“Supergirl” Episode 407 Recap: Lena Luthor’s Laboratory

Previously on Supergirl, one extremely prejudiced man lead a hate group called the Children of Liberty in terrorizing aliens on Earth, Lena made an invincible heart and set out to cure humans of… humanity and needs a human subject, and J’onn’s friend Fiona was killed by the Agent of Liberty causing her fiance, Manchester, to quit his pacifist ways, for better or worse, depending on the day.

We open on a better day, where Manchester is taking control of a hostage situation the Children of Liberty are involved in. Supergirl shows up and thanks him for holding down the scene until she arrives, and at first he wants to rough the Child of Liberty up to get information but Supergirl says that’s not how she rolls. She learns that the Libertyman doesn’t know much, but he knows there were two tasks: steal fission rods, or wait for a cargo shipment.

Supergirl tells Manchester she’ll take over from here but he’s eager to help. Her instincts make her hesitant, but she knows he’s J’onn’s friend so she says she’ll call him if they learn anything new.

Kara looks curiously at Manchester

It’s okay, Kara, I too am disarmed by British Accents.

Meanwhile James is taken to talk to the Agent of Liberty. James tries to understand his point of view, but wonders if AoL has ever tried to do the same and tried to put himself in aliens’ shoes. (AoL is my new nickname for him because he’s outdated. Also because “Agent of Liberty” is a lot to type every time.)

Anyway, AoL’s plan for James is that Guardian will become the face of the movement, of human excellency, and he will be that face while knocking down a monument. James doesn’t want to but AoL thinks he’ll come around in time.

Cut to Lena Luthor, who is preparing herself for a hard day by putting her hair up in a ponytail.

Lena puts her hair up

Let’s get down to business, to defeat…well, men.

I don’t know what it is about women putting their hair up in ponytails in front of my eyes, but it gets me good every time.

Eve comes into Lena’s office to tell her that their first human subject is here. Eve starts rambling excitedly about Lena curing cancer and stopping a Civil War NO PRESSURE. She starts to talk about the subject’s green eyes and almost says his name but Lena cuts her off; it’ll be easier if she doesn’t know anything about him beyond him being Subject 331.

When she gets into the lab, she does the same to him, not letting him say his name, and not introducing herself before starting to dictate her lab notes and getting down to business. She asks him to sign the contract that tells him the risks and he doesn’t want to pussyfoot around it: he could die, like his brother did die.

Which is an admirable enough quality, but he doesn’t get onto Lena’s good side (nor mine) quickly when he starts calling her Lab Tech and asking about the scientist and when he’ll meet “him.”

Lena furrows her brow at the patient

“I swear if I wasn’t already about to torture you with science…”

He tries to tell Lena he can see a heart under her wall of ice but she just truth-bombs the fact that she’s the scientist he’d been so eager to meet and walks away.

When Supergirl gets back to the DEO, Alex shows her that Ben Lockwood has been given his own show because sometimes the media cares more about causing a scene than the effect it might have.

Alex and Kara look dumbfounded at the TV

This is also what I look like when I walk in on my dad watching Last Man Standing .

Ben is spewing nonsense about how maybe Supergirl is going to cause the eradication of the human race, and maybe she started on Thanksgiving with the missing Children of Liberty. Kara is getting worked up about it but Alex calms her down, reminding her that she didn’t do anything to the Libertym’n and that she saved so many people that night.

Alex reassures Kara

Why yes I did add an extraneous sentence to this recap just to add a screenshot of Alex, who was sorely missed in this episode.

Back in the Liberty Lair, Tom breaks James out of his cell and gives him back the watch that contains his Guardian gear, and takes him to Shelley Island; basically this Earth’s Ellis Island. When the island was functional, it dampened powers until aliens went through immigration and a video of Supergirl welcomed them to Earth. But the island has been shut down since the President resigned. Tom tries to help James escape on a lil boat but the Children of Liberty catch them and hold Tom hostage so James will do what they say.

Manchester passes on a message to Supergirl about a suspicious cargo shipment and so the two go to investigate together. Manchester gets all punchy with the supervisor and Supergirl is like, “Can we perhaps not?”

Supergirl looks Concerned

“Listen I love punching Nazis as much as the next guy but this dude didn’t even do anything!”

She decides that maybe it’s not the best idea teaming up, and takes the only evidence (half of a shipping label) and flies off.

In Lena’s Laboratory, Subject 331 apologizes for assuming the scientist was a man. She asks her name, and apparently not wanting the attachment to go either way, says Dr. Kieran. Maybe she didn’t want to admit she was a Luthor so as not to spook him (which…I support a full legal name change tbh) or maybe she just didn’t want to hear her subject calling her by her name. With Lena, it’s anyone’s guess.

Lena glares at 331 but is sort of sensual about it?

“Wanna play doctor?”

Subject 331 asks why he was chosen, especially since there are no other subjects, and she says it’s because he’s the only one who answered one of the multiple choice questions the same way she did. A true neutral; if a spider is trapped, leave it alone. Don’t try to save it, don’t kill it, just let it live its life.

See, the thing is, she doesn’t want a hero. He promises he’s anything but; his brother was the hero, and he’s never met the Danvers sisters so he doesn’t know there can be more than one per family. Lena says she’s never been a hero either, which breaks my heart because there are plenty of other people (aka everyone who wasn’t killed by Daxamites) who would say otherwise.

He asks if she ever lost someone the way he lost her brother and in the way sometimes it’s easier to confide in strangers in line for the bathroom at a bar than it is in the people you’re closest to, she admits that she has lost someone: the only hero she’s ever had. (Because I guess she’s forgetting The Couch Scene from Season 2?? During this scene I was genuinely like, “Wait what is she talking about, Kara is fine.)

Lena looks over her shoulder saucily

At this point I don’t even care how it happens, I’ll drink in that Lena backstory/character development like it’s water in the desert.

Alex goes to see Kara, who is burning Thanksgiving leftovers, to tell her that they found the bodies of the missing Libertym’n and as far as they can tell, they were killed by regular ol’ violence, nothing particularly alien.

Alex looks good and gay

“My only role in this episode was to give you information and look gay BUT BOI AM I GOOD AT BOTH.”

Kara is starting to suspect Manchester, so she asks J’onn about him, and J’onn says that Manchester is dealing with a lot of pain but that he’s on the right side. That he wants to help and can be an asset. So Kara tells her instincts to shush and trusts her Space Dad.

Supergirl goes to see Manchester bearing the gift of turkey pot pie as an olive branch. She says J’onn asked her to give him a second chance, and so he will. The substance they found in the shipper carton was an explosive, so she wants to go back to the DEO, but Manchester convinces her to stay with him and try to do some puzzle solving so they can stay a step ahead of the Children of Liberty.

In her lab, Lena brings Subject 331 some Big Belly Burger and she makes a critical mistake: she takes one of his fries when he offers. I know she’s not an expert on human friendships but even she should know sharing fries bonds people like few other things in this world can.

Since he’s willing to risk his life for her experiment, she openly explains to him why she’s doing what she’s doing. She wants to cure “everything that makes men weak” (note, she says men specifically). She wants to not only cure human ailments, but also enhance human abilities. Like she’s said in the past, she wants to level the playing field.

Lena tells 331 what's what

“I’m also conducting a concurrent experiment to see how many queer women lose their minds per undone button.”

Subject 331 gets worried now. He blames himself for his brother dying while donating a kidney to him and thinks he’s cursed; he can tell how important this project is and doesn’t want to screw it up for her. He’s worried she chose wrong. But she reassures him: she’s right most of the time.

Lena looks serious

And that is a direct quote from famed journalist Kara Danvers, thank you very much.

Now Tom has been added to James’ cell, and he’s starting to realize the mistakes he’s made that lead him here. Tom doesn’t want James to give up his reputation to save him, but James doesn’t care about his reputation, or a monument. He’ll build both back up again. Actions speak louder than words and all that.

Supergirl and Manchester, working together, figure out that the Children of Liberty are going to turn Shelley Island back on, and they know it’s probably not to have a dance party. Manchester thinks they should sneak in so the DEO doesn’t blow up their spot, and Supergirl reluctantly agrees since she has a yellow sun grenade (that she lets him Manchester-handle.)

Kara looks perplexed

“You sure you want to hold it? Look at this suit, where do you think I was storing it?”

But when they get to the island and Supergirl throws the sun-grenade, nothing happens because Manchester removed the power cell. He is turning Supergirl in for an audience with the Agent of Liberty.

Kara looks mad

How. Rude.

Supergirl is weakened by the power dampeners and so the Libertym’n chain her and lock her in the basement of the monument.

Meanwhile all of Lena’s attempts to not get attached to Subject 331 have failed (I still blame the french fry) and she uses his name: Adam. She reassures him that his brother dying wasn’t his fault; it was just bad luck. He asks her about her hero, the one she lost, and Lena tells the story of how her mother drowned on an overcast day by a lake.

Lena looks so sad

Anyone else Concerned™ her mother killed herself? Who leaves their four-year-old on the beach alone while they go swimming?

And how little four-year-old Lena did nothing but watch. She blames herself for her mother’s death, for not running to her or crying out for help.

Lena looks like an AI but also kind of sad

Can I submit this to whoever does the casting for the show Humans?

And so when she was placed with the Luthors, a horrible group of people, she spent her life fighting against their legacy but deep down always wondered if amongst horrible people is exactly where she belongs.

Lena snarls

“Look, I’ve even been perfecting a sexy snarl in case the evil breaks through.”

(It’s times like this I wish she was confiding in her best friend and gal pal Kara Danvers but alas.)

So James is being held at gunpoint, forced to declare allegience with the Children of Liberty on camera while he blows up a monument he’s been promised is totally empty, but in actuality has Supergirl trapped inside. She’s not Kryptonite weak, so she can break out of her chains but she can’t quite fly up to the window.

Kara looks up at the too-high window

“My problems are feeling very…monumental.”

So she uses what strength she does have to climb up to it and sees James flipping the levers to the bomb on the ceiling and tries her best to get his attention. Her heat vision doesn’t do much to break the glass keeping her inside, but it does get James’ attention enough to pause the switch-flipping.

Meanwhile, Manchester is taken to a fake Agent of Liberty, but he knows the difference between AoL and Hotmail so he decides to go back on his deal and punches his way back outside, where he finds James all Guardianed up and fighting Children of Liberty. Manchester shoots out the power dampeners as a Libertym’n flips the final switch, but since Supergirl is stronger now, she breaks free and flies the bomb up to safety.

Supergirl flies free

Nobody puts baby in a monument.

In her lab, Lena is ready to give up the project and tries to pay Adam out of the study because she doesn’t want his death on her hands. But Adam wants to be Subject 331; he knows the risks and he wants to help her. He wants to be part of something bigger than him, and he wants to help her because he knows she’s a good person and will do great things with this science.

Lena looks Serious while she sciences

“Playing god isn’t turning out to be the lightning-bolt-throwing orgy party I was hoping it would be.”

So she agrees and starts the trial, injecting him with green goo that darkens his veins immediately.

On his way home, Manchester is confronted by a none-too-pleased J’onn Jones. He’s mad he betrayed Supergirl, betrayed his trust, and doesn’t want Manchester go cross lines he can’t uncross. But Manchester has already crossed those lines. He’s crossed them so many times his soul looks like a cross-stitch. His pain is too loud for him to hear reason. So he slaps an empathy amplifier onto J’onn’s chest and makes him watch Manchester kill all those Libertym’n, makes him feel the loss of Fiona, makes him feel the rage and pain he’s living with.

Back in her office, Lena finishes her report: Subject 331 had powers for three minutes before dying. But she did learn some invaluable information from him.

Lena talks into a recorder

Captain’s log. Day 775. The Powers that Be continue to keep Kara and me apart. Reasons still unknown.

She stops recording and goes to the window and looks sadly out at the rain and apologizes to Adam, saying she tried to move the spider when maybe she shouldn’t have.

Kara goes to visit James in his office and they talk about the duality of good and evil, and how that greyness manifested in Manchester. James says he understands more now than he did yesterday, about the risks he took about what it almost cost him. And about why Lena lied to him about the DA. Kara encourages him to go talk to her, though I still wish she would have gone instead.

Kara looks saddish

“Tell her I love her. YOU! I mean tell her YOU love her. Er, gotta gay. GO. GOTTA GO.”

When James gets to Lena’s office, she’s just staring sadly into space. He brings her food and wine and he wants to try again, but she can’t think about that right now. Someone just willingly died to help her with science, she can’t be bothered with whether James approves of her actions or not right now. But she gives him enough hope to get him to leave her alone for now.

Lena listens to James

I would like the record to show that Lena is half cast in shadow and is wearing grey. That is all.

Across town, Alex, Kara and Brainy are watching TV together (CUTE) when J’onn stops by, crying. He admits that he was wrong about Manchester, and he’s so, so sorry. Kara holds him; they’ve all been wrong about people before. She understands.

Manchester seems less bothered by his actions, though, and is snooping around Lockwood Steel in the dark, likely up to no good.

Next week looks like a Nia-centric episode and I couldn’t be happier about it!! See you then!

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Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 313 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. I have been waiting on a Nia-centric episode since her ramblings in the elevator episode 1. I also need her and Brainy to have more screen time together because of the awesomeness. The two of them plus Alex’s haircut are the highlights of this season thus far.

    I really wish the writers would stop trying to make James into this righteous hero and just make him James again. P.S. when you take a giant poop on your girlfriend the first thing you do is apologize for being a pooping douchenozzle.

    This will sound completely out of turn but conflicted, pensive, faux cold-hearted Lena is extremely sexy. I hated myself for saying it but that is my testimony.

  2. Ah, good eye Valerie! I missed the half-in-shadow lighting cue and only focused on the clothes; black and white, neatly divided, and then gray after she moved the spider. So props to the wardrobe team AND the cinematographer.

    ———-

    I continue to love the little detail that Kara doesn’t use oven mitts.

    ———-

    This season been getting steadily darker. But I think dawn is coming next episode and the wacky hijinks of SuperBraiNia.

    • I love shadowplay (and mirror/reflection stuff) and her outfits have been SO solid and blocky lately this grey really stood out to me. And the sitting in the dark hahaha

      I never noticed Kara doesn’t use oven mitts but I LOVE it now that you’ve mentioned it. I do love when she heats things up with her eyes, too.

      NIAAA

  3. Can we please limit James’ screen time to, like, none? Honestly, him being both Guardian and CEO for CatCo is one of the worst plots of this show. Who on Earth thought it was a good idea? The only good thing is that his relationship with Lena is over, which btw was another disaster. Who ruined this character so much?

    On the other hand, both Manchester Black and Brainy could use more screen time. Love them both and I absolutely ship Brainy and Nia :D

    I actually hoped that Adam will survive. He was a promising character and he was so nice to Lena (*cough*unlikehersocalledboyfriend*cough*), it’s really wasted opportunity. Also I really don’t think that Lena is going Evil. I know they want us to think that since her first appearance in SG, but honestly it’s dumb and makes no sense. This woman obviously has a gold heath and nothing will change my mind. I’m more willing to believe that Supergirl herself would go dark instead of Lena. Also, Lena and Alex would be so perfect together… ;_;

    • I’m not sure Lena+James is “over,” although it’s definitely not in the best of health.

      I’m not a fan of Manchester although a show like this needs someone who doesn’t let other people’s rules–or even basic morality–get in the way. But lord yes, I loves me some Brainy, especially when he’s sharing screen time with Nia.

      I liked Adam too and his scenes with Lena provided great insight into her back story. They were more alike than you’d think.

      I don’t expect Lena *or* Kara to turn evil. Lena is much better filling the ambiguously sinister slot Max Lord did in season 1 and if the writers are smart (sadly not a given) she’ll continue to fill it.

      Finally, I have no trouble seeing Lena in any number of pairings that would be better than the current one. Alex is certainly among them.

  4. Now imagine Supergirl but with LoT writers:

    Lena: Kara, why are you here?
    Kara: [takes off her clothes] happy birthday!
    Lena:
    Jess [comes in]: miss Luthor, the Supergirl statue costs so much I would have thought she’s screwing you
    Lena: no, only Kara is

  5. Lena looked great, wonderful costume choice. But I did not care for this episode at all. What a nosedive into boredom. Everyone always criticizes this show for a lack of subtlety, but I think the problem here was a lack of depth. It’s fine to have your characters be upfront about their beliefs (which the show isn’t really unless it’s the villains) but like… please explain their reasoning? I am SO CONFUSED about James and what would lead him to make any of the decisions he makes. Similarly I am confused where the show thinks I have been led to write off Manchester Black as a bad guy because…. I think James and Kara have a worse track record than Manchester in dealing with these dingleberries so far. He gets results, he takes them seriously. James mostly wants to talk to them about their feelings? Kara just feels bad that they are so mean? Ridiculous. Back up your non-lethal stance with some actionable pacifism show! Anyway better luck next episode I guess.

  6. Poor Kara goes on a BIG IMPORTANT MISSION without Alex as backup and it goes SO POORLY! There’s a moment on power dampener island when Kara belatedly realizes that she needs to call Alex for help and someone should honestly create an edit set to the Curb Your Enthusiasm music.

    I mostly liked this episode. Kara had an actually plot-related problem she had to overcome (instead of a magic space dragon) and the Lena stuff was interesting. My big criticism is that I don’t really know what James was trying to do. I know he wanted to help the reluctant Children of Liberty guy who arranged his ‘interview,’ but I didn’t follow his ‘I’m going to publicly repudiate everything I believe in and commit and act of terrorism’ logic. James was basically the ‘this is fine’ cartoon dog in this episode.

  7. I hanker for the glory days of Season 1 where James was a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and was a good friend who helped Supergirl and supported her. I actually liked James in Season 1. I don’t know what happened but all his storylines and “development” after just turned the character is a target board for all my frustrations. We don’t NEED Guardian. It’s a useless, non-essential character that buoys nobody’s storyline. CEO James also doesn’t fit for me. It doesn’t suit his character. I also really, really, REALLY miss Cat.

    Lena broke my heart in this otherwise meh episode. So much pain behind those beautiful sea-green eyes. Can someone give her a hug? I volunteer as tribute.

    Lastly, while I don’t condone Manchester’s methods, at least he’s getting results and progress. I know Kara doesn’t kill, wants to be this pure, good superhero that fights with words first and fists last but she needs a dose of realism. Those AoL crazies are an overloaded powder keg itching for an open flame. She needs to open her eyes and stop being so naive and trusting or it’s all going to blow up in her face.

  8. Thank you so much for the recap, Valerie Anne!

    Here are a few of my thoughts, sparked by the episode’s title. The title, ‘Rather the Fallen Angel” is taken from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The monster tells his creator that he used to be good, but now his misery has made him evil: “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.”

    One obvious fallen angel this episode is Manchester Black. He used to be happy and good, and now in his misery he has become evil. I doubt redemption is possible for him within the context of the show. It seems to me he’s killed too many people for that to still be possible.

    And then of course there’s subject 0331, whose actual name is Adam. He could have been Lena’s biblical Adam. When Lena argued in the previous episode that they should give people superpowers to level the playing field, Alex had asked: “Who would decide who gets them? They would be playing God.” And here, one episode later, Lena is playing God. She’s trying to create her first superhuman, her Adam, and fails. In this failure, she turns Adam into a fallen angel and herself into a Dr. Frankenstein, haunted by what she’s done.

    It’s so heartbreaking this episode to see Lena make decisions that are so difficult, that she tries to make for all the right reasons, while constantly doubting her own goodness. And then when Adam dies, you can see how easy it is for her to just take that as further confirmation of her own moral corruption. She can save the planet 20 times over and it won’t impact her self-perception. But every time her good intentions have negative consequences, you can see her think, “See! Further proof. I truly am a bad person.”

    In her final moments of the episode, she looks so forlorn. Katie McGrath portrays the exhaustion, the sadness, the loneliness beautifully. When Lena sends James on his way and Rose Cousins’ Never Surrender starts playing, “When you’re lost and on your own”, I so much wanted Kara to come in and sit with her and refuse to be sent away.

    Especially since it is people like Kara who will help Lena believe in her own goodness, making sure she doesn’t become a fallen angel herself. The show loves playing with the possibility of Lena turning evil. Maybe that’s because ultimately that is the story they want to tell (I hope not}), maybe that’s because they just like to mess with us (fine, I guess), but that possibility is also already there beneath the surface, in Lena’s psyche, because no matter how hard Lena fights to be good, she will always find it easier to believe herself to be a villain than a hero.

  9. I do believe I am the only person on this website who finds Lena in the wrong! I love her, but this whole “give humans powers thing” just weirds me out. If it was JUST curing cancer I’d be in favor, but she explicitly wants to “level the playing field” and like…that is so not the solution. That’s like saying the only way to counter a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s really showing Lena’s libertarian side which immediately makes me anxious.

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I agree with James, but I don’t think he’s being completely unreasonable? It’s also not out of character for the man who secretly operated as Guardian because he saw a problem in National City to meet up with the Children of Liberty alone. I wish the show would make this connection explicitly, but it felt like a good analogy for how men relate to each other and male privilege.

    I don’t know. I’ve really liked the recent run of episodes and while I certainly don’t think Lena is going full evil, I like them making her be wrong or questionable.

    • Oh I super don’t think she should be giving people powers. As much as she’s trying to find people who don’t want to kill or save the spider, once she makes this technology, it’s going to get out of her hands. It’s a dangerous and irresponsible game she’s playing.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily out of character for James to go to the CoL alone but it’s completely unreasonable. He’s being stubborn and stupid.

      I really liked this episode too and I’m worried about Lena – she needs to talk to Kara about her feelings!

  10. A little late but I’m a bit concerned about the way they’re writing Lena. She buries herself in her latest obsession and shuts her friends out. Last season it was when she was trying to “cure” Sam and now she’s doing the same thing with her attempt to cure “everything.” I’ve gotten wrapped up in projects and things so I get it. I don’t expect perfect characters by any means but that doesn’t make it healthy.

      • The only one who has a clue is Eve. Is it possible Eve is filling an “impartial observer” role similar to what Adam did in this episode? Or perhaps something more? How much do you have to despise your family to want to spend the evening in a lab with your boss? She *really* hates her family, she *really* enjoys working in the lab, or she *really* likes spending time with Lena. Possibly more than one of the above but Lena is surely part of the reason.

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