows and appreciates the significance of getting that chance. After lying to her about who he really was – and subsequently ending things – Kara forgave Mon-El because she understood the hesitancy. It wasn’t something that he was keeping from her to hurt her. It was something he kept hidden because he didn’t want his past to define him. He wanted a clean slate. Had Kara known who he really was, she might not have gotten to know him the way she had.

But Mon-El got a second chance to be with Kara. And he swore that he would not waste it, that he’d do right by her. And that’s exactly what he did. And I’m not talking about making breakfast or doing the laundry. He did the greatest thing one can do – he sacrificed himself to save her.

When it comes to being in a healthy relationship, you have to be willing to sacrifice. I’m not talking just about physical sacrifice. I’m talking about putting the other’s needs before your own. But in Mon-El’s case, he managed to accomplish both in this episode.

Mon-El has been far from a perfect character, which is what’s made him so endearing to me. He’s continued to fight his old nature where it’s “me first,” and he’s learned through watching Kara what true sacrifice is. It’s going out there day after day and risking your life, your happiness, yourself and never asking for anything in return.

One of my favorite conversations they had in this episode came near the end when Mon-El gushed that he continues to remain in awe of Kara. How she inspires, what she sacrifices. He admitted that what he did, he did because it’s what she would do. And you can see the effect that Kara has had on Mon-El. How she’s inspired him to become a better person, a selfless person. He’s not that selfish person he used to be, she tells him. He’s become a selfless person. One that continues to defy the unwarranted hatred from some fans. (Okay, Kara didn’t say that part, that was all me.)

The pivotal moment for Mon-El came when he and Kara were meeting with his mother. Rhea posed as someone intent on negotiating when actually she’d come to take out Kara herself. When it appeared as if Rhea would finish her off, Mon-El sacrificed himself to save her life. He promised to go with her back to Daxam if Kara’s life was spared.

Mon-El sacrificed everything for Kara. He sacrificed his happiness, he sacrificed the better version of himself he was becoming, he sacrificed this new life that has been his redemption story. Remember when people called him selfish?

When Kara and Mon-El were reunited you could see the relief and elation when they could finally hold each other again. They’d thought they’d lost each other. But their dual sacrifices led them back to each other. They saved each other.

Both Kara and Mon-El have sacrificed for each other. Kara has sacrificed her well-being to ensure Mon-El’s safe return, and Mon-El sacrificed himself to save Kara’s life. It’s a give and take. It’s full circle. It’s what goes into a relationship.

This season Kara’s journey has consisted of balancing her personal life with her professional life. She’s learned that she can be Supergirl and still have it all. After all, Kara isn’t Supergirl. Supergirl is Kara. Her relationship with Mon-El has definitely helped her realize that. We’re seeing Kara grow as an individual as she learns that she can be more than one thing. She’s not confined to this singular box of superhero only. She’s learning that having something worth fighting for makes her even stronger. Not only is she fighting for Alex and J’Onn among others, but she’s also fighting for Mon-El and the potential he represents. The potential to have everything she wants.

Mon-El continues to grow as an individual and in this relationship. He’s learning to be open to suggestions and compromise, as seen when he agreed with Kara that they should meet with his mother to try to work things out. That’s something that Mon-El wouldn’t necessarily have done in the past. He’s usually one to act first and ask questions later. But he’s learning that when it comes to a relationship there’s a level of trust and dependence that comes with it. And almost losing Kara was enough to remind him just how fragile life can be. Even for the Girl of Steel.

While Kara and Mon-El remain relatively young in their relationship, there’s this aura of maturity that covers them. Yes, they’re both puppies who playfully tease each other and find time for little moments. But they’re also two people who continue to face and conquer every obstacle thrown their way. For a couple that’s relatively young, they’ve faced their share of challenges. And they’ve come out on the other side even stronger because of them.

But those challenges are far from over especially as Mon-El’s mother remains a threat to the safety of Earth – and each other. But even that threat isn’t enough to dampen my satisfaction with how Karamel has played out. There continues to be so much potential with this relationship moving forward that only serves to strengthen them as individuals, as well as a couple.

Love is About Being a Team

Alex and Maggie’s relationship has undoubtedly been one of the strongest elements this season as it’s helped expand Alex’s story in a way we didn’t expect and yet makes complete sense. Watching Alex find herself in her relationship with Maggie has been something truly special to behold. There’s just a natural ease to their relationship that comes across so effortlessly. But relationships aren’t built on just ease and passion. They’re built on trust and reliability.

When it comes to being in a healthy relationship, you have to rely on your partner. You’re a team. You live and die by each other. You’re there for each other even when you don’t necessarily need to be. You lean on your partner when you’re struggling. Alex and Maggie are the picture of a healthy relationship that continues to develop with each obstacle that’s thrown their way. Sanvers manages to do what couples should do, which is emerge even stronger on the other side.

I continue to be satisfied with the types of obstacles that the writers throw Sanvers’ way. In “Distant Sun,” Maggie’s ex-girlfriend entered the picture. While you might’ve been quick to wonder, “Oh no, is she going to come between Maggie and Alex?” you have to remember that Supergirl doesn’t hype up the contrived drama. They’ve allowed these two characters to work through their issues without unnecessary means that belong on soap operas.

But the emergence of Maggie’s ex certainly brought up a very important issue when it comes to Alex and Maggie’s relationship. While they certainly have a strong foundation and continue to support each other, Maggie is someone who is very closed off emotionally. It’s something that Alex picks up on after she learns from Emily, Maggie’s ex, that their relationship ended because Maggie had cheated.

When Alex confronted Maggie, it wasn’t to get into an argument about the wrongs of cheating and how she feared that it might happen to her. Alex was more concerned with Maggie bottling up her emotions and feeling alone in the sense that she couldn’t come clean about them. Alex doesn’t have to worry that Maggie will cheat on her because of that faith. But it’s never something that even comes up.

Alex has proven to be incredibly mature in a relationship that is entirely new to her. She’s growing up and discovering herself in this relationship. It’s a newfound confidence that’s only been evident in her professional life.

Meanwhile, Maggie is someone who is slowly learning to be a little braver and more open. It stems back to her coming out to her parents and their gut-wrenching reaction. Since then Maggie has carried that weight with her in every relationship she’s been in. Almost like once things got too serious she felt the need to end the relationship.

But what I loved about that big moment in the apartment was that Alex told Maggie that not only does she deserve happiness, but she can always come to her with the tough stuff. Being in a relationship is about relying on your partner. To the degree where there’s never this hesitancy. Where you don’t view that person as just someone to confess your feelings to. Where you view that person as your other half and actively seek out their help.

These issues that Sanvers continues to face continues to reinforce the strength of their bond and their relationship. They’re discovering new aspects of themselves in each other, which is something really moving to watch. They continue to prove that they can tackle any obstacle thrown their way. They continue to prove that they’re a team.

Six Things…

  1. Can the real big bad please stand up? While it’s seemed like the Big Bad is destined to be Lillian Luthor, Mon-El’s mother is giving her a run for her money. After watching her son walk away from her, the Queen turned on her husband and murdered him before turning to look back at Earth with a chilling promise: “I’m not done with this planet just yet.” And that includes her son and his Kryptonian girlfriend.
  2. Domesticated Karamel gives me life! The breakfast. The couch cuddling. The apron! Like seriously, get yourself a man who can cook AND does laundry AND tells you you’re the best thing to ever happen to him.
  3. I loved the parallel of Mon-El being capable of change but his mother not. Because it’s important that people be aware that change it possible, if you choose to accept it. No matter what you’ve done, who you used to be. Redemption is there for the taking. But if you don’t want to change, you never will.
  4. THANK YOU for showing a healthy couple working through issues the way Sanvers did. Even though it had nothing to do with Alex and Maggie, Alex took it upon herself to care because that’s what you do when you’re in a relationship. You’re a team. You confront everything together.
  5. J’Onn saying that they were fighting to get “their” family back together when rescuing Mon-El. That’s right. Mon-El is part of this family now. Kara, Alex, J’Onn, Winn, James…they’re Mon-El’s family now.
  6. Thank you for the Mon-El & Winn interaction. Seriously, I need more of this. I need them to become friends. I need Winn to continue to show all of the nerdy things to Mon-El. (And finally Mon-El has seen Star Wars.)

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.

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