NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review

 

 

Supergirl spent an extra week or two off the air, after an already month-long shutdown for the Arrowverse shows, due to ongoing production complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, but finally, the last of The CW’s currently-airing DC dramas has returned. Better still is that Supergirl’s lead star, Melissa Benoist makes her directorial debut with the series’ latest episode, “Deus Lex Machina”, which, appropriately enough, features very little of Supergirl herself, and instead shifts virtually the entire storytelling focus to Lex Luthor. This is already a promising idea, because Jon Cryer’s Lex has been a superb presence on Supergirl since his introduction last season. The greatest news of all however is that this first episode to come after Supergirl’s lengthy, unscheduled hiatus is also one of this season’s best!

This is also a great testament to Benoist’s directing talent and attention to detail behind the camera. “Deus Lex Machina” runs the entire gamut of events on Supergirl since the conclusion of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, which ended with Supergirl’s Earth-38 being merged into the same world as The CW’s other ongoing DC dramas. If you recall, another major change that came in the fallout of ‘Earth-Prime’ and its creation through the Book of Destiny, is the fact that Lex used his status as a Paragon to re-write the history of Earth-38, re-framing himself as a Nobel Prize-winning hero that’s adored across the world, is no longer a public enemy of Superman, and even owns the DEO alongside Lena, while also being a proud ally of Team Supergirl. These big changes become crucial throughout this episode as well, which finally begins to unveil Lex’s hidden hand over Supergirl’s recent Earth-Prime events, as well as the true depth of his agenda against Leviathan.

These revelations are constantly riveting from start to finish, continuing to cement Earth-38’s Lex as a truly devious and unpredictable mastermind, who is able to adapt to and manipulate events with Supergirl’s heroes and villains alike, often with frightening results. The grand, Machiavellian philosophy behind this incarnation of Lex remains outstanding, to the point where I’d love to see the character take some time away from National City after this season, and go to Metropolis to see how he fares against Superman in The CW’s recently-ordered Supergirl spin-off series, Superman & Lois. Whether or not that ends up happening however, Lex’s machinations have done wonders for the major storylines of Supergirl, and that became especially clear throughout this Lex-focused episode.

This episode even addresses and bolsters a few story developments that formerly felt a little unsatisfying to boot. Jeremiah’s death in particular is revealed to be the net result of a long manipulation by Lex, who ends up ‘saving’ Eve Tessmacher from Leviathan’s employ, resulting in Eve yet again falling for Lex, and obeying his every whim. As it turns out, Jeremiah’s death was orchestrated by Lex, who deceives Eve by claiming that Jeremiah is the man who murdered her father, in order to coerce her into working with Leviathan. Jeremiah not dying of natural causes, and instead being murdered by Eve under false pretenses (even if this does occur off-screen), is actually a fantastic turn, one that once again places Eve under Lex’s thumb, as a less willing participant to his schemes on Earth-Prime. This is cemented when Lex threatens Eve’s surviving mother, after also announcing that he’ll use the proof of Eve killing Jeremiah against her with Team Supergirl, should she step out of line.

This aggressive mockery of Eve’s feelings, paired with Eve trading one devil for another at this point, also presents another superb layer to an already superb Supergirl episode, namely the fact that Lex’s ego is his one weakness, and the one thing that tends to run rampant and destroy him when he’s otherwise on a roll. Despite the rest of Lex’s convoluted plotting working effortlessly throughout this episode, including tricking his way into Obsidian’s and Leviathan’s good graces, and being directly responsible for the glitch that traps people in Obsidian Platinum, complete with tricking Richard Bates into working for him, one has to wonder if Lex’s spurning of Eve will eventually be his downfall. Then again, even when Lex fails to predict that Lena will make an effort to reconcile with Kara, after Jeremiah’s death prompts Lena to give Kara a therapy book that helped her after she lost her birth mother, things seem to work out anyway, since Lena eventually ends up being furious with Kara, after Kara resorts to using Myriad to locate the missing VR users.

This is the one story beat that feels a little forced, and continues to present a problem when it comes to unrealistically creating emotional rifts between Kara and Lena. Lena suddenly becoming petty and simple-minded for the sheer sake of distrusting Kara, who then re-affirms all of Lena’s prejudices by being unable to see past her own perspective in turn, should feel tragic, but instead, it just ends up making both women look uncharacteristically self-absorbed and stupid. This issue also makes Lex unrealistically luck out in the latter stages of his plans, when he otherwise needs to use a Morae on Leviathan’s payroll in order to unleash the baby Sun-Eater from the Fortress of Solitude, which is the biggest part of his plot that really feels like it shouldn’t have worked. As cool as it is to see M’Gann briefly return to help J’onn fight the Sun-Eater, and get it back down to its normal, infant size, the Kara/Lena arguments still feel like they’re overdone, and they’re not happening naturally enough to be truly taken seriously.

Nevertheless, everything coming back around to show how Lex ultimately murders Leviathan’s fixer, Margot, pinning all of the missing VR users on her in turn, while yet again making himself appear to be the hero, makes for a fantastic final result to a mostly great Lex-focused storyline this week. This episode ending with Lex being able to access everything in the Fortress of Solitude is the perfect cherry on top as well, giving Lex everything he could possibly need to strike at Leviathan in earnest, while doubling his advantage by also considerably disarming Supergirl. “Deus Lex Machina” once again proves why Lex continues to dominate as a villainous mastermind, even after re-writing Earth-38’s history so that everyone sees him as a hero on Earth-Prime. This has only further bolstered Lex’s long-running manipulations and conspiring, somehow making Team Supergirl feel even more helpless to combat Lex than they did last season, even after Lex had successfully gotten his hooks in the President himself! At this point, one has to wonder if Lex will end up being a bigger danger than Leviathan by the end of this season. In fact, it feels inevitable. This only makes last season’s villain plot by Lex even better to boot, since, as we’ve now learned for certain, not even death can stop Lex Luthor!

Supergirl 5.17: "Deus Lex Machina" Review
Supergirl finally returns with one of this season's best episodes yet this week, as the series goes all in on exploring Lex's influence, and how it's been behind every recent obstacle in National City.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Lex-focused storyline is consistently riveting and detailed
  • Melissa Benoist's sharp, thorough direction
  • Eve being revealed as Jeremiah's true killer
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Kara/Lena arguments still feel too forced
92%Overall Score
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