How Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor has transformed Supergirl, villain expectations

LexWhen Jon Cryer was originally cast as Lex Luthor on Supergirlthe reaction was immediate as so many things are these days. We were optimistic from the start, mostly because we’d seen the former Pretty in Pink / Two and a Half Men star tackle more dramatic material before and he’s really a chameleon. Cryer as an actor has something that many other actors that take on villains tend to lose sight of and that is nuance – that beautiful light and shade that all of the really good villains have. You know that the character is bad, but typically there’s more to it then that and that’s what takes a good villain and makes him a great villain. A part of what makes Lex so intimidating is that even when you know he’s bad, he still finds a way to manipulate you and tap into those insecurities, kindness or any other weak spot he can squeeze.

While this is not a character who has been in the bulk of this season, we think that Lex has made enough of his presence known in limited time to set a precedent. This is the type of villain that every comic-book show should want to get their hands on, and he offers a model for a new way in which to write a story — one that is rooted more on secrets and building up surprises as opposed to the typical buildup and flash-bang that happens within the span of a single episode.

There are many reasons why Cryer’s version of Lex Luthor has turned out to be as smart and terrifying as he is and it all comes back to Cryer’s performance. He’s transformed himself into this role, offering up the occasional slights of humor but also pervasive wickedness, sneering jealousy, and intense arrogance. Cryer is allowing his Lex to rise up to the level of his gravitas, and he’s making it clear that this is not a character who can easily be taken down, at least via traditional means.

Outside of just Jon Cryer’s performance there are also a few other reasons why Lex shining bright in season 4.

No fear – The writers for Supergirl have shown a willingness to do something with Lex that we’ve seen other superhero shows shy away from: Just allowing him to be truly evil. While there are reasons why Lex turned out the way that he did in life, there is no questioning whether or not he could be redeemed or trying to appeal to some inner sense of humanity. This is a living, breathing psychopath who is incredibly dangerous and capable of destroying National City. That is terrifying.

Yet, others don’t see that core right away – The thing about Lex is that while he’s evil, he’s also excellent at making others believe, even for just a second or two, that he’s not. He is someone who is incredibly charismatic, highly intelligent, very persuasive, and he takes the downtrodden and makes them feel special. He’s almost a cult leader with the way in which he is able to sell you on his ideology and before you know it he’s hooked you.

The foundation that was already there – Lex has a built-in infrastructure that other adversaries do not. He entered the picture on Supergirl with a legacy of wrongdoing already mapped out in the mythology. He also had a sister in Lena who could serve as a counterpoint. Also, he’s Lex Luthor! You have seen enough of this character over the years and different adaptations of him to know how bad he was before he even stepped foot onto Supergirl.

Here is the thing, though — this expectation for Lex can also be a setback. Whether you are talking an iconic movie Lex like a Gene Hackman or another TV Lex like Michael Rosenbaum, there have been enough great iterations out there to set the bar pretty high. If you can’t live up to the people who are before you, or you’re not the same villain people imagined in their head entering a project, then you are facing a quick an intense anger from a fanbase. That’s not something that actors playing new villains really have to face, even if their characters never quite connect or they never come across as true villains. Meanwhile, a Lex Luthor is an enormous ballad with a high note and vocal runs that span octaves. If done right, it’s soaring and memorable for all time. If done wrong, it crashes, burns, and it’s mocked relentlessly for years.

Cryer as Lex is hitting every note, showing that producers should have a similar fearlessness when it comes to their casting of big-name villains and that there’s no reason to shy away from fan expectations. With the right actor,and the right scripts, you can do more than just transform a role — you can help to transform a show and as much as we have absolutely loved Supergirl over the years, that’s exactly what Cryer has done here.

If you want to see some more news on the next Supergirl episode…

Be sure to visit the link here to see some additional details and scoop! We’re going to see new episodes on Sundays for the remainder of the season.

Why do you think that Jon Cryer is appealing on Supergirl as Lex Luthor? Be sure to share right now in the comments. (Photo: The CW.)

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