On Supergirl season 5, after discovering the identity of Supergirl — AKA Kara, her best friend — and Lex revealing all of Kara’s lies, Lena Luthor has taken a darker path of late and has yet to return.
Lena Luthor’s journey on Supergirl has been unexpected, though quite intriguing, and this continues as season 5 progresses. Despite her plans on Supergirl season 5, episode 8 to use the late Astra’s Myriad device to prevent humans from harming one another being thwarted, Lena plans to continue on with her mission, seeing herself as the hero of this story.
However, what’s almost more important is the story of how we got to this point. How Lena took a turn down a dark, twisted path is vital, but what she did before this is also important. Her past actions cannot be ignored to fit the narrative that she’s “evil” and a villain (which she’s not).
A hero for much of her life
Since we met Lena Luthor on Supergirl season 2, her mission has been simple: Escape her family name and do some good in the world. And, to the latter half, she’s succeeded. She’s saved the world countless times, whether by her own means or by helping Supergirl; for instance, when she helped stop the Daxamite invasion or worked with Sam to contain Reign.
As has been pointed out to the fans many times, most recently on Supergirl season 5, episode 6, the reason Lena originally moved to National City and rebranded L Corp, following Lex’s imprisonment, was to get a fresh start and use her intelligence and the company to help people. The distrust of the Luthor name has always kept Lena honest and alert, and she’s worked her entire life not to be like her family.
Lena would not have been one of Kara’s best friends over the last three years if she was, deep down, evil and irredeemable. Kara sees the best in everyone, and Lena made it incredibly easy for Kara to see, as all she wanted was to live a life free of the expectations associated with her family name.
Like any person, Lena’s made mistakes, and on Supergirl season 5 she’s made so many. But her circumstances and her past are incredibly important to the exploration of her character and recent actions, and she cannot easily be pushed to the side and considered a villain because this story and Lena’s arc is so much deeper than that.
Lena Luthor’s story following ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’
It’s unclear what will change on Supergirl after the crisis ends, though we’ve been promised by the co-showrunner it’s sort of a “reset” for the series. Maybe this will change Lena, but maybe it won’t. Maybe it’ll change how she learned of Kara’s secret identity, but that’s an entirely different subject. Regardless, I haven’t given up on Lena. I’m not giving up on Lena.
It’s one thing to root for a villain’s redemption, like with Black Siren on Arrow. It’s another when a hero — like Lena Luthor has always been — takes a wrong turn, heading down a dark path, and needs to see the light to come back. That’s Lena Luthor’s season 5 story. She is a hero, she’s worked so hard to be a hero to escape the evil of her family, and just because she’s blinded to the darkness she’s letting in doesn’t mean she’s a lost cause.
The entirety of her season 5 story thus far has been rooted in one thing: Lex’s manipulation. Lex knew exactly how to destroy Lena, and that’s exactly what he did when he showed her how Kara and the rest of her chosen family have been lying to her for years. (Just because he’s not actively in her ear manipulating her doesn’t mean he’s not still manipulating her.) Lex knew how much Lena’s life in National City meant to her, and he wanted to rip that away. To ruin her, like she helped do to him.
After spending almost the entirety of her life being tormented by Lex, Lena is his easiest victim. Lex spent years making Lena’s life a nightmare, though she’s so desperate for a family that she’d be willing to forgive Lex and Lillian over and over again, despite being let down every time. And then she lost another family, one she thought would always treat her right.
In no way am I excusing the bad things Lena has done (Hope’s consciousness taking over Eve’s body, for example), but it’s disrespectful to Lena’s character and her journey over these last few years on Supergirl to just assume she’s a villain once and for all. It’s not that easy to discern where Lena’s story is headed; she’s possibly more likely to come back from the darkness than she is to embrace it, if not solely because of her distaste for her family (and, eventually, Lena will have to see that what she’s done is leading her to becoming like them).
In my eyes, Lena Luthor is a hero. She’s currently misguided and will have a lot of work to do to make up for what she’s done, particularly to Kara (I’d include Eve, but Eve, like, tried to kill her and her friends and betrayed her, so I don’t feel that bad for her, to be honest), and to become part of the superfriends again. Hopefully, well before the season is over, Lena will see the error of her ways.
The finale of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” airs Tuesday, January 14, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Supergirl returns Sunday, January 19 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.