Supergirl season 3 episode 14 review: Schott Through the Heart


Winn reunited with his mother in last night’s Supergirl episode, the first new installment since February. Naturally, mayhem ensued.

Last time we saw Kara and her fellow world-savers, things looked dicey for National City. In spite of our heroes’ best efforts, a second Worldkiller, Purity, emerged from her human alter ego, joining Reign in her genocidal crusade. Then, Lena got a fleeting glimpse of Reign taking over Samantha’s body, confirming that her friend’s ailment is real after all.

After that, it might seem odd for Supergirl to air an episode centered on Winn. Indeed, “Schott Through the Heart” has only a tenuous connection to the overarching narrative, and that occurs in the C-plot. But the show has been off the air for more than two months, taking a break so Legends of Tomorrow could wrap up its season. Far from killing the momentum, the episode gives Supergirl a much-needed shot (or Schott) in the arm, clearing away the clutter and finding a still-beating heart.

From the get-go, I felt optimistic. Bathed in dramatic gold light, Kara addresses her teammates, who stand in a line, poker-faced and battle-ready. She urges them to have courage and remember their purpose. “We do this for the people!” she proclaims.

Cut to Kara singing “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys, disco lights flashing against the glitzy/tacky backdrop. It’s karaoke night at the local bar. Any concern about Worldkillers and ill-conceived romances instantly evaporates. (Full disclosure: there is no easier way for a show to win me over than by throwing in karaoke. The less sense it makes in context, the better.) Watching Melissa Benoist robot-dance and David Harewood intone the lyrics “I’m so emotional, baby” — I thought I would be perfectly happy with an hour of nothing but this.

But, of course, it doesn’t last. As he settles into the jaunty opening beats of a-ha’s “Take on Me,” Winn notices a familiar face on the bar TV. His father, Winslow Schott Sr. (aka the Toyman), is dead. The lights appear to dim, and he abruptly leaves the stage, overcome more with shock than emotion.

“I’m supposed to be feeling something,” he tells James in the alley outside, “but I don’t feel anything – I don’t think.”

The Toyman last appeared back in the first season episode “Childish Things,” in which he escaped from prison and briefly wreaked havoc on National City. In the meantime, he has barely figured into Supergirl at all, mentioned only in passing. I regarded him the way you might regard a once-promising actor who, for no apparent reason, vanished into obscurity. Still, that line, as well as the funeral presided over by snowy skies and a halfhearted priest, lends weight to his death. It’s a powerful contrast from the more melodramatic displays of grief that the show tends to favor.

At the funeral, Winn encounters another familiar face: his mother, who abandoned him and his father when he was young. Mary is also familiar to us: she’s played by Emmy-winning and, as of this year, Oscar-nominated actress Laurie Metcalf.

For the most part, The CW populates its superhero shows with newcomers, character actors, and TV veterans. For the most part, this works to their benefit, encouraging the audience to fully surrender to the story and characters. However, I can’t deny that seeing Metcalf gave me a jolt of excitement. Her presence pretty much automatically elevated “Schott Through the Heart” above par.

Supergirl doesn’t let her go to waste either. As Mary, Metcalf gets to run the gamut from prickly to tender, nonchalant to sincere, fierce to fragile. She reels off quips with the briskness of a flame springing from a cigarette lighter (“I’m pointing a gun at you, in case that’s something you’re interested in knowing”) and imbues ostensibly banal lines with poignant depth (“I just wish he’d let me tell him how proud I am”). The revelation that Mary was abused by her husband should come across as empty, a stock Tragic Backstory, but Metcalf makes her pain and regret palpable, wearing trauma on her face like wrinkles.

She also meshes well with the other cast members, most notably Jeremy Jordan. On paper, Winn and Mary’s bitter child/well-meaning parent dynamic is old hat, and their eventual reconciliation is never in doubt. But the actors create a lively, unforced tension, wisely opting for nuance over theatricality. In particular, during one confrontation, Jordan delivers a monologue about the night Winn’s father got arrested, his voice fraught with repressed anger, while Metcalf listens, her eyes brimming with love she can’t express. It’s more compelling than any battle — even one involving a giant robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex.

At first, the B-plot seems like a respite from Winn’s family drama. Alex visits J’onn and M’yrrn for dinner at their new apartment. They drink wine and listen to jazz on vinyl. The Martians talk about the experience of being black and alien in America. (“I don’t want to live in a world where I have to change my skin to feel safe,” J’onn concludes. “I would rather change the world.”)

When J’onn leaves the room to get the chocolate pie he made, M’yrrn mentions that he hopes to see Alex become part of the family: “I have always wanted a granddaughter.” Alex delicately points out that he had two granddaughters, J’onn’s now-dead children from Mars. But he doesn’t seem to recognize their names.

Alex, well-versed in neuroscience, realizes what’s happening right away. It turns out that Green Martians also experience dementia, or “decay of memory,” as the translation from their language puts it. M’yrrn hasn’t told J’onn yet, knowing the grief it will cause his son, especially given that they have already spent so many years apart.

“I can’t ask him to watch me disappear inch by inch,” he says. He insists that Alex keep his secret.

Like Mary’s backstory, this could’ve easily felt like a cheap ploy for audience sympathy. Since his introduction in the season’s third episode, M’yrrn has been relegated to the margins, implying that the writers don’t know what to do with him. Fortunately, writers Caitlin Parrish and Derek Simon handle it with care, trusting the actors (Carl Lumbly continues to bring gravitas to a rather thin role) and letting the emotions lie just under the surface. The image of J’onn standing behind M’yrrn in shallow focus, already fading from his father’s mind, speaks volumes.

By the end of the episode, fortunes have shifted. One family comes together, while another sits on the verge of disintegration. J’onn and Alex share a silent hug, while on stage, Winn and Mary belt, “Take on me / I’ll be gone / In a day or two…”

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Bullet Points:

  • In this week’s C-plot, Kara and Mon-El continue to go in circles. We learn information about Pestilence, the third Worldkiller, but I feel like this storyline could have been cut, or at least moved to next week’s episode. Why include this when you could have Jeremy Jordan and Laurie Metcalf singing the entirety of “Take on Me”?
  • Arrowverse karaoke scene rankings: 1. Legends of Tomorrow, 2. Supergirl, 3. The Flash
  • Winn heckling James during karaoke: “Take off your shirt!” He’s joking, but come on.
  • James spends the entire episode trying to contact Lena. When she finally returns his calls, she is in a glass quarantine unit, presumably running tests on Samantha.
  • Even by The CW’s standards, the special effects in this episode leave something to be desired.
  • Winn after his father’s coffin is lowered into the ground: “You just missed him.” Mary: “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I never missed him.”
  • I’m not sure the characterization of Winn’s father here matches with his characterization in “Childish Things” — but my memory of that episode is admittedly vague.
  • “Don’t Luke Skywalker me!”
  • #CapeTricks

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.