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Supergirl: Man of Steel

Pete Lockwood: “Supergirl’s family invades our planet with the power of gods. And all of us little people are just supposed to sit back, relax, and have hope?”

The story of Ben Lockwood and how he becomes Agent Liberty.

I was a little reluctant to watch this episode, because I watch Supergirl in order, you know, to watch Supergirl, and from the episode’s description it seemed as if we would not be getting much of the star of the show. That assumption was true. And frequently when an episode focuses on characters that it is introducing I get a little bored, because I don't care about the new characters and I turned on the TV to watch the old.

Not this time. I wasn't bored. The first half of the episode sucked me in, with characters and situations that were so relatable. The older guy, the patriarch, using derogatory language. The shocked parents in the middle generation while the teenager says, “Look, I’ve heard those words before, why do we have to keep pretending that I haven’t?” (Why do we do that?) Ben, in the middle, starts with the standard liberal attitude that change always happens, and that’s what progress is all about.

But is progress always good? Not if you’re the Native Americans when Columbus brought measles to the America. Not if you’re the factory workers at the steel plant when L-Corp has decided to switch to Nth.

With one blow after another (sometimes a little too in-your-face) Ben’s attitude changes. We also see how helpless he feels, when they are concerned about what to do just before that – when they are running out of food, and more urgently, water. What exactly are you supposed to do? They decide to evacuate, which turns out to be a good decision, because shortly after they go outside, aliens crash through his house and then somehow set it on fire. That’s a gut-wrenching, deeply visceral moment for Lockwood – losing his home – I think it’s the moment he moves from tolerant of aliens to alien-hatred.

Ben doesn’t turn at once to violence, but attempts to tell people how he feels. This does not go down well at the university where he’s teaching, and he gets fired (in a most informal manner by a dean; something like this would usually take committees, reviews, and involve lawyers – but I haven’t seen a lot of lawyers in National City). Eventually more humans are beginning to side with him, including the dean who has now lost her house, and then is discovered by the Graves twins, who will support him with lots of neat technology and a great team.

So we now have Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty’s origin story – and I have to wonder why. Is he supposed to be the season’s Big Bad? Or is it because we need to understand the point of view of those who suffer when progress happens? In this case, the episode is fairly well done. I did sympathize with Lockwood’s point of view, or at least understand it. Because history has shown that most invasions are not benign to those who are already in a place. We could ask the dodo, the mammoth, and the giant sloth for their opinions – except we cannot because they’re extinct. On the other hand, immigration is not the same as invasion. Also, innovation happens all the time, even when you don’t have aliens arriving from a whole bunch of other planets, and innovation is resented by those who are left behind.

Supergirl seems to be really sick from the kryptonite radiation and is basically put into stasis. I hope she doesn’t go missing in the story arc. We only got small clips with the usual gang.

Title musings:
The title of the episode was “Man of Steel,” which was a nice misdirect, as the phrase generally refers to Superman but in this case it didn’t. The man – or men – of steel are Pete Lockwood and his son Ben. Pete made his money through steel, so he is definitely a man of steel, and Ben has made his own costume out of steel as well.

Bits and pieces

As someone who worked many years in the insurance industry, I think that they probably would cover the alien peril in their Homeowners’ policies, or be very upfront about the exclusion – and try to get you to buy insurance for the “attacked by aliens” peril. Or else the country would set up a special fund for this, like it does for terrorism and floods.

Chyler Leigh’s hair looks so much better without the awkward asymmetry.

I liked the fact that the new metal doesn’t have a vowel. And that Nth is produced by a company called Universal.

I appreciated the perspective that some people appreciated Guardian/James because he was human.

They keep mentioning the missing Fiona. What's happening to her? I expect we'll find out next week!


Alex: I am not losing my sister today.

Peter Lockwood: Aliens are resilient – like cockroaches.

Peter Lockwood: It doesn’t even have a vowel – it’s supposed to hold up skyscrapers?

Overall Rating

I had a tough time rating this. I thought it began incredibly strong, then weakened some – and I don’t like Agent Liberty’s outfit much. I expect it's difficult to keep coming up with cool-looking disguises, but that's why they get the big bucks. Three out of four alien cockroaches.

Victoria Grossack loves birds, math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.


  1. Victoria, I had much the same reaction. I thought Sam Witwer did a terrific job making us empathize with Ben Lockwood and his situation, his gradual turn to villainy as a result of what happened to him. (And I know you're not familiar with Smallville, but they did something very similar, also with a character played by Sam Witwer.)

    But I really did miss Supergirl. Background is important, yes, but it's awkward to pull off an entire episode almost entirely without the star of the show. Even when you bring in some big guns, like Witwer and Xander Berkeley, who played Lockwood Senior.

    I guess we'll see where it goes.

  2. I'm haphazardly catching up with Arrow/The Flash/Supergirl so I can watch Elseworlds in the proper order (I was traveling in Europe all of last fall so I'm very behind on many shows) - interestingly enough, I happened to watch this right after The Flash episode with Cicada's origin story.

    I think the placement of this episode is very key - with all the discussion on the previous Supergirl episode review of how biased the show seems to be, at least they are exploring the other side of things here. After last season had a big bad with no shades of gray, it's nice to have a more conflicted villain. It's also interesting that he's not "in charge" like he seemed to be in the first few episodes, so him trying to rein in the more murderous techniques of the Graves siblings should be interesting.

    The steel aspect hit close to home, as I'm from Pittsburgh and worked in the office of a steel mill for 4 years. It didn't ring very true that Peter wouldn't even try to adapt the mill, though - even with his dislike of aliens, that's just an illogical business move. There was a line about the machines being expensive, but they should have tried to make it happen (and be turned down for the loan at this point), even if they were still producing mostly steel, or made a decision to cut their losses. Or they could have had the machine repossessed because they couldn't pay back their loan (possibility because alien workers could product the Nth faster and cheaper). Having Peter just be stubborn and kill his business disrupted the narrative that it was all the aliens' fault. Having him be slow to accept that Nth was the metal of the future and thus be too far behind the rest for his mill to catch up would also be a more logical option. But then I doubt any of the writers actually worked at a steel mill with money problems! One thing they did get right - losing a big client like L-Corp would be devastating to a small mill.

    I think it would only be after the Daxomite attack that alien attack would be commonplace on homeowners insurance. And even if it was a bit more common, people don't often update their insurance policies, just keep renewing the same ones. But yeah, a national fund might have helped - however, like other disaster areas, the remaining undamaged properties could be selling/renting for exorbitant fees, making a fund less helpful.

    I did enjoy all of Ben's random run-ins with our main cast, acting as they normally do, but leaving disaster, confusion, and resentment in their wake.


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