By Sara Netzley
March 03, 2019 at 10:54 PM EST
Sergei Bachlakov/The CW
S4 E13
B+
type
  • TV Show
Network
Genre

Poor Supergirl, feeling isolated and surrounded by extremists on all sides. But it makes for excellent television as she struggles to find a non-ideological resolution to this week’s crisis while her new super-team dynamic starts to crystallize.

The action begins with Manchester using J’onn’s visit as an opportunity to break out of prison with a little help from The Hat (the delightful Louis Ozawa Changchien). As you may have guessed, The Hat uses his Fifth Dimensional chapeau as sort of a Hermione’s beaded bag to pull out all sorts of useful things, like swords and booze. Plus, he can teleport. Team Hat! I didn’t expect a prison-break sword fight, but it was delightful, top to bottom.

Supergirl arrives to thwart the escape, asking, “Who’s Clockwork Orange?” But Manchester’s also recruited Menagerie and the surviving Morae, so they escape.

Before you know it, Brainy and Nia’s blindfolded-Skywalker-being-trained-by-Yoda session in the Fortress of Solitude is interrupted by a broadcast of Manchester introducing the Elite, a squad out to kill alien-hating racists. (Special shout-out to Menagerie, who helps produce the spot with helpful suggestions such as “Low angle? Are you insane?” and “Like and subscribe!”)

The Elite steal the crown jewels and mock Supergirl as out of touch with her “when they go low, we go high” rhetoric. (That’s…not even trying to be subtle, yet it works.) Manchester predicts the Girl of Yesterday is watching him at that moment, her hands on her hips—which she totally is—and challenges her to meet him one on one. Dang, but the Elite are an explosion of stylish fun.

Before Kara leaves for what is undoubtedly a trap, J’onn confesses that he’s still struggling with his vow to live as a man of peace versus his call to be a Manhunter. Kara points out that even Myr’nn joined the fight against Reign, then zips off to England to reenact the diner scene from Heat.

Manchester proposes she handle the kiddie crimes while they handle the nastier business, like Operation Claymore, the government satellite launching soon to shoot down any alien ships entering U.S. airspace. “What if it were your ship they were blowing up?” he asks her.

Supergirl’s next stop is the Oval Office, where President Baker owns up to Claymore. He refuses to let fear of an Elite attack shut down the base, and he also refuses to call off the launch, even if it results in shooting down ships of innocent aliens. After a frustrated Supergirl leaves, he orders the launch moved up to the next day. The invisible Morae overhears it all and reports back to the Elite, who make plans while gambling with the Crown Jewels over cards.

Nia, meanwhile, is frustrated at her slow training speed and Brainy’s refusal to create a paradox by telling her about her ancestors or her race’s abilities. So she swindles Kelex the caretaker android, who’s locked in a hilarious mutual hate-match with Brainy, into spilling all about Naltor and her potential powers. Brainy busts her when an attempt at astral projection goes wrong, but instead of reprimanding her, he says leaping before you look is what superheroes do.

So Kara’s team is coming together, but she makes a pitch for one more recruit: Alex. She surprises her at home and pretends not to have been there before—“Your place is great”—before filling her in on Operation Claymore. Alex is surprised to learn about it, especially since the DEO should be the first line of alien defense.

Supergirl tells Alex that she doesn’t know what to do. If she stops the launch, she’s aligning herself with the Elite, but if she doesn’t, it sends a message of support to the Children of Liberty. Alex tells her to do what she feels is right but declines to come with her out of fear of jeopardizing her job and the DEO.

So at Claymore’s launch site, it’s the Elite versus Supergirl’s super friends: J’onn, Brainy, and Dreamer. Just when it looks like Manchester has the upper hand, Alex joins the fray, explaining that she did what she thought was right. (Next page: President Baker has a weird way of showing gratitude)

In the end, Supergirl’s unable to stop Claymore’s launch, which is bad news because Manchester’s programmed it to fire on the White House—you know, to hoist the government by its own petard.

But Alex came prepared with Supergirl’s space suit from her bout of Kryptonite poisoning earlier this season, tossing it to her and shouting, “Fly!” Aww, sisters! Supergirl takes off after the satellite.

The Hat swiped Brainy’s Legion flight ring, so Manchester flies after her, guns blazing. Unfortunately for him, J’onn decides to embrace his violent side and engages him in a fight that might’ve ended in a death blow if Manchester hadn’t teleported away. At the end of the episode, we see J’onn engaging in his prayer ritual, so maybe that how he’s making peace with his duality?

Anyway, Supergirl’s able to shift the blast so it misses the White House, and then she destroys the satellite. She threaded that tricky decision-making needle, and we’re treated to a cool shot of her in outer space as wreckage rains down.

When it’s all over, Supergirl thanks Alex for bringing the suit, and they agree that maybe they ought to keep these unofficial channels open so they can work together in the future. They’re finding a new equilibrium, and my heart is so happy.

Not happy? President Baker, who takes Supergirl to task for destroying his $2 billion satellite array. That’s some thanks for keeping him from getting killed. Supergirl assures him that there was no other way, wink wink.

Also not happy? Alex, who learns that Haley didn’t know about Operation Claymore. It makes her question why the president’s acting against protocol, so she offers a warning to Lena and Eve, who’ve set up shop in her old DEO lab. Since Lena’s working toward giving humans superpowers, Alex suggests that she may not want to rush to turn her results over to the government. They agree to pull a Fox Mulder and trust no one.

James is also feeling less trustworthy these days and allows the reporter he shut down for looking into L-Corp to start up her investigation again. Breakups are a bitch.

And finally, we come to Ben Lockwood, who arrives in D.C. at the top of the episode to meet with the president. But he’s frustrated to discover it’s only a photo op, and Baker refuses to deputize the Children of Liberty. (It’s the only good choice Baker makes this week.)

Then he catches flack from Cooper, the D.C. Children of Liberty area organizer. Cooper orders Jack Daniels and sneers at Ben’s pink drink, which…rude. It looks delicious and refreshing. Cooper out-and-out says Ben’s a neutered dog who won’t command the respect of his men with his frou-frou drinks.

This sends Ben into a funk, but he gets his mojo back when Baker names him director of Alien Affairs, which makes as much sense as appointing a coal lobbyist to head the EPA. Drain the swamp, Baker! Ben then crashes a meeting of the Children of Liberty’s national leaders, who are openly plotting to replace him for being all talk, no action.

Ben proves them wrong by picking up the Agent Liberty mask and savagely beating Cooper with it. Who’s neutered now, Coop?

Snaps of the cape

  • Some trivia: This week’s title refers to Manchester Black’s first comic book appearance in Action Comics #775, What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way, published in March 2001. The more you know!
  • Speaking of Brainy, he built gloves that allow Dreamer to harness her raw dream energy. Now if they can just use her dream power and his differential calculus to get his Legion ring back…
  • First Supergirl gave us a vicious anti-alien bigot with a compelling, even sympathetic backstory. Then it gave us another charismatic villain who’s fighting abhorrent prejudice with abhorrent levels of violence. Bravo to the writers for giving us two factions that we can’t precisely root for, even if we may understand the frustrations that drove them to take those actions.
  • When this season is over, Sam Witwer had better land on a new TV show, pronto. My God, that man is a powerhouse in every scene: angry, vulnerable, charming, scary. I hate how much I love watching Ben Lockwood.
  • James and Brainy: regular brunchers. Here’s to those two getting mimosa-tipsy on the reg!

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