“Supergirl” Episode Review – S04E15 “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Superman Homepage writer Michael Bailey reviews episodes from the “Supergirl” TV series, airing on The CW.

Check out his review of the 15th episode of Season 4 in which, secretly furloughed from prison due to failing health, Lex Luthor (guest star Jon Cryer) visits his sister, Lena (Katie McGrath), to seek her help finding a cure. Savvy as ever, Lena is suspicious of Lex’s motives but when she’s faced with a life and death situation, she must decide how she truly feels about her brother.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?Originally Aired: March 17, 2019

WRITTEN BY: Derek Simon and Nicki Holcomb
DIRECTED BY: Tawnia McKiernan

Melissa Benoist (Kara/Supergirl)
Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers)
David Harewood (J’onn Jones)
Mechad Brooks (Jimmy Olsen)
Jesse Rath (Brainiac 5)
Katie McGrath (Lena Luthor)

Nicole Maines (Nia Nal)
Jon Cryer (Lex Luthor)
David Ajala (Manchester Black)
Andrea Brooks (Eve Teschmacher)
Azie Tesfai (Kelly Olsen)
Robert Baker (Otis Graves)

5Rating – 5 (out of 5): I was excited when it was announced that Lex Luthor was going to be on this season of Supergirl. It seemed like a good move for the show, not only because there is a fair bit of history (some of it strange and some of it silly) between Supergirl and Lex Luthor, but also because Lena is such a strong part of the cast. It’s a stunt, to be sure, but it’s a stunt you can do something with because you get to have Lex take on the cousin of his arch-enemy against the backdrop of the complicated family dynamics of the Luthors.

Then it was announced that Jon Cryer was going to be playing Lex. This was also a bit of a stunt because Cryer had previously played Lenny Luthor in the much-maligned Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Superman IV is one of the many punching bags in Superman fandom. This is why I wasn’t surprised at the jokes and general cries of, “WHHAAAAT?” that popped up when it was announced that Cryer was going to be playing Lex Luthor. “Lenny as Lex? How does that work?”

In the interest of full disclosure, I am going to reveal that I am a fan of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. The film has many flaws and even if you put the thirty-four minutes of footage that they cut out back into the movie it would still be extremely flawed. Lenny is seen as one of those flaws. He is very dated with his eighties slang and what the film makers thought was eighties dress and he’s silly. I’m not saying that Lenny was one of my favorite parts of the film, but I also didn’t think he was any sillier as a character than Otis was in the first two movies. So, I didn’t laugh at the idea of Lenny playing Lex because I didn’t think Lenny was a terrible character.

More than that Jon Cryer is a seriously good actor. He is probably best known for playing Duckie in Pretty in Pink and Alan Parker on Two and a Half Men, but he’s racked up a seriously respectable resume as an actor besides those two roles. I have a lot of affection for him in the movies Hiding Out and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home but he’s been in dozens of movies and television series in his thirty-plus year career. In addition to Cryer’s acting chops, the showrunners have rarely made a blunder in casting a role. If they tapped Jon Cryer then I knew they had something special in store for Lex.

And it turns out I was right. Their take on Lex was a fantastic meld of the various iterations of the characters. You could see flashes of the Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison comic book Lex and the Gene Hackman Lex and even the Michael Rosenbaum Lex, but at the end of the day Cryer made the role his own. Lex was everything he needed to be in this episode; sympathetic, manipulative, and evil. You understood his motivation, but the writers never lost sight of the fact that Lex is a villain. Cryer played all of those elements masterfully and the dynamic between his Lex and Lena made the episode even better. Their scenes together were a roller coaster ride of emotions, especially when Lex told Lena about her mother. You knew that Lex was manipulating her, and you knew she probably should have had her guard up, but family is complicated, so that final betrayal that happened at the end of the episode felt organic and earned. I also liked that a bunch of seemingly separate plot points were brought together in a smooth and organic way.

It was that final scene that really made this episode special when it came to Lex. Otis coming back was a surprise, but Eve’s heel turn was a master stroke of storytelling. I’ve been happy that the writers have made Eve more of a character over the course of this season. I thought it was cute that they brought her in as Cat’s and then James’ assistant, but her working with Lena made her a real character and not just a glorified Easter egg. While it is a serious retcon that she’s been in Lex’s service this entire time (I seriously doubt that they had this in mind when they brought her in at the beginning of season two) it’s a retcon that works.

And using Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusick at the end when Lex makes his escape was brilliant in every sense of the word. I lit up when it began playing. In my opinion it was the best Easter egg of the episode.

What made this episode even better was that the sub-plots were never a distraction to the main plot. In fact, they made the episode feel more epic. J’onn’s battles with Manchester Black came to a temporary conclusion this week with J’onn seemingly killing Black, but I have a feeling that Black is hiding out in J’onn’s mind. The zombie Kara and Alex scene was very well done and I continue to like the evolution of J’onn as character this season. James’ sister may have been a minor part of the episode, but I liked her dynamic with Alex, and it was nice to get some background on this version of Jimmy Olsen. The Brainy/Nia relationship took a step forward as well and I’m hopeful that things can work out for them.

There was one thing about this episode that gave me pause. While I was watching the story unfold, I kept thinking that this was the best episode of the season. After the show was over, I started thinking if it was fair to think that. Bringing Lex in is a bit of a stunt. That’s not a bad thing. Stunts are fun, and when done right they can bring a lot of energy to the show, which was certainly the case here, but is it fair to call this one of the best episodes when it doesn’t tie into the themes that the show has been exploring this season? I’m not sure there is an answer to that question. I like the direction the show has been taking, but I also liked that a lot of the heavier themes were put to the side this week and we got a more traditional story.

It’s weird. Maybe the show needed this breather before getting back into the heavier themes of the season. We’ll see how that works out. For the moment I am glad that this episode was everything I wanted it to be and more and that next week we’ll not only get more of that but a resolution to the Russian Supergirl sub-plot.

Check out the “Supergirl – Episode Reviews” Contents page.

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March 18, 2019 6:27 pm

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Superman 4 as it was the first Superman film I ever saw in theaters. I too didn’t mind Lenny. It was right in line with Otis. I only saw 10 minutes of the show last night, but what I saw with Cryer I truly enjoyed. That cold open was excellent. Admittedly I thought the casting was odd and went in with trepidation, but I remembered that nothing could be worse than Jesse Eisenbergs version of Luthor. I thought he brought all the right elements to the character as well. He… Read more »

March 18, 2019 6:34 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

Well at least JesseE’s Luthor wasn’t the same old bald version that we’ve seen in everything from comics to cartoons along with everything else in between. Think that was the point.

March 18, 2019 7:14 pm
Reply to  redcape

And that’s fine to go a different route, but his ticks and mannerisms were silly to say the least. I don’t think he’s a bad actor nor do I think he could have flourished in the role, but I feel that performance needed to be wrangled in and played more seriously. I might have enjoyed it had he played against type or even if he played it like he played Zuckerberg. If you had told me he was playing someone like the riddler, then that performance made more sense. I always thought it was interesting that he made statements prior… Read more »

March 18, 2019 10:17 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

I thought that they did a good job with this Lex. He reminded me more of Spacy’s Lex rather than Hackman’s. He was mean and nasty rather than comical. Not that Hackman was comical, just not as serious as Spacy. Maybe Spacy was a bit comical? I don’t know. Maybe both. Cryer showed classic Lex Luthor behavior I felt. Blaming Superman for everything. The “Superman made me do it” line at his sentencing was classic Luthor behavior. I only wish Superman was in this episode at the beginning to show a bit of their rivaled history. The Lex, Otis, and… Read more »

March 18, 2019 10:39 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

Oops. I meant Hackman might have been comical not Spacy. Spacy was a bit more serious. I got a bit ahead of myself in my previous comment. Ha ha
Then again they both had a bit of a comical side.

Not as serious as Rosenbaum. In my opinion Rosenbaum is the best live action Lex. But that’s a whole different topic.

March 18, 2019 6:28 pm

It was better than previous episodes, I’ll give you that. I think that this “new” Luthor is totally within the realm of the CW world. There’s a LOT going on now in this show. And going on all over the place,.. so can it come together and make sense?

BUT…it was a better episode and must give credit when it’s there,….so….4 out of 5 for me.

March 18, 2019 10:46 pm

This episode was such a breath of fresh air! It was fantastic to see this universe’s Lex. I gotta give it to Jon Cryer, he more than exceeded my expectations. As dumb as this sounds, for a few moments I genuinely felt for him. The story he told about being sent on a trip with his father while his dog was going to be put down…it got to me. And then the ending came and I was shocked. Considering this is LEX LUTHOR we’re talking about, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Let that be a testament to Cryer’s performance. This… Read more »

March 19, 2019 8:00 am

This was…the best episode of this tumultuous season. Cryer’s Luthor is the shot of adrenaline this show needed. And for about the next couple of episodes, this is what we will get. Everything mentioned in the review is spot on…was just looking for the name of the classical musical piece when Lex escapes. As for Eve’s heel turn, I was expecting it in the upcoming “All About Eve” yet somehow, I felt it was going to come. This was one Berlanti curveball I was kind of ready for to knock over the wall. I felt like Yankees superstar Aaron Judge… Read more »

March 19, 2019 6:48 pm

Cryer nailed it as lex. I loved him in the role. I have to agree I was a bit sceptic at first when I heard he whould be supermans arch enemy, but the tone, the character. even “miss Tessmacher”…

March 20, 2019 1:37 pm
Reply to  ocwolf

Yes he did, in the typical CW fashion. BUT…..if you were a Smallville watcher as I was, we witnessed ten years of them taking just about everything they could from Superman’s world and incorporating it into Clark Kent’s. They’re doing it again only this time it’s in Supergirl’s. I’m sure at some time Doomsday will make an appearance as well. But not to worry as in this show she’ll do with ease what Superman couldn’t. Yes sir…she’s a real beast!!

March 23, 2019 8:37 pm

I admit, I was wrong in my original assessment when I heard about this Lex. And yes, it was refreshing to get away from the overly, in your face, political brow beating this show has been shoving down our throats. I was seriously close to dropping this show altogether. Hopefully,they’ll stay in this vein and drop the pc bull$#!+.