By Sara Netzley
December 02, 2018 at 11:36 PM EST
Sergei Bachlakov/The CW
S4 E8
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After a slight stumble last week, Supergirl returns to its previous flight pattern: deftly and effectively telling a scary (and scarily recognizable) story about xenophobia and the debate over how to confront it.

Nia wakes up to turn off North by Northwest (heresy!) but is actually in the grip of an upsetting nightmare about Agent Liberty and a terrified woman. Truly awake now, she yells at her roommate for letting her sleep, and her roommate, in turn, sasses Nia for not getting enough sleep.

The next morning, Nia juggles three big coffees on the elevator with Kara and James, and when it slides open, her dream vision of Agent Liberty’s standing in front of her with a gun. She freaks and drops her coffee, which Kara saves with her super-reflexes. Nia says she was startled by Agent Liberty on TV, but Kara gets up in her business about her shifting narcolepsy story.

She also lets Alex know about Nia’s nightmare, which greatly interests Brainy, who recognized Nia at Thanksgiving but couldn’t say anything to the sisters Danvers without endangering that pesky space-time continuum. Also, the DEO’s got a Children of Liberty member in lockup who’s all “I am Spartacus” about Agent Liberty’s identity — but hey, Brainy’s working his way through the classics and gets the reference!

Alex and Haley teleconference with President Baker, who’s worried about his slipping polls and orders them to find Agent Liberty.

The man himself’s lounging in a convertible in front of one of his billboards, telling one of his minions that he’s ready to put Agent Liberty to bed and let Ben take the wheel for a while. Sidenote: His show airs at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays. Only once a week???

When he heads inside, he finds his wife Lydia with an old friend from the University: Manchester Black.

Well, that explains why J’onn and Kara only found a pair of bloody brass knuckles at Manchester’s apartment, but not the man himself. Still, J’onn’s not ready to give up on Manchester and dons his sacred robes to track him down.

Manchester shakes off J’onn’s psychic invasions and drops the hint to Ben that Fiona was his fiancée, quietly brandishing a gun. The conversation turns to the Lockwoods’ history as blacksmiths during the American Revolution. In fact, they’ve got a bayonet from the Battle of Bunker Hill on display in their living room.

And then we see on Ben’s face and hear in Ben’s voice the moment he realizes he can gain the upper hand, telling Manchester that Bunker Hill’s the bloody battle that the Brits thought they’d won, when in fact it cost them the war. Sam Witwer, still killing it as this frighteningly eloquent villain.

Manchester brandishes the bayonet and tells Lydia that her husband’s Agent Liberty. Then J’onn crashes into his brain again, causing Manchester to bash his head and yell, which is not what you want the man holding you hostage with an edged weapon from 1773 to do, BTW.

Eventually, Manchester forces Ben to reveal his terrorism uniform to Lydia, who’s both mad and disappointed. Ben insists he was going to stop, but Manchester tells him to suit up. “I want you to die doing what you love.” That man is a threat-quip machine.

Okay, let’s check in on Kara and Brainy, who arrive at Nia’s place to offer help. (Brainy tries for a “Hey, girl” and a cool lean but literally falls on his face.) Nia fesses up that her family’s from the planet Naltor, and she’s the once-in-a-generation woman who inherited a genetic oneiromancy, which allows her to dream the future.

Brainy calls her Nura, then denies calling her Nura and deactivates his image inducer to help her control and understand the dreams. Again, we see an industrial hook, Agent Liberty with a gun, and a woman who’s vibrating like Reverse Flash. But this time, Nia’s able to slow her movements down, and Brainy’s amazed that she’s already modulating her dreaming.

The woman, who we can immediately tell is Lydia Lockwood, was wearing a Collinwood 5K sweatshirt, so the trio head to Collinwood, where they discover that many, many women participated in that particular 5K. Also, the town’s a hotbed of anti-alien sentiment. Kara describes it as “Purge-y,” which Brainy also understands, leading to this exchange:

“I thought you were just watching the classics.”

“And?”

Just so, Brainy. Just so.

Anyway, Kara suggests they let the three Children of Liberty covertly tailing them with an alien-sniffing dog take them to Agent Liberty. Brainy distracts Nia with a craft store while Kara catfishes the trio of xenophobes, saying she just did a 23 and Me test and learned that her real name is Kara Liberty and she’s there searching for her birth dad … Agent. Bless your heart, Kara Danvers.

The group shoves Kara into a van, and when Nia rushes to help, she and Brainy get nabbed too. But Kara’s sanguine about it when they end up in cuffs in an abandoned factory: “Reporting 101. When you get kidnapped, you’re on the right track.”

That is so not true, and Nia tells her that, but Kara just responds, “Tell that to Lois Lane.” Coming soon to a crossover near you! (Next page: Supergirl gets sacked)

The kidnapper Children decide to kill those nosy reporters, but Nia’s superpower muscles have been exercising, and she’s able to see the path of the bullet a few seconds before it happens. She uses it to shoot through the chain of her cuffs, and the bullet punctures a tank that leaks steam, giving Kara and Brainy the chance to break free.

Kara drops one of the baddies with a forehead flick, and we get to see Brainy’s effortless fighting’s style again, although this time he puts his flight ring on one of them and crashes her into the ceiling before reclaiming it. Afterward, they realize they’re at the old Lockwood plant, and Brainy executes a lightning-fast Google by glancing at a phone, then he explains the highlights of Man of Steel to everyone.

Kara calls Alex, who confirms with their Spartacus captive that Ben is Agent Liberty, and once Kara gets the word, she zooms off, leaving her phone and glasses literally spinning midair in her wake, Wile E. Coyote-style. It’s weird and adorable and I want more, more, more.

And here’s where our storylines meet up. The Manchester/Ben fight has erupted from the Lockwood cellar and headed to the Nth factory, which is next door to the old Lockwood factory — and suggests that the Lockwoods live basically next door to an industrial park. Weird, but whatever.

Supergirl arrives at the cellar and finds the bayonet, then gets word from J’onn about Manchester’s involvement. She zooms into the Nth factory and knocks Manchester off his feet, saying she’s only there for Ben.

But Manchester flings moon dust sharp enough to cut Kryptonian DNA into her eyes, leading to distressing amounts of harm to Supergirl’s peepers. As she struggles with the pain, she tries to talk Manchester out of his violent path, asking if he kills Ben, what does that make him?

“The intolerant left,” he quips.

Supergirl just wants to show the world what Ben really is, but Manchester says to the people of Earth, she’ll always be an alien. He douses her in liquid Nth metal, which hardens and traps her, then tells her, “Time to pick a side, Pollyanna.” With terrorists turning streets into war zones, she has to decide if she wants to remain a government stooge or join him in ending this never-ending battle. She chooses the non-murdery path, naturally.

When Manchester turns to follow through on his threat to kill Lydia, Nia, who got a sweet pep talk from Brainy about her potential for greatness, deploys the hook from her dream and knocks him out, saving Lydia’s life.

“Hook,” she says.

“Spielberg. 1991,” Brainy replies.

Ben picks up the gun and turns it on the unconscious Manchester while Supergirl shouts at him to stop. He gloats that she can’t struggle her way out of the hardened Nth, but she tells him she’s not struggling. She’s flying.

Then she lifts the whole damn building off its foundation, breaking herself free when it crashes back to the Earth, and if you didn’t pump your fist at that point, I don’t want to know you. Lydia topples over the railing in the chaos, but of course, Supergirl swoops in and catches her, then congratulates “Miss Nall” on the good work.

While Nia wonders where Kara went, Ben’s led away in cuffs, but not before bellowing at the media scrum, “Look at my face, look what they did to me! What about Supergirl? You know who I am. Who is she?”

While the CatCo magazine special edition features Ben’s mugshot on its cover and “terrorist” in the headline, President Baker reads a different publication, one that has a smiling, casual shot of Ben under the words “Human rights activist imprisoned.” What a difference a smiley picture and soft language make!

He and his donors gobble up this kid-glove media framing, and Baker travels to the DEO to demand that Supergirl reveal her real identity — you know, in the interest of transparency and the public trust.

Alex immediately says no, and Supergirl points out that it puts her loved ones at risk. Baker compares the situation to his family, who are under 24/7 Secret Service protection, and urges her to put the country first. “No one should be above the rest of us.”

Supergirl still refuses, so Baker fires her. “The United States does not want a war with Supergirl,” he warns.

“Then I trust you won’t start one,” replies an angry, emotional Supergirl.

She rage flies away to hover over the crowds protesting outside the jail as Ben is perp-walked in. Lydia’s there, too, and she leads the crowd in a chant of “Liberty! Liberty!” Ben’s mask-less in his suit and he mutters “See you soon” to the airborne Supergirl.

Probably the only person sleeping well tonight is Nia, who’s ready to flex more of that superhero muscle in her dreams.

But wait! There’s more! We end this week in a surprising place: Earth-90, which is war-torn, burning, and littered with the bodies of fallen heroes. As best as I can tell, the casualties include: Stargirl and her staff, maybe Huntress, Firestorm, a Hawkperson helmet, what looks like Michael Jackson from Thriller, The Ray’s helmet, possibly Arsenal but definitely an archer, Captain Cold, another Hawk helmet, and Green Arrow but in a much brighter hue than we’re accustomed to.

Someone in a Flash suit crawls across the ground to a powerful being who plucks a book from the ground and informs him, “You failed. You did this to yourself. And now all of you will perish.”

Flash looks up, and we see that it’s John Wesley Shipp, who, of course, played the role in the 1990-1991 TV series. Sooo … see you all at the crossover next week!

Snaps of the Cape

  • Brainy delights this episode: He’s into auteur theory and Ed Wood. Where he’s from, Yungian and Freudian theories have combined into Frungian theory. And the Legion rings have a little Nth metal in them.
  • Does Supergirl have some weird, romanticized notions that the only good reporting is the kind that puts you into danger? Sure, reporters have risked their lives over and over to tell important stories, but I’m here to tell you that kidnapping is not generally expected on the general assignment news beat.
  • So is Manchester’s soul salvageable? J’onn’s chat with him in his cell at the end of the episode tells us that the Martian Manhunter isn’t giving up on him. But are you?
  • Reminder, friends: The CW superhero crossover is next week, with The Flash airing on Sunday, Arrow on its regular Monday, and Supergirl flying over to Tuesday to put a cap on the three-night event. Be there or be Nth metal. And for more on that final scene, check out Chancellor Agard’s rundown!

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