‘Supergirl’ 4×15 Review: ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’

I’ll be the first to say that Supergirl has been declining over the past couple of seasons. Declining in terms of finding an effective storyline and declining in terms of my attentiveness. But that all might’ve changed (and I stress might have for obvious reasons) with “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” where Supergirl catapulted itself to an entirely different level in terms of storytelling and intensity that has me yearning for more for the first time in forever.

The introduction of Lex Luthor was a game changer the moment it was announced. Bringing in Superman’s most notorious villain and reuniting him with his sister Lena had the potential to bring the house down. But because I’m not trusting of producers of these superhero shows — they’ve burned me more than they’ve done right by me — I found myself playing through the different scenarios of how this could go wrong. Even though it’s Lex Luthor, played by the intense yet charismatic Jon Cryer, I was waiting for this show to ruin even that.

Until it didn’t. Instead what ensued was an episode that felt like it had been penned from an outside force in the way that it maneuvered the many storylines of the episode and managed to bring things full circle in an absolutely terrifying and thrilling way in that final sequence. It’s something that hadn’t happened in a long time, if ever.

While Supergirl tends to fall on the more positive end of the superhero spectrum, things this season have certainly gotten dark with the war against aliens and the Children of Liberty. But that was nothing compared to the possibilities of what a healthy and free Lex Luthor will do to National City and beyond.

Lex Luthor. That’s not an easy role to take on. And yet, Jon Cryer did so with brilliant skill and understanding. The way he took Lex’s manipulative nature and managed to reveal different sides to his character — whether that was calling for sympathy from Lena or using Lena’s sympathy to manipulate her into doing exactly what he needed her to do in order to free him.

It was unnerving because there was a time, like Lena, where I actually wondered if there was actual compassion and a desire for forgiveness. But also like Lena, I knew who Lex Luthor is. And yet we both were completely fooled by his manipulations and could only look on as Lex escaped and posed as the ultimate threat on the world.

It was terrifying. It was thrilling. It was compelling television that I didn’t know Supergirl had in it.

You got me, Supergirl. I’m back in. I’m ready to see this story unfold. I’m yours. At least for now.

Let’s discuss the good, the bad, and the so-so from Sunday’s game-changer of an episode:


THE GOOD

Supergirl — “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” — Image Number: SPG415b_0189b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor and Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lex Luthor

Lex Luthor is the villain that Supergirl has been waiting for. And it only took four seasons. But Lex is the type of villain that any show craves — one that’s a master manipulator and uses psychological warfare as his/her weapon. That’s what makes these guys so scary. That’s what I loved about Prometheus on Arrow. And that’s what we’d be getting with Lex on Supergirl. I really enjoyed how it felt like Supergirl put us in Lena’s shoes — where we knew that Lex wasn’t to be trusted but couldn’t help ourselves but to wonder if there was any sense of redemption in him. Here was this dying man who appeared to be opening up to his sister. Only this was all part of his master manipulation that had been put in place for months. Lex manipulated Lena into creating this serum. He manipulated her into testing it. He manipulated her into believing she had any control over this situation at all. It was brilliant. And terrifying. And Jon Cryer wove this story with masterful ease. Lex is the kind of villain that’s a game-changer in all of the best ways. In how he’ll test these characters and this world and change the narrative surrounding this show.

Lena Luthor

If you needed any indication that Lena Luthor is not a Luthor, look no further than this episode where her humanity and compassion was paralleled against Lex’s soulless nature and desire to do harm. While I haven’t really been a fan of how this show has handled Lena these past couple of episodes, it did a nice job of  highlighting the person she is in this episode. We got a flashback of a younger, more naive Lena when it comes to Lex, and that seemed to parallel the present where Lena believed she had a better understanding of how to handle Lex. She treated him with skepticism, as she should, but also showed her compassion — she didn’t trust him, but she also wasn’t going to let him die. And while Lex ultimately used her humanity and compassion against her, Lena Luthor was in a way vindicated in this episode — considering where she comes from and the path she’s forging for herself. It put things into perspective — how we questioned Lena in her experiment but now see the difference between someone wanting to use it for good and someone wanting to use it for evil.

The Potential of Lex’s Impact

Almost as terrifying as Lex Luthor himself is the potential impact of his subsequent freeing. While he hasn’t been named a series regular, Jon Cryer’s introduction of the infamous Lex Luthor opened the door for Lex as Supergirl’s main villain of season 4…or potentially season 5. Honestly, season 5 makes the most sense. But if the idea is to introduce Lex as the season 4 villain, it certainly helps that he hates aliens. Not only that, but he now possesses superhuman abilities that we don’t fully understand. But if Lex is to stick around in season 4, would he take over as leader of Children of Liberty and help rid the world of aliens? Or will he merely try to take out Superman and disappear until season 5 when he sets his sights on Superman’s cousin? There are so many possibilities. And, again, I’m praying this show doesn’t waste them.

Nia and Brainy’s Kiss and the Will-They-Won’t-They Tease

We all knew the first kiss was coming. I was eagerly awaiting it. I just never thought it’d happen in a hospital waiting room. Nia and Brainy have been tip-toeing around their feelings for each other while also adorably flirting and being each other’s rock. So then again, it’s no surprise that when Brainy was in the middle of a mini meltdown that Nia kissed him to distract him. But it was more than just a distraction. In kissing him, Nia opened the door to those feelings that both had been hiding. And even though Brainy says that they can’t be together — classic Will-They-Won’t-They brilliance — it’s clearer than ever that we’re going to start to see this relationship develop in that direction. AND I AM HERE FOR IT.


THE BAD

Supergirl — “Rather the Fallen Angel” — Image Number: SPG407b_0632b.jpg — Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen/Guardian — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Superheroes Don’t Need Powers

The fact that James was shot in order to seemingly give him superhuman abilities rubs me entirely the wrong way. I’d admired Supergirl for how it had an in-the-field superhero without superpowers going out there and doing what needs to be done. Because for so long there’s been this false narrative that superheroes need to have powers of some sort to be a superhero. Especially on shows where the lead is a super-powered hero. And then it dawned on me shortly into this episode that Supergirl had James shot because they wanted an excuse to give him Lena’s “cure” and give him “powers.” What kind of message does that send? That you’re only considered a hero if you have powers? It’s something that I’ve hated about The CW’s Arrowverse that, apart from Oliver Queen, who has superpower-like abilities, is that they’ve become so obsessed with heroes with powers and costumes. To the point where they don’t acknowledge the heroes behind the scenes that don’t have powers, your Felicity and Irises of the world. What’s next? Giving Alex superhuman abilities?


THE SO-SO

Supergirl — “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” — Image Number: SPG415a_0591b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): David Ajala as Manchester Black and David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/JÕonn JÕonzz — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

J’Onn v. Manchester Part 1,237,943

Look, I love J’Onn. I love that we’re getting a focal storyline for him. But I feel like we’ve been stuck at this same point for the past month with no progress. While J’Onn continues to try and discover who he is — a man of peace or a man of, I guess, not peace — it’s felt repetitive as Manchester Black has repeatedly tried to thwart his efforts. Honestly, it sometimes feels when I’m watching this storyline that these writers have no idea what to do with his character. Like they keep resorting to the same thing and continue to drag it out with no resolution. While J’Onn might’ve killed Manchester and sees that he’s not merely a man of peace, I want to see resolution. An understanding that no, he’s not just a man of peace, that he’s a man that has to be a little of both in order to do right by the world and those he loves. But I thought he’d already made that connection.

Kelly Olsen

Mostly because I don’t know what to expect from her. Because she’s now become a series regular it means that she’s going to have a prominent role in this season. But what does that entail? I’m already a huge fan of hers because she’s someone that’s trusting and caring and already accepted James’ found family. I’m just wondering how this show will choose to incorporate her in a full-time setting? Since Kelly had most of her scenes with Alex, might we see a friendship develop there? A little bonding over protecting siblings? Something else? It’s the beauty of not yet knowing what impact she’ll ha


Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW.

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment | Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes | Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters | Co-executive Editor for Fangirlish | Contributor for Bears Wire at USA Today SMG | Producer/Co-Host of Buffone 55 for Bears Barroom Radio Network | Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.