Sunday, March 17, 2019

REVIEW: 'Supergirl' - Lex Luthor Requires His Sister's Help in Order to Battle a Grim Diagnosis in 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 4.15 "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Secretly furloughed from prison due to failing health, Lex Luthor visits his sister, Lena, to seek her help finding a cure. Savvy as ever, Lena is suspicious of Lex's motives but when she's faced with a life and death situation, she must decide how she truly feels about her brother. Supergirl and J'onn face off against Manchester Black. James' sister Kelly comes to town.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of The CW's Supergirl.

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was written by Derek Simon & Nicki Holcomb and directed by Tawnia Mckiernan

This season of Supergirl has been really strong especially as it has leaned in on its political allegories. It is tackling how difficult it is to battle an idea versus a singular person. Sure, there are absolutely people who fan the flames of hatred on opposite sides of this debate. There are many people advocating for barbaric justice in order to solve all of humanity's problems. Ben Lockwood is suggesting that all aliens need to go back to where they come from. They bring nothing but pain and destruction to Earth. The planet has to prioritize its own citizens first. Meanwhile, Manchester Black has been attacking those stoking this anti-alien rhetoric. He believes that the idea will never disappear so long as these people are still alive. They are incapable of changing their fundamental beliefs. Supergirl stands as a powerful symbol of hope. She aspires to bridge the divide in order to create a more inclusive and accepting world. All of this has been very delicately handled throughout the season. And now, the show introduces an obvious antagonist to the proceedings in Lex Luthor who is very clearly going to play a role in the remainder of the season. Now, Lex has long cast a shadow over the proceedings of this show. He and Superman had already had their epic fight which led to Lex being in prison. Lena has tried to change the public perception of her family name and company. She was trying to be an influence for good. She believes she is making the right choices in continuing to work in secret with this alien mineral that could radically change the world and how humans can heal. She sees it as this miraculous substance that could also empower humanity should they choose that path. She knows how dangerous it could be if it was in the wrong hands. She was also a victim of her brother's crimes. That's pointed out at the top of the hour where she was being held hostage as he was trying to create an everlasting Red Sun over Earth. He failed in that endeavor. But it wasn't Superman who stopped him. That is also telling. Tyler Hoechlin doesn't make another appearance here as the superhero. Instead, it's mostly about the Luthor family bond and how Lena needs to work with Lex in order to perfect the medical solution that could save James' life. James was shot at the conclusion of the previous episode. It was played as this big cliffhanger. It's even further teased here with the assailant calling Supergirl to the scene to ensure that he got to the hospital before bleeding out. That moment proves that this was all an elaborate plan. It's no coincidence that Lex is appearing for the first time in the series here. All of this was a way for him to heal himself from cancer as well as mount his escape from prison. He does so effortlessly at the conclusion of the hour. That's such a terrifying final sight. This is an impressive debut for Jon Cryer in the role. Sure, it's awkward that the show is saying there is only a seven or eight year gap between the siblings despite a much larger age disparity between the actors. But the story essentially proves that Lex is a sociopath who delights in his own villainy. He's the type of man who will manipulate people with the truth in order to advance his own agenda. He plays into Lena's need to be inherently good despite the fear that she is compromising too many of her values. She saves James but unleashes Lex onto the world once more. That's very dangerous. It also signals a new stretch for the season. One that may involve more typical superhero action instead of one that aspires for a more nuanced narrative. As such, it should be fascinating to see how all of this will play with the other elements that have been the focus of this season.

Elsewhere, the rest of the ensemble descends on the hospital in order to watch over James until he recovers. He does make a miraculous recovery by the conclusion of the episode. But there is a lot of uncertainty before that fact. J'onn believes that Manchester Black was the one responsible for this. He promised he would come after the people J'onn loves most in the world. He decided to start with James. Everyone was vulnerable and they did nothing to protect themselves from these threats. James was literally shot in the back. Everyone feels responsible for not predicting it. Sure, it may also lead to Brainy and Nia kissing for the first time. This high-stress situation forces many unexpected reactions to come out. Kara feels the need to serve as Supergirl and find who is responsible for this. And yet, she also has a personal responsibility as Alex's sister to stand by her during this tough time. Lena is making progress on her experiment. She is very active. Everyone else is waiting around for the news to come out. It leads to the introduction of James' sister, Kelly. Her presence ensures that there is yet another new side of James that will be explored further this season. That could be potentially interesting even though James remains the character the show struggles the most with telling interesting stories. It's frankly just more compelling to spend time with J'onn just to see how far Manchester will push him. This hour concludes the conflict between them. One threat emerges in Lex but another is wiped out by J'onn. Manchester pushes J'onn thanks to the psychic connection between them. He forces J'onn to once again relive the moment in which his family was taken away from him. That empowers J'onn so that he is more powerful than any human even one wielding the staff. He just also chooses to erase Manchester completely. That is a stark moment that may push J'onn past a point of no return. He has long feared what his inactions could mean for Alex and Kara. They are his family. He doesn't want anything to happen to them. He doesn't want history to repeat itself. And yet, that perpetual fear is now convincing him that he can't be a man of peace. He killed Manchester and will have to continue living knowing that fact and embracing it as a part of his identity.