A lot has happened since the Crisis came and went, and not all of it good. Giving a different spin on events since then, this episode shows us events from Lex’s point of view as he adjusted to the new Earth, and then started multiple plans spinning. A good reason to focus on Lex, besides Jon Cryer’s fantastic portrayal of the character, is that this marks Melissa Benoist’s directorial debut. So if the Girl of Steel is behind the camera, why not see the villain’s point of view? It’s not exactly revisionist history, more like a different angle on what’s happened, but the title is a clue: “Deus Lex Machina.”
We start with the timestamp of “90 Days after Crisis,” and a very confused scene of dead bodies, Lex Luthor, and the arrival of Supergirl and J’Onn. One of the bodies is familiar, there’s a lot of puzzled heroes, and a smirking Lex. We then launch into the, in my opinion overused, trope of jumping back to see how we got to that opening scene. After a replay of some of what Lex was up to during Crisis (I will always love that one Smallville bit), Lex gets suddenly teleported to the new Earth, and spends a few minutes trying to catch up with what’s going on in the new reality. He even waits a whole few minutes before drugging his sister. The world might have changed, but he hasn’t. After this heartwarming scene, Lex meets with his mother, who offers him a lot of good advice you can be fairly sure he won’t end up taking.
Later, Lex chats with Lena, which is when he finds out how much he doesn’t know about Leviathan. Not knowing has never sat with will Lex, and that stays constant. After another time jump, we return to the Toyman/Winn coming back story, and Lex plundering the Legion ship from the future for information on Leviathan. I still loathe Lex, but he’s smart and talented, I have to give him that. Armed with more information, Lex finds Eve, interrupts her fight with someone to make a proposition to her that’s partially what she wants to hear, with mild seduction and casual homicide on the side. Boy, Lex knows how to woo a girl. After another skip ahead in time, Lex watches Andrea launch Obsidian, and continues his ploy to get his tentacles wound around Eve, spinning stories about protection and assassins. He sends Eve off on a new task, after giving her more information than he really needed to, which surprised me. Showing he’s more than a suit with a big brain, Lex then links up with Gates, a bad guy from an episode that was earlier this season, but hasn’t happened yet in this time sequence.
The next time stamp is 43 days after Crisis, and Lex continues working his dark magic on Eve. He’s doing a great job of manipulating her, and she’s definitely vulnerable to his approach. They scheme about various minor villains from earlier in the season (for us), and then we see some mice who don’t fare well under Lex’s experiments. Roughly a month ago, our time, Lex ignores a call from Brainy as Supergirl fights Amy Sapphire, the anti-Obsidian fanatic. Eve shows Lex the care ward for those trapped in VR, and tells him about Margot, Leviathan’s hatchet lady. Then, at some of his scheming best, Lex sends her on a mission that throws some other events we’ve already seen in a much more sinister light. Lex tours the world while Eve does her mission and Alex has her extended trip in VR we saw in “Alex in Wonderland.” At the big Obsidian launch party, Kara ducks out and Lena follows. They have a moment much like their prior friendship, which was a nice, brief, hopeful scene. Lex spies on it all, and you know he’s not going to let them kiss and make up.
88 days Post-Crisis, 2 days before the episode started, Lex has another meeting with mother Lillian. She’s not pleased about his side scheming, and she’s right to be worried. As ever, Lex’s biggest flaws are ego, hatred, and a lack of self-awareness. Building on these shaky blocks, he moves his scheme forward. We see how reporter William Day found an important piece of evidence, and Kelly, Alex, and Kara mourning the loss of Jeremiah Danvers. Kara hopes this is a turning point for her and Lena, and then William arrives, bearing all sorts of homemade goods for comfort food. Kara misses the look Alex and Kelly share about his visit. This leads to some sharing of information, and a few startling discoveries. The sadly unobservant lot miss Eve spying on them, and her report to Lex has him taking a risky gambit with Gamemnae/Gemma Cooper. Sadly, as usual, the reptile manages to slither his way to just where he wants to be.
In another ongoing plot I really don’t care for, Lex drops in on another of his recruits, Brainiac 5, now also Director of the DEO. Brainy at least calls Lex out on some of the things he’s been doing, but Lex offers explanations and evasions and distractions. Even the genius from the future falls under Lex’s slimy sway, and the evil billionaire steers Brainy just where he wants him. Supergirl, the Martian Manhunter, Alex, and Kelly meet up at J’Onn’s tower, and try and figure out what to do next. Just as they hit a stumbling block, Brainy wanders in with a suggestion planted by Lex. Supergirl’s next step creates some interference in Lena’s experiments, and Lena, partially manipulated by Lex, jumps to some not-quite correct conclusions, getting very hurt by what she’s learned. Goaded into it, Lena goes to the Fortress to confront Supergirl, unknowingly bringing along a passenger. They argue, and both have decent points, which makes it worse. The alien accomplishes at least part of its goal, and suddenly there’s a new problem: the Sun Eater is loose.
This is one thing that didn’t ring true for me quite. Lex has nothing but contempt for the heroes, but put the whole world in peril gambling that they’d be up for the task? I know Lex isn’t a humanitarian by any stretch, but he lives on Earth, too. With some last minute, unexpected help from Miss Martian, the heroes prevail and recapture the Sun Eater. Lex uses this distraction to get to the VR ward Leviathan and Eve are running, and reenacts a classic movie moment.
This loops us back to where we started, as a smirking Lex boasts to the heroes. Even in the midst of this, he probes to see if they’ve learned anything more about his newest foe, Leviathan. Emboldened by his string of successes, Lex overplays his hand with Gemma a bit, and she almost solves a lot of problems for us and the world. Sadly, she reins herself in, and listens to Lex. To round out a string of villainy, he goes to see Eve and utterly destroys her. This scene, too, rang false to me. He tells her a lot more than he needs to, shreds any chance of her working with him again, and gains no advantage by doing any of it. For a genius, it’s a dumb move. The episode ends with Lex going someplace he’s always wanted to get to, and it bodes ill for our heroes in the future.
What I liked: I was 100% completely wrong when I voiced reservations about Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor when it was first announced. He’s doing an amazing job, hitting it out of the park each time he puts on that suit. This was a lot of behind the scenes stuff for Lex’s machinations, and sheds some light on how and why some things happened. The reveal about Jeremiah was stunning. It was a great choice of an episode to do this with, as the show’s star was taking her first shot at directing. I think she did a decent job. It was nice to see M’Gann again.
What I didn’t: I mentioned the two scenes that didn’t seem quite right to me. They seemed to go from calculated, brilliant scheming to moustache-twirling “I’m evil!” bits that didn’t really work. I’m a tiny bit old fashioned in some of my storytelling likes, and hate to see the bad guy getting away with so much, especially given what I’ve read about the Coronavirus-truncated end of the season.
I thought it was a great episode overall. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. I’m very curious to see how they end the season with the limitations imposed on them.