Listener Email: Lex’s Manipulations
30 Mar. 2019

Listener Email: Lex’s Manipulations

Sam wrote in to share some thoughts about the Supergirl season four episode titled, “The House of El”!

I felt that this episode was a step down from last weeks “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”. I thought it was good, but not as good. I had a number of issues with this episode, but the main one (which others have also said) is that it felt like too much material for a single episode. Honestly, it should have been a two-parter. Both last week’s episode and this one were about Lex manipulating someone. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was all about Lex manipulating Lena and “The House of L” was mainly focused on Lex’s manipulation and grooming of Red Daughter. The primary difference being that the amount of time required for the type of manipulation was greater for Red Daughter than it was for Lena.

The grooming of Red Daughter by Lex required a lot more time on his part and needed more screen time to be adequately conveyed to the audience. Even so, both Melissa Benoist and Jon Cryer gave excellent performances.

As someone who reads and watches a lot of sci-fi and fantasy stories, I come across stories about brainwashing and manipulation pretty regularly. Anakin Skywalker’s manipulation by Palpatine is probably one of the most popularly known examples. To be honest, that was depicted pretty poorly in the movies, but the EU (Legends) material did a lot to redeem that story.

While watching this episode, it was apparent to me that Lex was attempting to manipulate Red Daughter in two ways. One was to elicit trust and make her emotionally dependent on him. The second was to instill her with an anti-American (anti-capitalist?/Communist?) ideology.

My problem is that I saw what was happening, but I never 100% bought into it. Melissa Benoist’s acting was fine. I believed the emotions she was depicting. I just felt like something was missing. Like sometimes, Lex’s manipulation seemed to be working and other times, Red Daughter seemed to have too much of a mind of her own.

I think most of the emotional manipulation by Lex worked reasonably well, however I never quite bought Red Daughter subscribing to the Communist ideology. To truly embrace a culture’s values, I feel you need to be immersed in that culture. From what we were shown, Red Daughter was more of a voluntary prisoner during her time in Kaznia and never really had a chance to live among its people and integrate their values and ideology as her own.

I also appreciated the nod to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by having Lex know that Supergirl is Kara Danvers, just as he knew Batman and Superman’s identities in that movie.

A number of detractors of Zack Snyder’s work on both Man of Steel and BvS have held up Supergirl as the standard for what his movies should have been in terms of tone and characterisation. However, I have noticed a number of nods to his work in the series over the years, dating all the way back to season one when a fight scene between Kara and Astra was
uncannily similar to the one between Zod and Superman at the end of Man of Steel. I would guess that whatever the fans think, at least, some of the people behind the scenes of this show are appreciative of Zack’s work.

Also, the politicial themes this season to do with aliens, immigration, and fear of the other strike me as being very similar to the political themes in BvS. Although, in that movie, all the anti-alien sentiment was focused on a single figure – Superman. There were even people carrying placards in that movie that said “Go back where you came from”.

Overall, I still liked this episode and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.



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