Supergirl: 4.16 The House of L
Lex is on the loose and Supergirl gives us what is probably its second best episode of the season in The House Of L.
In a similar fashion to the earlierearlier episode exploring the creation of Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty, we’re treated to the story of Lex going to jail and his time there leading up to his escape and confrontation with Supergirl. The structure is great fun and while it doesn’t lean into the what was happening somewhere else as heavily as the Ben Lockwood episode, this one only goes back really to the start of this season, its interesting to see how Lex has apparently been pulling the string of this entire season.
Whilst this is a great idea in principle, it does rob the season of some of its strengths, we knew that Otis and Mercy had helped to tip Ben over the edge into the vigilante but seeing how casually instrumental Lex was in that, feels like that story loses a little something. We also get to see Eve Tessmacher first meeting Lex and his plans to put her in place at CatCo. Eve turning out to be a Lex groupie still doesn’t quite sit right, I guess I’d just got used to the re-imagined and re-claimed Eve. When she turned in the last episode I wasn’t blown away and shocked so I feel like maybe that wasn’t worth the sacrifice of her character redemption.
What this episode does well is to show us, which we’ve not really seen that much with a live action Lex Luthor, is Lex in prison. We’ve seen Lex escape and we’ve seen him thrown in jail but a prolonged stay, basically taking control of the prison and coming and going as he pleases is a very Lex thing to do and it was nice see that played out on screen a little.
The main reason Lex keeps leaving prison is to visit the Russian Supergirl. I’m not the biggest fan of this story stand but its clearly where the show is heading. Lex’s main plan seems to be to discredit Supergirl and all Kryptonians and the take over the world as The Hero of Earth. What this episodes does really well is sell the idea of Lex feeling as if Superman had robbed him of his destiny to be the earth savior. Lex is a complex character and we’ve seen various versions of him before, touching on different aspects of his character and motivation. This version is a strong attempt to lean into the more modern ideas of Lex while still keeping a strong sense of the theatrical villain about him.
Jon Cryer gives a solid if un-remarkable performance as Lex. He lacks the acting chops or time to develop that several of his predecessors had but he does a very good job of dropping into a character fully formed, riffing on our preconceived knowledge of the character and takes this show’s Lex forward with enthusiasm. His dull, blank eyed commitment to what he’s doing gives Lex some genuine menace and counters well with his moments of kindness towards the Kara-doppelganger.
Melissa Benoist is more of a mixed bag this week. I flip flop between thinking she’s not a very good actor to thinking she’s actually better than I give her credit for. I think, perhaps she’s a decent actor who, along with the show, makes some duff choices on how she should play certain moments. She gurns her way through so many scenes and over acts little emotions so often yet also delivers some very heartfelt moments. I think over-all her acting is cheesy but okay. It’s never more apparent than here, where she’s given some truly awful, stereotypical dialogue to deliver in an even more stereotypical, comical Russian accent. Even Walter Koenig would cringe at some of her pronunciations.
The main plot of the episode/back-story is that, after being created, the doppelganger-Supergirl can only remember the name Alex and so when (A)Lex Luthor turns up she instantly trusts him, allowing him to mould and shape her into an anti-America, Anti-Supergirl weapon. There are some fun scenes involved in her training, including her first visit to the US with Lex, he disguised in a bad wig and her disguised like, and calling herself, Linda Lee. The show does its best to touch on some ideas of self but does fall into a fairly simplistic who am I? trope but its fairly well handled with a 42 minute run time. There is also a moment that makes no sense; Russian Supergirl befriends a little boy she saved from baddies when Lex first found her and when she isn’t doing what Lex wants as quickly as he wants, he arranges for the boy to be killed making it look like it was the USA. This sends Russian Supergirl mental and shes wants to rush off and kill everyone, which Lex is annoyed about – he seemed to think it would just annoy her and make her more resolute and malleable to his ideas? This felt like a misstep, it was pretty obvious she would go off the rails if the kid she was friends with was killed so I’m not sure why someone like Lex wouldn’t foresee that.
Anyway, Lex gets things back on track and sends Russian Supergirl off to cause mayhem while he sips into his role of dying brother. The scene where he realises the only way his sister will see him/complete her cure is if he has cancer is great fun, with his casually stepping into a nuclear reactor in order to get cancer quickly. There was something so cavalier and ridiculous about that I really loved it. It was one of the most Lex Luthor things he could have done.
Some nice touched are the idea that Lena and Jimmy were instrumental in his conviction, allowing him to have some grudge against both and Eve being subjugated by Lex fairly quickly is a nice touch, even if I’m not a fan of the she’s good no she’s bad maybe she’ll be good again thing. The concept that Lex would play the long game, building up anti-alien mistrust and hatred to boiling point so its easier to turn people against Supergirl and her gang is very Lex as well and Jon Cryer is definitely bringing his A game and enjoying playing more than just a sniveling weed for a change.
Not as sharp or as satisfying as the Ben Lockwood back-story episode and some of the reveals seems a little forced but this was a really interesting and fun way to introduce this version of Lex, the Russian Supergirl and to bring us up to speed with Lex’s plans.
Oh, also, Otis, who is alive again (it’s a whole thing) secretly saved the little boy from being killed by US missiles, so that’s okay.