This post contains spoilers for Supergirl.
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We all knew that James Olson’s attempt to reach the Children of Liberty was going to go poorly the second he tried to reach across the aisle, but the poor man had to try. The cost of his olive branch was almost the life of Supergirl but, all the same, he did manage to change the heart of one member of the cult. All of this is burying the lede a little bit. Let’s start from the beginning of “Rather the Fallen Angel”, yeah?
James is being held captive by the Children of Liberty. They insist that he help them blow up an unnamed monument, but don’t threaten him to get what they want right off the bat. Tom, Jimmy’s new Children of Liberty friend, apologizes for what they’ve done to him. He feels guilt for letting his fear guide him, and brings the Guardian gauntlet so that he and James can escape. The rest of the cult members were waiting for the move, and ambush the two before they can make it to their boat. This forces James’ hand, and he agrees to help them. He’s still unaware that the monument they want him to blow up is Shelley Island.
As heavily implied in the episode, Shelley Island is the alien equivalent of Ellis Island. Like Ellis Island, Shelley Island has long been shut down as the welcome point to immigrants to National City, but what a sight it would have been to see in its prime. There are power dampeners throughout the island to avoid any potential scuff ups between the aliens in the high stress environment of immigration, but their powers return to them once they leave the perimeter. This all helps Manchester Black betray Supergirl with ease.
Manchester says it himself: pain is a powerful motivator. He’s not a bad man, but he’ll sell Supergirl down the river to get revenge for the late Fiona in a heartbeat. The thing with men like Manchester Black and Ben Lockwood is that they always think they’re just so clever. The antihero believes he’s tricked the villain who believes he’s outwitted the Guardian to kill the Girl of Steel and destroy the symbol of peaceful immigration to their city. Neither of them are right
Realizing that he won't be getting what he wants, Manchester shoots out the power dampeners at the last second. Supergirl manages to fly the bomb out of the monument, and everyone lives to fight another day. James' attempt to reach the extremists was mostly for nothing, but he reached his new buddy Tom. It’s likely that his change of heart will result in the CEO of CatCo to continue to try to reach the extremist. Hopefully next time he’s a little bit smarter about it though.
Speaking of smart, Lena thinks she can cure cancer! And, you know, being human? She’s definitely getting a little bit too close to mad scientist levels, but “Rather the Fallen Angel” does a good job illustrating her motivations. Despite her best intentions, she bonds with patient 0331, giving us a deeper look into her past than we’ve ever been given before. 0331 dies before the episode’s close.
Obviously, Lena’s having a no good, very bad day. Unfortunately, J’onn is right there with her. He defended Black when Kara questioned his motives, and it almost got one of his daughters killed. Despite all that, J’onn still tries to meet him with empathy. Manchester then weaponizes that empathy against him, making him feel the same loss he does over Fiona’s death. A broken J’onn then meets Kara at her flat, breaking down the moment she opens the door. If you’re wondering which is the greater sin: almost getting Supergirl killed or making Martian Manhunter cry, the answer is unequivocally the latter.
Nobody won in “Rather the Fallen Angel”. It was several rounds of chess pieces moving around the board with zero gain for either side, but the episode still has a message. Sometimes our enemies can be reached, and others it’s our allies who betray us. This season of Supergirl is tackling America’s current cultural and political climates with great care, up to and including showing the grey areas that often end up being the most difficult.
Next week we finally have a good long talk about Nia and her abilities. After that? It’s crossover time! Shout out with your thoughts on this week’s episode below!