Warning: This contains spoilers.
Supergirl’s second season has had its ups and downs, as the show has attempted to find ways to expand its ensemble of good guys and gals, but it has largely gotten away with its weak spots, thanks to its central superhero: Melissa Benoist’s sheer charisma in the lead has infused the whole production with Kara’s goodwill and optimism. Episode 12, though, proves that there’s more to Supergirl’s appeal than Supergirl herself: as the title suggests, it shines a welcome spotlight on the Luthors.
The Luthor name, of course, looms over the whole Superman/Supergirl universe. And, just as the show successfully tackled the Kal-El shadow at the start of its second run, it benefits from the way it does the same with Lena Luthor. Katie McGrath has made several appearances so far as the black sheep (or, given her anti-Luthor stance, should that be white sheep?) of the family, and those have been good enough to make us want more – if only to give McGrath something more to do. Episode 12 doesn’t disappoint.
We begin with a bout of legal action, as Lena is called to testify against her mother, Lillian (Brenda Strong), who, you may recall, was arrested for her nefarious anti-alien plans not too long ago. She takes the chance to distance herself from Lillian as much as possible, but when Kara visits, she’s agonising over whether to accept an invitation to visit her mum behind bars. Kara, bless, suggests to go and clear the air, but, of course, that’s a bad idea, as Lillian then reveals that Lena was the result of an affair between Lionel Luthor and another woman. Lionel forbade Lillian from getting close to Lena, after her birth mother passed away, leaving their relationship to become frosty and distant. Lena, of course, believes her sob story.
Brenda Strong has been a highlight of Season 2, never refusing the chance to ham it up as the villain – so it’s fun to see her put on a more heartfelt face for her one-to-one, not least because we also spend the whole time scrutinising her story for lies. After all, with a Luthor, there’s always an ulterior motive.
Sure enough, Corben (aka. Metallo – remember him?) is sent a package of synthetic kryptonite to plug into his chest, giving him back his powers. A surprise attack in court the next day (“Permission to treat the witness as hostile?” “I treat the whole court as hostile!”) leads to him and Lillian both escaping. Meanwhile, fake video footage surfaces of Lena apparently stealing the kryptonite from the Luthor company to give to Metallo.
Who’s going to stand by Lena and believe that she’s innocent? Why, Kara, of course! And so the episode revolves around that test of their friendship – and Kara’s trust – as Winn, J’onn and Snapper Carr all rail against her stance of solidarity. We, of course, side with her, so when Lillian sends Metallo to break Lena out of prison, it looks less like she’s complicit and more like a set-up. That becomes even clearer when Lillian takes Lena to a mysterious facility in the middle of nowhere that belonged to Lex, which apparently houses a huge cache of alien weapons. The problem? She needs Luthor blood to open it. So much for wanting to reconnect.
It’s only a matter of time, of course, until Winn uses his tech skillz to track down Metallo’s kryptonite signature, discover that it’s synthesised, unstable and liable to go boom-boom at any second. And it’s a matter of even less time until Kara flies over there to save Lena – only for Lillian to shoot Kara with one of Lex’s guns, prompting Lena to be the one doing the protecting. Naturally, Metallo blows up and Lillian escapes. But before then, the whole situation gives McGrath more than enough opportunity to explore her range, and the range of Lena herself, and for Strong to be as cruelly deceitful as ever.
To whit, bonus points to the show for the epilogue here, which sees Lena toying with a chess piece, while fondly having flashbacks to beating Lex at chess when they were young. Has Lena secretly agreed to Lillian’s offer of a position at Cadmus, promising to forge a better bond between them without Luthor men in their way? Or is she just drawing a line under the past, so she can continue to turn over a good leaf? Here’s hoping it’s the latter, although frankly, any additional screen-time with Katie McGrath is nothing to complain about.
There are some nice moments for the heroes too. Alex introducing Maggie to the rest of the gang is a cute scene, not least because J’onn isn’t surprised in the slightest by the revelation that Alex is gay. “Of course I knew,” he quips, David Harewood’s deadpan in full flow. “I’m psychic.”
The relationship between Kara and Lena, meanwhile, is rivalled only by the relationship between her and Mon-El – and this episode takes promising steps towards them actually getting it on for once. Do we want a show based around Supergirl’s love life? Not particularly (just look where Season 1’s Winn and James premise got us). But do we want more of their chemistry to keep us entertained? Absolutely.
The result is a relatively strong entry in this second season, although there are some notable weak spots along the way.
Firstly, the cheesy “choose to save the public or capture me” trick that Lillian pulls before getting away after the court case – she’s far too evil, clever and cool to recycle that tired cliche. Secondly, the ongoing Guardian storyline, as Kara and James’ disagreement over Lena’s motivation only fires up their existing rift. James complains that her faith in Lena is unfair, because she doesn’t have the same faith in him as the Guardian, but that argument barely holds water. Their ultimate decision to just be friends and get on with it only feels like confirmation that the writers have no idea how to resolve this whole subplot. And, of course, there’s the niggling fact that the show keeps using kryptonite as a source of dramatic tension, despite J’onn being on hand at all times, negating the need to send Supergirl anywhere near the green stuff. (Let’s not mention Cyborg Superman, who should just be forgotten about entirely.)
The climax, meanwhile, feels extremely out of the blue, as Kara and Mon-El finally confess their feelings for each other – only for someone called Mr. Mxyzptlk to turn up and declare her love for her. More romantic entanglements? That may not be the best direction for Supergirl to take, although we wait to see what happens with typically Kara optimism. Why? Because now we know that, even if the heroes don’t always get the best narratives, at least Supergirl has some decent villains.
Supergirl Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
Where can I watch Supergirl Season 2 on pay-per-view VOD?