BY ALYSSA BARBIERI & LYRA HALE
Every episode of Supergirl presents something to consider or something to talk about. Whether it’s issues such as immigration or religion or grief or inner struggles, Supergirl always finds a way to focus on the humanity in this world — and in our world.
In “Damage,” Lena Luthor took center stage as we delved into the next chapter of the (hopefully not) ongoing sage: Is Lena going to become evil?
Supergirl wants Lena to be evil. They’re doing everything to tell us that. But then Lena — and Katie McGrath — are showing us that it’s not necessarily what Lena is destined for. People become evil. So naturally it’s a journey. But given what we’re seeing now, I don’t see the need for Lena to become evil, ala Lex Luthor.
You’re not defined by your name. Or your family. You make your own history. And that’s what Lena has been fighting her entire life for. In a way, if Supergirl were to make Lena evil, it’d be as if they were ignoring Lena’s good intentions throughout her life. She’s someone that everyone expects to be evil. So why follow the common narrative? Why not prove that not all Luthors are evil? Why not let Lena parallel her brother in the opposite regard?
In “Damage,” we were also reminded about the hardships of relationships and what happens when communication is not happening between even the most lovey of couples. Alex and Maggie, who see differently on the issue of children, came to the mutual decision that their relationship couldn’t continue. Well, mostly it was Maggie failing to acknowledge the importance of being a mother to Alex and just dismissing it. But, the end result was the same. Sanvers is no more.
And that wasn’t the surprise here. We all knew it was coming. It was the fact that it was handled in this way. It was disappointing all around.
Let’s break down why Lena Luthor doesn’t need to be evil and how Supergirl failed Sanvers.
Good vs. Evil
While Supergirl spent part of last season introducing the potential for Lena Luthor to become evil, they all but turned away from that notion in “Damage” as Lena Luthor proved that actions do in fact speak larger than words.
There’s this massive desire from Supergirl to want to make Lena Luthor evil. It was evident in the foreshadowing last season. It was evident in “Damage.” But the character of Lena Luthor is doing everything in her power — even when she doesn’t realize it — to prove that she’s not destined to follow in the footsteps of her evil family. She’s someone that defines her own story.
“Damage” proved to be another test for Lena, who has to confront difficult situations that come with her name and her actions. Multiple children were sick from lead poisoning, and the vile Morgan Edge all but pointed an arrow in neon lights in Lena’s direction. As we know, in the season finale Lena presented Supergirl with a lead bomb that would help flush out the Daxamites from Earth. There wasn’t a viable threat for those humans on Earth from the lead bomb, so Supergirl used it. Now, children were showing symptoms of lead poisoning, and all fingers were pointing at Lena.
Even when it’s not said, obviously there’s this unspoken belief that anyone labeled with the name “Luthor” has evil intentions.
But evil isn’t born. Evil is created.
And this episode did everything in its power to show that Lena — at least at present — is not evil.
“Helping people is the focus,” Lena says.
Right there, early on in this episode, Lena was showing her true colors. She’s not concerned for herself. She’s concerned about the innocents. Do evil people — evil Luthors — want to help people? They typically get caught up in their own personal mission, but Lena’s concern has always been about others.
The fact that Lena was so shaken by the idea that she could be responsible for all of these sick children is proof that she’s not evil. Never was so concerned about herself. This wasn’t about — “Oh no, the people think I’m an evil Luthor!” This was about — “Oh no, those poor children. We need to save them.”
“All I ever wanted to be was good.”
Lena has spent her entire life fighting her own name. She’s a Luthor, so she must be bad news. She’s a Luthor, so she must be crazy. She’s a Luthor, so she’s going to behave as such.
But that hasn’t been the case. Lena has spent her entire life fighting to prove her own name wrong. She’s chosen to help people with her resources. She’s chosen to speak out against injustice. She’s chosen to put her neck on the line to save people.
The fact that Lena was so affected by this proves that she’s worth fighting for. Even good people mess up. Good people do bad things sometimes. But it doesn’t define them. Just like this potential mess-up — and the Luthor name — do not define Lena. Unless she allows it to.
But the question now becomes: Is this going to last?
“I’m not worth it.”
Lena started to believe that she was defined by her name. That if she’s a Luthor, she should just accept the fact that she’s inevitably going to become evil. Surely her brother didn’t start out evil. But look where he wound up.
But the thing is, Lena isn’t Lex. Could she wind up in a similar circumstance? It’s entirely possible. But she’s not her brother. She’s her own person. But it definitely seems as if when she’s feeling down and broken that she resorts to that belief. That it’s because she is evil. When that isn’t the case.
It’s easy to say, but for Lena, who has been fighting it her whole life, it’s much harder than that. It’s something that she is going to have to realize for herself if she ever truly wants to put that evil notion behind her.
Honestly, I don’t know when we’re going to get away from this whole “Is Lena Luthor evil?” storyline. Because, honestly, I have this terrible feeling that they’re going to make Lena evil. It’s just a matter of time.
Why does Lena have to be evil? Because she’s a Luthor? If that’s the case, then it’s going against the very notion this show introduced — being a Luthor doesn’t equate to evil.
I don’t want Lena to be evil. It’s stereotypical, cliche, and is not appealing. Yes, they did it with Clark and Lex on Smallville. But that had to be done. Lex Luthor is a famous villain — one of the most infamous — and there was no getting around that. Lena Luthor, on the other hand, isn’t as well known. There’s more freedom with her story. Plus, there’s this intrigue with making a Luthor a best friend with a Kryptonian — and having both sides know it.
I understand there’s a desire to parallel Supergirl with Smallville. But please don’t do it at the expense of a great female character.
Sanvers Deserved Better
Even though I knew this was the end for Alex and Maggie, I had hope that Sanvers would have an ending that respected them and the LGBT fans who rooted for them and who saw themselves in this relationship.
I was wrong.
We didn’t even get to see the days or the moments that led to them breaking up. Five minutes into the episode (I was looking at my watch) it was already decided that Maggie was going to leave and that their relationship was over. Moments between two women ending their relationship are important enough to garner TV time especially because it deals with such an important decision for couples.
And yes, they did talk a little bit afterwards but they did it in such a way that felt insulting. It made me feel like I had missed a couple steps that I thought were important but obviously they weren’t to someone else and that the writer’s room didn’t know what they were doing with Sanvers.
The time that they spent dancing and drinking could have been used to show us the moments that finally crippled the ship. The time that they spent in bed after sleeping together (which, come on, they just broke up and you want to throw sex into it?) could have been used for that pivotal moment where Alex came home and told Maggie that she couldn’t do it anymore. Instead we had this messy and convoluted ending to something that could have been great.
LGBT stories, our stories, are important. The happy moments are important. The sad moments are important. The heartbreakingly tragic moments are important. We don’t deserve to be brushed off within the first five minutes and given dancing and goodbye sex to fill up time. We deserve moments that shine, that put us center stage, that make it so we are treated like any other relationship and stand as an example for LGBT youth today.
7 Things About “Damage”
- This episode all but confirmed that Lena Luthor is not evil. She was so affected by the possibility that she hurt those kids. And evil people do not put others before themselves.
- But with that said, this show is probably still going to make her evil at some point, where it terribly disappointing. There are better ways — and more inventive ways — to create drama between characters.
- I know that Floriana Lima is leaving and that the end to Sanvers was coming, but their break-up has been handled terribly. This is a couple that has meant a lot to so many people, and it just felt like it was brushed off in the end. Disappointing doesn’t begin to cover it.
- I’m loving the sisters dynamic between Kara, Lena, and Sam. Lena hasn’t had people in her life that she can depend on — and lean on. So it’s so wonderful to see her new “sisters.” And if there’s something that’ll save Lena from becoming evil, it’s having people that care about you.
- Morgan Edge is a vindictive, terrifying person. Are we sure he isn’t the real villain this season? I know Reign is coming, but damn I want to punch this asshole every single time his mouth opens.
- Supergirl is at its best when it’s showcasing the love between Kara and Alex. These two sisters represent the heart that Supergirl provides week in and week out.
- So there’s some definite sexual tension between Lena and James. Not sure how I feel about that. To be continued…
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.