Perhaps the most controversial addition to Season 2 of Supergirl has been Kara’s love interest, Mon-El. While most of the fandom has embraced Daxam’s estranged prince, the volume of his critics has been unmistakable. The pros and cons appear to revolve largely around the character’s biography. Daxam was a caste society. As part of that social system, the royal family held slaves. Mon-El, himself, took advantage of his privilege and garnered the reputation of a chauvinistic party-boy. This less-than-flattering backdrop forms the first of three discernible points in the character’s story. (WARNING: Spoilers below!)
If Mon-El’s prologue was luxury and permissiveness, then his next phase started with furtive fear and frustration. After his escape pod crashed to Earth, Mon-El immediately broke free from the DEO and tried to contact his homeworld. He received back only silence. After being wrongly accused of a presidential assassination attempt – on no more evidence than his heritage – Mon-El sought to shield his true identity. Recounting the devastation of nearby-Krypton’s fallout, he claimed to be a palace guard jettisoned to space by Daxam’s prince. The DEO agreed to place him under their supervision. Mon-El would now be another alien refugee on Earth. Because Kara was one of only two beings from the same solar system, she became his guide on Earth. By happenstance, this tutelage would set the character toward his third point of definition: redemption. That path, however, would not be easy.
Mon-El’s royal habits and customs were often hard to break. He failed at his CATCO internship due to a lackadaisical work ethic and an indulgent attitude. He soon took to bartending. It was a profession that could re-enable at least some aspects of his former life. Ultimately, though, Mon-El was drifting. It was Kara’s example as a superhero that soon gave him a new direction. He saw her take down a band of Cadmus thugs equipped with alien weaponry. Later, she broke apart an alien fighting ring. But it was Supergirl’s rescue of Mon-El, himself, from Cadmus that had the deepest impact. The Daxamite was falling romantically while also being lifted aspirationally.
But the credibility of that journey has been what has drawn out fan dissension. A vocal contingent persists that his background should discredit his character path. This line of thinking supposes two possibilities: A) Any positive action is just a cover for Mon-El’s traditionally selfish aims (bedding Supergirl), or B) his evolution is sincere, but it isn’t fair that Supergirl should tolerate such a flawed suitor. Episode 16, “Star-Crossed,” represented much of this case in microcosm.
Mon-El’s troubles would start with the arrival of Daxamite warship into Earth’s airspace. In (perhaps) a reference to the DCEU’s Man of Steel, the vessel broadcast a message to the entire Earth that Mon-El must be handed over. The clock was ticking on Mon-El’s secret identity. After Supergirl first attempted to confront the ship 1-on-1, Mon-El eventually instructed her and the DEO to stand down. He would go peacefully aboard. However, he initially sought to do so alone in the vain hope that he could maintain his lie to Kara and the DEO. However, Supergirl beamed up along with him and then learned the Prince’s truth. Shocked, angered and hurt, Kara soon left the giant spacecraft to return home. Sheepishly, Mon-El did the same. His refusal to independently come clean would thus begin his trial. It seemed to end in a guilty verdict.
In this story, two characters shared the responsibility of the prosecution’s argument.
- Queen Rhea of Daxam – She would make the demographic/cultural case. Mon-El had a birthright and he should return to Daxam to claim it. Culturally he is a poor fit on Earth and his dalliance as a superhero was merely from seduction by a stuffy, self-righteous Kryptonian.
- Supergirl – Mon-El’s lie that he had been a royal guard meant that their courtship was built on falsehood. Having fought over whether their relationship would be private and whether Mon-El should have input over Kara’s actions as a superhero, this flaw would be the breaking point.
Despite their mutual distrust and dislike, Rhea and Kara would come to a meeting of the minds on Mon-El’s fate. At the DEO, the Queen sought Supergirl’s help in persuading him to leave. If their romance was terminated, Mon-El would see no reason to remain on Earth. Kara’s anger made agreeing with Rhea’s plot all the easier. Despite these deliberations, it was important that Kara’s character not be perceived as a villain in this story. Melissa Benoist deserves a great deal of credit for hitting that mark.
To this point, Kara had invested heavily in Mon-El’s potential. When others such as James Olsen disregarded him, Kara defended his potential. She consistently stuck with him, teaching Daxam’s privileged son how to treat others – particularly partners – with respect. Finally, within the past few weeks, that investment seemed to pay dividends. In episode 14, the Daxamite had learned how to be quietly supportive in moments when Kara needed it (Jeremaiah’s alliance with Cadmus). In “Exodus,” Mon-El showed he could be encouraging, as when he placed faith in Kara’s instinct to blog the story of Cadmus’s abduction program. He could even show humility and consideration, such as making breakfast or volunteering for housework. Yet, with Kara having to find out his true origin from his parents, it now appeared that her faith was misplaced. Despite Kara’s effort in making the two work, Mon-El still didn’t respect her enough to be honest. Benoist played Kara’s pain convincingly. However, even after Kara made the decision to break up, her devastation after he left her apartment still showed she was not completely of one mind. Perhaps Rhea had unfairly pushed her toward one direction.
And for that contribution, Teri Hatcher also earns praise. Her performance showed that Queen Rhea may be the real cunning on the throne of Daxam. She never relinquished in pursuit of her goal to bring Mon-El home, and her skills as a manipulator were on full display. But in this moment of utter failure for Mon-El, he might have also shown how genuine his evolution has been. He still rejected the idea of returning to Daxam and indicted his parents for the unjust society that they had overseen. The royal family was an impasse. Interestingly, it was Kevin Sorbo’s depiction of the King that came off as more compassionate. Lar Gand eventually ruled that Mon-El could stay on Earth, an outcome Rhea never anticipated. The King and Queen’s debate over Mon-El’s status looks poised to continue.
My belief has been, for some time, that Mon-El would leave Earth at the end of Season 2 and return to Daxam. But after winning the right to remain in this episode, it’s not clear what upcoming story points will enable that result. Next week’s episode is “Distant Sun,” a likely double-entendre hinting that we’ll test how deep the divide is within Daxam’s first family. Episode 16 may not have been as strong as the prior chapter, “Exodus,” but we still received important character moments that should reverberate through the season finale. As this week ended, the Music Meister arrived at the DEO. He incapacitated Kara, stole her inter-dimensional transporter and indicated that his ultimate target was Barry Allen, The Flash, of Earth-1. Supergirl’s musical crossover with Flash tomorrow night will unveil whatever deviousness he has in store.
Submitted by Jody Money