“Supergirl” Episode Review – S04E16 “The House of L”

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

Check out his review of the 16th episode of Season 4 in which, in the wake of Lex Luthor’s (guest star Jon Cryer) return, the show flashes back to what he’s been doing for the last two years and how his secret machinations and plans have affected Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Lena (Katie McGrath).

The House of LOriginally Aired: March 24, 2019
WRITTEN BY: Dana Horgan and Eric Carrasco
DIRECTED BY: Carl Seaton

REGULAR CAST:
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)

GUEST STARS:
Jon Cryer (Lex Luthor)
Andrea Brooks (Eve Teschmacher)
Robert Baker (Otis Graves)

5Rating – 5 (out of 5): After I finished last week’s episode, I was curious if I thought it was the best episode of the season because it was a big deal, event episode with Lex Luthor or if it was legitimately the best episode because it was actually a good episode. It’s easy to get blinded by a huge event and I didn’t want to say it was the best just because of that event. That’s unfair to the rest of the season.

Well, it turns out I was wrong.

Last week’s episode wasn’t the best of the season.

This week’s episode was the best of the season.

And it is because of Lex Luthor’s involvement, but not just because he’s in the episode. I’ve been on record as liking the direction this season has taken and that the show runners have done, to my mind, a great job of exploring some pretty heavy topics, and taking a stand on those topics.

At the same time there was something.

The missing piece…the thing that I couldn’t put my finger on…the element that needed to be there was the fact that, at the end of the day, this is a comic book show. Specifically, this is a “Super” related comic book show, and while I want them to talk about the issues they’ve been talking about, up until a few weeks ago that’s nearly all they were doing. The show was good,, but was missing the slightly over-the-top concepts and tropes that go into telling stories about a survivor from Krypton. We were given glimpses of these tropes (Manchester and crew at the Fortress) and the crossover episodes were full of them, but they seemed to be MIA, for the most part.

Those tropes came roaring back the moment Lex stepped out of the helicopter and armored up.

Was this another Iron Man type scene? Yes, but I didn’t care. I got to see Lex in power armor.

Not in traditional animation.

Not on the comic page.

Not in a video game.

In glorious, computer generated, live action.

And that was just in the first five minutes.

After a very clunky effects shot of Lex holding up the Daily Planet globe (the only real misstep of the episode, but I appreciated the effort) the episode just got better and better. I’ve gotten past trying to explain why I like something by comparing it to something I don’t like because that’s reductive. Plus, it seems like I’m picking at or challenging people that like those takes, which just leads to a day arguing on social media and getting absolutely nothing done. So, I’m not going to do that.

What I am going to do is discuss what I want to see in a story with Lex Luthor.

Lex, when done right, is one of the best villains in comic books in specific and fiction in general. Most of the Lex Luthors we’ve been given over the decades have been nuanced and fascinating characters. Whether he’s the Silver and Bronze Age comic book Lex (who went evil for more reasons than he went bald, by the way) or the corporate raider/underworld boss Lex or President Lex or Smallville Lex there’s something compelling about him that makes him stand out above the evil crowd.

He’s smart. He’s arrogant. He thinks he’s better than everyone else. He thinks he’s right. He’s vindictive. He’s a narcissist. He’s a sociopath. He blames his own shortcomings on others. He’s the product of a terrible childhood.

He’s all of that, and more, and the writers of this episode managed to show us that in a series of flashbacks that had me riveted to my seat for the entire episode.

The court room scene was fantastic. The previews showed us Lex blaming it all on Superman, but killing the judge, the jury, and the prosecutors was so over-the-top that it was genius. Having the warden and everyone at the prison in his pocket was just as over-the-top, but I didn’t care because it felt so right. Seeing how this Lex met Eve and how he put her into play is probably a serious retcon, because I don’t think this sort of thing was in the show runners’ minds when they brought her in, but the way they explained everything made the retcon work.

Along with all of that we finally got to see more of the Russian Supergirl and get her backstory. I was honestly convinced that she was some sort of temporal clone of Kara created when she popped back in time at the end of Season 3, but having her be a product of Black Kryptonite works just as well. The writers also took the time to make her a very sympathetic character and I loved the father/daughter relationship they developed between her and Lex. You can see where she’s trying to be a good person and the fact that Kara is a good person by nature, but the nurturing of Lex twisted all of that. It was played just right. Not too much but not too subtle either.

The Linda Lee/her wearing a wig thing was just the ice cream next to the cake. You didn’t need it, but it made the experience better.

I would have written that it was the icing on the cake, but I’m of the opinion that cake without icing is rather boring.

Anyway…

The revelation that Lex is somewhat behind the alien unrest that we’ve been dealing with this season may seem like a cheat, but, to me, I don’t think the writers were saying that Lex caused the unrest. They were saying that he stoked the fires, so Ben Lockwood is still a compelling bad guy and the Children of Liberty are still a bunch of racists, but they’re doing what they are doing of their own free will. Lex isn’t controlling them. He simply pushed things in a certain direction for his own ends, which is very Lex Luthor.

When you add that to how awesome the Russian Supergirl’s costume looks, the almost touching scene with Otis and the kid, and the fact the writers once again made a flashback episode so compelling that you didn’t care it was a flashback episode, you get the best episode of the season.

And, thanks to the writers and especially to Jon Cryer, we got one of the best versions of Lex Luthor we’ve seen outside of the comics.

Bring on part three.

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

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superhero
March 25, 2019 5:26 pm

i enjoyed this episode very much. melissa’s russian accent and russian dialogue were pretty good too, i once dated a russian woman and hearing her speak with that accent brought a smile to my face. also, the opening few minutes had shades of breaking bad elements, insofar as to the direction and pacing. and i have to admit that when i first read the cryer was going to be playing lex, i was skeptical. i like the guy but saw him as a one note actor. but he’s proven my opinion wrong! he’s brought some gravitas to the role not… Read more »

Superman2878
March 25, 2019 8:00 pm
Reply to  superhero

I thought that this was a good episode as well. I really felt bad for Linda( I’m calling Supergirl’s double that since she did go by the name Linda Lee at one point). She has virtually no memory except for the name Alex, and Lex exploits that to his advantage. Brainwashing her into his weapon. And after Linda begins to research who Supergirl really is and starts to question everything that she was brainwashed to believe was true,Lex retaliates by taking the only thing she cared about. The orphan boy. And Lex had made her think it was the Americans… Read more »

superhero
March 25, 2019 9:06 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

i agree with your point about unexplained knowledge…maybe it’ll be explained later on

redcape
March 25, 2019 8:46 pm

When it’s good,….. got to give credit. I agree 5 out of 5 !!!!!

Now……wasn’t it just a couple of months age that the people that make animated films were talking about doing an animated movie about what it would have been like if Superman had being raised in Russia? Remember the communist Superman comments?(made by me as well) Haven’t they just done the very thing, albeit a slightly different story line, only with Supergirl??

elvisdo
March 26, 2019 10:58 am

I agree. This is the best episode of the season and it really wants me to have a series dedicated solely on Lex Luthor and all his machinations.

And his knowing about Supergirl being Kara Danvers doesn’t even bother me in the slightest. I’m sure he knows Clark is Superman but doesn’t care at all. Why? Because he wants to disgrace Superman not Clark. Exposing his identity is almost a cheat for him. He wants the show the world he got the best on Superman himself.

Superman2878
March 26, 2019 12:29 pm
Reply to  elvisdo

If I had to guess, someone at the DEO was secretly being paid by Lex to find out who Supergirl is. That’s my guess anyway.

JasEl
March 26, 2019 9:27 pm
Reply to  elvisdo

There was an issue in the comics where Lex finds out that Clark is Superman and he doesn’t believe it. He just refused to believe that a being like Superman would lower himself to that level, to act like such buffoon.

Superman2878
March 26, 2019 10:21 pm
Reply to  JasEl

I remember that issue. That was before Lex faked his death and cloned himself a new body to save himself from the Kryptonite cancer he had.

There was also another one where he knew Clark was Superman during his time as president I think. I think Manchester Black had something to do with erasing his memory of Clark’s secret identity. I’m not sure though since it’s been a long time since I’ve read that story.

SupermanArmy
March 26, 2019 6:06 pm

Engrossing television. Two of the best episodes set in the Superman universe extending as far back as you like, whether it be Smallville, Lois & Clark, George Reeves Superman show etc. Cannot wait to see how this all plays out. Although they are on a collision course, will SuperGirl and her Russian double reach some kind of peaceful and amicable resolution? Or is their world too small for two SuperGirl heroes?

Superman2878
March 26, 2019 6:49 pm
Reply to  SupermanArmy

Maybe the Russian Supergirl will become Powergirl by the end of the season. It would solve the issue of what to call her if she becomes friends with Supergirl and is still around after this season.
Just a thought. It could work.

Superman2878
March 26, 2019 7:10 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

Supergirl is there flag ship show and I don’t think that they would cancel it so soon, so ok what if the Russian Supergirl does change her name to Powergirl? And what if in the crisis crossover, for the sake of what ifs, Supergirl sacrifices herself to save the universe. Could Powergirl take over for Supergirl? It would solve the issue of WB not wanting there being the Supergirl movie and the Supergirl tv series on at the same time. The tv series would no longer be called Supergirl, but Powergirl instead. I don’t think that they would cancel Supergirl… Read more »

Superman2878
March 26, 2019 7:14 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

Now the other possibility might be Powergirl sacrificing herself in the crossover to save Supergirl and the universe instead of Supergirl sacrificing herself. It’s just another possibility.

redcape
March 27, 2019 3:36 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

NO…the Flash is their flag ship. This is a woman show. And we don’t want a stinking Supergirl movie in the first place. We wanted Superman. Keep this on TV where it belongs.

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 6:37 pm
Reply to  redcape

You do know that they are making the Supergirl movie whether or not you want them to right?

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 7:18 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

And how does Supergirl being a “woman show” have anything to do with it being the flagship or not? The past two crossover events mostly revolved around Supergirl themed plots. Last season we had nazi Supergirl the Overgirl. This year even though yes it had Flash and Green Arrow switch live for a three day plot, all three episodes had Supergirl. And they couldn’t have gotten back to their “normal” lives without her help. And in the middle of that crossover they promoted the world’s finest by using Supergirl and Batwoman instead of Superman and Batman. Not happy about that… Read more »

redcape
March 27, 2019 8:42 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

Well I’ve watched this show since day one. The first season being head and shoulders above anything we’ve seen so far. But I’m not going to start throwing flowers at TWO good episodes.

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 8:55 pm
Reply to  redcape

I didn’t ask you to

redcape
March 27, 2019 8:55 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

“You do know that they are making the
Supergirl movie whether or not you want them to right?”…. Yes..unfortunately I do. But after all, it’s a woman’s world, isn’t it??

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 9:05 pm
Reply to  redcape

Again, what does the woman part of your argument have anything to do with Supergirl being the flag ship or not? Please enlighten me. I fail to see your logic.

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 9:20 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

“Keep this on TV where it belongs.”
Well at least this is something that we can both agree on since I like Supergirl’s show, and I don’t want it to end anytime soon.

Superman2878
March 27, 2019 9:25 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

“But after all, it’s a woman’s world, isn’t it??”
I don’t genderize my view on the world.

Ron
Ron
March 26, 2019 7:21 pm

Originally posted to the FB Group: I’m sure most in this group probably enjoyed it, but I didn’t. I watched to see how Cryer would do, and unfortunately, I’m not a fan. His portrayal was way too Hackman-like for my taste. I mean, come on.. giving yourself Cancer? Ugh. Way too corny for me. But again I realize I am probably in the minority in this group. Hope everyone else liked it. Rosenbaum is still the only good live action version of Lex Luthor. As for the episode itself, again, I didn’t like it. I stopped watching after the cross… Read more »

JasEl
March 26, 2019 9:36 pm
Reply to  Ron

I can’t get mad about the cancer thing, that came right out of the comics. he got cancer from his kryptonite ring

Ron
Ron
March 26, 2019 11:09 pm
Reply to  JasEl

Oh no.. getting cancer was fine. Giving it to himself was the bad thing.

redcape
March 27, 2019 8:58 pm
Reply to  Ron

Yea well you see……he had no idea the radiation coming from the kryptonite he placed in the ring was going to make him sick.

supergepetto
March 27, 2019 2:16 am

The two Lex Luthor episodes were not only the best of this mediocre season, but they were the best two episodes of the ENTIRE Supergirl series. The second Lex Luthor was the greatest, because most of the dull soap opera characters were missing. Cryer was fabulous, and so was Melissa as the Russian Supergirl. It is a shame Lex will be on only one more episode this year. Lex Luthor surely boosted this highly political, silly and soapy show.

redcape
March 27, 2019 9:00 pm
Reply to  supergepetto

Your correct about this season that’s why I’m not going to do cart wheels over two good episodes. And yes….they were good!

superby1
March 27, 2019 9:54 am

What an amazing episode! We got Lex in the power suit, we got to find out what he’s been up to these past few years, we FINALLY advance the Red Daughter storyline (which I’m now on board with thanks to Melissa Benoist’s amazing acting in this episode) and Otis has a heart. Imagine if these two episodes had been the season opener? I really hope we’re done with the Agent Liberty and Elite stuff (I still don’t buy Manchester is truly gone)and focus on the Red Daughter storyline. If the preview for the next episode is any indication, we’re stuck… Read more »

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