‘Supergirl’: Luthors, Atomic Axes, and an imp from the Fifth Dimension
Season Two, Episodes Twelve & Thirteen — “Luthors”, “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk”
By Molly Jane Kremer. It’s easy to feel spoiled when Supergirl keeps its overall quality on a series high. From the notably well-balanced “Luthors” to the whimsical Valentine’s Day episode “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk”, the CW’s super-saga about our beloved Maid of Might made the last two weeks downright fun.
Now that most lingering subplots have been tossed aside (re: “Team Supergirl is keeping secrets from each other again”), Supergirl has plenty of room to focus on its brilliant cast of characters. That focus has reaped fabulous rewards: knock-out performances from Brenda Strong and Katie McGrath (with a solid pinch-hitting tough guy role from Frederick Schmidt as Metallo) made “Luthors” one of the strongest episodes to feature this sinister family yet — and it included our first-ever look at Lex Luthor in the CW multiverse! (Though it was a wee version of Lex, we’ll still take it.)
It’s wonderful to see the Luthors together again, because that means Supergirl‘s second season arc can finally begin its march towards a hopefully gripping finale that will pit Cadmus against Kara Zor-El. And it also means Supergirl can play around with some of the sillier Silver Age trappings that the Berlantiverse seems to fully embrace: secret mountain lairs and Atomic Axes punctuated the inherent function of “Luthors”, foreshadowing all the crazy things yet to come this season, and perhaps next season as well.
That Atomic Axe was yet another Legion of Super-Heroes Easter Egg designed to drive us mad with excitement, and Lex’s wonderfully ostentatious green and purple battle suit made me wonder what plans Supergirl has for the DCU’s #1 megalomaniac. (They didn’t make that suit for it not to be worn… or did they?)
Of course, “Luthors” also had terrifically strong sequences, most of which dwelled on the fractious relationship between Lillian Luthor and her daughter Lena. Brenda Strong’s iciness shifted towards tangible maternal love in the moments where Lena found herself at her most vulnerable, though it was plain to see that Lillian was just manipulating her adopted daughter to achieve her big, bad schemes. Those themes of faith and trust were reflected by Kara’s insistence that her friend Lena was but a victim of her mother’s malevolence, when stern CEO/crimefighter Jimmy Olsen was certain Lena had been buffaloing Kara all along. What’s to stop her from pulling the long con on you? he asked. Hopefully a writing team that’s Better Than That.
Romantic comedy tropes were abundant in “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk”, proving there’s a reason those tropes exist in the first place with an hour of light-hearted fun. (Also a horrific Parasite rampage, but hey.) Writers Jessica Queller and Sterling Gates (who, yes, has already penned his fare share of the daring adventures for Kara Zor-El) provided some of the sharpest dialogue this season, with scenes of witty repartee performed impossibly well by Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood.
The chemistry between Kara and Mon-El has only improved as this season has progressed, which made this Valentine’s Day episode such a perfect turning point for these (literally) star-crossed lovers. Having a god-like imp from the Fifth Dimension (and an affinity for Vera Wang) pop out of thin air to stir things up only made things that much more tantalizing.
Compromise and overcoming differences underscored “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk”: Floriana Lima’s Maggie Sawyer finally (finally!) opened up to Alex (Chyler Leigh) this week, digging deeper into Maggie’s never-ending struggle with being in an honest and open relationship with Alex. Valentine’s Day seems to be a trigger for Maggie, but the episode made time to explore why there was no better time for this particular relationship to finally drop anchor. Maggie and Alex walk (dance?) away from this week’s episode stronger than ever. TV history tells us that the other shoe is probably one season finale away from dropping.
“Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk” spent the rest of its airtime casually sailing on a boatload lot of pop culture touchstones, some more subtle than others. There were bits of Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” peppered throughout the episode’s crackerjack first quarter, some iffy references to Hamilton (both verbally and visually), quotes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Batman (1989), and even a sly bowler-tip to X-Men (2000) got snuck in: Mxyzptlk tries to help Supergirl stop a band of bank robbers by turning the thieves’ guns against them, midair. “I saw this in a movie once,” he says. I suppose Fifth Dimensional imps have a lot of free time on their hands.
“Since you’ve got enough time on your hands to stand around and look up at that TV, how about you get out there and get me an exclusive on Lena Luthor. And this time, try to spell ‘exclusive’ right.” – Snapper.
Mon-El: “I’m super-fun, you’re hyper-critical.” Kara: “More like you’re an arrogant dude-bro, and I’m the personification of the American Way.”
Mxyzptlk: “Ah, the other suitor. I didn’t see you there, tall, dark, and bland-some.”
Kara: “Are you crazy? You can’t just put me in a wedding dress!” Mxyzptlk: “Why not? It’s Vera Wang.” No means no, Mxy.
Kara: “You can celebrate your own way, what kinda stuff does she like?” Alex: “I don’t know, guns?”
“I just got us reservations at Saxon’s, which on Valentine’s Day is, like, harder than getting a Hellgrammite to eat leafy greens.” – Winn, who is new at this.
BEST MOMENT: Metallo and Guardian have it out over Lena Luthor’s freedom, and it’s actually a riveting moment of well-choreographed fisticuffs in a show that relies heavily on CG high-wire antics.
EPISODE’S MVP: Peter Gadiot is excellent as Mxyzptlk, the eponymous imp reimagined for the CW as a particularly handsome and charming lad (which is weird to think of that little purple bowler topped, sometimes-voiced-by-Gilbert-Gottfried imp as being, well… hot) with an unappealing inability to take no for an answer. The part as written is manic, entitled, and patronizing, but Gadiot somehow manages to keep him mostly likable (and away from closely encroaching on the territory of Star Trek: TNG’s Q). I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this dude, but seriously, would it have been so hard to put him in a little purple hat at some point? Maybe some stupid little fedora? (Would have added to his “ick” factor, imo.) Fingers crossed for next time.
– In the flashback, it’s great seeing Lillian taller than (a shockingly bald) Lionel, which does makes sense considering Brenda Strong is nearly forty feet tall. (Yet another reason to point out — isn’t she awesome?) But, aw man, how come baby Lex isn’t a ginger?
– Our esteemed editor in chief (and part-time bartender) was very displeased when he saw Mon-El wiping down his bar with, er, a single cocktail napkin. In Mon-El’s defense, he’s… still rather new to the job? (Where’s his work towel — Ed.)
– Really? Kryptonite (synthetic or otherwise) gets through prison mail?
– Prosecuting attorney: “Permission to treat the witness as hostile?” Welp, tropes dictate that this is your opening, Mr. Corben.
– I see we still haven’t fixed Cyborg Superman’s face. Or explained why anybody would want to call him that.
– Ok, let’s review the contents in that little Luthor bunker we saw in “Luthors”: Lex’s battle suit (green! purple!); the Atomic Axe; and another(?) Black Mercy. *whew* Yes, an acceptable amount of fan service. Carry on.
– Now, about that Atomic Axe: it first popped up in Adventure Comics #352, wielded by The Persuader, one of the founders of the Fatal Five. That’s Legion of Super-Heroes territory. And for the record, yes, it can chop through anything.
– RIP, John Corben. May you live to one day find that shiny skeleton body and move over to the CW’s Adventures of Superman series that exists only in our EiC’s brain.
– Badass alien lady Lyra saves Winn at the speakeasy, Obi-Wan at Mos Eisley style, looks decidedly like a Buffy-Vampire. You could tell me she was Spike’s little sister and I’d have bought it.
– Canon: Alex is 28. Sure.
– We’re actually getting some character depth from Maggie! It’s nice getting to know there’s more about her than… Likes: Alex, guns.
– Ah, the one Police song I like, being covered terribly. But it’s okay; Kara and Mon-El are finally smoochin’, so I don’t even care. *insert heart-eyed emoji*
9 out of 10
Next: “Homecoming”, “Exodus”, in two weeks.
Before: “We Can Be Heroes”, “The Martian Chronicles”, here.