REVIEW: Supergirl, S4E7 – Rather the Fallen Angel

Supergirl seemed to be more sure of its message in tonight’s episode, called “Rather the Fallen Angel,” regardless of whether one agrees with its execution or not. That message was that violence is wrong no matter who is perpetrating it and that everyone has the capacity for good and evil actions without them, no matter their intent. The theme ran through all three major storylines: Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) team up with Manchester Black (guest star David Ajala), James’ (Mehcad Brooks) forced participation in the Children of Liberty, and Lena’s (Katie McGrath) human experiments.

What’s the opposite of Utilitarian?

James found himself face to face with Agent Liberty (Sam Witwer) after being kidnapped and still tried to understand the deep inner pain of racists, which I think was meant to show his kind nature even though it fell flat. But Ben only wanted him to be a mouthpiece for the Children of Liberty instead, assigning him the task of blowing up a monument on Shelly Island that was meant to welcome aliens. It’s the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, get it? James refused until his friend Tom got in trouble for trying to help him escape (because some people go in for genocide but then are saved by the power of love), at which point he agreed to Agent Liberty’s demands. Despite Tom’s sincere pleas that James not compromise his values to save a wretch like him, Guardian claimed he would rather be seen as a Children of Liberty supporter (which could lead to multiple hate crimes inspired by him!) than be indirectly responsible for Tom’s death. Hopefully I’ve made it clear why I call Supergirl‘s messages mixed at best this week, even though it was probably the most concisely they’ve ever been presented.

In another corner of “Rather the Fallen Angel,” Supergirl worked in tandem with Manchester Black to stop hostage situations and investigate shipping containers, disagreeing with his methods all the while. Like James, her reputation was at stake when Ben Lockwood publicly accused her of making five Children of Liberty agents disappear at Thanksgiving, and she didn’t plan to sully herself further by letting Manchester torture innocents for information. J’onn (David Harewood) vouched for his new friend, however, which was exactly what Kara needed to give Manchester a second chance. Once Brainy (Jesse Rath) warned them that the containers were carrying explosives, the investigative duo traced the hate group to Shelly Island. But it was all a trap, as Manchester purposely planned to trade Supergirl herself to the Children for a chance to meet their boss.

James and Kara’s situations converged at the Island, with the monument he was set to destroy being the very one inside of which she was locked. Kara tried to escape, and failing that tried to use what was left of her powers to send him the Kryptonian equivalent of smoke signals. James, who up to that point had set Tom’s life above all else, risked it without a second thought when he realized Kara was in danger. Thankfully, Manchester was more than ready to help save Supergirl once his plot to kill Agent Liberty fell through, and even Tom got to join in the fight without dying. It was the first real loss for Ben, and worth cheering for. But Manchester couldn’t end “Rather the Fallen Angel” as anything other than, well, a fallen angel. So instead of joining Supergirl’s team permanently, he forced J’onn to wear an empathy amplifier and broke his heart by showing him all the crimes he had committed. There was a lesson here about compromises and duality, but the only part that broke through was James’ realization that he had been too harsh with Lena. She wasn’t in the mood to accept his olive branch just then, but she offered tomorrow as another chance.

Along came a spider…

The reason for Lena’s mood at the end of “Rather the Fallen Angel” was the result of her first experiment on a human subject. Lena was wary of humanizing her patient from the start for fear of losing her nerve, but he made an impression despite her best efforts. The two of them bonded over similar outlooks in life, and their discussion actually led to Lena dropping hints of her birth mother – whom she referred to as “the only hero I ever had.” Allow me to swell on this for a moment, because Lena once called Kara her hero in season 2. This automatically made me think Kara had lost her hero status because Lena secretly knew she was Supergirl and felt betrayed, but then I remembered Supergirl simply doesn’t care about this friendship anymore. What it does care about, though, is the line between good and evil. When subject Adam expressed his guilt over his brother’s death, by virtue of a kidney transplant which could in no way be classified as his fault, Lena was moved enough to confess that she too felt responsible for a death, even though she was four at the time that that she failed to prevent her mother from drowning. McGrath knocked this scene out of the park, and it did more to color in her self-doubt than the many rounds of “is Lena evil?” that Supergirl has played in the past. Adam’s heartfelt plea to let his life matter got him three whole minutes of superpowers before he expired, and while Lena mourned his passing she also found the courage to continue with a higher chance of success.

The line between rounding out villains and sympathizing with racists continued to be blurry on Supergirl, but there was nevertheless compelling material to be found in “Rather the Fallen Angel.” At the end of the day, the subjective nature of good and evil was probably best expressed in Lena’s storyline and I hope we see that develop further in upcoming episodes.

Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.