Through a series of incidents, and input from his anti-alien father, Ben Lockwood slowly transformers from a mild-mannered professor into the villainous Agent Liberty.
Supergirl is not holding back this season. As people still recover from the shock of the murder of eleven individuals due to their religion by a radicalized individual, the show explores radicalization within its own world.
“Man of Steel” explores Ben Lockwood, Agent Liberty, the villain of the season. We’ve seen his rallies where he spouts xenophobic rhetoric but how did he get to that point?
Lockwood was a Professor with a wife and son and a father who owns a metal factory that’s being challenged. That factory has competition in Nth Metal (a wink and nod to comic fans), an alien metal with literal alien workers. Supergirl is taking on the current racist driven hysteria of asylum seekers and undocumented workers taking jobs and making it front and center this season.
Through a series of events we can see Lockwood become radicalized. From losing his job to losing his home, it echoes the “stories” we hear about flyover country and small town America. People whose lives are being impacted with little attention and whose anger is being directed towards boogeymen exploiting bigotry and racism. It’s a playbook we’ve seen over and over, using the other to gain politically through fear.
There’s just enough presented to make Lockwood sympathetic in some ways but his radicalization is clear and presented in a way that while you might feel sorry for him you (hopefully) aren’t agreeing with him. His actions, his beliefs, his statements, are abhorrent. By the time he dons his mask there’s no question as to his place and it’s clear he’s in the wrong and evil. He’s the embodiment of the alt-right and MAGA crowd. Lockwood plays the role of both Trump and his enforcers who murder in his name and their perceived shared outlook on the world.
With a week that has involved the attempted murder of political leaders, the actual murder of two African-Americans and eleven Jewish individuals, and the election of a far-right Fascist/racist/sexist/homophobic individual in Brazil, this episode is both cringe-worthy due to its timing but also needed. When younger kids might be asking why someone has the type of views that might lead them to commit such acts, “Man of Steel” acts as a solid introduction to our reality. It’s an allegory that can be used to explain our current socio-political climate to those who might not understand the “why” of it all.
The episode can be described as a mitzvah in both what it’s taking on, the stance it takes, and what it achieves in helping open a dialogue with the next generation and the show’s fans who might not understand what’s going on in today’s world.
Overall Rating: 10