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.
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 (AoL is my new nickname for him because he’s outdated.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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!