After a whole slew of Supergirl episodes that were fun, kind of dumb, and extremely scattered, the show hit back last night by focusing on the titular hero and her relationship with the Supers’ most enduring family of villains, the Luthors.
While it might surprise new Supergirl/man fans, the Luthor name wasn’t always synonymous with evil. Sure, Lex Luthor’s been a bad guy since he was first introduced in the comics in 1940 as a mad scientist strapping on a robo-murder suit, but it was only during Smallville, and its focus on the young Clark Kent/Lex Luthor relationship, that the hereditary nature of Lex’s evilness was made canon. So when Supergirl chose to focus on nature vs. nuture in the Luthor genome there was some heavy flashbacks to the CW’s original Super-show. (At some point I swear I heard the lead singer of Remy Zero shout-screaming “Save me.”)
This week Kara donned her reporter hat to cover the trial of Luthor matriarch Lillian, who tried to commit alien genocide back in November. While Kara watched the trial—which featured an ill-advised appearance by a souped-up Metallo, her good pal Lena was stuck between a rock and a hard place. She wanted to support her mother because she’s family, but she also despises her mother, because she’s an insane murderer.
The rest of the world opts to despise Lena as well when she’s framed for her mother and Metallo’s inevitable jailbreak, and then seems to flee with her mom and her henchman, when in fact she’s been kidnapped. Kara is the only person who believes in Lena, and she gets furious when most of the other characters assume Lena is just as evil as the rest of the Luthors, and that she’s finally revealing her true colors.
The show has been playing a guessing game with Lena Luthor’s motives from the get-go. Ostensibly she’s a good person saddled with an unfortunate name, trying to crawl her way into legitimacy with good deeds and a sweet friendship with Kara Danvers. But at every turn, the show likes to remind us that Lena Luthor comes from really evil and untrustworthy stock. Her brother—besides trying to sink California and murder Superman—obsessively built vaults full of alien genocide tech across the world, her mother is a raging xenophobe, and her dad brazenly rocked the Mr. Clean look and...was a serial philanderer.
When Lena was introduced at the beginning of the season she said she was adopted. Speculation over her true parentage ran wild. Was she secretly an Amazon? An alien? The secret love child of Zod and Faora? Nope. She’s just Lionel Luthor’s illegitimate child and Lex’s half-sister, meaning she share the same evil blood—a point reinforced when Lillian reveals only someone with Luthor DNA can open Lex’s vault of anti-Kryptonian weapons.
The episode starts by keeping Lena’s actual actions vague, so the audience doesn’t know for sure whether she’s responsible for her mother and Metallo’s escape; when it’s clear Lillian has kidnapped her daughter against her will, it appears that Lena might be falling under her mother’s sway. In the final act, Lena proclaims she wants nothing to do with her mother, Cadmus, or alien genocide—a scene she shares only with her mom and her henchman, meaning she has no reason to lie—so it seems that Lena is truly the good person Kara believes her to be.
At the very end, in the closing moments of Lena’s last scene, everything changes. She clutches a white knight chess piece, flashing back to her childhood, where she was a much better chess player than her genius brother, the obvious inference being that she has the ability to plan far, far ahead. And she is wearing what appears to a sleeveless leather top and long flowing black pants—the uniform of evil business women everywhere. And there is eeeeeevil music playing,
So is Lena secretly playing an extremely long and very evil con to destroy Supergirl? Possibly. Is her mom just another piece in her game? Maybe. Or could she be a secret member of the Checkmate intelligence organization from the comics? Hopefully, because that would be much more fun than a season of wondering whether Supergirl will make Lena Luthor evil after all.
- It was really weird to have Kara confess her feelings for Mon-El in an episode that had her repeatedly saving Lena Luthor and aggressively defending her to her friends and furiously punching concrete because no one cared for Lena like she cares for Lena. That the show has a tendency to code the sharply dressed business women in Kara’s life as her Lois Lanes didn’t help.
- It also didn’t help that Lena sent Kara a room full of flowers.
- Back to Mon-El. He continues to be a delight, but the show forces him into the role of emotional confidant when Kara already has a BFF sister, a BFF sort of dad in J’onn J’onnz, and BFF ex-boyfriend in James, which is kind of funky. Maybe the show should stop forcing this relationship sincei it’s a continual reminder that the show had Kara dump the black guy for the white guy for arbitrary and as of yet ill-defined reasons.
- Speaking of the black guy, James Olsen continues to be a quiet MVP as the hero Guardian, but as the head of a giant multifaceted news organization, he is absolutely awful. Who is actually in charge at CatCo, James or Snapper Carr?
- At the end of the episode, Metallo exploded thanks to some synthetic kryptonite, but Metallo is also an evil metal exoskeleton wrapped in a flesh suit, so, like that more famous metal exoskeleton, he’ll probably be back.
- Lex Luthor’s vault of murder was a goddamn delight and included his bright green war suit, an atomic ax (which is the weapon of choice for the DC villain Persuader), and a Black Mercy plant.
- There’s also a mystery box that glows with a blue light. Feel free to place your bets below on what’s in the box.