‘Supergirl’ 4×16 Review: ‘The House of L’

Whatever has happened with Supergirl over these past two weeks has been truly a godsend and has found a way to spark a fire underneath this show. Obviously that spark has been the addition of Lex Luthor, who has showed himself to be the true villain of Supergirl’s fourth season.

My only criticism is the fact that he wasn’t introduced sooner, and thus we won’t get more time with his character on the show, most likely. But then again, it’s a good thing because it’s not so much about quantity as it is about quality. And the quality of the scenes that Jon Cryer has graced our screens as Lex Luthor over these past two episodes has been truly impressive. This whole season — the introduction of Red Kara and Ben Lockwood and the Children of Liberty — it doesn’t happen without Lex pulling the strings behind the scenes in a way we had no idea. It really drove the point home.

Sure, it’d be easy to say, “Well, isn’t it convenient how everything that has happened has been because of Lex, a character that was only introduced one episode ago?” But when you have a villain like Lex Luthor, it doesn’t matter. You accept those small things because you see the contributions of his addition and the way it can alter this series in a game-changing way.
Lex Luthor is the villain that Supergirl has needed for far too long. Granted you can’t introduce Lex Luthor in the first couple of seasons without some establishment from your show. Oh, and there’s the added element of having Lena Luthor on the show. How brilliant was it for Supergirl to introduce Lena and have us guessing if she was going to play the role of her brother to Supergirl, when in fact this show had (I’m assuming) been planning to introduce Lex, thus making Lena the antithesis of Lex.

Whew, that was a mouthful.

Now maybe I’m giving these showrunners too much credit (which isn’t something I do very often), but they truly were gifted the addition of Lex Luthor to really raise the stakes and the legitimacy of this series on the villain front.
“The House of L” told the story of, well, the Luthors — Lex Luthor, specifically, and Red Kara. Specifically, their dynamic and the threat they pose to Supergirl. I felt like I was watching a movie — that backstory of Red Kara and her bond with Lex Luthor. There was that much that happened.

It was really neat to go back to the beginning of the season and see how things happened with Lex and Red Kara. To see how the small bits and pieces we got of Red Kara connected as a larger puzzle to her backstory. To see how similar she was to Kara — kind, generous, selfless, and how easily she found it to love and care. So very much like Kara. Naturally when Lex came along he would try to create the antithesis of Supergirl, which meant he’d have to turn her into a weapon.

Supergirl has become so much bigger than the Children of Liberty attacking aliens, which is so hard to believe because the real issue is so damn important and deserves attention. I really hope that we continue to explore that aspect as things shift towards a Lex/Red Kara destroying Supergirl focus.

Plotting Supergirl’s Destruction

Naturally my first instinct with Red Kara — even at season 3’s end — was that she was going to be an enemy of Kara’s. And while that’s proving to be true, you have to admire the unorthodox route these producers chose in order to establish that. Red Kara didn’t arrive to Kasnia already an enemy. In fact, she was quite the opposite.

It was pretty early on that we got to see the compassion shine through with Red Kara. Her instinct to go to that little boy that needed help. She protected him with her brute force, and naturally she formed a bond with him. It was hard to look at Red Kara and not see our Kara. She wanted to do genuine good. And instead, Lex Luthor found her.

Lex befriended Red Kara, who knew no one other than a name: Alex, and he used that as a way to get close to her. He formed a bond with her in order to get her to follow his lead. He manipulated Red Kara just as easily as he’s manipulated everyone else in the world to believe that Supergirl was the enemy. Even when instinct told Red Kara that this Kara Danvers was good — as well as Lena was good — that she was trying to help people, Lex had to shut that down. He went as far as killing (well, he tried to kill, thankfully his goonie had a heart) the little boy that Red Kara had grown so attached to in order to frame the United States and Supergirl as the enemy.

Lex wants to take down Supergirl, and Red Kara — or Red Daughter, as he calls her — is his plan. Everything since his imprisonment had led to this. His team. The Harun-El. Agent Liberty. The war brewing between the U.S. and Kasnia — Lex’s chance to finally be the hero and change the narrative that surrounds him and Superman/Supergirl, respectively.

The moment Lex came into the picture, Red Kara was viewed as nothing more than a weapon. And it’s not so much funny as it is sad because had this been the way Kara was introduced to Earth — where she had no memories and held captive by the military — she likely would’ve been used in the same way. Used as a weapon against the United States’ enemies rather than a hero that chooses her own destiny and chooses to save people rather than hurt them.

And that’s kind of the point of this entire storyline. To show us what could have happened with Supergirl had the U.S. military gotten their claws into her early on. To show the power of independence, of choice, of free will, and of free thinking.
Which leads me to…

Can Red Kara Be Saved From Lex’s Manipulation?

Like I discussed earlier, Red Kara wasn’t always someone intent on taking down Supergirl and the United States. She’s a product of her environment and the man that created her: Lex Luthor. While Red Kara began her “new life” — as she had no memories — she was someone that had compassion and wanted to do good. She was someone that, in a way, valued emotion. She felt happiness. She felt pain. And she acted on them.

But in order for Lex to create the antithesis of Supergirl, he had to create an emotionless clone. Basically a Supergirl not driven by emotion and inspired by hope. And that’s something he had to repeatedly instill within Red Kara. While there had been “setbacks” when it came with Red Kara, she’s finally in a place where she’s ready to carry out Lex’s wishes. She’s indebted to Lex. He saved her. She believes in what he believes. She’s there to take out Supergirl.

Which brings me to my question: Can Red Kara be saved from Lex’s manipulation?

My quick answer is: Yes. I’d certainly like to believe that, at her core, Red Kara remains that individual that believed in hope and compassion and doing good. By how much Lex had to beat it out of her, I feel like it’s something that’s innate and something that’s just buried deep within her.

Naturally, if there’s to be a way to salvage her soul the challenge is going to be Lex or “Alex,” as Red Kara knows him as. The bond that has formed between them — the manipulation that Lex has been crafting — has created a trust between them that feels almost impossible to break. If it is to break, Kara and Team Supergirl are going to have to work real hard to expose Lex’s manipulations with factual evidence.

Or maybe she can’t be saved? Since the point of this Red Kara storyline is to show us what could’ve happened to Kara had the military gotten ahold of her, maybe the ending to Red Kara’s story is also a lesson to be learned. Something for Kara and us to be thankful for.

The Dynamic Between Lex and Red Kara

What I wasn’t expecting from this episode was to be enraptured by the dynamic between Lex and Red Kara. The thing that makes Lex Luthor so dangerous is his manipulative ways and how he uses that to form relationships that feel founded in trust. It’s what he used to get close to Lena — and how he appealed to her again, just last episode. And it’s the foundation of his relationship with Red Kara.

While Lex’s relationship with Red Kara is based on a lie — the fact that he claims to be “Alex,” the one thing Red Kara remembered about her life — everything that came after it was based on experience. Even as Lex is orchestrating all of these events and making Red Kara believe the things he wants her to believe. To Red Kara, she trusts Lex. To Red Kara, he’s someone that’s protected her. To Red Kara, he’s someone that she’s connected with. To Red Kara, he’s a friend.

Something I found interesting in this episode was how sensitive Lex seemed to be when the topic of Lena came up. The way that it seemed to distract him. Lex said that when they were growing up, he and Lena were virtually inseparable. And even in the flashback from last week, we saw that Lex appeared to be trying to force Lena to believe in what he did, to follow him, to be like him. Only, Lena’s not. Lena’s not a true Luthor. She wants to do good.

But it appeared that the relationship he had with Lena was something that he relied on. It’s something that appeared to be missing. While Lex might not value emotion — respect over love — that doesn’t necessarily make him immune to it. He might call is respect, but sometimes what he feels could be interpreted as something else. Something like caring.

With his relationship with Lena gone astray, it was almost like he was substituting his growing dynamic with Red Kara. While his objective remained using Red Kara as a weapon in his own plan, there’s no denying that there was a bond that was formed between the two of them. Certainly on Red Kara’s part. And while Lex is one to not put stock in emotion, there was a genuine concern — if for a second — when he got news of Red Kara’s sickness, which set the whole Harun-El/Lena manipulation into course. But then again, maybe that’s me just being sucked in by Lex’s manipulations?

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

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