Is there a legitimate argument to be made for any character other than Lex Luthor qualifying as Superman’s greatest enemy? And no, Batman doesn’t count. The Superman/Luthor dichotomy is one of the hallmarks of the franchise, and it was easily the biggest thing working in Smallville’s favor for ten years straight. It’s tough to say whether the Supergirl crew are hoping Lena Luthor can serve the same purpose her brother does for Supes, but this week’s episode did serve to make her feel like a more vital, unpredictable piece of the Season 2 puzzle.
Tt does seem like it’s been a long although the midseason hiatus is partly to blame. Since we’ve had an episode devoted to Lena, her mother and the general Cadmus conflict. “Luthors” made up for lost time by focusing squarely on the troubled relationship between mother and daughter and the question of whether a Luthor can ever truly be trusted. Along the way, we even got a brief but intriguing glimpse at Lena’s childhood. As much as Arrow loves its flashbacks, it’s a little surprising the rest of these shows don’t take that approach more often. But it was certainly justified here.
The flashback scenes were notable for featuring the first appearance of both Lionel and Lex. Who knows if we’ll ever see the adult Lex in the flesh, so that in itself was a nice treat. Personally, I’m a fan of the Luthor family back-story that paints Lex as a self-made man rising above humble origins and an abusive father, but this take worked in terms of casting Lena as the outsider. The flashback, coupled with Lillian’s revelations about Lena’s parentage, helped illuminate where Lena is coming from and why she has such a frosty relationship with her mother.
The whole episode was tied the overarching theme of trust together nicely. Kara is nothing if not compassionate. Her great strength (apart from her literal great strength) is her ability to believe in the best in everyone. It’s a trait she shares with her cousin, so it was nice to see her struggle mirror Clark’s so directly. Clark spent years believing in the best in Lex, never to be rewarded for his faith. But despite that, and despite all signs pointing to Lena’s guilt. Kara refused to believe that her friend could actually have orchestrated her mother’s jailbreak. This episode succeeded as much as any to date when it came to showcasing Kara’s inner goodness and inspirational qualities.
The question is whether she’ll ultimately make the same mistake Clark did. The final scene with Lena cast serious doubt on whether Lena truly is as innocent as she claims. Is she playing an intricate game of chess in which Kara and even Lillian are merely pawns? If she could outwit her older brother in her very first game of chess, it stands to reason she’s far more clever and strategically gifted than anyone could have guessed.
I won’t complain if the season begins to shift towards Lena over Lillian as the major, overarching villain. Lillian herself has never really connected as a villain. Her performance never seems natural (though Brenda Strong did have some solid scenes with Katie McGrath this week), and her motivations paint her as a fairly two-dimensional villain. Lena is far less predictable and more understated. She may be the ultimate mastermind, but what does she want, exactly? Let’s just hope the show answers that question rather than ignoring the Luthor clan for another month.
This episode offered a pretty stacked deck when it came to villains, as both Metallo and Cyborg Superman showed up to assist Lillian. This was a fun villain team-up that I wish had been exploited a little more. Hank was little more than window dressing this week, with the focus more on Corben and his rapidly deteriorating physical condition. On that note, I sincerely hope we haven’t seen the last of Frederick Schmidt’s Metallo. He may not be a deep character, but Schmidt’s screen presence puts him above most of the villains on this show.
“Luthors” sprinkled in some smaller character drama amid the Luthor family struggles, all of which added some extra flavor to the conflict. It’s nice to see the show getting back to basics a bit more in terms of Kara and James’ relationship, and it’s rather telling that James was far more effective out of costume than in. How does the editor-in-chief of a major metropolitan newspaper even have time to play vigilante when the whole company is burning the midnight oil to come up with a new issue? I’ll never understand this Guardian nonsense…
The opening scene with Alex introducing the gang to Maggie served as an entertaining way to kick things off. It was a nice little family moment, made all the more sweet but the utterly nonchalant way Mon-El and J’onn reacted to the idea of Alex dating a woman. In general, Mon-El’s inability to understand the hang-ups humans have about sexuality is a constant source of amusement.
This episode also had plenty to offer when it came to the Kara/Mon-El romance. In some ways, the will they/won’t they element is very predictable and sitcom-y, but Chris Wood and Melissa Benoist are so darned charming it doesn’t matter. Their romance feels genuine regardless of how predictable its ups and downs might be. And it’s not as if everything went exactly as planned, as their long-awaited kiss was interrupted by the arrival of a certain fifth-dimensional imp. That was certainly unexpected.