Monday, February 13, 2017

"Luthors" Manages Not To Mortgage The Potential Of Supergirl!

The Good: Wonderful performances, Interesting characters, Good pacing
The Bad: Some serious plot problems, Editing
The Basics: "Luthors" brings Lena and Lillian back to the Supergirl narrative with only minimal inclination that it could all go wrong for the supporting character and Kara Danvers!

The various elements of the DC Television Universe have a number of aspects in common, but Supergirl has been a fairly pleasant surprise in a lot of ways. The DC Comics Television Universe has a tendency to use reversals in the stories and too many times, the reversals have been predictable and obvious, as opposed to surprising and audacious. If one is doing a reversal, predictability is the bane of good storytelling. Supergirl has set up some reversals that have been well-executed and one of the most pleasant surprises in the second season has been with Lena Luthor. Lena Luthor is the adopted daughter of Lillian Luthor, who grew up with Lex Luthor, but rejects her family's anti-alien agenda. Lena has been played as a genuine young woman who truly wants to do right in the world and counteract her family's destructive influences and Katie McGrath has played her so well with those qualities that she has made the viewer believe completely in Lena Luthor's integrity and motivations. As such, genre fans have been waiting for the groan-inducing moment when Lena Luthor is exposed as a fraud; many of us are so jaded that we expect to be disappointed by the writers and executive producers of Supergirl because they seem to have a real issue with making an actually good, fully-upstanding person who is already part of an arc of redemption and rejection of evil. Fortunately, when it looked like Lena might make that very obvious betrayal, the writers of Supergirl stepped up and kept the integrity of Lena Luthor intact. With "Luthors," Lena is given yet another opportunity to go over to the Dark Side.

Fortunately, Supergirl maintains some decently high standards by not going in that unfortunate and obvious direction.

"Luthors" picks up after "The Martian Chronicles" (reviewed here!), but does not follow directly on the story from that. Instead, "Luthors" starts to deal with the ramifications and consequences of "Medusa" (reviewed here!), which saw Lillian Luthor going to jail. "Luthors" returns Lillian Luthor and Metallo to Supergirl.

20 years ago, Lex Luthor is playing chess with his mother, when Lena is brought home to be his younger sister. In the present, Lillian Luthor's trial continues and the DEO team hangs out together at the alien bar. Alex comes out with Maggie and discovers most of her friends are supportive of her. Lena is ostracized during her mother's trial, especially after she testifies against her mother. Visiting her mother in jail, Lena learns from Lillian that Lionel Luthor is her biological father. Elsewhere, John Corben, is given his cybernetic elements back while in prison.

While testifying at Lillian Luthor's trial, Corben lashes out as Metallo, disrupting the trial and freeing Lillian Luthor. When the window for Metallo getting the Kryptonite needed to power himself is narrowed down to the time frame when Lena visited Corben at the jail, Maggie Swayer arrests Lena. When Metallo comes to spring Lena, The Guardian shows up to stop him. Failing that, Lena is broken out by Metallo and her mother and no one but Kara believes that Lena is innocent of aiding Lillian. Lena is taken to a secret LexCorp facility where Lex stashed anti-alien weapons, much to her horror. When Metallo's heart threatens to explode, Supergirl springs into action to save Lena.

"Luthors" does a good job of creating family angst with Lena's character arc. Katie McGrath continues her extraordinary performance as Lena by making the young Luthor woman seem strong, independent, and emotionally-conflicted. McGrath manages to never seem whiny in the role of Lena Luthor and she also exhibits incredible physical control during her performance. McGrath plays off Brenda Strong expertly. Strong plays fuming and angry in their first scene together, while McGrath has to play cold and tactical opposite her. McGrath plays quiet pain like a pro.

Brenda Strong is scary with how well she plays a raging narcissist in the form of Lillian Luthor. Strong is much more frightening as Lillian Luthor than Frederick Schmidt (Metallo) and David Harewood (Cyborg Superman) combined!

Supergirl does a fairly good job of illustrating how real journalists tend to work and "Luthors" features a pretty compelling scene with Kara fighting Snapper Carr and James Olsen over the Lena Luthor story. Kara Danvers might be an alias for Supergirl, but "Luthors" does a good job of making Danvers seem like an actual reporter. Danvers fights with integrity for her viewpoint on not publishing an article that implicates Lena Luthor and that "reads" as very real and authentic for a legitimate journalist. It is also refreshing to see heroic characters who fight with words and not merely strength!

"Luthors" has a simple problem, simple solution that is somewhat troubling. Kara stands up for Lena Luthor and that is refreshing to see. The astonishing aspect of "Luthors" is that Kara needs her friends and allies to believe in her belief in Lena Luthors integrity, but she does not take the most direct, painfully obvious approach. Kara works for J'onn J'onzz, who is a telepath, and he has a vested interest in protecting aliens on Earth. Danvers does not ask J'onzz for help in a way that might actually prove her faith to be justified or not.

The Kara Danvers/Mon-El "romance" subplot is somewhat forced in an episode that is packed with more than enough substantive plot points. With Metallo suffering from the effects of Cadmus-manufactured Kryptonite, Lena Luthor being used and having to take a stand and Kara standing against her friends in her steadfast belief that Lena is upstanding; adding Mon-El to the mix is not bad, but it is a distracting elements for the episode.

Also distracting are some of director Tawnia McKiernan's cuts. Noticeable is an incredibly awkward shot wherein Metallo blasts Supergirl and the hit is not actually shown - even the effect is somewhat truncated. But, one truly bad cut does not undermine the episode. While the last scene with Lena Luthor implies that the whole rest of "Luthors" might get annoyingly undone, that does not happen in this episode and there is still time for everyone's faith to be rewarded.

"Luthors" is a solid episode of Supergirl that continues to pleasantly surprise the viewer!

For other works with Desiree Zurowski, please visit my reviews of:
Fringe - Season 4
X-Men III: The Last Stand

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Supergirl - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of the Kryptonian superheroine here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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