Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 15 - O Brother, Where Art Thou?

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


Dying of a mysterious ailment, Lex Luthor is secretly furloughed from prison. Naturally Lex isn't ready to die and seeks out Lena's help to develop a cure. Of course Lena is skeptical of her older brother's intentions, but another life or death situation will leave her questioning just how far Lex can be trusted, even with his own life on the line. Meanwhile, as Supergirl and Martian Manhunter continue the hunt for Manchester Black, James' sister Kelly comes to town after he is hospitalized by an assassin's bullet.


The Superman comics of Roger Stone (Lex Luthor's dying of cancer caused by Kryptonite exposure), the War of the Supermen storyline (Lex Luthor turning the sun red), Watchmen (Lex's "ten minutes ago" speech.) and Superman: The Movie (the power trio of Lex, Otis and Miss Teschmacher.


Lex says that his quote from Epicurus is 230 years old, but Epicurus died over 2000 years ago, in 270 BC.

The final scene doesn't make a lot of sense and demands many explanations for how Otis is still alive and at what point did Miss Teschmacher pull her face-heel turn. Has Lex had a nuclear physicist playing the bimbo secretary just to spy on Cat Grant and James Olsen all these years? (I can see Lex doing it, but I still want to know how and why all this happened.)


Jon Cryer finds the perfect edge for Lex Luthor. While you can hear snatches of the sarcasm from his character on Two And A Half Men here and there, that sarcasm is very appropriate to Luthor's character. Cryer also manages to go over the top at just the right moments, playing Lex in a manner that evokes the memory of Gene Hackman in Superman: The Movie. This Lex is a smart ass who can't help but show-off his intelligence, quoting Jesus of Nazareth even as he's writing in pain and further pissing off the guards who would gladly sit there and watch him die.


The nightmare scene in which Manchester attacks J'onn with images of a zombie Kara and Alex is very well executed. Though we know it's a fake-out, the make-up for Kara and Alex is fantastic and the general pacing and choreography of the scene truly captures J'onn's terror.

Super Trivia

The title of the episode is a nod to the Coen Brothers movie of the same name.

Jon Cryer, the actor who plays Lex Luthor in this episode, also played Lenny Luthor, Lex's nephew, in the movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

The idea of a villain making the sun red in a bid to depower Superman has been used countless times in the Superman comics. Lex Luthor did it in the War of the Supermen storyline to stop an invasion fleet of Kryptoians who sought to conquer Earth. The same ploy was used by the light-manipulating science villain Luminus in Superman: The Animated Series.

The idea of Lex poisoning himself with Kryptonite first appeared in Action Comics in the early 1990s, just before the Death of Superman storyline. It was here that Lex discovered that the Kryptonite ring he had made to keep Superman at bay was slowly killing him, as Kryptonite radiation was lethal to humans albeit it not as immediately as it was to Kryptonians.The same idea was also used in the Justice League animated series.

Kelly Olsen is a new character created specifically for Supergirl. In the comics, Jimmy Olsen was an only child. He had an older brother in the reality of Smallville, but this seems to be the first times James Olsen ever had a sister in any medium.

Lex tells Lena a story about the dog that he owned before she was adopted by The Luthors. He says the dog's name was Ignatius. This is also the name of Lex Luthor's pet iguana in the realities of both the Krypto: The Superdog animated series and the DC Super Pets book line.


James is said to have had a large amount of shrapnel removed from around his cervical vertebra, which was created by a bullet that did far more damage than a standard bullet of its kind.

Lena and Lex are eventually able to get Lena's Harun-El serum down to having a 99% chance of not being lethal.

Dialogue Triumphs

(We hear the sounds of sirens and people screaming as guns fire. The sky is red. We see Lex Luthor looking out over the city, with Lena tied to a chair, close to tears as Lex smiles.)
Lex: "Against other things, it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death, we human beings all live in an unwalled city." Do you know who said that?
Lena: Please, Lex, you don't have to do this!
Lex: I'm doing this for us. For the entire human race. Listen down below.
(The sound of screaming is heard.)
Lex: They're already cheering. And it was Epicurus, by the way. An aphorism 230 years old, and yet still as apt as ever.
Lena: You sound like a freshman philosophy major and you're gonna kill millions of people. The world can't live under a red sun!
Lex: Neither can Superman.

(Manchester appears before J'onn as the fire surrounds them, holding a familiar looking staff.)
Manchester: Hello, J'onn.
J'onn: How are you capable of this?
Manchester: When you broke into my mind to stop me from killing the Lockwood brood, you opened up a motorway. It goes both ways. So, whenever you poke around in my mind I can poke around in yours. So I did. And lookie what I found. Your peoples' most powerful weapon.
J'onn: You don't know what you're toying with.
Manchester: Oh, but I do. I dug deep into your mind. And the ground. You call yourself a man of peace, Martian, but your god was one of wrath!
J'onn: You burned my father's grave to teach me a theology lesson?!
Manchester: (laughs) You forget H'ronmeer's punishments. You're a hypocrite. Wake up, man! It's time you followed the true righteous path. And we can put a stop to the hate that's burning this world up, just like it burned up Mars. We can stop it together.

Lena: Eve, what's wrong?
Eve Teschmacher: I understand you wanting to save your dying brother, no matter what he did. But now we're giving him full access to everything in order to save Mr. Olsen. Look, I care about James, too. But I just wanna make sure that you're not gonna let your sympathy jeopardize everything that you've been working toward.
Lena: Eve, I know what my brother's capable of more than anyone. But I truly believe his lone scheme right now is just to live. (smiles) I don't think he can imagine the world without him in it. 

(Lena enters into the room she and Lex turned into a lab, She sees Lex on the floor, having tumbled out of his wheelchair, as a guard stands-by, doing nothing as Lex coughs and seems to have a seizure.)
Lena: What's going on?
Guard: He's making a mess of your floor.
Lena: I'll have you arrested!
Lex: (weakly) Don't blame him. He knows not what he does. (smirks, speaking with a sharper edge) He's on a government salary after all.

Lex: Did I ever tell you about my dog, Ignatius? Before you joined our family, he was my closest companion. And when I was seven, he had to be put down.
Lena: If you're gonna continue to compare James to your dying dog, I'm not sure I'm gonna be amenable to your point.
Lex: I wanted to be there for the procedure. But Mother insisted that I go on a business trip with Father. She thought I was being too sentimental.
Lena: That's our mom.
Lex: That's -my- mom. (sighs) A trip with Father, that sounds like something that ordinarily would've pleased me. But on this particular trip, he brought a woman with him, and insisted that she go everywhere with us.(chuckles and coughs) So, here I was, seven years old, dog dying, Father ignoring me...
Lena: Is there a point to this story?
Lex: At first, I swore to loathe this woman. How dare she take my father from me at the moment I needed him most? But I couldn't keep my promise. Because she was wonderful. She was so kind to me. On the day they put Ignatius down, she embraced me, and sang me this beautiful Irish song. By the end of the trip, I wished that she was my mother.
Lena: But she wasn't your mother.
Lex: She was yours.
(Lena looks stunned.)
Lex: I want you to know with certainty that while I came from poison, you came from love. And if the rest of this family stands steadily in darkness, you will always fall into the light. I knew that from the moment I met her.

(Lena enters into the operating theater where James' surgery has just been cut short.)
Lena:What I'm about to do is absolutely illegal. Any witnesses will be considered accessories to a crime.
Doctor: Miss Luthor. -
Lena: (firmly) Leave now before I fire you.

(J'onn looks at the ring he took from Manchester.)
Kara: You should give that ring back to Brainy. He'll be happy to see it.
J'onn: I'm not ready to explain how I got it.
Kara: James is okay. The whole city is okay because of you.
J'onn: Yeah, but at what cost? Manchester is dead.
Kara: I know you're trying to follow your father's code, but what happened today doesn't change who you're trying to be.
J'onn: But I don't know who that is, Kara. One thing I do know, I am not a man of peace.

(Lena enters into her study, where Lex is sitting in his wheelchair, reading a book.)
Lena: You know, most bad kids burn ants using a magnifying glass. But not you. No, you would build ant hills out of mud and twigs, to scale. It would take you hours, sometimes days. And then, you would trick the ants into thinking they were going home. They would follow the maze you laid out and walk right into an open flame.
Lex: I'm sorry, exactly what are you accusing me of?
Lena: The power in the hospital didn't go off because of the attack on the dam. You did that! And I know because the L-Corp foundation has its name on every scalpel, bench, and backup generator in the place.
Lex: Hmm. Quite the philanthropist you've become. (coughs fitfully)\
Lena: There were children in that hospital, Lex. You took advantage of the attack on the dam to kill the power, while James was on the operating table. You risked his life and the lives of countless others just so I would be forced to test the Harun-El.
Lex: (mockingly) Aw, you figured it all out. Well, mostly. You missed one big thing.
Lena: Yeah, the story about my mother was just another lie to manipulate me.
Lex: No, that was true. That's what made it so effective. But I also had Jimmy shot. Unfortunately, that wasn't as effective a cattle prod as I'd hoped.
Lena: You are sick.
Lex: Exactly. I'm dying. This horrible cancer is eating me up and you are sitting pretty on the very thing that could cure me, and you wouldn't even test it! God knows I'm not going to test an experimental, lethal drug on myself, so you needed a nudge, and a test dummy.
Lena: Well, it worked. James is gonna live, and you're gonna rot. 'Cause I will never, never give you the cure. (to the guard) Take him away.
Lex: Lena, Lena.. I... I'm disappointed that this is your reaction, but I'm not surprised. Which is why I had someone give me the cure ten minutes ago.


Four years ago (i.e. 2015) Lex Luthor turned the sun red in a bid to take away Superman's powers. This resulted in his arrest.

As the episode opens, Lex Luthor had a stroke.

Whoever shot James Olsen knew about his signal watch and used it.

Kara hears the signal watch and finds James wounded in his office.

Reportedly, Lex was diagnosed as dying six weeks earlier - something he has mentioned to Lena and the start and end of every phone call he's made to her since.

Lex has been released from prison to be placed under house arrest due to his ill health.

Lex is revealed to have been helping Lena with her research into Harun-El and to have been pulling the strings to give her access to the resources of the DEO.

Lena was unaware that James had been shot.

Kara determines that James was shot in the back with a hollow-point bullet and it splintered passing through his spine. Even in a best-case scenario he will be paralyzed for life.

J'onn is certain Manchester Black is responsible for shooting James.

Alex tries to persuade Lena to use the Harun-El treatment on James.

Kara leaves with J'onn to help in his search, telling Alex to stay with James as she needs to run the office in James' absence.

J'onn tracks Manchester to the place where his father died in 323.

Manchester is revealed to have armed himself with The Staff of Kolar, which was first seen in 303.

Manchester also reveals that the psychic link J'onn created between them goes both ways and enabled him to read J'onn's mind and learn all about his life on Mars.

Lena says that she's been unable to separate the potential curative properties of Harun-El from the part that could give a human super-powers and it is this later part that can potentially kill someone.

Lena asks Lex to help her get the Harun-El cure to work - for James' sake as well as his own.

As children, Lex would make fun of Lena's inventions as a way of encouraging her, thinking that she needed someone to fight against in order to prove herself.

Lex makes reference to how Lena created synthetic Kryptonite in 317 and says even he could never manage that.

J'onn says that H'ronmeer tested the Martian people in many ways and his punishments for failure were severe.

Lex had a dog when he was 7 that his mother wouldn't let him stay with as it was put down. Instead he was sent on a trip with his father, who spent most of the trip with some strange woman leaving Lex alone. The woman was Lena's mother, whom Lionel Luthor had an affair with. By the end of the trip, Lex wishes she was his real mother because she was far kinder and loving than Lilian Luthor ever had been.

Kelly Olsen is a military psychologist.

Kelly says she has had to visit James in the hospital 11 times before this incident.

Dreamer and Brainiac-5 kiss for the first time.

Manchester attacks the National City dam, apparently causing a power outage that even shorts out the hospital's back-up generators.

Lena uses the Harun-El cure on James. It works, healing his spine and all the other trauma to his body.

J'onn loses his temper as Manchester shows him images of his children being abducted by White Martians. He seemingly kills Manchester, vaporizing his body, leaving behind only Brainiac-5's Legion Flight Ring.

Brainiac-5 tells Dreamer that they can never have a relationship, quoting the movie Speed to justify the idea that relationships built on intense experiences never work in the long run. Dreamer is less than convinced.

Lex is revealed to have had someone else give him the Harun-El cure while Lena was away treating James, most likely Eve Teschmacher.

Otis Graves, believed to have been killed in 404, is revealed to be alive. It is not explained how.

Eve Teschmacher is revealed to have been working for Lex for sometime. Again, it is not explained why.

The episode ends with Lex killing all the federal agents on the Luthor Manor property and leaving in a helicopter, only to wind up staring down Supergirl.


Metropolis - Spring 2015

The Bottom Line

A mixed bag, despite likely being the best episode of the season in many respects. The scenes between Lex and Lena are golden and Jon Cryer was a perfect casting choice, able to play the humor and the viciousness of Lex Luthor equally well. The problem is that there's so much gravity to the fact that the show finally has Lex Luthor on it that the episode feels over-stuffed. As a result, everything else that happens feels like a distraction until Luthor is back on-screen because, come on, we ALL know he's about to do something big. Otherwise why have him on the show in the first place?

The Manchester Black storyline fizzles out anti-climactically and what should be a big deal - J'onn giving up the path of peace - seems like a foregone conclusion. Brainy and Dreamer's scenes could have been cut without the episode losing anything. Kelly Olsen's introduction and meet-cute with Alex seems like filler. And even the fact that James Olsen is dying seems like the fourth of fifth most important storyline despite being the center of the episode!

Your enjoyment of this episode may ultimately come down to how much you can forgive the sudden pile-up of unexplained plot points in the final two minutes, all so we can get Lex, Otis and Miss Teschmacher taking on the world to classical music and winning. If you can forgive the rest of the episode for getting us to that point, you'll like it.

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