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“Man of Steel” takes us down the very tragic road of one Ben Lockwood and how the events around Supergirl and her team destroy his family and life and turn him into Agent Liberty. Equally difficult and fascinating to watch the insight into this character was well told. That doesn’t mean I liked it, but it was definitely well done. Big thanks to Super Cohost The Green Butterfly for joining The Silver Vox this week!
Worst. Luck. Ever.
Ben Lockwood is your average enlightened Professor of History that has an Archie Bunker for a dad who has worked in steel manufacturing for his whole life and is enlightened in different ways. Dad is embittered because the introduction of Kryptonians has brought aliens and their advanced technology to Earth and specifically their Nth metal has transformed steel manufacturing overnight and made Dad and his Lockwood Family Steel business obsolete. Dad’s workers attack the new plant, Ben is there and tries to intervene and gets injured for his trouble by an alien defense mechanism (trademark, J’onn J’onzz). With Supergirl and the “FBI” team of Alex and Co. “going easy” on Dad’s crew, Ben begins to question why the FBI would partner with Supergirl. He begins to turn his teaching in his classroom to why progress can be damaging to those who have built great things in the past and get left behind. He goes to Lena and she is absolutely no help. She’s turning to Nth metal because L-Corp has to stay on top of the latest thing and Ben’s dad is a businessman who can adapt. Quite the dismissive, eh? Dad’s plant fails and that’s that.
Then the Daxamites come and on the Lockwoods’ way out of the house Martian Manhunter battles a Daxamite and burns their home down. Burns it down. Even the metallic bicycle. Which is non flammable. Burns it down. And on his way out he tells them they’re safe now. Quite the dismissive, eh?
Ben goes to James Olsen and Catco. Ben tries to appeal to James to tell the stories of folks like himself who have lost everything due to these kinds of attacks. James deftly dodges and also tells Ben that Lena now owns Catco. And says as Ben walks out the door, “Hi, Ms. Luthor. No, I’m not busy.” Quite the dismissive, eh?
Ben starts a conversation in his classroom about nativism that turns into a xenophobic rant which he is called out on by an alien student. He is subsequently fired and this really starts the downturn of Ben into an outspoken alien hate spokesman. He follows the alien student to a bar where he confronts her and Kara steps in before he can hurt her, calling Kara an “Earth Traitor” along the way. His hate speech gains the attention of Otis Graves and eventually converts the Dean that fired him. And then the WorldKillers terra forming destroys Dad’s steel plant and Dad gets his wish to go down with the ship. After the funeral -attended by Lena- Ben attacks her for working with “them” and that all of this is partially her fault. She warns him about blaming other people for his problems or he might end up just like her brother. “They’re not people!” is his response.
Mercy Graves finds Ben and convinces him that the job she has for him will be quite appealing. She gives him the Agent Liberty suit and he finds the mask in the ashes of the shell of his Dad’s steel mill. Mercy tasks him with killing Sofia and we’re caught up to real time. Mercy and Otis are ready to dispense with former DEO agent Jensen but Lockwood better nature stops them. That and his plan to infiltrate the DEO with Jensen’s help.
Here comes J’onn to save the day!
Supergirl is falling to the earth after getting kryptonite’d by the Agent Liberty team in the last episode. Alex calls J’onn to intercept her before she becomes a forever crater in the Nevada desert. (By the way, is National City in the Pacific Northwest? She was on her way back from DC and he went south to catch her. Hmmmmm, apologies if everyone already knows that but me.) He brings her to the DEO and nothing will help because there is no part of the atmosphere that hasn’t been krytonite’d. They can’t get her off world because…death. There is nothing in the quantifiable universe that Alex can do, per Brainy. So she calls Lena. Oh, well, that’s a different story. Lena has a self contained exo-suit that will keep Kara away from Earth’s atmosphere and we get the image of Supergirl from SDCC with the closed/dark face mask.
If you’re coming across this review one day in the far distant future you might not understand the context of the vitriol that I have for this episode. Often we like our genre television because it has the ability to take our real world issues and use them to teach our modern day audiences about morality or question some of the deeper philosophical questions about our role in the greater universe. Unfortunately for this episode it was aired exactly one day after a hate crime that rocked our country because the victims were in their place of worship and they died only because they were there. Because the evil of someone like Agent Liberty is not simply an allegory. It is very real. So I don’t know that I can view this episode with anything but disdain. I’m all about a villain origin story. If done correctly it can gain empathy for the character and we can somehow identify with aspects of him or her that lead to their downfall. This origin story of Ben Lockwood becoming Agent Liberty continues to suffer from the same issue, absolutely zero nuance. Lockwood is shown as a victim time and time again from the actions of our Super Team and from his perspective all of his troubles are all their fault. *Confessional* This paradigm is a personal burr in my backside to the Nth (get it?) degree. I abhor someone blaming others for their problems. So that doesn’t help this episode either-for me. Anywho, this story actually shows Lockwood is just a tool. A tool of his Dad, a tool of Mercy Graves, a tool of his own circumstances. I would have rather Mercy use his already home grown alien hate and threaten his family so he has to become Agent Liberty rather than this story that seems to lack conviction. Yes he becomes a raging murdering sociopath but only because all of the major events of this entire series have come in concert to seal his doom. I don’t like the construction, I don’t like that he’s portrayed as a child having a temper tantrum while wearing a suit of armor. Yes, the episode was technically almost flawless. While disgusted I also couldn’t turn away. It was gripping and Sam Witwer blew this episode out of the park. My fear and is that the writers can’t get us out of this all-too-real division and hatred storyline with a real and meaningful answer. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Next time on Supergirl!
Season 4, Episode 4, “Ahimsa”
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