Well. So, it seems this season of Supergirl took two steps forward and one step back. This episode was… not great. Now, I happen to know that at the beginning of filming this season, they had to have a bunch of days without Melissa Benoist on set, because she was finishing her run in the Broadway production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. (Which I saw and she was fabulous in.) So I understand that they needed a creative way to have an episode of Supergirl without Supergirl. That said, it wasn’t even ABOUT Supergirl. They could have very easily made the whole episode about Team Supergirl trying to find a cure, but instead we spent it in a flashback for a character we barely knew (the man behind the Agent Liberty mask) that could have been a villain’s monologue.
I understand the point they were trying to make. For example, that economic anxiety isn’t a good reason for racism and xenophobia, and those people aren’t any better than those without any reason at all. (At least, I hope that’s the point they were trying to make.) And maybe it will be enlightening for (white) people who don’t pay attention to the news or the current climate or anything going on around them ever. And I do also very much appreciate getting legitimate backstory for a villain. But I still think it could have been done in a MUCH shorter time frame than taking up 40 minutes of a 43-minute episode. And for those of us who DO pay attention, it was hard to watch the blatant bigotry and violence that we know is happening every day, on this show that’s supposed to give us hope. But, I guess since this is one of the last shows clinging desperately to the 22-episode format, they can afford a filler.
Alex did show up a few times, and Lena Luthor almost killed an entire funeral home with her lipstick shade, so we’re still going to talk about it. But I’m hoping this was a fluke and in the next episode, we’re back to Director Danvers kicking ass, Lena Luthor outsmarting everyone, and Nia Nal being her regular perfect self. And you know. Supergirl.
As a reminder, after the president was outed as an alien, anti-alien sentiments are on the rise, taking the form of hate groups and even a metal-masked man with murdery minions. Aforementioned minions, Mercy and Otis, worked with a DEO traitor called Jensen to use my favorite Lena Luthor invention to spread Kryptonite dust into the air, rendering Supergirl powerless.
We open this episode with the Kryptonite Alert going haywire, Alex being worried that Supergirl isn’t answering her coms, Brainy telling her that the Kryptonite isn’t just in National City, but everywhere. They eventually find her via tracker but she’s free-falling to earth. Which is bad because, in her current state, instead of her classic crater creator move, the impact will kill her.
They send J’onn to get her and luckily he swoops in just in time. He gets Supergirl, her veins still pulsing green, back to the DEO, where they promptly put her under the yellow sun lamps and hook her up to a Kryptonite-sucking shield. Brainy and Alex quickly put together that this was caused by the lead dispersal device, therefore was probably done by Jensen.
And then we head back in time, starting off two years ago. What’s fun about these flashbacks, is we see hints of what was happening with Team Supergirl, the way we originally saw it, in flashes and on screens, like Supergirl’s “I need you to hope” speech. It’s pretty clever. Less clever is the racist grandfather spouting off about aliens, calling them cockroaches in front of his grandson. His son, Ben, and Ben’s wife try to tell him to cut it out, but there’s no stopping a racist grandfather once he gets going.
Ben starts off a pretty good guy, trying to be patient with his father while also gently challenging his extreme and xenophobic ideals. He drives his dad to the Steel Factory where they work, and glower at the NTH Metal factory that popped up right next door as if to mock them as they put them out of business. The Steel workers are starting to riot but Grandpa doesn’t really care. The workers block a truck from leaving the NTH factory and the driver tries to stop them but they realize he’s an alien and start to attack. As a defense, one of the driver’s arm tusks flies out and gets Ben in the chest, who was trying to quell the riot.
Ben passes out as Supergirl arrives, and by the time he’s awake, he’s being tended to by Alex while the FBI carts away the rioters.
Grandpa and Ben are confused as to why the FBI is working with Supergirl, but Alex and J’onn can’t stay to explain, because Supergirl needs their help.
After healing up from his injury, Ben heads to L Corp to talk to Lena Luthor about starting up a contract with his Steel Factory again, because losing that contract is putting them out of business. But Lena knows NTH Metal is the future so she has to change with the times, it’s just smart business.
Also this is apropos of nothing, but the way Katie McGrath said, “businessman” in this scene made me happy. It was almost like, “bisnism’n.”
Becoming increasingly disillusioned, Ben’s crumbling ideals start creeping into his job, which unfortunately is shaping young minds. He starts talking about progress, and how it sounds all great at first, but at what cost? (Also he had just been talking about Manifest Destiny but don’t be fooled for a second that he’s concerned about the Native Americans in that situation, no no, he’s just worried about his own personal self and his own personal factory and don’t let his generalizations fool you.)
More time passes and things are increasingly tough during the Daxamite takeover for Ben and his family. J’onn comes down and saves them from an alien attack but after he leaves, their house is on fire, and Ben doesn’t feel very saved at all.
A bit later, Ben storms into CatCo, where James is watching Cat Grant on the teevee.
He wants to talk about the lasting effects of alien attacks, people whose insurance doesn’t cover the damage they cause, etc. James explains calmly that they do in fact cover those types of things, but Ben is mad; he doesn’t want James to tell general stories he wants them to tell HIS story. HE’S the person most negatively affected by aliens being on this planet, and he could convince the world they’re bad if someone would just LISTEN. Basically, he’s becoming unhinged.
So now when he’s in class, he’s not even hiding behind Manifest Destiny anymore. Ben is flat-out defending “nativists” and spewing about how aliens are stealing human jobs. One alien student tries to push back, saying “nativism” the way Ben is describing it is just xenophobia. But Ben dismisses her argument as moot because she’s an alien. As he goes off, some alien students leave, and when he flat-out insults the alien student to her face, some human-presenting students leave, too.
The dean scolds him and fires him, explaining that he can’t just push his own agenda in a history class, and lemme tell you: Ben. is. PISSED. He storms to the Gaylien Bar and harasses the student, accusing her of ratting him out.
She didn’t do it, but she’s glad someone did. He starts to yell at her and then a wild Kara appears. (Remember her?!) You see, it’s karaoke night, so she’s there to stop him from physically attacking this poor girl.
He does that thing that people do sometimes, where they assume you’re safe to spout their bigotry bullshit at. Like how white people sometimes think that since I’m white I’ll be down to join in their casual racism. (Spoiler alert, I am not and will tell them so.) Anyway, Ben eventually gets the hint and leaves and the sweet alien student helps Kara pick out her karaoke song.
Jumping a little ahead again, there’s another alien fight, and Ben finds his dad in his crumbling factory. He tries to save his father but can’t (ironically, an alien would have been able to help him in this situation) and besides, his father wants to die.
At his father’s funeral, Ben is reading a quote he loved when Lena Luthor slinks in, with a look that is to die for. PUN INTENDED.
Lena wants to set up a fund in his father’s name, but he won’t listen. He says something like, “They’re not people” about aliens and Lena realizes that this guy is too far over the line for her. So Ben and his buds go get drunk and decide to destroy the NTH Factory. And also MURDER A MAN WHO WORKS THERE.
Later, Ben runs into his old Dean, who now lives on student housing with what I assume is her wife (they kept saying “Minnie” I think), and because of “overcrowding” and budget cuts, her life sucks now too. And now that it’s directly affecting her and she too wants someone to blame, she tells Ben she is starting to believe his raving.
On the way home, Ben is approached by Mercy and Otis, who offer to help him in his endeavor to murder random aliens.
They want to expose the president as an alien, perhaps force her to publicly discuss her birth certificate, and also to take out a local alien activist, Fiona.
Mercy gives him a metal mask (that I hope is made of NTH Metal) and we bebop back to the present day, now knowing every nook and cranny of the origin story of the Agent of Liberty.
In the present-day DEO, Brainy is losing hope that they can save Supergirl. Getting her out of the Earth’s atmosphere would help in theory, but her body is too weak to survive that right now. He’s feeling hopeless, but Alex has an idea of how to help. Or rather, who can help.
So Alex calls Lena Luthor. Lena is power-walking with the determination of a lady who wants to save her best friend, but Alex stops her and thanks her for helping even though Lena isn’t Supergirl’s biggest fan. Lena doesn’t say, “It’s cute how you still think I don’t know,” but instead says that she’s often underestimated, and maybe she doesn’t express it in ways that people expect, but she does care.
And I’m not necessarily saying I ship it, but I am saying that it almost feels unfair to have Chyler and Katie share an emotional moment because those two ooze chemistry and it’s impossible to not feel a spark.
So, the answer is a bandaid, but an answer nonetheless: indefinite confinement. Lena has a very fancy metal supersuit in a teeny tiny suitcase that will help keep more Kryptonite from getting into Kara’s system until they can fix things. It’s very Power Ranger-y and it makes me wonder what situations Lena anticipated needing this for when she built it. (Because it’s definitely for Supergirl, it has her sigil and everything.)
Back in the baddy lab, Mercy wants to kill Jensen now that he’s served his purpose, but Ben wants to keep him around, just in case they want to get back into the DEO.
Let’s hope Nia is back next week! And, I mean, Kara.