Supergirl has a way of surprising me. When on the surface an episode looks to be ordinary, but deep down has a ton of emotional depth that manages to tell intriguing stories while also setting stones in place for down the line.
“Rather the Fallen Angel” played with my heart. And my head. Lena had my heart sobbing. James had my head aching. Mancheter Black had my blood pressure skyrocketing. And these writers had me fuming as they forced me to watch J’Onn J’Onzz sob in complete and obvious pain. Damn them.
This was an episode that provided as much context as it teased what lies ahead in the next episodes leading up to the midseason finale. It continued to take us deeper within the Children of Liberty while also giving Lena a real spotlight to shine. It also had me questioning for the first in a long time: Is everyone capable of redemption?
It also supported my feelings this season that Lena is currently my favorite character. I appreciate how they’re approaching her character in a way that isn’t labeling her “bad.” They’re giving us context and even allowing her to work through these memories and emotions.
Let’s discuss Agent Liberty’s plan to destroy Supergirl, James falling in deep with the Children of Liberty, Lena’s emotional breakthrough, and whether Manchester Black can be redeemed after his numerous betrayals.
The Plan To Destroy Supergirl
What’s one way to turn humans against aliens? To turn them against the one alien that stands for everything that’s good about aliens and humanity.
When Ben Lockwood went on his little talkshow to spread lies about Supergirl, he introduced a storyline that equally intrigues and infuriates. Who would believe that Supergirl is associated with hate? Who would believe that Supergirl would stand for anything less than good?
Now, this storyline wasn’t as fleshed out as this episode let on. But I don’t believe we’re done here with the idea of Agent Liberty turning humans against Supergirl. It feels like Agent Liberty believes that Supergirl is the face of the aliens, thus he wanted a face for the Children of Liberty (he wanted James, but is he going to get him?)
Agent Liberty’s goal is to continue to incite hate and anger, and he’s creating his own false narratives in a matter of doing that. Even trying to ruin a good name like Supergirl, who’s proven to be nothing but good and a sense of optimism.
The goal here isn’t to be honest. It’s to incite an army of people that you force a similar set of beliefs and ideologies upon. It doesn’t matter how that happens. Whether it was natural, like with Ben, or if Agent Liberty forces that narrative upon others in praying on their anger.
In Too Deep
Now, I’ll admit that this whole James vs. Children of Liberty storyline had me intrigued. But I’ll also admit that James was everything but smart when it came to how he approached matters. Going to meet this terrorist group by himself. Even if he is Guardian. Against the wishes of those that care about him. Not prepared for what was awaiting him. So at least, at the end, James practically admitted his stupidity in how he handled everything.
While James was stupid in his execution, he did accomplish what he set out to do, which was get inside the Children of Liberty and get a good idea of what they’re about. He came face-to-face with Agent Liberty (well, as Agent Liberty) and didn’t try to hide his intentions: He opposes what they stand for. He learned that they want someone like him — actually, him — to be the face of their movement and incite fear within people to turn them against aliens. And he managed to get out alive (though not without consequence.)
But again, this is a storyline that goes unresolved and carrying over into the bigger picture. Yes, James escaped Shelley Island. Yes, without that nuclear explosion going off. But the Children of Liberty still have him on tape vowing that he stands with them (as he was forced to in order to save a life.) While James insists that he doesn’t care what Agent Liberty does to his reputation, this is something that you can’t help but believe is going to come back. And it’s going to bite him in the ass. Hard.
No Progress Without Risk
The ongoing moral dilemma raging on within Lena Luthor has always been one of extreme intrigue for me. Not because I feel she’s destined to follow in her brother’s footsteps and be evil. But because I believe the very opposite to be true: She’s good struggling with hardships.
Perspective is important when evaluating any situation. Say I were to tell you that Lena Luthor is trying to find a way to level the playing field between humans and aliens by making their hearts invincible. You’d no doubt say she’s evil.
But what if told you that Lena Luthor is doing all of that in order to find a way to cure cancer and other ailments and save hundreds of millions of lives? Abilities just happen to be a side effect. Then you’d say that she’s good that has to deal with the inherent risk of the situation.
I’m a firm believer that Lena Luthor is a good person. She’s spent most of her life trying to fend off calls that she’s a Luthor like her family. I’m sorry, but if you work so hard — and for so long — trying to convince yourself and others that you’re not like your family, you’re not. Some might say the opposite. But you wouldn’t put in the kind of good effort and work that Lena has. And the funny thing is, sometimes Lena doesn’t even realize that she’s showing her true colors when she puts others first. No matter the risk.
Speaking of risk, Lena had an emotional breakthrough in this episode as she kicked off her first human trial on a damaged boy named Adam, who carried with him the guilt that his brother died to save him and went on believing he should’ve been the one that died. That’s a lot to carry.
And yet, Lena found a kindred spirit in Adam, and she obviously developed a connection because of that that allowed her to open up about losing her mother. Her birth mother. How she drowned and Lena watched her die and didn’t do anything about it. She was four years old. Lena — to this day — looks back on that moment as some kind of defining moment that led her to the Luthors and that path of darkness. “I belonged with them,” she said. But sometimes it’s not destiny. Sometimes it’s just unfortunate circumstance.
Lena Luthor has strived to do good. To make a difference. To help people. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes the risks that she has to take, including Adam, doesn’t sometimes make her question why she’s doing this. Is it because she doesn’t care? Or is it that she cares too much?
“There’s no progress without risk,” Adam told Lena. And it’s true. Scientists take risks. That’s how things are accomplished. And the fact that Lena is affected personally by the results further proves that she isn’t like her family. She has empathy. She cares. She couldn’t be further from a Luthor.
I tend to lean heavily in the corner of “anyone can be redeemed on a superhero show” because every single one of these superhero shows have proven such is true. But, honestly, I just cannot get behind Manchester Black’s redemption. If that’s even where this whole thing is headed.
The most important thing when it comes to redemption — the first step, really — is wanting redemption. This is where the person has come to the point where they realize they’ve gone too far. That if they want to save their soul, they need to open their heart up to the idea of becoming a better person knowing the terrible things they’ve done.
The ingredients are there for Manchester — dark moment where he loses the woman he loves but the desire to want to do better for her in his own living — but right now they’ve not being utilized. Well, the darkness is. We’re getting to see Manchester’s darkness on full blast.
As far as Manchester Black goes, I feel like — if redemption is on the table, which my head tells me it is — that we’ve found Manchester before his worst. Not his absolute worst yet — which would be the catalyst for change. But I feel like we haven’t seen him at his absolute lowest yet. Again, I’m not entirely sure what Supergirl’s plans are for Manchester, but if redemption is even a tad close, then prepare for things to get worse and darker for Manchester before the rebuild begins.
Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW.