SUPERGIRL 4.03 Review “Man of Steel”

It's not "economic anxiety", you're just xenophobic.

This post contains spoilers for Supergirl.
Check out last week's review here.

Supergirl’s third season has made a point to tie the real issues currently unfolding in America to superhero rhetoric. We’ve seen the show do so in the past, but as political situations started to grow increasingly dire after the close of last season, the teams behind Supergirl found they had a sort of moral responsibility to help include those conversations in their entertainment. While some of the previous seasons tried to be reactive in their inclusion of difficult topics (resulting in some sloppy execution), this year seems to have taken a very conscious look at the issues affecting society today. The issues aren’t side stories to the narrative, they are the narrative.

This week’s flavor? A good old dose of economic anxiety wrapped up in an introduction to the man behind Agent of Liberty’s mask. You see, Ben Lockwood started out as a good man. As a matter of fact, his comic book counterpart is typically a hero. But people make bad choices when they’re mad or they’re scared, and a series of unfortunate events led the man that was once good to turn cold.

After dealing with his father’s xenophobia towards aliens, Ben does his best to convince his dad of the good in them in the beginning. He tries to protect the aliens from the rioting factory workers of his family’s homegrown American steel mill, but one of the alien’s natural defense mechanisms kicks in. Ben is hurt right before Supergirl arrives on the scene and, though his heart hasn’t been turned just yet, has some serious questions about the Girl of Steel working with the “FBI”.

As things continue to unfold with the aliens and the overall trajectory of America, Ben continues to see his father face hardship. He can’t upgrade his factory because it would cost millions, an issue that falls on deaf ears when brought to Lena Luthor. Eventually Ben’s father is forced to shut down the steel mill entirely, only worsening his negative outlook on aliens. Though Ben continues to keep the faith at first, several invasions push him down a dark path that eventually inspires him to see James at CatCo and call out their pro-alien stories. By the end of it all, he’s lost his job, his home, his father and, as it would seem, his mind.

Those last few paragraphs might sound sympathetic to Ben’s plight and, in a way, they are. Every issue he brought up is rooted in realism, from the natural disasters all the way to the struggle to find jobs. The thing is, where you’re born doesn’t make you more qualified for a job, and the hypocrisy of the hatred of immigrants in a nation founded by them runs rampant in both fact and fiction.

Ben goes so far as to tackle the idea of progress in one of his classes. Society views progress as good, but what’s the cost of progress? Who pays it? He uses the Native Americans as an example, asking if we in the current day should have to pay the high price they paid for the progress of the colonizers. Of course, this metaphor completely ignores the fact that the colonizers were invaders looking to steal, rape and murder their way to possession of America while modern day immigrants are often simply looking for a better life. And without the murdering, to boot!

Eventually, Ben gets to the end of his rope. He and his late father’s friends decide to burn down the alien run factory with no consideration of who may be inside. Intrigued by his work, the Graves siblings pick him up off the street, slap some armor on him, and give him a purpose. This purpose has already proved lethal for several aliens, and will undoubtedly result in the death of many more.

Someone else is going to have to step up to save them for the time being. Supergirl remains incapacitated after the Graves’ pumped kryptonite into the atmosphere. Thank God Lena’s at the D.E.O to help save the Girl of Steel. We’ll talk about that kryptonite existing because of Lena at a later date. She gets a little bit of leeway, since Supergirl’s incapacitation will likely to result in her boyfriend landing himself in jail. No hero can stand by and watch their city under fire, threat of prison be damned!

What do you want to see this season of Supergirl tackle next?