Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Supergirl 415: O Brother Where Art Though

Supergirl episode 415, titled 'O Brother Where Art Thou' aired this week and was a tour de force.

I have come to the hard realization that this show isn't truly a Supergirl show but an ensemble show. Supergirl might be the hub that the characters orbit around. But she is often one of the crowd. Once I realized that this was more of a 'team comic' and not a 'solo book', I was able to take a deep breath and try to enjoy.

This episode, for example, is mostly about Lena and Lex Luthor. Sure, Kara is present, caring about James and fighting Manchester Black. But those are the subplots. Instead, the main focus is examining the odd relationship of the Luthor siblings. We get a peek into their past and their interactions. And we got one hell of a reveal at the end. It all worked magnificently for me.

Much of the praise has to be heaped on Jon Cryer, who guest starred as Lex. I didn't anticipate that Ducky would be able to bring a sort of veiled malevolence, a sort of 'he's probably scheming but he seems sincere' undercurrent. It isn't always over the top bombastic. Instead it is more of a cold, chilling, calculating evil. Brilliant.

Another interesting plot is the ongoing darkening of J'onn J'onzz. We get a big moment in the end here. I wonder if what we see happen at the end actually has happened. You'll see what I mean.

On to the show.

The episode opens with an event in Metropolis from 4 years ago.

Lena is chained to a chair, being forced to bear witness to an evil Lex has unleashed.

Lex has somehow made the sun on Earth a red sun. There are shots of devastation happening around the world. Somehow this new sun is wreaking havoc, collapsing buildings and causing general destruction.

And yet, Lex is crowing about he is doing this to teach humanity a lesson. The people of Earth have grown soft, fat, and stupid. They have been worshiping Superman as a god. But when Lex kills him, they'll see Superman was a false god. He screams that Superman is 'not a man!' And then says the most Lex thing, that he was supposed to be the Man of Tomorrow, not Superman. He will prove that Superman can bleed.

The last line certainly evokes a Zach Snyder feel. The whole 'can you bleed' line from BvS which became a tagline for the movie. But the rest of it is pure Luthor. Superman is holding humanity back. And yet it is Lex who is causing devastation for humanity. His screaming 'HE IS NOT A MAN!' made me think of Kevin Spacey screaming 'WRONG!' in Superman Returns.

The whole thing was just perfect pitch. That *is* Lex.

I do wonder what Kara was doing during this Red Sun incident? And how did it end? Did Lena help bring about the yellow sun?

But that Lex is certainly different than the one we meet in the present day, helicoptered to the Luthor mansion. dying of cancer and  having suffered a devastating stroke in prison.

Gone is the crowing madman and in its place is a weak helpless man.

Will his own mortality have taught Lex anything?

Back at CatCo, the person who shot James leans over his bleeding body and activates the signal watch. 

Supergirl arrives to find him nearly dead and takes him to the nearest hospital.

The stroke has paralyzed Lex. But he remains chained to his wheelchair and under the close observation of an armed guard, a guard who is hardly kind to the supervillain. But this mercy furlough was given to him as a dying man. His body has also been ravaged by cancer caused by Kryptonite exposure. (That plot point is right out of the Stern era comics.)

The two have been talking on the phone for the last several weeks. It was Lex who pulled the strings to get Lena into the DEO and to get her the military funding. While Lena was accepting of Lex's help with that, she blames him for a 'quixotic attempt to kill an invincible man.'

She is trying to isolate the curative properties of the Harun-El serum, removing the lethal 'superpower' component. She wants to give him the cure but she won't give him the untested formula.  After all, she would love for him to be cured so he can spend the rest of his days in jail.

This interchange shows the complex nature of the siblings relationship. Do they like each other? Hate each other? Use each other? All of the above?

Before we hear more,  Eve comes in and breaks the news about James.

In the hospital, we learn that James' spine has been shattered. At best he'll be paralyzed. At worst, he'll die. Lena storms in, owner of the hospital, demanding to see James. She owns the hospital. It is a little crazy how profound the reach of LCorp is.

She seems a bit unhinged and Brainy reminds her of his own way of dealing with grief and uncertainty - compartmentalizing and stuffing those feelings in boxes. It doesn't sound healthy ... and it isn't as we will see.

Meanwhile, J'onn jumps to the conclusion that Manchester Black must have been the shooter. It seems as if J'onn has lost his way a bit. That is an emotional reaction, not the one of a detective. He says that this will all end today and Kara joins him in slipping out. Alex is so confused by this. Of course, Kara should be by James' side. Without knowing about Kara being Supergirl, this seems like a cold thing to do, to run away.

And Alex also tells Lena that the time might be know to try the Harun-El serum on James.

J'onn localizes Manchester at the site of My'rnn's sacrifice.

And there is Black, wielding the Martian holy relic, the staff of Hronmeer, seen first in Episode 303.

Standing on the burial site, surrounded by a ring of fire Supergirl is trying to squelch with super-breath, Black chides J'onn. When J'onn invaded Black's mind when in the Lockwood house, he accidentally opened up a telepathic channel. Black can crawl around J'onn's mind.

It explains why J'onn has been so tormented by Black. It also means Black learned of the existence of the Staff. And with it, he'll bring about the punishments of Hronmeer, ways to punish the sinful.

I have been wondering why J'onn has been so effected by Black. But being psionically exposed to all of Black's venom explains a lot. If J'onn has been infected with Manchester's proclivity for violence, no wonder he can't be a man of peace.

Back at the mansion, Lena worries about James.

I love that Lex calls him 'Jimmy'. And he calls her out on the break up. She dumped James before James discovered that Lex helped get Lena the DEO deal. She couldn't deal with James learning that.
That makes some sense. I also means why Lena is hiding the funding in the black budget file.

But it seems that desperate times still mean desperate measures. Maybe Lex can help Lena make the curative serum to help James.

He chuckles about the irony of his helping to save 'Superman's best pal'. Yes! He thinks of James as 'Jimmy Olsen, Superman's best pal.'

The repercussions of James' injury seems to be hitting everyone.

Nia blames herself for not foreseeing the attack.

Brainy blames himself for not predicting the attack. In fact, he gets teary. That shoving your feelings down into boxes doesn't allow processing. Clearly he isn't to blame for James being shot. But when you aren't thinking clearly, you can be irrational.

And Alex, being Alex, wants to be in charge. She can't make medical decisions for James because she isn't family.

And then James sister Kelly shows up.


If you didn't need more evidence the Luthor relationship is toxic, we get another dose.

Even while progress on the formula is being made, he tosses some casual insults at her. When she calls him on it, he says it has always been to prod her.

Lena has felt compelled to impress Lex.
Lex is compelled to shoot her down she reaches even further.

He thinks his insults are a good thing.

But in the end, he has a moment where he is 'wowed' by her. She has done things even he has been unable to do, like invent Kryptonite.

Look, he's dying. This feels genuine. But I couldn't help shaking the feeling that he was playing her. He is, after all, Lex Luthor.

Away from James, who is being rushed back into surgery, J'onn and Kara try to figure out what Manchester will do next.

Perhaps the sacred symbols of Mars will show what Hronmeer's punishments were.

The whole rush to save James takes a couple of interesting turns.

For one, after total secrecy, Miss Tessmacher wonders if it is wise to give Lex access to all the information they have uncovered about the Harun-El, even if it is to save James.

Meanwhile, James condition worsens and he needs to head back into risky surgery.

Realizing that Lena is close to a breakthrough, Alex asks Kelly to hold off on the surgery and to put her faith in the untested Luthor drug.

I love Kelly's response. Lex Luthor is a monster. He has hurt James in the past. Why should she trust Lena? She is doing what is right for James, the safe choice, which is the traditional surgery.

The Luthor sibling rivalry continues to do this fascinating dance of support and disdain.

They share a memory of a strict and cruel Latin teacher who vexed them both.

And then, the breakthrough. The new serum cures the cancer cells in Lena's heart samples and does not kill them.

Together they say 'we've almost got it'.Suddenly they are an effective team, working together and applauding each other.

Still ... he's Lex.

Meanwhile, Kara remains no where to be found.

James is dying, in emergency surgery. Everyone is breaking down.

And Alex can't help but wonder why Kara isn't there. When Kara says she is helping J'onn with Manchester, Alex reminds her sister that she is a reporter. ‘What are you going to do, interview him?’

Poor Alex and her scrambled egg brains. I was hoping that she was figuring out Kara is Supergirl last episode. Looks like that is a big 'nope'.

With the formula nearly ready and James dying, Lex actually shows some compassion. He tells a story of the pain he felt when his dog was put down. Lionel didn't allow Lex to show any emotions. But Lionel's 'woman friend', an sweet Irish woman who sang songs and was truly good, hugged him and consoled him. He wanted to hate this woman ... Lena's mother ... but he couldn't.

Lex says that Lena came from love. Her mother saw to that. Lena will always fall into the light. He tells her to head and be with Jimmy. James needs her.

It was a beautiful speech and well delivered. But as it was being said I wondered if Lena was just being played. It is hard to believe that Lex is thinking about anyone other than himself.

Meanwhile, Manchester's psychic attacks on J'onn continue. While meditating, J'onn has a horrific vision of Alex and Kara being undead, killed the same way his own daughters were. It is a scary scene and an effective way to goad J'onn. We know how much he loved his family and mourns them.

Finally, Kara comes up with a reasonable plan. Why chase Manchester? Instead, ignore his prodding and make him reveal himself.

Kara even does a great job of propping J'onn up saying that he can be a man of peace. She will act and she will be braver because she knows J'onn is with her.

At the hospital, Kelly and Alex mend fences. Kelly is a military psychologist and knows that trauma can effect people. But people can hold it together and keep moving.

With the new plan of J'onn waiting out Manchester, Kara can come back to the hospital to help everyone and be with James. Kara plays it off as her being afraid and feeling helpless.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Brainy has a near breakdown. Denied 'chocos' from the vending machine, he vents how nothing works. And his strategy of burying his feelings isn't working. He rattles off all the things that he has buried - the near deaths of friends, his evil ancestry. He seems about to collapse under his own self-doubt when Nia takes the opportunity to lean in and kiss him.

These two aren't together. He didn't ask. But they seem to have been crushing on each other for a while. It seemed like a moment. But was this a kiss without consent?

Regardless, the kiss is interrupted when the hospital's power supply goes out. And this with James on the operating table.

It looks like it is due to Manchester Black using the staff to damage a nearby dam. With the turbines off and water spilling out, Kara leaps into action. She needs to head outside to seal off the rift and save the city from being flooded.

James basically is dying in the OR. Kelly can't believe that this is happening despite her doing the 'safe option'.

Then Lena walks in, no scrubs or sterile gown, and straight up gives James an intracardiac injection of Harun-El. Amazingly, it works. He awakens and is cured, his wounds healing themselves.

Meanwhile, J'onn and Manchester battle with hallucinations plaguing J'onn. He finally shows his true Martian form and grabs the staff of Hronmeer, apparently disintegrating Manchester, killing him.

Manchester's final words are that J'onn in that form is beautiful. That's pretty cool given how pro-alien Black was. Why doesn't J'onn stay in his true form.

Should this be true, this is a pretty dark turn for J'onn. Still, given all the gadgets Black has, this could be an illusion. Then again, Brainy's Legion ring drops to the ground in a pile of ash. Perhaps Manchester is truly dead?

Nothing left but the wrap up.

Certainly J'onn thinks he did it.

And he seems lost. He doesn't know who he is anymore. One thing he does know, he isn't a man of peace. Surprisingly, Kara says there was nothing else J'onn could do. I don't know if I believe that. For someone with strict 'no killing', she seems so fine with her friends offing people.

James survives and thrives, completely cured.

Brainy tells Nia they can never be together. A relationship born from intense experiences cannot survive. Is this a feint? Or does he know historically they cannot be together?

Ah, you think it is the wrap up. But these Supergirl writers now how to save the best for last.

Lena shows up to confront Lex. She knew that somehow he arranged the power outage at the hospital. It had nothing to do with Manchester.

He doesn't burn ants with a magnifying glass. He manipulates them to march into the fire. She knows how evil he is.

He chuckles. He also set up James being killed. As always, he needed to nudge Lena forward to finish the curative serum. He certainly wouldn't give himself an untested and possibly lethal drug.

Lena chuckles, she won't give him the cure even if it ready.

Shedding the shackles and standing upright from his wheelchair he laughs. He was given the cure 10 minutes ago. (If only he said 35 minutes ago!) The guard watching Lex drops a holographic identity to show it is Otis. And then we see the person who helped him ... MISS TESSMACHER!

Eve shows up, shoots a security guard and laughs with her Lexie. She has been working with him all along.

They cuff Lena to the wheelchair and chloroform her. Walking out of the mansion, Lex activates the house's defenses, killing the remaining military there to keep him captured. Just as the trio are about to escape in the helicopter, who shows up but Supergirl!

Oooohhhh ... so juicy! Lex, Otis, and Miss Tessmacher! Brilliant. An evil, deceitful Eve is genius and delicious.  But Jon Cryer's Lex is sooo good that last scene. Unbelievable.

Without a doubt, this was my favorite episode of the season. So much of that has to do with Cryer and Katie McGrath and their chemistry.

And now a Lex/Kara showdown. Perfect.

What did you guys think?


Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for the Teschmacher reveal for so long I had almost given up hope.

That was my favorite part of the episode. The next best thing was Lex activating his mansions security systems and just walking away.

Great episode. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Great episode, and great review as usual, Anj. ESPECIALLY Jon Cryer! I can't praise Cryer's performance
as Lex enough! Nice mix of everything you know and love to hate about Lex -- conniving, manipulative,
backstabbing, thinks several moves ahead, but capable of deception through charm and misdirection...

From what I'm hearing, Cryer will be around for two more episodes, but I sincerely hope the door is open
for more appearances in the future! And one thing I can't praise enough, besides his channeling of Gene
Hackman screaming for Eve Tessmacher, is noting how Lena will always fall into the light. To TPTB, PLEASE
PLEASE PLEASE let that always be the case! Quite frankly 3 evil Luthors in the show -- Lillian, Lex and
Lena -- I think throws the dynamic and balance of the show off.

And speaking of Eve Tessmacher, well did not see THAT one coming... HECKUVA reveal at the end! Wonder
how Lena will deal with that betrayal?

Also had to enjoy the Nia Nal and Brainy scenes -- the kiss scene itself was well done and executed IMO,
as well as the creepy Danvers sisters zombie scene! Nightmare fuel to the Nth degree seeing that!

Two points I'm not entirely sure about this ep is :

a) the specific mention of the red sun event 4 years ago. Yeah, where was Kara at this time? Never mind
the science of exactly HOW to turn a sun red -- usually that involves aging a star like our sun a couple
billion years, buuuuuut like any other comics / tv science, I'll just roll with it.

a) Jimmy's sister Kelly. Supposedly she's being brought in as a love interest for Alex, plus the fact that
she's a psychologist whilch may help with the brain scrambling has been mentioned, but from my initial
impressions of her so far, she and Alex don't have very much onscreen chemistry so far. Will have to see
going down the line. The potential's there, and I guess Jimmy having some family around will be a nice
plot point to take away from the Guardian stuff and/or potential side effects of the Harun-El injection for

> I have come to the hard realization that this show isn't truly a Supergirl show but an ensemble show.
> Supergirl might be the hub that the characters orbit around. But she is often one of the crowd. Once I
> realized that this was more of a 'team comic' and not a 'solo book', I was able to take a deep breath
> and try to enjoy.

Interesting observation, and one I agree with as well... and so long as we get some great SUPERGIRL heroics
to go with it!


Anonymous said...

And just to add, here's hoping next episode opens with a SERIOUS Supergirl Smackdown of Lex and Otis.
Or even just Supergirl effortlessly holding down the helicopter while Lex and Otis are powerless to
do anything.

We're due a bit of Supergirl superheroics :)


Anonymous said...

Amidst the alleged drift into a "team show", dynamic we were quietly served up one of the most hilarious examples of "Pure Karatharsis" I've yet seen to date. Manchester Black starts destroying the dam with his stolen Staff, Supergirl tries to freeze the torrent...that doesn't work, she stares at the Dam and exclaims "Damn It!" before sealing the breach with her heat vision.
Personally, I think Manchester Black has "downloaded" his consciousness in J'onn's brain, he'd need a superpowered patsy to contain Supergirl and it's the sort of a move he'd favor.
Cryer's Luthor was a revelation, when I'd heard he was cast, I thought it was reasonable stunt casting for the Berlantiverse is justifiably famous...who knew Cryer had such succulent malevolence in him??!! All his scenes crackled with menace, that guy single handedly SCHOOLED Jesse Eisenberg in 48 short minutes. Hopefully Lex's appearance means Lena will stick with the good can but hope anyway.
Anyhow the ep was so good, I pretty much overlooked the fact that Ms. Benoist is off camera for almost half the running time...but she can afford to be generous when the situation has this much potential...


Nutation said...

Heat vision mends concrete; good to know.

I'm bothered by the missing force field belt. If Manchester and it disintegrated, then the obvious reference to Brainiac V's item goes wasted. On the other hand, if it still fills a dramatic need, maybe J'onn didn't do what we saw him do.

KET said...

A few thoughts:

"Jimmy's sister Kelly. Supposedly she's being brought in as a love interest for Alex..."

That's been an assumption based on bad click-bait articles on news that Azie Tesfai was promoted to regular cast member going into the series' fifth season (which the actress didn't actually know about until this past weekend). Given that Kelly has a science background in an area that Alex doesn't have, they may bond in a different way than what the already baited online shipper cults are predicting).

"I'm bothered by the missing force field belt. If Manchester and it disintegrated, then the obvious reference to Brainiac V's item goes wasted. On the other hand, if it still fills a dramatic need, maybe J'onn didn't do what we saw him do."

Good catch...and the holographic crystal Black had in his possession last episode hasn't been recovered by Team Supergirl yet, IIRC. However, Black really went after J'onn's inner fears this episode, so how deep will his resulting traumatic period be after 'killing off' Manchester? J'onn couldn't reach his father's spiritual presence this time around.

" the specific mention of the red sun event 4 years ago. Yeah, where was Kara at this time?"

Flashback episode or two are coming, to explain how Lex has been manipulating all the folks in National City while he was in prison...likely including, how Kara Danvers 'found' Eve Teschmacher and recommended her as Cat Grant's personal assistant replacement.

"Poor Alex and her scrambled egg brains. I was hoping that she was figuring out Kara is Supergirl last episode. Looks like that is a big 'nope'."

This situation is going to play out for awhile. After all, some criticism has always been that a pair of glasses is a rather lousy disguise for Supergirl...however, Eve Teschmacher hid in plain sight and didn't even wear shades.


Scrimmage said...

I'll join the chorus singing Jon Cryer's praises for giving us a Lex Luthor that is at the same time fresh and unique, yet also somehow very familiar. One of the hardest things for a writer to do is to write convincingly for a character who is supposedly a “genius,” and presumably smarter than the writer. The only advantage the writer has is that they can control the outcome, and so does their genius character, in this case, Lex, who's every word and action appears calculated to provoke every response and reaction that he's already anticipated, and prepared for well in advance. Apparently, the only thing Lex didn't see coming was his rapidly failing health, but I wouldn't put it past him to have given HIMSELF that “stroke” in order to facilitate his “mercy furlough” so he could be with the one person in the world who could cure him.

This episode unfolded like a classic noir mystery, starting off with a “whodunnit” shooting, and featuring a gorgeous blonde heroine living a double life, a beautiful, but dangerous brunette who has secrets of her own, including a no-good brother, who's supposedly a dying invalid, and a crazed killer on the loose, playing mind games with a private detective, haunted by his past, who has sworn to hunt him down. All this against the backdrop a ticking clock, while two men fight for their lives, while hoping for a cure that might not come in time to save them. This was easily the best episode of the season, and it just goes to show how good these writers can be when they stick to straightforward, traditional storytelling.

Lex and Lena were a revelation, both literally and artistically. From a relatively few, but brilliant lines, I learned a lot about their respective childhoods, and I came away with a much better understanding of their personal dynamic, and the very real bond between them. What was so “Luthor-like” was how Lex could be perfectly sincere and truthful one minute, and then lying through his teeth the next, depending on which mode better served his purposes. It's all the same to him.

I was shocked and thrilled by the totally unexpected revelation that Miss Tessmacher has been on Lex's payroll “since forever!” and by the “reunion” of Lex, Otis, and Eve! How sweet is THAT?? I've been hoping for awhile now that Miss T would get a chance to show us what she can do in a storyline where she's used for something other than eye candy or comic relief. Well, here we GO!

Fun, fun, FUN!

Scrimmage said...

I'm conflicted and a bit confused about the connection between J'onn and Manchester Black. I don't care if J'onn accidentally let Manny rummage around in his head, he's been a telepath for FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, for cryin' out loud! Black's only been doing it for a few weeks. Surely, J'onn knows techniques he could use to keep Manchester out, or maybe even mess with HIS head, in ways that he couldn't POSSIBLY handle. Why is he letting Manny call the shots?

I'm enjoying seeing somebody get under the Martian Manhunter's green skin, but just what is Manchester's agenda, other than his apparent wish to commit “SBM” - Suicide By Martian? I don't believe for one second that Manchester Black has been turned into a pile of ashes, but it's certainly not for lack of goading J'onn into blasting him.

As for Supergirl, the STAR of the show...

I've always enjoyed those awkward little scenes where the hero has to beg off using some excuse, in order to get their “superhero” on, so for now, having Alex continue to remain in the dark about Kara's true identity is working for me, but if Kara's going to continue to hide the truth from her sister, she's GOT to come up with some better excuses than THAT!

Anonymous said...

> she stares at the Dam and exclaims "Damn It!" before sealing the breach with her heat vision.

> Heat vision mends concrete; good to know.

When I saw that, I got echos of Superman IV and the Great Wall of China scene, though I thought what happened here more
logical than Superman being given "mortar vision" to fix the wall after fighting Nuclear Man :) Just sayin'

> That's been an assumption based on bad click-bait articles on news that Azie Tesfai was promoted
> to regular cast member going into the series' fifth season

I think I may have hit one or two of those clickbait articles there, KET. Thanks for sharing that. As I said, we can
only see how things goes.

> but if Kara's going to continue to hide the truth from her sister, she's GOT to come up with some better excuses than THAT!

+9000 to this, scrimmage. Or time for some more shapeshifting Martian Manhunter scenes? Or for alittle comics history,
robot duplicates from the Fortress of Solitude? :)