Supergirl S4x03 – Man of Steel

Who is Agent Liberty and how did he come to his grudge against aliens? 

Previously on SUPERGIRL… 

Last episode, Agent Liberty and the Graves siblings – with the help of a DEO trainee traitor – released Kryptonite into the atmosphere. And much like the lead put in the air to defeat the Daxamites, they hoped to eliminate their biggest obstacle: the Kryptonians who live on Earth. But namely Supergirl because it’s her show and Superman was already said to be on Argo City in the season premiere. 

So no, Clark Kent is not the titular “Man of Steel” of this episode. Instead, it’s an origin story for our Big Bad, a college professor and son of a steel plant manager. 

I know, I was a little disappointed, too. 

With Supergirl out of commission, the episode is told mostly in flashbacks that hit all the big events of the series’ history, showing how Ben Lockwood slowly went from a supporter of alien amnesty on Earth – or, at least, indifferent enough to it to chastise his bigoted father – to a man in a supervillain costume, leading rallies of people who want to eliminate all illegal aliens. 

They say that the best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero. It’s why Lex Luthor works so well in the comics: he sees Superman as a detriment to human achievement and wants him gone to ensure that humans get their just due. By the time Ben Lockwood dons the Agent Liberty costume, he whole-heartedly believes that the aliens are a menace. 

Alien technology – namely, Thanagarian Nth Metal – led to his father’s steel mill getting shut down. Alien invasions got his house destroyed, his father killed. And when he started to speak his mind in his classrooms, he lost his job. This episode hits every right-wing talking point against illegal immigration and ratchets it up to a super-powered level. And it’s effective. 

The episode wasn’t heavy-handed; Lockwood’s story was allowed to evolve organically without becoming preachy. And his slow descent from supporter of alien rights to a nativist mentality is understandable, if not almost sympathetic… if he wasn’t going out and killing aliens just for looking different. The villains need to be villains, after all. 

This was maybe the best-written introduction of any villain of the series. Lockwood’s motivations aren’t rooted in megalomania or sociopathy. They’re based on disappointment, heartbreak and the kinds of struggles people deal with every day. I’m actually surprised at how well the show handled his origin, given its iffy history with injecting real-life issues into the mythos of a fictional city and world. 

As for Supergirl, who spends the episode in a Kryptonite-induced coma, she gets a last-minute reprieve from Lena Luthor, who gives the DEO a special suit for Kara to wear that blocks out the Kryptonite in the atmosphere. I’m looking forward to seeing Supergirl in action with the suit next week.