Supergirl – Season 4 Episode 6
“Call to Action”
Anti-alien tensions continue to escalate when the Children of Liberty manifesto is released in a Thanksgiving themed episode of Supergirl.
The opening scene very much sets the tone for what turns out to be a fairly bleak episode of this show. Manchester Black shows up to defend aliens who are being attacked by masked members of the Children of Liberty movement. The situation that has been building over the course of the season has now escalated to the point of open violence. Ben’s various displays to make people scared enough to take ownership of the alien menace have done exactly what he wanted them to and now there are people willing to kill for his cause.
There is nuance built into that as indicated by his phone call where he seems somewhat distressed that aliens are being attacked randomly in the streets. Disorganised random violence gives the organisation a bad name as far as he’s concerned. It’s clear that he favours larger and more organised displays of hatred that make his points more clear. I can understand his point as random attacks in the dead of night will be common enough to attribute to muggings or other such violent acts where his fully organised events are a signature statement of what his organisation stands for. It may be horrible but Ben definitely knows what he’s doing even if he can’t count on his followers to be as calculating.
Ben is a really interesting character because he has those layers that make him a villain with something to say. He’s not a physical threat because he has no super powers but his defeat wouldn’t put an end to his ideals. I much prefer the focus on Ben Lockwood outside of his masked Agent Liberty identity because it’s more impactful to put a Human face on what he stands for. Debating with Kara on a TV show is a far more effective way of having his beliefs explored because giving him that platform legitimises him to some degree.
The TV debate was really well done because of how charismatic Ben is and how committed he is to his position on the subject as a contrast to how unprepared Kara was for such an opponent. Ben has a counter argument for every point Kara makes which means that she effectively loses the debate in the court of public opinion despite her promoting more positive values. Thanksgiving is a great backdrop for this debate because the handling of the topic shows how naive Kara is and how she isn’t equipped to deal with this sort of thread.
Kara sees Thanksgiving as a time for family and community but Ben counters that with the factual account of what the origin of the holiday was and ends with the open question over whether aliens will one day celebrate the slaughtering of Humans in the same way Americans celebrate taking the land from those it really belongs to. It’s an interesting comparison because Ben is one of those who reaps the benefits of that period in history every day though he honours it to some degree by acknowledging it and sees the welcoming of aliens as a similar thing that shows an inability to learn from the mistakes of history.
Ben’s argument is met with a very positive reaction from the crowd which clearly shows how legitimised his beliefs have become in the public consciousness. Not everyone will react violently but there are plenty of people who agree with his ideals which gives him more power than can be measured. The fact that he’s offered his own TV show only reinforces how powerful he has become. Having his own TV show expands his platform significantly without any oppositional equivalent. As Alex points out, this is “a fight like no other”.
Alex is still dealing with the interfering presence of Colonel Haley. She doesn’t see the Children of Liberty being worth the attention of the DEO as the organisation exists to deal with alien threats, It is pointed out that domestic terrorists fall under the FBI’s jurisdiction so she doesn’t feel that the resources of the DEO should be used dealing with this threat. There is definitely crossover as the Children of Liberty target aliens whether they’re dangerous or not but unless aliens are attacking then Colonel Haley sees no reason the DEO should be involved. Previous examples of the Children of Liberty mind controlling aliens to attack and incite panic don’t really count as the origin of those issues couldn’t be traced back any further than Mercy and Otis who could easily have been acting alone as far as evidence goes.
Alex has a personal interest in bringing down the Children of Liberty with her sister being an alien as well as a number of her friends so disobeys orders in order to continue looking into it. She enlists Brainy who doesn’t really understand the concept of secrecy and keeping things quiet which provides some effective amusement at different points. Naturally it turns out that Colonel Haley knew that they were investigating it on the sly but didn’t do anything about it for reasons that remain unclear.
Colonel Haley continues to be a fascinating character who has a great dynamic with Alex. So far she seems to be reasonable enough and understands the value of going against protocol when the results are positive but still makes threats about consequences if orders are disobeyed. Despite her reasonable nature it’s clear that she has no love for aliens. Her reasoning behind making the Children of Liberty a DEO problem is that they are provoking dangerous aliens rather than out of a desire to protect innocent people but she also recognises that the Children of Liberty are dangerous and have to be stopped. I really liked that Alex stood up for what she believed in and pointed out that every time she follows her instincts she happens to be right and Alex doesn’t back down when ordered not to do it again. The next step should be that her instincts turn out to be wrong as that will offer greater justification for following protocol and legitimise Colonel Haley’s position somewhat.
Guardian’s status as a symbol of the Earth First movement is causing a lot of friction between James and Lena. He has arranged to meet one of the Children of Liberty in order to get a better idea of what they do but this clashes with Lena’s plan to have James publicly denounce the movement on television. He takes exception to her interference in his life as he wants to be consulted about plans she makes on his behalf before going through with them. He sees himself as being more valuable as a man on the inside though I’m not sure how that works considering how casually pro alien he is to the point that he is offended by the use of the word Roaches in his presence. This definitely isn’t a good way to earn the trust of an anti-alien organisation. It’s commendable that he stands up for his ideals even when pushed but it’s unclear why the Children of Liberty would continue to engage with him when he so clearly opposes their cause. Clever media opposition can continue to frame Guardian as their mascot so James’ direct support isn’t necessary.
That said I did like the scenes he shared with Tom (Steve Byers) who stands out because of how ordinary he is. Outside of his xenophobic tendencies he does come across as a fairly decent guy at first. When he is faced with a choice between carrying out the planned violent actions and doing the right thing he listens to James and decides not to go through with it. This ends up benefitting him as those he was working with don’t fare so well. The next stop for James is meeting Agent Liberty himself so I’m curious to see how that pans out.
The relationship strife between James and Lena isn’t all that interesting to watch because their conflict feels so manufactured. Lena confesses to James her involvement in the potential indictment against Guardian dropped which makes James feel that she’s interfering. She tells him that there is no line she wouldn’t cross for him which alarms James because he feels that there are principles that should always be upheld no matter what. Again, this isn’t all that interesting because the episode doesn’t delve into the rift that exists between them in any meaningful way so it simply feels like extraneous plotting with little actual impact.
Lena’s experiments with the piece of the Harun-El make an appearance. It turns out she’s using it to try to cure cancer but isn’t having all that much luck to her frustration. By the end of the episode she has accidentally discovered how to make a heart invincible which creates the potential for super powers to be granted to regular Humans. Her argument is that people might not be so afraid of aliens if the enhancements they have weren’t an issue any more. At least some of the fear comes from how dangerous aliens can be so if the playing field was levelled to some degree then some of that fear might be alleviated. This prompts a debate around who gets these powers with Lena’s only answer being people she feels that deserves them. In her mind she would become the decider between who is allowed powers and who isn’t which is tantamount to playing God as far as Alex is concerned. The decision being in anyone’s hands is arguably problematic though in the background it very much is up to Lena considering she in theory knows how to create powers in Humans.
This debate was really interesting but the episode spends so little time on it that it feels entirely rushed in the way it comes across. Compelling points are made on both sides of the argument but it’s such a quick conversation that has to make way for other things that are going on. I was also confused at Eliza’s point about the process to grant powers being incompatible with Human DNA. Alien DNA being incompatible with Human is something I can accept but there have been numerous examples of powered individuals with no alien DNA. Livewire is one such example and she offers a counter to Eliza’s point because Supergirl was partly responsible for her gaining super powers. This doesn’t even factor in the other Arrowverse characters who have super powers so this feels like an argument that isn’t all that well thought out.
Manchester Black’s transition from pacifism to to violence and torture feels a little abrupt though it remains grounded in grief over the loss of Fiona. There’s a sense that he doesn’t have anyone he feels he can turn to despite J’Onn reaching out to him. I get the impression that he is consumed by grief to the point that he can’t think clearly and feels that bringing down those responsible for what happened to her will grant him some form of closure. He remains as engaging as he did before but this arc still feels rushed .
The Children of Liberty staging an attack on the aliens that live in National City after marking their doors with letters that can only be seen using technology that reveals infra red made for a really good action sequence. This sort of thing is exactly how they can be a threat to Kara’s speed as they have marked so many properties that she can’t possibly remove them all. It starts to feel hopeless very quickly and the montage of the Children of Liberty breaking into homes to attack those inside is terrifying in how real it comes across. Of course this culminates in Kara fighting a Dragon which makes for great spectacle and projects the illusion of a victory even though none exists in reality.
Another strong episode that continues to build the anti-alien tensions in compelling ways and adds further nuance to the ringleader. Sam Witwer’s Ben Lockwood is very dangerous because of his effortless charisma and well considered arguments that make him a tough opponent in a debate. Kara learns that first hand when she is unable to successfully counter him and sees him win the televised argument. His point of view on Thanksgiving is especially cutting and makes it clear that Ben fully believes everything he says. Now that he has a platform in the form of his own show those ideals will spread further making him even more dangerous. Alex’s continued conflict with Colonel Haley remains fascinating because it’s far from simple. Colonel Haley sees the DEO as an organisation that exists to deal with alien threats so as far as she’s concerned the Children of Liberty are more a problem for the FBI. She changes her mind by the end of the episode because she recognises that the Children of Liberty will likely provoke dangerous aliens rather than having a desire to protect people. She clearly has no love for aliens though doesn’t let that get in the way of her objectivity. I look forward to the upcoming conflict when Alex trusts her instincts and is mistaken.
The friction between James and Lena may feel extraneous as plotting goes but I’m still interested in James getting closer to the Children of Liberty to learn how they operate. It’s confusing that he is able to be so pro-alien around them without any consequences as Guardian should still be able to be their mascot with creative manipulation of the media narrative without having James onboard. Still, having James interact with Ben as Agent Liberty has me intrigued. Lena’s experiments with the Harun-El lead her to the accidental discovery that she can create super powers in Humans which leads to an interesting yet brief and not entirely thought out debate around who deserves powers and who should be the gatekeeper of that choice. There are a lot of good points here but not enough time to explore them. Manchester Black’s grief and desire for revenge to give him closure works well enough because of the actor but feels more than a little rushed. He still remains compelling and this can still get better in due course. The Children of Liberty staging a coordinated attack on the homes of aliens makes for an exciting and terrifying sequence. They are a threat because of their numbers and the fact that Kara can’t possibly remove the mark from all of the properties. Kara’s fight with a Dragon makes for great spectacle and provides the illusion of victory where none really exists.
- Sam Witwer’s excellent performance
- further depth given to Ben Lockwood through his effortless victory in the televised debate with Kara
- Alex and Colonel Haley’s complex conflict
- a compelling debate around granting super powers to Humans
- showing how the Children of Liberty are a viable threat when organised
- Kara taking on a Dragon!
- the powers debate being over too quickly
- James and Lena’s uninteresting relationship strife
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