Floriana Lima’s depiction of legendary comic-book hero Detective Maggie Sawyer didn’t fail, but maybe Supergirl failed her.
Finally, Floriana Lima’s Maggie Sawyer stint in Supergirl came to an emotional end.
Writing this is hard. This storyline, while very valid, was a structural trainwreck. Having children is a lifetime commitment–not a cheap exit-strategy. It deserved a full arc of conflict and clashes and compromise. Not a few episodes of zero true communication, contradicting everything Maggie and Alex had worked for, and leaving the laziest open ending to a comic-book hero.
But sometimes two people love each other and can’t be together. It’s life. We try. And good grief, we wished Supergirl tried about ten percent as hard as we do in real life.
Alas, we’re not here to hype any hatred up. We realise for many this is sensitive and we aim to be as fair we possible. Representation isn’t a boast and television isn’t in a vacuum. Media can offer escapism where life can’t, for some. Some are hurting; some aren’t. And no-one, no-one, has any right to tell anyone how if they should or not. And we can confirm it hurts not because your writer here ships–no–it hurts because when this happens, we watch fandoms shed tears. That hurts. So it’s hard to critique. Therefore, before we go on, we would like to say to Maggie and ‘Sanvers’ fans: we wish we knew how to be there for you. And we’ll endeavour.
Because you guys are enough. You don’t want kids? Kicked out? You’ve got trust issues? It will be okay. For many, it isn’t. But if we’re a community, we will fight–just like Maggie Sawyer does. Like so many have said of Maggie–you’re enough. Like Maggie said to Alex, you’re real. So this? This is for you.
Floriana Lima’s addition as Maggie Sawyer has been one of the better components of Supergirl–so let’s celebrate it.
The lady can act.
Lima’s introduction to Supergirl has been slightly overshadowed by controversy. But at the core of her contribution is her acting ability. From a critical standpoint, Floriana Lima played Maggie Sawyer very well. We’ll discuss potential storylines and exits later but for what Lima was given, script-wise, direction-wise–she took it and she ran like the wind.
Not only is she intelligent, but her guardedness instantly justifies Alex’s attraction to her. Mostly, it’s the ways her micro-expressions develop that prove essential, because the material definitely isn’t.
Surrendering weakness isn’t permanent. Lima knows this, thus Maggie knows this. In “Supergirl Lives”, before Maggie can slip into routine happiness, there’s instant defence when she questions if it’s okay wearing Alex’s T-shirt. Tiny decisions like that exploit Maggie’s general description: “tough on the exterior, vulnerable on the inside”.
It’s small acting choices that boost her chemistry with Leigh and also the limited depth given to Maggie. That split-second too long gaze at Alex before they finally kiss oozes self-doubt and uncertainty. The pseudo-Terminator mode she almost succeeded in displaying in “Alex” justified her helpless love for Alex rarely winning over her professionalism. And the unmistakeable tremor of her lower-lip and voice in “Far from the Tree”–a deeper insight into years-long heartache than streaming tears ever would’ve been.
Crackling chemistry with Chyler Leigh resulted in not just a believable, softly romantic relationship that evolved, but also a truly heartbreaking end. Even not aboard the ‘ship’, the playful antagonism earning unyielding, mutual, real love couldn’t go amiss.
The irony is, Maggie hid from Alex multiple times, sugar-coating the start, for what she thought was Alex’s benefit. Alex called her out for it. Yet Maggie’s exit, unfortunately, is because Alex has just done the same.
Maggie Sawyer may not have been “enough”, but if she was for thousands, or a single person, then by the Gods, she is enough.
We’ve discussed Maggie’s written lack of purpose previously. Even when she calls her father, it’s kickstarted by Alex. Eventually, she even confesses to Alex:
Maggie: “You’re all that I need, Alex. I guess you gotta let me know if you feel the same way.”
Alex: “I do. Of course I do.”
It almost seems cruel now that Alex knew she was having doubts about children when she said it. And yet, despite declaring in “Distant Sun” Maggie can’t hide from conversing or in “The Darkest Places” where Alex lambasts Maggie for withholding her feelings, everything screams contradiction. Is it supposed to be rewarding, watching Maggie Sawyer cut her father from her life, knowing she’ll lose the only family she claims she needs a few episodes later? And if Supergirl had grounded Maggie as a three-dimensional character, perhaps with an actual job to fall back on, would the circumstances feel more like a break-up than literally killing her off?
RELATED l The Unseen Maggie Sawyer Saga
Probably the most damning line came from her final episode:
Maggie: “I wish I could change how I feel.”
And it’s easy even now to villainise Maggie. She made Alex ‘say it’. It almost felt as if Maggie needed to avoid being the one to split them up. But prior to that, she begs Alex to reconsider. Following that, she still begs Alex to reconsider. Maggie’s still clinging on to a lost cause. Sound familiar? Like she clung onto her father?
An amicable break-up doesn’t save her from her Groundhog Day of being that fourteen year old girl left on the street. Wishing she could change. Not being enough. There’s no applause from this corner here for Supergirl dodging the BYG trope. Representation is not the BYG trope; it’s not pitting a hollow character in a perpetual state of not being “enough”, either. Don’t ever think not wanting kids isn’t enough; don’t dismiss it as a ‘notion’, either. Supergirl did love right sometimes, but if the message is that children will be a deal-breaker, then don’t be ashamed to stand up and say: “not for everyone”.
We need to talk ‘Sanvers’: Floriana Lima and Chyler Leigh impress with huge emotional levity and scintillating performances.
The most impressive aspect of ‘Sanvers’ is how healthy it can be. Thus, when we run into such a structurally rushed story, it lacks emotional punch. Having a child isn’t an arc for a few episodes. It should’ve been a major milestone in a relationship. And though their break-up shows they clearly still love each other, it feels like a slap to the face.
Lima and Leigh have mastered each other. Maggie’s transition from beam to regret is enough to tell us she’s not okay. But if Supergirl forgot Maggie was emotionally-repressed, feigning a grin for Alex’s sake, they’ve mistaken their audiences for doorknobs. It becomes endlessly annoying how they can ‘converse’ off-screen, but never show us the actual conversation. There’s more to words than just the end result. So when Alex speaks of days of arguing, when have we been given insight into it? When this important, life-changing story should’ve progressed over seasons–maybe even infiltrating season two–where was it?
How different would her story have been if Supergirl cared for Maggie Sawyer? And of ‘Sanvers’, if the USP of their relationship, conversing, hadn’t turned out to be the biggest contradiction of all?
Sympathy for Alex can’t be discounted. It’s understandable. But why can’t they compromise? Why isn’t there an option of waiting and seeing if each of their minds change down the line? It’s a relationship–Alex said that. Yet “lifetimes” were discussed but not kids? “Lifetimes” but a no right now is a no forever? Would Alex Danvers of season two have just asked? Neither argument is invalid. Alex wanting kids is part of her; so is Maggie not. Of all things they needed to truly show discussion of–rather than brief ones highlighting Maggie’s pitfalls, Alex spotting them and calling her out–this needed mutual conversation. This topic is massive.
Representation is thrown at us. What you get is not what you gain. That is always in your hands. It was always yours. We can critique the nonsense of the storyline, validly. But if Maggie meant something to you, to anyone, at any point–then her legacy never dies so long as you keep it.
Supergirl really missed an opportunity by giving a DC legend material like that.
So many storylines could’ve occurred with Maggie Sawyer. And again, if Lima had been given the appropriate scripts to space out such storylines, it would not have detracted from Kara’s screen-time, Alex’s coming out, or the DEO. Because ultimately, such storylines would involve all three, provide conflict, and give Maggie some detecting to do. It’s called writing.
So…Have the NCPD clash in a season-arc with Supergirl and the DEO! Doesn’t that create withstanding conflict between her and Alex too? Three birds in one stone? Maggie’s career, Alex and Maggie’s romance, and Kara being in the darn story.
She’s described in the comics thus: “As Superman’s primary police contact and a no-nonsense cop, she was a source of constant aggravation for the Man of Steel when she tried to prove that the police were more efficient than vigilantes.”
The irony of her having a child in the comics is certainly not lost. But anything other than this could’ve explained Lima’s absence if she is indeed rumoured to be welcomed back. A good old kidnapping? How about something actually career-oriented like a promotion? Relocation because of a new job? A confidential case only National City’s baddest cop can handle? These all remain open and avoid the rushed, forced conflict of this sudden child dilemma. And it pays homage to Maggie’s external life.
Representation doesn’t equate to “not killing the queer one”. It’s also not laden with happiness. What representation means is real people. Real LGBTQ audiences. Look at Elena Alvarez from One Day at a Time. Her father didn’t accept her. Her mother initially struggles, but learns. Elena’s clever, and nothing about her storyline revolves solely around love interests. So why, Supergirl, is it so hard?
Well hey, at least Supergirl swerved the Bury Your Gays trope.
Kreisberg: “Maggie does not die. I’m sure a lot of people are afraid of that.”
Frankly, Maggie Sawyer can’t come to the phone, because in true Swift style, she’s already dead.
The ‘BYG trope’ is not the defining point of representation. Nor is death! 4.1%–approximately 10 million–of Americans identify as LGBT (Gates, 2017). Considering Supergirl is on such an international platform, the community deserved better representation of a relationship than the implication that it’s completely one-sided in perspective. Alex’s coming out was adored because it was so relatable. She juggled work, Supergirl and relationships. What makes Maggie Sawyer so worthless, then? There’s another large portion of LGBTQ audiences that saw themselves in either Maggie or Alex, but only one portion had a story. Only one portion were told they were “real”; the other just wasn’t “enough”.
Someone of Lima’s calibre deserved better. So we suppose in that sense, this speech to her father becomes relatable:
Maggie: “I don’t need anything from you. I’m already good.”
Frequently, Maggie Sawyer hasn’t been enough. So go be enough, Maggie, like the you are. Happiness won’t seek you on this show, but grab your police jacket and catch some villains. Alex Danvers is enough. Maggie Sawyer’s enough. ‘Sanvers’ may be the portmanteau, but it’s two women in love. Believe that. Let that be the legacy you make.
See you around, Sawyer.
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Maggie Sawyer entered with aplomb and dissolved disgracefully. It’s a truth we wish wasn’t so regretful to say.For those who have struggled, been abandoned, antagonised and outcast like Maggie Sawyer, please keep fighting. We’re sure you will. Maggie remained compassionate, understanding and strong. And like you, she was never ‘not enough’. As per The Trevor Project: ‘we hear you; we’re here for you’. Follow more of our Supergirl thoughts with our weekly livetweets and roundtables.