This review contains spoilers.
4.15 O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Supergirl packed a lot into O Brother Where Art Thou, an episode about brothers and sisters, who we really are deep down, and whether we can change, so let’s get to it.
J’onn finally took down Manchester Black and claimed his identity as the Martian Manhunter. At the end of all this, I’m still left with the real understanding of why Manchester was so fixated on J’onn, nor any particular hints that greater understanding is to come. They circled each other for far too long to have so little pay-off. I understand the narrative value of having a pro-alien extremist to balance out the pro-human extremists and put Supergirl in an even more difficult position. Calling out the world’s most famous alien and attempting to win her over to their cause made sense for the Elite. But why did Manchester care about a retired government head?
J’onn doesn’t seem to be in the public eye, beyond when he fights at Supergirl’s side or when he was the head of the DEO, so what gives? This has gone on far too long without clarity of purpose and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get it anytime soon. J’onn being tested on his vow of peace is certainly an interesting and worthwhile way to take his story, but locking him into this mano a mano situation feels like it came out of left field. Both characters are nominally invested in it, but the audience doesn’t really have a reason to be.
Brainy and Nia finally had their moment, although this is a bit of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. I’m sure we’ll be learning soon that there’s some kind of time paradox or whatever reason why he can’t be with her. Perhaps she meets someone else and that destiny saves people down the line, or they have a kid who saves the world? More immediately intriguing to me was Brainy’s overall emotional development, which has been one of the quieter delights of this season. His small, sweet moment with Lena in the hospital was a nice touch, and I’d actually love to hear the rest of what he was saying about suddenly experiencing all of his feelings, before Nia kissed him.
Introducing Lex Luthor is always going to have built-in stakes – he’s the ultimate big bad of the Supers, and we’ve spent four seasons now talking about what an unhinged jerk he is. Given the meandering, lacklustre season, I wasn’t all that hopeful, but this was a great introduction for Lex. Bringing him in weak and near-death meant he didn’t have to measure up. There’s nothing cool or powerful about him by design, and his feebleness allowed his relationship with Lena to take centre stage, rather than his status as one of the most famous comic book villains of all time.
O Brother was built like a whodunnit more than any other episode of Supergirl, and while that wasn’t always top of mind, it’s the structure around which everything was built. That structure ushers the audience through a thought process – wait, but who hit the distress signal on James’s watch? – allowing the penny to drop at just the right moment.
I was skeptical of Jon Cryer’s casting, but he sold deathbed Lex well, making you wonder if he’s really that frail or if he isn’t playing it up for just a bit more of his baby sister’s sympathy. The one downside for me was Lex’s eventual power moment and his meeting with Supergirl. His triumphant walk out of the mansion felt very much like it belonged on a television show, never reaching the heights of epic villainy that we’ve seen elsewhere in the Arrowverse that can make a viewer forget it’s not a movie.
That meeting with Supergirl felt a bit rushed. Why not save it for the next episode? Did it really add anything to have Lex Luthor and Supergirl see one another, him say one line of dialogue, and cut? And if you’re going with that plan, why not make it a more interesting line of dialogue, something more menacing or with a hint of what’s to come? This was a great episode, especially for Lena and Lex, and it just felt like his true introduction, which should have been triumphant but menacing, was sort of goofy.
The Eve reveal was a fun bonus. There’s always been something up with her, although I misread it as a potential new romantic pairing. I love the idea that she leaned into everyone underestimating her based on her appearance and making herself sound ditsier. Let me know in the comments if you saw any hints of this treachery earlier on. Is it possible she saw more than previously thought while she, Kara, and Lena tried to escape the building and Supergirl kept low-key helping them in closed quarters? And how did her working for James first play into Lex’s plan?
I’m sure there are more implications to get into next episode with the Harunel Serum, but for now, Lena is trapped in her home, which is cloaked. James is alive but very much on the DL. J’onn seems like he is in a seriously rough spot, and I have a feeling there’s more to that Legion ring Brainy’s been so worried about. And poor Alex still thinks Kara keeps ditching major moments because she’s a jerk. It’s been a tough week for our friends in National City, but it made for a great episode of television, and I hope it will help Supergirl power through for the rest of the season.