Friday, July 19, 2024

Hello Darkest Place Our Old Friend

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Supergirl Review Season 3, Episode 7 “Darkest Place”

Elizabeth and Gretchen are back for more Supergirl! Unfortunately, “The Darkest Place” had nothing to do with Thanksgiving dinner and Alex needing to drink lots of wine, though perhaps this is a blessing in disguise considering the grim episode title. We will have to push off the traditional awkward Danvers family Thanksgiving conversation until next week, which is also the start of the week-long crossover. It’s going to be a busy time for us.

Until then, we have another packed episode tonight with tons of great reveals and superb emotional beats. Tonight’s review also might be a bit rougher around the edges, as Gretchen is getting up early tomorrow morning to go to Disneyland (feel free to proclaim your jealousy, or boo her, whichever). Shall we begin?

Quick Recap

Introducing Real!Hank aka Cyborg Superman.

We open with Hank(?) beating up Kara. Cut to 24 hours earlier: James, Winn, Kara, and Alex are in the bar watching news about the Guardian. Winn and James defend The Guardian from Kara’s and Alex’s skepticism. Maggie shows up to ask Alex about her keeping her distance. Mon El tries to break out of Cadmus but runs into who he thinks is J’onn/Hank. M’gann visits J’onn at the DEO, makes him some Martian comfort drink, and J’onn sees a vision of his family.

At CatCo, James sees video footage that seems to show The Guardian killing a suspect and Snapper calls him on having a bias for superheroes. Winn confronts James, who is determined to catch the guy who gave him a bad name. Kara talks with J’onn about him seeing visions of his family and letting M’gann be a part of his life without losing them. James confronts the other vigilante but Maggie shows up to arrest him.

Momma Luthor contacts Supergirl to tell her they have Mon El; when she arrives, she meets Real!Hank who Cadmus has been keeping alive to work for them as Cyborg Superman (CALLED IT). Terrible liar that he is, Winn is unable to keep the truth of James being The Guardian from Alex. Alex stands up for herself to Maggie about her feelings for her, and Maggie shutting her down. Oh and she tells Maggie to leave Guardian alone. J’onn almost shoots someone from the DEO that he hallucinates is a White Martian. Lillian Luthor, the head of Cadmus, threatens to kill Mon El with his lead allergy if Kara doesn’t ‘solar flare’ and make herself human for a while.

He’s alive and he’s so important to Alex. We can’t overstate this.

Cadmus goons drag a weakened Kara and strap her to a chair for Lillian to draw her blood. Winn figures out that the vigilante is killing criminals who get off on technicalities. Alex figures out what’s up with J’onn’s visions: M’gann’s blood. J’onn confronts M’gann about her being a White Martian, and she reveals she was the guard (saw that one too) and that she tried to release the Green Martians. Kara and Mon El bond in the Cadmus prisons. Just as Mon El is about to reveal that he was really the Daxamite prince a secret, a hooded figure comes to free them: JEREMIAH DANVERS.

Jeremiah digs the bullet out of Mon El and lets Kara and Mon El escape (the feels, omg). J’onn attacks M’gann, intent on avenging his family by killing her. James defeats the vigilante and, true to Kara, tries to talk him down first. Maggie and Alex show up in time to capture the vigilante and let The Guardian get away. Kara tells Alex Jeremiah helped her escape and Alex goes to Cadmus only to find the warehouse empty. M’gann tells J’onn that her blood is turning him into a White Martian.

After all that, it’s pizza and potsticker time! Mon El all but admits he likes Kara to Winn and James. Maggie asks Alex to let her back in as a friend because she doesn’t care about many people, but she cares about Alex. Cyborg Superman goes to the Fortress of Solitude and asks Kalex about “Project Medusa” (which just so happens to be the name of next week’s episode).

Best Quote: “When I got to Earth I saw my parents everywhere. I was in my room one night and I remember looking up at the stars and feeling so alone. I started to cry. Eliza came in my room and I yelled at her to get out…Eliza refused to leave. She said my parents would want me to be loved. That nothing would replace them, that they were a part of who I am. That was the first time I let her really hug me, and that was the first time I didn’t feel alone anymore. Having M’gann in your life doesn’t mean losing your family, it means feeling whole again.”—Kara Danvers

Thoughts & Feelings

We’re happy to report that for now, last week’s pacing concerns were a one-off slip up. Unfortunately, the Guardian continues to be unimpressive. Can Winn and James get caught already? We’re over this plot. As much as we were looking forward to James as a superhero when the season started, we’re less than enthused with how that has come together. We’re tired of James’s self-righteous hypocrisy. Tonight, we got humble bragging and defensiveness to go along with it, and it’s exhausting. Just tell Kara already, bicker about being safe or whatever, then eventually Kara can call him on the toxic masculinity bullshit James has bought into.

Aside from the hypocrisy of James lying to Kara about something he actively tried to out her for (being a superhero) in a way that could have endangered her, his fixation with his ego and ‘proving himself’ strong enough as a superhero bothers us the most. Because James is the head of CatCo, a media empire. He could be using that position to fight against Cadmus, to advocate for alien rights and amnesty, to ask tough questions about why Cadmus goons were using high powered alien tech to rob humans. Instead, he’s running around punching people. He’s even using CatCo resources to plug himself, and CatCo time to focus on being a superhero instead of being the most influential black man in National City.

We can sort of understand what the purpose of the Guardian storyline is; James is walled off from the rest of the Super Friends over at CatCo, and making him a superhero helps connect him back to the core group. Unfortunately, this thread is really thin, and not particularly well-woven. James is starting to remind us a lot of the current Batman, and coming from us this is absolutely not a compliment. Not satisfied with the very real power he has through his job, power that could be used for the public good in ways that don’t involve violence, he instead misuses company resources and exploits/borderline blackmails his closest friend into helping him with his part-time vigilante hobby. This might work had he just been honest with the entire group of Super Friends about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, but instead he chooses to go all Batman (for lack of a better term) about it.

There had better be a hail mary pass of a character redemption coming up within the next few episodes, because we’re starting to actively root for James to get written off the show. If they aren’t going to use his character in a meaningful way, or stop trying to turn him into Batman, then maybe it’s time to just admit that his character needs to leave. We don’t want to lose him, as an actor or as a character, but the show isn’t giving us a lot to like this season other than his kickass costume.

Mon El had a decent arc this episode, despite the fact that he continues to not grieve the destruction of his entire planet and culture other than to express mild survivor’s guilt. Anyway. He’s totally the Prince of Daxam. That’s what he was going to reveal to Kara, right? What else could it be? Honestly, it explains a lot about him: his lack of physical fighting ability, his privilege, his frat boy mentality, his defensiveness when Kara called the Prince of Daxam the “biggest frat boy in the galaxy.”

The only thing that irked us was the icky patriarchal undertones to his conversation with Winn and James at the end of the episode. We think they were going for romantic and adorable, but the whole “latched” thing felt like he was trying to stake a possessive claim over Kara. We did enjoy her delightful obliviousness to the whole thing. Is the fact that he was talking with Winn and James, two other members of the no-longer-Kara’s-love-interest club, significant? They should start a support group.

Now, it’s not that Mon El can’t necessarily be pushed in a good direction, and we begrudgingly admit that he actually might have a stronger position in the plot than James at the moment. But we need a bit… more from him. Both from the actor and the character.

When Kara is first thrown in the prison cell next to his at Cadmus, his affect and vocal inflection was really… flat? He certainly didn’t feel convincingly concerned or even necessarily aware of the danger they’re in. We actually briefly suspected he had been pod-personed or was a cyborg copy, because nothing about his reactions seemed on point until Momma Luther showed up and shot him in the leg. We get that ‘flippantly dismissive’ and ‘too cool for school’ is his thing, but we are far overdue for him to start outgrowing this as a character.

Hopefully the events of this episode were a big push in the right direction, even if that direction involves being soundly rejected by Kara during what is sure to be an epically cringeworthy confession of his feelings for her. As we’ve said before, it’s not that it can’t work. But as it stands, it’s not enough. And we’re not just saying that as Supercorp trash. We will fully admit to a bias, but we are open minded.

How is this the face of a potential lab rat for anti-alien villains?

On a more positive note, let’s talk about the courage we got from the ladies tonight. Alex confronting Maggie took a lot of guts. She totally needed to get that off of her chest, we get it. With how the show has so excellently scripted Alex’s story thus far, we can see where Alex is coming from. She has, from her point of view, done everything that Maggie asked of her. It was all for her own personal benefit, of course, not just to ‘get the girl’, but you can understand Alex’s frustration. She only came to understand herself as a wlw because of Maggie. Not just because Maggie asked hard questions, but because Alex had feelings for Maggie that Maggie called her on and then helped her name.

It’s an experience that many women who come out as queer later in life understand, because frequently at an older age, the exploration of sexuality is directly related to feelings for a particular individual rather than as a category.

“Ultimately, I was proud to come out because it wasn’t just some concept, it was about my feelings for this amazing woman.”—Alex Danvers

On the other hand, it’s a lot of pressure to be putting on Maggie. It is unreasonable for Alex to put pressure on Maggie to date her just because Alex has feelings for her and was the reason Alex was able to understand herself as a wlw. Maggie is the object of Alex’s affection, but she’s not obligated to reciprocate or bear the burden of Alex’s coming out.

And then, THEN, after all that Maggie is willing to ask Alex to let her back into her life because she cares that much about her?

“I don’t meet many people that I care about, and I care about you…a lot.”—Maggie Sawyer

Kill us.

Probably the best part about this slow burn relationship is, as we touched on previously, that all of the foundation work is being shown on screen as opposed to existing solely in fanfiction. We are thrilled once again with the realism of the writing, especially the fights between Maggie and Alex. We are relieved that the fight didn’t resolve itself by them getting together, because it is way too soon and not nearly enough angst has been poured onto the eager audience.

In all seriousness, this is just further evidence that the writers took the scripting of this relationship very seriously, and they’re giving it Main Ship treatment with a fully developed relationship arc. Maggie and Alex started as friends, but they need to come back to being friends before any further relationship milestones can be reached. This also will hopefully mean that we’ll get some more development for Maggie as a character separate from Alex. We don’t necessarily need an entire flashback episode, but some further delving into Maggie’s life outside of work or her past will just be another solid layer of foundation to build this relationship off of.

In short, we like what they’ve done so far, so of course we are dying for more.

This face. UGH.
This face. UGH.

And M’gann, our precious cinnamon roll White Martian M’gann. Her conflicted relationship with J’onn continues to be our favorite side story this season (to the point where we wish we had less Mon El and James/Winn, but alas). Even in just the snippets we’ve gotten, her journey from diffidence to openness has been heartbreaking. She’s trying to break the cycle of violence and hatred in a hostile environment. She’s gone from fighting for her life to refusing to fight. She’s yearning for real connection with J’onn, and she represents a chance for hope and happiness for both of them.

Her arc tonight took courage. Confessing who she really is, revealing her White Martian form though it might have meant her death? She’s probably never shown her White Martian form to anyone since she came to Earth, and to show it to the one person whose opinion and acceptance matters most to her shows tremendous vulnerability. She’s moved beyond the stiff aloofness we first saw in her to a yearning for acceptance and love. She’s willing to be vulnerable with J’onn, even if it means he could hurt her (quite literally).

She let J’onn take his anger and grief out on her believing she deserves it for being a White Martian and only asking that he kill her in her human form. And that says everything about her; she’d rather die as a human, her ‘true’ form to her now rather than as a White Martian. We have only love for M’gann.

“This is who I want to be.”—M’gann M’orzz, choosing to die in her human form

She does not deserve prison! Someone get her out of there!

And for J’onn, he overcame huge hurdles in not killing her, even if he’s still bitter and filled with hatred. We have no idea what will happen to him next, but our cinnamon roll space dad is breaking our hearts with his journey this season. Seriously, just think for a moment the amount of control it takes to not kill a member of the race that killed your entire family, one that you trusted and believed not just a friend, but a member of your own race. He might not be able to admit it yet, but he’s connected with M’gann despite her being a White Martian. His arc of overcoming his hatred fits nicely within this season’s theme of overcoming prejudice against aliens. It kicks you in the face, but in a good way.

On a completely different note, can we talk about how many people are lying to Kara this season? Her two best male friends have been lying about being superheroes. Her new friend/mentee Mon El has been lying about something. We don’t know yet if Lena has been lying about being involved with her mother in Cadmus (as we don’t know how far that connection goes). M’gann has been lying about being a White Martian. Even Alex isn’t being entirely honest with Kara right now, as she withholds the information about James being the Guardian. We appreciate her being the bigger person and the “I’m sure he will reveal himself soon” was a none too gentle shove in the right direction, but still. Kara was honest about Jeremiah even though she thought Alex would be furious with her for not getting him out. The least Alex can do is be honest about The Guardian.

Actually, on second thought, can we have a pointed conversation where Alex confronts James about how she was willing to keep his secret because it wasn’t hers to tell when he point blank asked Kara to out her to Lucy, even though it might put Kara’s life in danger? Please. Someone needs to confront James on his hypocrisy this season and Alex is primed and ready for it.

Finally, we have to point out that the emotional beats this episode were sharp and visceral. Kara’s immediate concern for Lena when she discovers her mother is the head of Cadmus, because if anyone understands having zealots for family members, it’s our girl Kara. Her concern for Alex upon seeing Jeremiah and what his not coming with them would do to her. The moment where Alex’s face dissolved when Kara told her she’d seen Jeremiah and knew where he was. Then her frustration when they were gone. The bereft look on Maggie’s face after Alex word vomited all over her.

This one.
This one.

Maggie’s guts in going back to talk to Alex. Alex’s grudging willingness to try. Ugh. This slow burn angst hurts so good. We love it. Give us more.

Random Thoughts

  • Too much spinny camera work in the bar. Stop please. We’re going to vomit. And then the shaky cam. For those of us with visual input sensitivities, it’s really hard to watch.
  • Kara made fun of Batman. We’re living. (“My cousin worked with a vigilante once. Lots of gadgets, tons of demons.”)
  • “What’s the word for a male floozy?” “A Daxamite” HA!
  • We like how Cadmus is drawing on the Greek mythos, very apropos for a Supervillain team.
  • David Harewood is such a good actor. He plays Real!Hank, J’onn as Hank, and J’onn as J’onn as three distinct characters. Impressive.
  • “Who are you to my daughter?” = All the Supercorp feels.
  • Nice that Mon El remembered to call Kara “Supergirl” while in Cadmus instead of Kara.
  • The lead allergy is a nice touch from the comics. We wonder if the rest of Mon El’s arc this season will play out similarly to the comics as well. If so, he could end up in the Phantom Zone dying from lead poisoning, perhaps to save Kara somehow?
  • Alex threatening Winn with her index finger was…kind of hot (maybe more than kind of).
  • We really love the diversity in locations that filming in Vancouver has opened up this season. We didn’t realize how claustrophobic the end of S1 felt until we got so many more locations.
  • How does Maggie know where Kara lives?
  • Someone get a blanket fort for Maggie and Kara to snuggle in. They’ve been through a lot.
  • Everyone needs a hug.

In Conclusion

The reveals tonight were excellent. Real!Hank back and living as Cyborg Superman? We may have called it but it was still excellently done. Then they topped it with Jeremiah Danvers and gave us all the feels. It’s too much to hope for a Danvers family reunion for Thanksgiving, but girls can dream, right?

If the article seems a bit thin this week, it’s not just because of Gretchen’s Disneyland trip. It’s that the show is consistently good, and this episode is consistently up to the level of quality we expect from Supergirl. It makes us feel like the most useless critics in the world to just say, “okay yes, just give us more”, but that’s sort of what it’s coming down to.

We try to avoid repeating ourselves too much, and a lot of the content in this episode has us doubling down on our opinions from the past few weeks, especially for Alex and Maggie, and for the Guardian plot. We’re certain we’ll have a lot more to say about the Danvers Thanksgiving Disaster Dinner next week. Don’t take the shortened article length for a sign of indifference: we still love this show. But this episode felt a bit like the first climb up a hill of a roller coaster, and the crossover event will be the huge drop after the peak. We’re so ready for it.

And we have so many questions. Is Jeremiah human? Why is he cooperating with Cadmus? Is he working for them? Is he spying? Can J’onn be cured? Will the last Green Martian become a White Martian? What is J’onn going to do when he finds out Real!Hank is alive and hurting Kara? What is Medusa? Why was Real!Hank so willing to squander Kara’s blood by pouring it all over the floor when Cadmus could use it to develop a super serum or something? Will Mon El awkwardly try to propose to Kara in the middle of next week’s annual awkward Danvers family Thanksgiving?

Inquiring minds need to know.

Anyways, to all our American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! To all our international readers, Happy fourth week of November! See you next week!

Images courtesy of CW

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