Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Supergirl 2x12 Review: "Luthors" (Mother Fear-est) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


Original Airdate: February 13, 2017

Oh hey, everyone, I have good news! Lena Luthor is back! Well, I don’t know about you all, but I’ve certainly missed her, her Katie McGrath face, and her questionable alignment along the spectrum of good and evil. She’s definitely been more compelling in that last regard than, say, Maxwell Lord last season — you remember Maxwell Lord? Boy, I wish I didn’t. Lena Luthor is such a huge step up in comparison. ... Even if it does mean that she comes with all the baggage shows like to apply to Luthors who befriend whatever Kryptonian happens to be interacting with them in any given incarnation of a Super-story.


The name of the episode is “Luthors,” so it’s a given that we’ll be focusing a lot on the Luthor family dynamics. Not as much as I had hoped (the episode had a brief tangent involving Kara and Mon-El that is better not talked about), but still quite a bit. We even get a flashback scene of when Lena joined the Luthor family — against the wishes of Lillian, of course, because Lillian’s evilness is not a new addition to her personality. The flashback scene even has some Significant Chess Playing to let us all know that the Luthors are a family of evil, strategic geniuses. Chess comes back into play (did I just stealth-pun myself?) a few more times over the course of the episode, but we’ll discuss the significance of those moments later on in the review.

For the most part, there is no Villain of the Week in this episode. Lillian is certainly the villain and, to a lesser extent, so is the stupidly-named Metallo... but she’s a villain on a far larger scale than the usual weekly opponents of Supergirl & Co. I think that, even pushing aside the fact that I really like Lena and was glad the character returned after such a long time gone, I enjoyed this episode because it propelled the season arc forward while giving some backstory to flesh out the show’s mythos. We got to know about the Luthors of this universe, which is pretty important for any universe involving the Superman or Supergirl characters.

Like I said earlier, though: it would be great if the show emphasized the Lena Luthor character just a little more than it’s currently doing. Especially if the plan is for her to become a bigger figure in Kara’s life — as Kara’s ally or, more likely, as her nemesis. Supergirl has a habit of letting important characters slip through the cracks, whether that’s because the actors have other obligations (as in the case of Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant) or because the writers want to quietly brush unpopular characters under the rug (I kind of suspect this was the situation with Maxwell Lord). Being able to develop a character like Lena Luthor — and develop her relationship with Kara — could make for a very interesting long-term story, but the writers will have to really devote themselves to telling it.

As for the actual plot of this episode: it begins, mostly, with the upcoming trial of Lillian Luthor. Lena has to testify against her own mother, which tugs at Kara’s heartstrings enough that she actually visits her for the first time in far too many episodes. Not that I doubt Kara visited Lena off-screen (they are very devoted friends, considering how little screen time they actually get together) but, yeah. It’s been a while since we got some Kara/Lena scenes. They share doughnuts! Clearly stale prop doughnuts, but doughnuts! Adorable.

Well, adorable until Kara tells Lena that she should go visit her evil, megalomaniacal mother who never actually loved her — just because she’s her mother. Hey, TV shows? Can we stop with the false narrative that people are obligated to love the ones who raise them, no matter what terrible things those people do to them or others? Because it’s definitely a false narrative. No one is obligated to love anyone, especially not evil, megalomaniacal mothers.


But Lena does take Kara’s advice and does go to visit Lillian in jail. While there, Lillian tells Lena that she’s actually the illegitimate daughter of Lionel Luthor and a mistress, which means that she really is a Luthor by blood. Lillian also tries to get Lena to believe that she loves her and that they should stick together for the sake of the family name. Uh... yeah, no.

When the time for Lillian’s trial comes around again, Metallo is on the stand. He’s supposed to be testifying against Lillian, but starts talking about how all the aliens need to die and Lillian’s the only person who can save Earth. Then he uses his kryptonite chest beams to blast through the courtroom and free Lillian. Later on, footage comes to light that shows Lena swiping some Kryptonite and, since she visited her mother earlier and her mother was being held in the same prison as Metallo, everyone assumes that Lena gave the kryptonite to Metallo so that her mother could be freed. Everyone, that is, except Kara.

Kara’s faith in Lena lasts through everyone telling her she’s naive and wrong, through Snapper Carr putting Lena on the cover of the latest issue of CatCo Magazine with an implication of evil-doing, and through James saying that all Luthors are bad news. I thought James got over his anti-Lena stance the last time Lena was almost evil but did something good? How fickle of him. Also, side note: the Supergirl universe is using the “Clark and Lex were best friends once” canon, too. Anyone know the frequency of that canonical plot point? I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been true in every iteration of the Superman story.

Things definitely went from bad to worse for Lena over the course of this episode. First it was the footage of her possibly stealing kryptonite, which got her arrested and basically declared guilty by the public, and then Metallo swiped her out of prison, which only makes her look more evil and more guilty. But Kara still has faith, because she’s an effervescent ray of light and good and it’s going to be so tragic when Lena inevitably breaks her heart.

Of course everything to do with Lena — from the footage of her stealing kryptonite (actually Hank Henshaw and some technological whatsit that Winn reverses to find the truth), to the guilt-implying jailbreak — was the work of Lillian’s evil machinations. All because Lillian needs someone with Luthor DNA to open up Lex’s arsenal of anti-Kryptonian weaponry. Lillian actually still tries to convince Lena that she loves her and she wants to be a family and, uh, does anyone actually buy that? Everything out of the woman’s mouth is dusted with residue of Malevolent Crazy. Lena would have to be a complete idiot to believe that Lillian Luthor has any affection for her whatsoever and, as proven by couple more of those Important Chess Moments, Lena Luthor is not an idiot.
Winn traces the kryptonite signature of Metallo to Lex’s base and Supergirl rushes off to rescue Lena.

It turns out the Metallo has been inching toward going nuclear the whole episode and Winn warns Kara that he’ll become more unstable the more he uses his powers. After Lillian forces Lena’s hand to the biometric scanner and it reveals a warsuit that Lex had made, Hank Henshaw knocks Lena out and Martian Manhunter and Supergirl show up to a) fight Metallo and b) flee from a huge Metallo-explosion that levels the whole base. Lillian and Henshaw escape to menace again, but at least Lena’s okay.

After a visit from Kara in which Lena thanks Kara for having faith in her and being her hero, Lena is left alone with a convenient-for-the-narrative chess board. She picks up a chess piece and has the last Luthor Flashback of the episode, to Little Lena playing a game of chess against Big Brother Lex and actually winning — thus proving that Lena might be the smartest and most strategic of all the Luthors. In the present, Lena sets the piece down and looks at the board like she just announced checkmate on... Fate? Herself? Her mother? Kara? I don’t knoooow!

There’s no evil smirking, though, and anyone who has watched Merlin should know how good Katie McGrath is at the evil smirk. So maybe there’s hope for Lena yet.

Other Things:
  • Kara/Mon-El is still a thing that’s happening and it still bores me.
  • I hadn’t realized that Alex never told anyone besides Kara that she’s dating Maggie. She does so at the end of this episode and it’s really cute.
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk is in the next episode and it looks like it’s gonna be fun!


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