Back in 2000, one of the most contentious real-world elections in years placed George W. Bush in the White House, while DC Comics had already decided, regardless of who won the vote on our world, that they were going to install supervillain Lex Luthor as President of the United States in the Superman books. While Lex had been an armor-wearing mad scientist in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics, the post-Crisis Lex was a businessman whose crimes were kept quiet, allowing him to life the life of a wealthy philanthropist by day. Ultimately his obsession with taking down Superman would out him, but that would not be for years, and ultimately story contrivances managed to make him a plausible Presidential candidate.
Could history be repeating itself? Following the events of The CW's own "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover, Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) has gone from being a well-known felon and presumed dead, to being a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has managed to convince the government to privatize the DEO and put it under the Luthorcorp umbrella.
During an interview with ComicBook.com this week, series star David Harewood teased that in tonight's episode, (titled "Back From the Future Part One" and featuring the return of Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott), "we start to understand exactly what Lex Luthor's dastardly plan is."
The idea that Luthor's plan is more involved than just being loved and not in prison got us to thinking: what might he be up to?
Well, with a Presidential election that is ready to consume all of America's attention in 2020, and Lex subtly dropping "I stand with humanity" -- the opposite of the pro-alien-rights "I stand with aliens" slogan from last season -- during his Nobel acceptance speech, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that Supergirl, a show that has never shied away from politics, might want to adapt one of Lex's best-known stories of the post-Crisis era.
The biggest boon for this may be that Cryer's Lex has a lot in common with his '80s and '90s counterpart from the comics, but has been built up in a very different way within the series. There were frequent rumors (largely unfounded, though not without a small kernel of truth) that the Lex of that era was based on Donald Trump -- something that the show would likely want to avoid at least being too overt about. That is not to say that the show might not target specific policies, as it has in the past -- nobody is probably expecting an election year to make Supergirl less...Supergirl. But even there, whatever metaphor you are going for tends to be more effective when it is not just a thinly-veiled version of a real politician appearing onscreen.
If he does end up President, though, it will be interesting to see whether he appoints Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) as his secretary of education, as Lex did in the comics.
JEREMY JORDAN RETURNS; DAVID HAREWOOD DIRECTS – As Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) tries to thwart a Toyman copycat, Winn Schott (guest star Jeremy Jordan) returns from the future. David Harewood directed the episode written by Dana Horgan & Katie Rose Rogers (#511). Original airdate 1/26/2020.
Supergirl airs Sundays at 9/8c on The CW. "Back From the Future Part One" airs January 26.