He gives toys a bad name.

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Schott Through the Heart” really isn’t the type of episode you want to lead with after being off the air for more than two months. To be fair, you can’t necessarily hold that against this episode, as surely no one on the production side of things planned on there being such a massive gap in the schedule. Still, it would have been nice to welcome the series back with a little more momentum right out of the gate, or at least with a more compelling villain of the week.

Rather than deal with the ongoing Reign conflict, “Schott Through the Heart” focused on spotlighting some of the more underutilized players in Season 3 – Winn and M’yrnn. If not ideal timing, it is nice to see some attention being paid to these two. Winn in particular hasn’t had much to do so far in Season 3 beyond his usual role as snarky tech support. In a lot of ways, it feels like the writers never quite figured out what to do with the character following the move to The CW and the big status quo upheaval in Season 2. An episode framed around Winn’s family drama is preferable to another half-baked romantic subplot or a return to the Guardian days.

The bad news here is that we got a Toyman episode without an appearance by the Toyman himself. While Winslow Schott Sr. has been name-dropped several times, he hasn’t actually appeared in the flesh since Season 1’s “Childish Things.” Presumably the move to Vancouver has made further appearances by Henry Czerny impossible, so this was a way of clearing house and basically rebooting Toyman as a villain. Which is understandable, but I wish replacement left a stronger impression. Jacqueline Nimball (Grey’s Anatomy’s Brooke Smith) is just one more bland, unremarkable antagonist in a series that has far too many already. This episode only gave her the skeleton of a back-story and a pretty flimsy motivation for waging war on Winn and his mother (The Big Bang Theory’s Laurie Metcalf). It didn’t help that Smith sounded audibly bored at several points during the course of the episode.

That lack of a tangible, believable link between Nimball and the Schott family weighed on what was otherwise a pretty solid family conflict. Beneath all the robotic flying monkeys, it’s really a story of a son and a mother who both suffered from living in an abusive household and are only just now starting to reconnect. Metcalf was particularly great in the scene where Mary plainly laid out what kind of man Winn Sr. was and why she had no choice but to flee. The writers maintained that delicate balance between celebrating the larger-than-life nature of this universe while also acknowledging the painful reality countless people face as victims of abuse. Jeremy Jordan was very strong as well. Jordan’s performance tends to get a little erratic and exaggerated when Winn is dealing with personal drama like this, but in a way that lends authenticity rather than coming across as distracting or hammy.

I just wish Winslow Sr. himself had been able to appear this week. It felt like the conflict really demanded some sort of final reckoning between father and son rather than a quiet, off-screen death for the former. Or, at the very least, that Nimball was given some sort of closer connection to the Schott family. Maybe by introducing her as Winn’s long-lost half-sister or something?

Moving on, I’ve often wondered what the endgame was with the J’onn/M’yrnn storyline this season. Now that these two have reconnected and built a home together, what more ground is there left to cover? This episode definitively addressed that question by revealing a new wrinkle in M’yrnn’s story – his battle with dementia. Here again, the series finds way of creating real, ordinary conflict amid all the superhuman spectacle. M’yrnn may be a centuries-old priest from Mars, but in this struggle he’s as human and frail as anyone else.There’s a much-needed sense of urgency to J’onn and M’yrrn’s shared story now. It’s also a plot twist that plays to Carl Lumbly’s grave. austere acting style.

Above all, I enjoyed how this subplot highlighted the father/daughter relationship between J’onn and Alex and the idea that M’yrnn wants to try to be a part of that as well. It’s an unlikely but very endearing family dynamic. Another nice touch involved J’onn reflecting on why he chooses to continue wearing the face of an African American man when he has the power to be and look like whatever he wants.

In general, while this episode did very little to advance the larger narrative, it did manage to enhance a number of key character relationships. Even the Kara/Mon-El relationship is better off thanks to this episode. Thankfully, rather than drag Kara deeper into a love triangle with Mon-El and Imra, the writers basically nipped that possibility in the bud. As much as I enjoyed their short-lived romance in Season 2, that ship has sailed now.

It was also great to see the episode book-ended by amusing karaoke scenes. We may not be in store for another full-blow musical episode anytime soon, but that’s certainly better than nothing. And more than simply offering a glimpse of Team Supergirl goofing off, these lighthearted scenes gave the impression that viewers are being given one last moment of calm before things start to get really crazy. Let’s hope that transition starts next week.

The Verdict

Schott Through the Heart” isn’t the first Supergirl episode to be be hindered by an underwhelming villain. However, that proved to be a bigger sticking point than usual, given how much the traumatic relationship between Winn and his parents was at the heart of this conflict. Still, there was plenty of strong character drama to go around, and this episode managed to succeed despite this disappointing new take on a classic Superman villain.

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