After a string of solid-to-excellent episodes, “Rather the Fallen Angel” feels like a bit of a stumble as characters make questionable decisions, with James’ once again topping the list. Still, the Lena storyline was fascinating, so let’s start there this week.
Our favorite Luthor is commencing her Harun-El trials with Subject 0331, whose name she’d rather not know. At first, he assumes she’s a lab tech, but once he apologies for his sexism, they start opening up.
His brother died on the operating table while donating a kidney to 0331, who now carries that guilt. He wants to know why “Dr. Kieran” (Lena introduced herself with her middle name), picked him from the 88 acceptable applicants. She says it’s because the two of them had the same answer to Nagel’s spider-in-the-shower conundrum: Rather than free or kill the trapped spider, only the two of them would leave it alone because they don’t know what the spider actually wants. Ergo, 0331’s the best subject to be imbued with superhuman powers.
0331, whom Lena eventually calls by his given name, Adam, doesn’t want that responsibility, but Lena assures him that bad choices, not bad luck, make you a bad person. And she’s a bad person for not calling for help when her biological mother drowned when Lena was four. Then she spent the rest of her life fighting the terrible legacy of her adoptive family, all the time believing that she actually deserved that legacy, too.
Having shared these confidences and not wanting another death on her hands, Lena tries to end the experiment, but Adam begs her to move forward; the risk is worth it to him. So she injects him with liquid Harun-El, which gives him three minutes and fourteen seconds of superhuman abilities before he dies.
Lena now has an 87 percent probability of success on her next trial, and, alone in her office, she apologizes to Adam, admitting, “I moved the spider.”
Now, moving on to choppier storylines, Supergirl and Manchester strike an uneasy alliance to track down the Children of Liberty. Although she’s uncomfortable with his willingness to bust out the brass knuckles, they discover that the Children are after fission rods and Nalcyite, which under the right conditions could serve as a tiny, precise nuclear explosion.
Evidence demonstrates that the Nalcyite was unloaded in secret at Shelley Island, where newly arrived aliens used to be processed. It’s been shut down since the resignation of President Marsden, which makes it an ideal base for the Children of Liberty to get up to their nefarious activities.
Supergirl wants to call in the DEO, but Manchester persuades her that Agent Liberty will see the whole gang coming from miles away, so it’s better for the two of them to sneak in and get the job done themselves.
For reasons I do not understand, Supergirl agrees to this and doesn’t even give Alex a heads up about her plans. Not smart, particularly because she was nervous enough about Manchester’s violent streak that she asked J’onn to vouch for him, which he did.
Shelley Island is also where James ends up this week when he’s escorted by armed Children to meet with Agent Liberty. James tries to be a journalist for approximately fifteen seconds, giving Agent Liberty the chance to trot out his usual song and dance about the rights of humans and the evils of aliens.
Then Agent Liberty offers James the chance as Guardian to galvanize and inspire in the name of human exceptionalism … by blowing up the tower on Shelley Island. James tries to refuse but is told he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, particularly when Tom, his original guide into the Children of Liberty, has a change of heart and tries to sneak James out.
Instead, they’re caught, and the Children threaten to kill Tom if James doesn’t blow up the tower. In their holding cell, James tells Tom that he’ll comply because his reputation as Guardian doesn’t matter as much as Tom’s life does.
And I’m sorry, but this. is. so. dumb. This isn’t about Guardian’s reputation; it’s about the credibility that Guardian brings to the cause of the Children of Liberty by publicly siding with them. Sure, if/when they release James, he can tell the world that he was coerced into doing it, but it’s so bizarre that James doesn’t really consider the larger implications of Guardian blowing up an alien monument in the name of human rights. That said, sure, it’s nice that he wants to save Tom’s life.