Sunday, October 28, 2018

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - The Narrative Delves Deep Into the Backstory of the Latest Villain in 'Man of Steel'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 4.03 "Man of Steel"

Ben Lockwood didn't always hate aliens. Through a series of incidents, and input from his anti-alien father, Ben slowly transforms from a mild-mannered professor into the villainous Agent Liberty of today.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of The CW's Supergirl.

"Man of Steel" was written by Rob Wright & Derek Simon and directed by Jesse Warn

It's such a risky gambit for the season to produce an episode early on that is largely centered around a character the audience has never seen before. Of course, this isn't Sam Witwer's first episode of the show. He has been the actor underneath the Agent Liberty mask this entire time. But the show still treats it as a big surprise when he discovers that mask in his father's steel plant and decides to put it on to become this new persona. This hour is designed for the audience to have a more complete understanding of Ben Lockwood. He transformed from a university professor to this man willing to rid his planet of all aliens. It's a fascinating journey that showcases just how powerful the rhetoric of the world can be. Supergirl believes that she is a beacon of hope. The show has frequently asked the audience to go along with every heroic gesture that she or J'onn or anyone at the DEO makes. But it's also pivotal to see how the reaction can be on the ground by those who aren't aware of everything that is happening in their world. Kara and her friends are doing their best to protect Earth from those who wish it harm. But Ben's family sees all aliens as the reason why their lives have been completely destroyed. It's not just one incident either. This story takes place in the same amount of time as the run of the show so far. It uses key plot points from across the series to show how this family has been changed because of the actions of Supergirl and the enemies she has faced. At first, it presents as nothing more than a civil debate between the stubborn old generation and the more compassionate younger generation. Ben is trying to set a good example for his son. And yet, his father's continued presence slowly infects Ben with the same beliefs that aliens are the reason why their lives have been destroyed. It's a strong parable for the automation of the world. Ben's father refuses to adjust to the changing circumstances of his business. As such, he loses all of his contracts and eventually has to shut down. He would rather die than accept that there is a better way to do things. That's ultimately what happens too. He dies because of Reign's attack on the world. But that death isn't the moment that cements Ben's fate as Agent Liberty. Before that point, he was already heading in this trajectory. He was no longer talking about the ideals of manifest destiny in his lectures. Instead, he was leading horrible discussions about nativism and not all progress being good. Sure, there is some nuance to these conversations. Ben still raises some good points. However, he is refusing to see the world any differently. He is blaming all aliens for the problems he has experienced in his life. It's hard to blame him because his house burns down right after J'onn proclaims that Ben's family is safe from the alien invaders. To them, it makes no sense. They can't find any sympathetic allies until Mercy and Otis Graves come into the picture. They are the ones who give Ben a new direction in life. That leads to his current reality where he now seems to be the one running the show. This story makes sure to put more emphasis and nuance onto him. He was broken down. And yet, there are still plenty of mysteries remaining with Ben as well. He still has a family. They haven't left him. It's unclear if they believe the same things that he does. The dean at his university eventually came around to his view of the world. That could make it seem like the increasing number of alien attacks will only demoralize the human population more. Ben is choosing to take the fight to the aliens. However, he's ultimately just another straight white man who would rather blame the outsider for his problems instead of taking some personal responsibility. That's a potent theme the show is exploring this season. It has done a solid job so far. But it should remain fascinating to see if it can keep it up moving forward.