written by Dayna Abel
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
KARA: You have powers?
LEX: I have powers.
I was about one minute into this week’s Supergirl before I decided it was going to be a perfect episode, and an hour later my opinion had barely changed.
This. This is what the entire season should have been all along.
There is an excellent essay by Jesse Schedeen about the Arrowverse’s pacing problem here, and it’s on point regarding how all the shows have a tendency to save the good stuff for the last quarter of the season. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Supergirl this year, where the plot takes a sharp left turn into Awesomeville when Lex Luthor enters the arena.
I wasn’t entirely sold on Jon Cryer as Lex when his casting was announced, but the past two episodes have dispelled any doubt I might have had. At the very least, he’s freed me of the burden of believing Kevin Spacey to have been the best Lex, which…yeahhhhh. Moving swiftly on! The facial hair is still kinda weird, but Cryer’s Lex is pitch-perfect and highly comics-accurate. He manages to capture the ruthlessness, megalomania, Machiavellian planning, brilliance, xenophobia and homicidal tendencies of the premier Superman villain. It’s a lot of heavy lifting for any actor, and I have to admit that Cryer nailed it. I’m very impressed.
After one episode, I’ve become attached to Red Daughter. She’s essentially a good person, but with a deliberately skewed and biased viewpoint. They managed to find the perfect mix of “not evil” and “vigorously opposed to our protagonist” in ways that made sense. I was able to sympathize with Red as well as view her as opposition to Kara in ways the writers tried and failed to get me to feel about the Elite or the Children of Liberty.
Speaking of the CoL, one of the two things that felt shoehorned into this episode was the appearance of Ben Lockwood. For all his faults, he never seemed like the “hey toots” type, and I don’t see a champion of the working class being rude to a waitress. (Sidebar, the brunette wig/”Linda Lee” ID was a delightful Easter egg.) It’s also unclear how he fits into Lex’s machinations, and I’d really rather he didn’t at all. Not everything has to all fit together in the end à la Steven Moffat.
The other thing – and I understand why they did it, but still – was when it was revealed that Otis had ultimately spared Mikhail’s life. Supergirl skews towards a slightly younger audience than the CW’s other offerings, and they’re not gonna flat-out kill a kid on what amounts to PG-13 TV, but it still felt like a scene the FCC demanded be shown to drive home that point.
I hope it wasn’t just me who picked up on some Matrix/Lex vibes while watching the relationship between Lex and Red develop. It’ll be interesting if they go there, but Lex seems to be more invested in engineering a familial rather than romantic relationship with Red, probably to create a deeper, more loyal bond.
I realize this review ran long but I’ve been mostly absent from reviewing lately due to work, and I really, really had things to say. Supergirl needs to have a bigger, slightly more over-the-top scope than its Arrowverse peers. A hero is only as good as their villains, and while a strong moral core is a good place to start with Kara, it shouldn’t be wasted on street-level threats. The Flash and Green Arrow should be handling those, and Supergirl needs to deal with more epic adversaries. And who’s a more epic adversary than Lex Luthor himself? By all means, emphasize Kara’s goodness and humanity, but don’t forget to put the super in the girl.
Supergirl airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Dayna can be found on Twitter @queenanthai.