Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Supergirl Episode 212: Luthors


Supergirl episode 212, titled 'Luthors' aired this week and was a decent episode, building up the threat of the Luthors and Cadmus, bringing back a couple of villains from earlier in the season, and shoring up one of the relationships that has suffered the most during this season - Kara and James. And, in continuing and running theme of this second season, we touch on prejudices and biases.

For me, the most interesting plot involved the relationship between Lillian and Lena. We learn a lot about their family's history. We meet the other members of the Luthor clan. There is a nice understated current of the eternal argument of nature vs. nurture. There is a lot here to remind me that you can't trust a Luthor. And that bias is unfortunately played out on Lena who is trying to do good and distance herself from her family's legacy. But Luthor motivations are, to quote Churchill, a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. People just keep thinking there are ulterior motives.

But I was definitely glad to see that some time was spent on the Kara/James friendship. It has felt, at times, this season that the show runners simply didn't know what to do with James. The Guardian plot felt a little forced at times. So seeing them at least voice their issues with each other and try to move past them was welcomed. I also liked hearing James add some Superman/Luthor context to his concerns about Lena.

And we continue to nudge the Kara and Mon-El romance forward. In fact, we get just about as close to a kiss as we have before a surprise ending stalls things.

Finally, I have to compliment Katie McGrath for her performance as Lena in this episode. She really has to emote a ton here, veering from sadness and worthlessness to a touch of anger and self-reflection. And she simply nails it. What a nice showcase for her skills.

On to the show.


The episode starts with a flashback looking into the Luthor home back when Lena was preschool aged young girl. We see Lillian playing chess with a nicely coiffed Lex. He defeats his mother who then resets the board to challenge him with a new defense. A bald Lionel tells Lillian that Lena is joining the family. And, in a fascinating beat, Lex invites Lena to play chess with him. He isn't a vile loner right now. He's just a kid.

We then fast forward to the present where news of Lena testifying against her mother is all over the news. The whole DEO crew including James and Mon are in the alien bar chilling out. The scene plays like shorthand for the characters. Alex tells everyone that she is together with Maggie. Winn calls pool 'geometry with sticks' and says he can play. Mon-El hopes Lillian gets marched through the town to be publicly shamed, again letting us know Daxam is a bit less enlightened than Earth. Kara worries about Lena and think she needs to reach out to her friend. And James worries that Lena will use Kara's friendship against her. Boom ... we know everyone.

Heading to Lexcorp, Kara talks about how she spends a lot of time wishing she could talk to people that aren't around any more. That nudges Lena into visiting Lillian in jail.


At the prison, we have a nicely staged scene. The two Luthor women literally face off, a cold distance between them. But, for the first time, Lillian shows some humanity. She reveals to Lena that she truly is a Luthor. She is the product of an affair Lionel had. When Lena's mother died, Lionel brought his daughter into the house to raise her. Lillian chose to spend more time with Lex and avoid Lena. Lena looked too much like her mother for Lillian to be comfortable around. And she was ashamed and angry. Lionel wasn't a saint. It is time for the two women to mend their rift. The truth is out.

Lena reaches out to touch her mother's hand. Perhaps there will be a thaw. As I said, both in the early scene with Kara and here, McGrath shines, showing surprise, confusion, and some sadness.

Nice symmetry here with the scene above. Lillian sitting across a table with her children, but very different circumstances.

While all that is happening, Metallo (who I thought died when his 'heart; got removed by Alex earlier in the season) is alive and well in prison, albeit without his Green K. That is, until a package holding some arrives in his cell.  Don't ask me how he can survive without a heart but I am glad this means Alex didn't stone kill him earlier in the season.


We cut to the courtroom where Metallo is scheduled to testify against Lillian. Lillian smirks the whole time while Metallo uses the cross-examination to again voice Cadmus' intolerance. He says that earth is in crisis and aliens bring violence and disease. He then says he will be a hostile witness and shows that he is once again armed with Kryptonite. This clearly riffs on the prejudice theme which has been coursing through this season.

A skirmish breaks out and Metallo rushes Lillian outside. Supergirl arrives but before she can stop the villains, Metallo shatters a huge crane which is nearby. Kara needs to save the citizens instead of trailing Metallo and Luthor. I have been pretty impressed with the special effects this season. Nice rescue here.
There is a lot of fallout from this escape. Footage arises showing Lena taking Kryptonite out of a Lexcorp safe. People think she slipped the Green K to Corben when she visited Lillian. She is arrested by Maggie. Lena's apparent guilt will be on display on the cover of CatCo's magazine. Kara protests Lena's innocence but the mantra of 'she's a Luthor' is implied or stated by Maggie, Snapper, and James.

When Kara says Lena set up her mother to be arrested, James says it shows how easy Lena will betray people. Maybe all her actions have been a long con.

James figures if Lena is secretly in cahoots with Lillian that someone will come to break Lena out. Sure enough, Metallo shows up. A pretty nice fight breaks out. Using the shield effectively, the Guardian is able to hold his own for a bit.

But James is just James. Eventually, Metallo gets the upper hand and knocks him out. Metallo then grabs Lena.
In the DEO medical bay, James gets care for his Metallo-inflicted wound. James noticed that Metallo seemed to be hurt by the very Kryptonite he was using.

Everyone outside of Kara in the bay - Winn, Alex, Hank, and James - thinks Lena is guilty. Maybe shooting Corben in the first episode was so Lillian could make him into Metallo. Maybe everything is some long con. Everyone is truly dizzy in trying to unravel what they think Lena's motives are.

In a great scene, James and Kara have a serious conversation. James reminds Kara that Lex and Clark were friends. Clark was also swayed by Lex and Lex's lies. But all that takes a back seat to what is going on between James and Kara. James wants Kara's trust. But she is still ticked off about his Guardian work and his unwillingness to believe in Lena. She storms off. Once again, we see a character alone. Once again we see Kara distancing herself from her friends, another theme this season.



Inside a van, Lillian tells Lena that the time has come for Lena to join Cadmus. Everyone believes Lena is guilty. No one will be able to change that perception. With the Luthor men gone, it is time for the Luthor women to unite. Lena initially asks to be let out to fend for herself but there seems to be a pause with this. Could she being turned?

Meanwhile, Winn cracks the footage of Lena stealing the K. With a little decryption we see that it was the Cyborg Superman who grabbed it. At the same time, Metallo's Kryptonite radiation is picked up on a DEO scanner. But it is clearly artificial K and it is about to hit critical mass.


As for Lillian's plea for Lena to love her and join her, I question how true it all was. The villains enter one of Lex's lairs to grab the weapons Lex had created to fight Superman. The only way to open it is with a bioscan looking for Luthor DNA. That is why Lena was brought there. (Or was it, maybe Lillian thought Lena would willingly join). When Lena refuses to aid her mother, Cyborg Superman forces her palm to the pad.

It shows just how twisted the Luthor's are. Was all that emotional talk in three prior scenes with Lillian all a lie? Or was she telling the truth? Could she mean it and also need Lena to open the vault? No wonder everyone is going crazy when thinking about the Luthors!

I just have to applaud the writers for leaning on past episodes and DC lore.
The vault holds an atomic axe (remember the Lumberjack/Vartox), a black mercy (remember 'For the Girl who has Everything') and something in a small box that Lillian is thrilled to see. She is surprised that Lex was able to complete whatever is in the box. Hmmm ... any guesses? 

Supergirl arrives and it is this scene that is sort of my low point.

With Metallo about to go nuclear, Kara arrives. Unfortunately she is quickly incapacitated by some sort of sonic grenade tossed by Lillian. Luthor and Cyborg Superman escape while Metallo fights. And then, despite her warning that he is about to die and begging him to let her help him, Metallo moves in for the kill.

Luckily, Martian Manhunter arrives to save the day. How I wish that Supergirl would save the day on her own! I didn't like her needing to be saved.

With Metallo dazed, J'Onn, Kara, and Lena all fly away. Metallo does indeed explode, killing him.


That means nothing is left but the wrap up.

James and Kara decide to stop protecting each other and instead just going back to being loyal friends. I was glad to see the relationship mended.

Lena is exonerated and thanks Kara profusely with hugs and flowers. But then we get a scene of Lena looking at a chess board and sitting on her sofa pensively. She remembers beating Lex at chess even at a very young age. Maybe, now that she realizes she truly is a Luthor ... not just in name ... she will embrace who she is and become evil. Or am I succumbing to the overthinking all the characters have been doing all episode?

And finally we see Mon-El and Kara seem to profess their feelings to each other. In her apartment, she tells him that she will always fly to protect others but she doesn't like feeling vulnerable herself. She didn't want to like Mon-El because he is a 'dude bro' but he keeps surprising her in how he has grown. And she calls herself the personification of the American Way (which I loved and Mon appropriately teases her about) who is ready to have it all. Just as they are about to kiss ...

Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up professing his love for Kara.

Whoa!

So overall a very good episode. The Luthor relationships, like onions that have stinky layers, was brilliantly shown here. I don't know what to believe. And James and Kara reaching out to each other was very nice. Add the re-emerging threat of Cadmus now armed with a mystery weapon and a great cliffhanger, I think this nicely pushed the overall season plot forward.

All that said, Lena better not turn evil.



18 comments:

Anonymous said...

And we're again reminded of why Lex Luthor is THE quintessential comic-book villain since 1940. Do you need to introduce mind-screwing tension and drama? Bring in Lex, his screwed family and their conflicts with the House of El.

Supergirl lifting a crane is a fantastic scene, but I didn't care for MM saving her either. She doesn't need to save the day every time but she doesn't need to be constantly rescued and helped either.

Lena's last scene is fascinating. Who is she seeing as she fingers that White Queen? Supergirl? Or herself? She thinks of herself as a good person who is playing a complex and dangerous game of chess? Against whom?

Katie McGrath must be commended. She plays so well her character that, even though she has done nothing but helping the "good guys", people still wonders whether she is good or bad.

Well, I'll tell it again: I want Lena to be good. Superman cannot save Lex from himself. But Supergirl can save her friend.

Supergirl and Lena had a very complicated friendship in the Pre-Crisis and Cosmic Adventures universes, and I'm happy to see it here.

And Mr. Mxyzptlk finally turns up. This is going to be good. And when I say "good", I mean "annoying". Poor Kara. You have no idea what's coming to you. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

Technical point actor David Harewood playing two completely different parts rescued two different women in the climax of this episode, Lillian Luthor and Supergirl. Yeah big megadittoes with our host, MM "Saving the Day" was a huge problem for me in this ep, Supergirl needs to get thru more of these confrontations without being coached by Alex, or rescued by the DEO/MM or the Petticoat Junction Volunteer Fire Department.
Not sure where the Lena Luthor thing is going, I'd be nice if Kara was definitely able to drag her over to the "lightside of the force" because it does make such a contrast with Superman's deadly feud with Lex. For me this is the standout subplot of the season and is indeed because Katie McGrath is bringing some Calista Flockhart style joy to the role.
Not sure what could be in that box? I'm assuming its something on the order of an Easter Egg...Gold Kryptonite? (Doubt its in continuity and likely unnecessary given other similar devices out there)....Maybe Lex hacked a Mother Box before being sent up the river? An operational fragment of Brainiac's Neural Net? The mind boggles....
JLG

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I thought it was the White Knight she was holding at the end. As if she is debating being a good guy or not.

And the Lex device - after thinking. I bet it's a Phantom Zone projector, thus sealing Mon-Els eventual fate.

aa3on said...

Hi, Anj. Okay, I haven’t watched any of the second half of this season but it’s hard to avoid spoilers when I know many people who watch it (So I am totally fine with, and accept, spoilers).

I know people may be getting pretty sick of my comments seemingly bashing this show, but I can assure you that I am not an antagonist by nature. By asking seemingly antagonistic questions, I seek merely to understand better and, hopefully, to learn.

So, in that spirit I just need to ask this… You said you were glad of Metallo’s reappearance, because it means Alex didn’t stone kill him earlier in the season… Surely, you meant to say Alex AND Supergirl? Supergirl did hold Metallo vulnerable and give Alex the cue to kill him. If I held a person down so that they couldn’t move and tell someone else to shoot him or her in the head, am I innocent? Of course not, I’d be equally guilty of causing that person’s death. And (just like Parasite’s return in an upcoming episode) just because Metallo is alive doesn’t clear Supergirl and Alex of their ‘intentions’ to kill him earlier in the season.

‘Let me help you,’ says Supergirl to Metallo in this episode. Just where was that compassion for his life at the conclusion of their first encounter?

Also, and this is purely just as a side note, one thing that has never arisen between Kara and Alex is that with Kara so against killing (supposedly), surely Alex killing so often would/should bother her. Yet Supergirl chose to work with her and the DEO, an organization that is willing to kill. It’s like a vegan working for a slaughterhouse; it never made much sense to me. There is still a lot of killing going on in Supergirl’s presence; I really don’t think Supergirl should be tolerating that. It will be interesting to see if the comics ever bring it up. Maybe I read too much into things!

Once again, though, all respect.

KET said...

"Also, and this is purely just as a side note, one thing that has never arisen between Kara and Alex is that with Kara so against killing (supposedly), surely Alex killing so often would/should bother her. Yet Supergirl chose to work with her and the DEO, an organization that is willing to kill. It’s like a vegan working for a slaughterhouse; it never made much sense to me. There is still a lot of killing going on in Supergirl’s presence; I really don’t think Supergirl should be tolerating that. It will be interesting to see if the comics ever bring it up. Maybe I read too much into things!"

Actually, it's an ongoing action throughout the series that I suspect may be eventually examined at some point in the series. However, the body count whenever the DEO or civilians tangle with some of Supergirl's super-foes must be pretty high at times. "Kill or be killed" might be the SOP for such encounters, as far as J'onn and Alex are concerned.

KET

aa3on said...

Hi, KET. Yes I think you’re right that, for Alex and J’onn, “kill or be killed” may be the SOP. I remember an episode from the first season (I forget which one(s)) where it said that Alex is a soldier, trained to do whatever is necessary (or something along those lines); and when J'onn took the blame for killing Astra, implying that he, too, believes in the "kill or be killed" philosophy. It will be good if the show were to eventually examine the contrast of philosophies between its characters.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall bringing up the fact that Supergirl was dependent at various times on her sister's willingness to kill, early last season. They should work that thesis into the show simply because its good drama, but I doubt they'll go thru with it since following the idea thru to it means Alex would have to get a job at the Public Library or Dairy Queen or something.
Good call on that phantom zone projector Anj....you might be right.

JF

KET said...

"I seem to recall bringing up the fact that Supergirl was dependent at various times on her sister's willingness to kill, early last season. They should work that thesis into the show simply because its good drama, but I doubt they'll go thru with it since following the idea thru to it means Alex would have to get a job at the Public Library or Dairy Queen or something."

Oh, I dunno...could make for a pretty compelling season-ender if Alex and Kara's sister-bonding took a powder due to ethical and moral differences. Alien royalty seems to be possibly arriving on the National City horizon... :)

KET

Anonymous said...

Yeah a breech in the super sisterhood would be interesting, on the other hand only Supergirl can win that argument unless Alex moves over to "Legends of Tomorrow" and Lena moves into Kara's building as the new Superbuddy.
:)

JF

Scrimmage said...

It's really getting old watching Supergirl, the titular star of the show, who is supposed to be "The Most "Powerful Woman on Earth," not to mention the "Personification of the American Way," having to be saved EVERY episode after getting her butt kicked by villains who shouldn't be anywhere CLOSE to her power levels. Yes, I know being close to Metallo weakens Supergirl (which is why they should've sent J'Onn after him in the FIRST place), but that's no excuse for Kara allowing him to get his hands on her. Where's her super-speed, her freezing breath, her BRAINS? Right off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen ways she could've incapacitated Metallo from a distance, even if he WAS about to blow up, but NOOOOOOO!

I'm also done with the whole “James/Guardian” subplot. His confrontation with Metallo this episode was the perfect illustration of how useless he is going against a super-powered opponent. I was actually rooting for Metallo to put an end to this nonsense by crushing James' skull inside his Robocop helmet, which he could've easily done if he thought that “Guardian” was anything other than an annoying nuisance. Kara is absolutely right to discourage James' suicidal attempt to play in the Big Leagues. He's better off busting muggers and jewel thieves, and leaving the “super hero-ing” to someone more qualified and better equipped for the job.

I wonder what prompted TPTB to have Miss Tessmacher drop that little nugget about being a graduate of Yale? They must've got some feminist backlash over portraying her as a sex object/blonde bimbo after her infamous pantsless scene with Mon-El in the copy room.

Speaking of smart women...

My take on the Lena Luthor scene at the end was that they were showing us that Lena has a keen, strategic mind that might even surpass her brother, Lex's, and that everything that's supposedly happened TO her has actually been the result of her genius manipulations. By working the “long con,” she's not only been playing Supergirl/Kara for a fool, but her mother as well. Let's face it, with Lillian on the show, they haven't needed Lena to play the villain so far, but now that Mama Luthor's out of the picture, it might be time for Lena to take the next step in her sure-to-be nefarious plan. I'm looking forward to it, mainly because “nice Lena” is BORING!



KET said...

Well, Lena fondling that chess piece made me ponder if Checkmate was being very softly ushered into the show... :)


KET

aa3on said...

I only mentioned it as a side note. But me being me and thinking too deeply about things, I feel that although it would be interesting if the show were to address the differences in morality/Kill or be killed philosophies between Kara, J'onn and Alex etc, at the same time it would also highlight that Supergirl (at this stage in the show) would be a hypocrite for defending her "no kill" rule.

The time to address such things has passed (personal opinion). Like in the first season, Kara praised Alex for taking down a Hellgrammite all by herself... yeah because Alex killed him. This, again, is just an example of where Kara should've had a problem because her sisters actions conflicted with Kara's philosophy (back then it did anyway). Too many incidents have passed for it to become an issue now. They'd be opening a can or worms best left closed.

KET said...

"Too many incidents have passed for it to become an issue now. They'd be opening a can or worms best left closed."

Guess I'll have to disagree on that. Mon-El's ethics and views on morality are still being shaped by Kara and her friends. Ball's still being kicked around, and next, it's Mxyzptlk's turn to play.

KET

aa3on said...

"Guess I'll have to disagree on that. Mon-El's ethics and views on morality are still being shaped by Kara and her friends. Ball's still being kicked around, and next, it's Mxyzptlk's turn to play."

You know, I keep forgetting about Mon-El! I guess addressing such matters could still work then. I stand corrected. :)

Anonymous said...

Not much more to add... definitely the highlights were Lena and Vivan Luthor, and the whole "is she good, is she bad?" hanging
in the air. THAT to me is the most interesting thing watching Lena as a character; yes, she's proven she's not a Luthor, but
one can't help but wonder, especially with the whole chess motif scene at the end... what is the long game?

Another bit I loved were all the callbacks to previous episodes -- J'onn mentioning about M'gann's departure, the references to
all the Kryptonite in Superman's possession, the antikryptonite suit-- THAT to me is an important part of world / arc building.


Regards

Anonymous said...

Super girl was my 10 year old daughter favorite show and myself also but since they have decided to turn a super hero show into a lesbian show had to stop watching it and can't allow my daughter to watch what a shame the show went in that direction

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
Super girl was my 10 year old daughter favorite show and myself also but since they have decided to turn a super hero show into a lesbian show had to stop watching it and can't allow my daughter to watch what a shame the show went in that direction

February 17, 2017 at 11:08 PM"

Uh, do you belong to some puritan society, some radical Islamic group (as they kill homosexuals) or the ultra leftist and hateful Westboro Baptist Church or something?!

Martin Gray said...

I do agree that Kara having to be saved so much by the likes of J'onn is annoying but the only way around that is to write them out - I get more annoyed when Kara is in some apocalyptic scenario and J'onn is hanging back being useless. And yes, Kara really needs to think more, use the time between skirmishes to make strategy rather than mope around with whomever she's estranged from this week.

I liked Lena with the chess piece and fear Scrimmage is spot on; I really hope not, I like her and Kara as alleged friends (they need to meet outside the office or courtroom before I could really consider them pals). But how patronising was the flashback at that point, as if we viewers were too think to remember a chess came from half an hour earlier.

I miss Lucy. And is Winn EVER going took finish Mon El's costume?