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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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
Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments
November is a fun time in television. While shows are winding down for their winter hiatuses and networks are picking up scripts or pilots for next year’s shows, they’re also ordering “back 9s” for new shows premiering each fall. That is, the 9 episodes to bring a 13 episode series order to a full season. (Though the first full season of a show can run as short as 16 episodes these days.) Getting a back 9 generally indicates high renewal chances if the ratings stay good enough for the network. Renewals and new show pickups are announced in May during Upfronts.
Upfronts this year was a weird time. The major broadcast networks picked up the least number of new shows in five years. 19 of the shows cancelled were one season and done. Though we’re only three months into the 2017-2018 TV year, I have a feeling next May will have similar results.
After all, of 19 new shows, only 8 received back 9s/full season orders. Only two of those have received second season pick ups thus far.
ABC’s The Good Doctor received a full season (18 eps) pick up after only two episodes. Its success is unsurprising because last year’s hit was a family feel-good (though very dramatic) show. I can’t speak to the actual content but it’s clear that somewhere, a lot of Nielsen families are loving it; its yet to move below a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, which is the most important piece of measuring a show’s success.
There’s only been one other success not related to an already existing franchise, and that’s Fox’ The Orville which received a second season renewal halfway through its first season. CBS’ Young Sheldon, a prequel to BBT received a full season pickup after one special premiere airing, and NBC’s Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.
Everything else. No, really.
ABC had two “limited season” shows that if successful would have likely seen a second year. Unfortunately, the network pulled Ten Days in the Valley from the schedule, and will air its remaining episodes in December. The much maligned Inhumans just finished its season but with terrible ratings, barely making a 0.5, and on ABC nonetheless.
The network did give a few more episodes to Kevin (Probably) and The Mayor. This likely only indicates the need to fill airtime. Kevin‘s additional episodes give it a full season (16 eps) but The Mayor is finished.
Me Myself and I holds the honor of first cancellation this year, and 9JKL received three more episodes. That really only means the network doesn’t want to open the timeslot up yet. Consider it done, too.
Among the three dramas, two are very slight renewals. Both Seal Team (22 eps) and S.W.A.T (20 eps) received back 9s, but neither have ratings to call home about. CBS expects a 0.9 demo later in a show’s life, but not within six and three episodes respectively.
Wisdom of the Crowd’s ratings were subpar and with the allegations against lead Jeremy Piven, there’s no way the show was going to get a back 9. It didn’t even garner a mention in the first press article from CBS.
Sigh. Valor, one of four military/special ops themed shows premiered to a 0.3 (!) rating. Dynasty (also 0.3) on the other hand did receive a back 9, but the show is part of a deal with Netflix. Its renewal chances are dependent on the rest of the shows.
Ghosted and The Gifted were this network’s only other fall premieres. Though their ratings aren’t as exciting as other shows, both are firmly in the middle of currently airing Fox shows, and The Gifted will finish airing its 13 episode first season in January. Fox has yet to make an announcement on Ghosted so anything could happen. (Likely it’s done.)
Law and Order: True Crime, the lowest rated of NBC’s new shows, and The Brave just above it failed to receive back 9s. The former is a limited season show so a final decision won’t be public until May. A press release for NBC’s mid-season premieres states the same for the latter. However, Brave was always meant to be a back 9 contender.
With only 1 show per Big 4 “winning” the fall, and only 8 receiving back 9s, the network’s mid-season shows must succeed. NBC’s Rise, a mix between Glee and Friday Night Lights, should be an easy ratings win for the network especially airing after This is Us finishes its season. From one feel good story to the next. The CW has Black Lightning starting in January, which should also do well considering the amazing cast and The Flash lead in.
Otherwise we’re still waiting for announcements on the rest of the new shows’ premieres.
It’s also clear that the networks’ attempt at reaching certain audiences via its military/special ops shows fell short. Valor, The Brave, Seal Team, and S.W.A.T. all failed to bring in high ratings. No surprise if only one of the latter two receives a renewal, similar to when last year’s time travel shows all died except a last minute un-cancellation for Timeless.
Of course any one of the shows I marked as done could still conceivably receive a second season. That’s in the case of an across the board failure for spring premieres/shows past their first season. It’s clear live TV watching (what advertisers care about and thus what I care about) has decreased every year since Nielsen has calculated ratings. The 13% overall decrease in the 18-49 demo this year, however, is slightly more than the usual 5-10% decrease per year. So either shows need to be more interesting, Nielsen needs to expand its ratings measurement, or both.
Either way, mid-season shows must succeed or networks will be operating at major losses financially. Without inventive and entertaining pilots, 2018-2019 is just as likely to fail.
Image Courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC
The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be
After last week’s horribly boring episode, “Therefore I Am” comes to formally introduces everyone to the mystery that The Thinker is. We learn much more about the villain and his helpful partner, the Mechanic, but we don’t figure out his main goal. Still, a better The Flash episode as the show closes in on its fall finale.
This flashback ridden episode starts with a less than inspired Professor Clifford DeVoe, barely catching anyone’s attention during class. He is joined for lunch by his wife, Marlise, and Clifford whips out a design: a cap that could enhance his own intellect given Mrs. DeVoe can manufacture the device. In the present, we pick up from last week, with Barry and Joe interviewing the DeVoes.
Their first meeting seems to go well, as in nothing quite looked off from the DeVoes, but Barry is suspicious. Iris assigns all of Team Flash their own missions to dig deeper into Clifford just to be thorough. A new peek at four years previously shows Mrs. DeVoe had built Clifford’s thinking cap, but they would need a huge energy source for it. Thankfully — or should I say thinkfully —Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is right on the verge of launching the particle accelerator.
Barry decides to pay DeVoe’s class a visit to ask him a few other questions and seize the opportunity to grab his mug for a DNA’s test. However, the test comes up empty as his genetic material doesn’t fit what one would expect from meta-DNA.
A new flashback goes straight to a scene from the pilot: the press conference Wells held before the launch. After Barry ran off to retrieve Iris’s bag, Mrs. DeVoe asked Wells questions as she is concerned about the safety of the accelerator. This scene is particularly interesting because Wells’s attitude is a nice throwback to him being a villain from the future. His compliments for DeVoe’s work come across far more as “big fan of yours, hope you wreck the shit out of Barry” than anything else. Nonetheless, despite Marlise’s warning that there will be an explosion, Clifford decides to proceed as planned with the charging of the cap.
As the accelerator goes off, the thinking cap definitely does things to Clifford, but he also happens to be struck by lightning. Marlise arrives and resuscitates him just in time to witness Clifford feeling “enlightened.”
The cringy part of the episode starts as the DeVoes go to Captain Singh to report Barry’s inadequacies as harassment. As this particular form of lowkey gaslighting usually goes, the people around Barry don’t believe his instincts and ask him to stop looking into DeVoe which, spoiler alert, we also know he won’t and it will backfire eventually. Very cringey, very cliché, and not particularly well scripted drama.
So, after Clifford got hit by lightning, he becomes a really fucking smart person. To prove that, the writers ask him to reveal who Jack The Ripper is — call me foolish, but I would have rather they tried to explain who the Zodiac Killer is to see if it is more believable than American Horror Story: Cult’s ill attempt at doing so. Nonetheless, he starts having a seizure on the spot.
At STAR Labs, Barry hears a buzzing from the Samuroid head and finds a camera inside. He goes to perform some late night stalking at the DeVoes and find Marlise leaving the house, which is super convenient. However, she returns literally 45 seconds after with a full load of groceries so Barry has to quit his sleuthing. Flashbacking again, a doctor gives Clifford a grim prognosis, as his mind is feeding off his body.
After Barry reveals he broke into their house, Team Flash fully flips on Barry’s idea that Clifford DeVoe is the actual bad DeVoe. To make matters worse for my enjoyment of television, the part where Barry gets scolded a second time by the police happens as Marlise brings pictures from the invasion to the Captain. Barry gets suspended for two weeks — and somehow is 100% surprised by the Captain’s decision to suspend him after he broke into someone’s house… — and also a restraining order.
Back at it, it’s time for another cliché: Clifford goes all infomercial as he falls from his wheelchair trying to grab a book from the fireplace. Mad at the world, he begs to die, but Marlise won’t let him. In fact, she even developed the machine that DeVoe currently to help him with his fatal disease.
Even with a restraining order, Barry goes to Clifford at his lecture hall and finally something interesting happens: cards on the table, the professor acknowledges everything. He knows Barry is the Flash. He exposes his backstory, how he became a metahuman, and how superior he is in terms of intellect in comparison to Team Flash. In fact, he is only telling him who he is because “he has nothing to fear.”
Now, maybe this is just me, but I feel like this would be the time for Barry to engage and tell DeVoe that he lowkey already knows how to defeat him? I mean, Savitar did tell him the name of the device. But he doesn’t. He mostly brags about defeating speedsters, which are nothing compared to DeVoe’s powers.
Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells everyone that Clifford confessed and NOW everyone believes him even without any additional evidence — silver linings? At least they believe him now. This ‘No One Believes Barry’ nonsense could have carried on for more episodes. Cisco comes up with the Thinker name as Wally arrives to help out with supervillain but, if we’re being honest, he probably won’t because Kid Flash has been utterly useless. I blame it on the writers.
Finally, the DeVoes go back to their secret base and Marlise has her villain attire (slicked back hair and a lab coat instead of natural waves and sundresses) back on. It sort of makes you wonder about the practicality of having a whole villainous wardrobe just for the thrill of it.
As Clifford starts shaking again, it is time for him to return to the device we’ve seen him in before. The coolest part is that I was right about his hair: the Mechanic has to literally rip his scalp off in order to connect him with a machine that feels too tight on his head. As the romantic he is, Clifford is even “allowing” West-Allen to get married because “what is knowledge without love?”.
Not a lot went down again, but better than last week’s by a mile. So now we gotta get ready for the wedding crossover next week and hopefully an interesting fall finale!
Images Courtesy of The CW
The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)
Spoiler Warning for Hannibal, Season 1
“At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back, from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”
—Will Graham, Hannibal 1×04
Confession: I am one of those people who watches a show and can’t quite accept that it’s gone. The show instead lives on for me internally. So, basically, do not tell me The Wire is gone. Nope. Nor Deadwood, The Sopranos, Parks and Rec, Justified, Veronica Mars, and a handful of others, just… for me, they’re not gone. The show’s still out there. Immortal. Ever-present. So, for me, yes, somewhere Tony still watches the exits. Somewhere, Raylan works out his inner demons. Somewhere, Leslie Knope is President. Somewhere, Dan and Casey are still wittily tossing out sports metaphors under Dana’s eagle eye. Somewhere, Veronica’s fighting for justice next to her Dad. And somewhere, Hannibal and Will are still embattled. Or engrossed. But they’re out there, somewhere, somehow. Living on, in a smarter universe.
Fellow fans of Hannibal will no doubt especially feel my pain on this. And as someone still deeply mourning the end of the show all these years later, I thought the best consolation might be to go back and watch the show from the beginning, and it’s been a joy, offering new nuances and moments galore. It’s been especially fascinating to be able to go back to the beginning, and most especially to see how far back Bryan Fuller and his talented team set up the relationships, conflicts, and inspirations on the show, which are present even in the pilot episode.
The Table is Set
The blood splashes in the credits, Brian Reitzell’s superb score surges ominously, and Hannibal begins. Boom. Grossness. Ooky murder victim close-ups. Dating taboos. Ships, ships, and more ships sail into the distant horizon (how were we ever possibly this young?).
Welcome to the world of Hannibal. So let’s drive right in, to episode one, for instance, and that beautiful first meeting of Will (a wonderfully twitchy Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (a chilly, graceful Mads Mikkelsen). Where, if you watch closely, you’ll find extra enjoyment in all the little subtleties to Mads’s and Hugh’s performances—because they’re setting the foundation for every single moment to follow.
It’s all right there, the entire show. Hannibal’s focus and detachment, mixed with that strange fleeting tenderness. Will’s disgust, empathy, and fear that also mask his inevitable fascination and self-loathing. Cue the mental metronome as it sweeps ominously across the frame in red. We begin, and even within 40 short minutes in episode one, as Garret Jacob Hobbs dies, whispering, “See?” to a horrified Will, the table is set.
The finishing touch on this scene (that will echo back so tragically at the end of the season) is the fact that Hannibal, watching Will, seems to decide to save Abigail because it is something that Will wants. So he gives it to him, the gift of Abigail’s life, placing his hands gently on Abigail’s throat in order to save her. He further does this, I think, because for Hannibal everything comes down to power, because he can, and because it will tie both of those people to him in ways he wants to watch play out further.
But perhaps the nastiest trick he plays on Will here is his facade at the episode’s end, as Will enters Abigail’s hospital room to find Hannibal already there, holding Abigail’s hand as if he is not the monster her father was, but as if he is, in fact, the caring savior he pretended to be. Everything that occurs between the two men from here on out, occurs because Will mistakenly uses this image of Hannibal as a baseline. It’s diabolical and tragic.
Cat and Mouse
I think my favorite aspect of the rewatch is that I have changed my opinion slightly when it comes to Hannibal’s reactions and motivations. Upon a second viewing, most of the time, I now do think that Hannibal seems to play out his scenes with others as honestly as he can, at least, to a point.
I remember that I thought Hannibal was smirkier the first time I watched it; I felt like he was playing them. But now I actually think he’s weirdly transparent. I do think he likes and respects the team and genuinely (and quite quickly) grows to care for Jack and Will. It doesn’t mean he won’t torture them, mind you—Hannibal’s so warped that I truly believe he has no concept of how normal, non-psychotic people feel or demonstrate tenderness.
Shoot, for all we know Hannibal considers everything he does to poor Will in Season 1 to be nothing but simple foreplay. (“What are you complaining about?” I can imagine him saying to Will. “I fed you an ear!”)
Speaking of love, however, I most definitely missed how closely Beverly (played with subtle wit and tenderness by Hetienne Park) is involved with Will in many scenes the first time I watched the show. Her shooting range scene with Will in Episode 2 is terrific. Sparky and fun, on rewatch, it’s evident to me that Beverly likes Will. I mean, I think she like likes him. Which just adds to the tragedy of her entire arc.
Every bit as much as Jack and Alana, Beverly seeks Will out, to goad him, to study him, to offer support. She visits him several times (including in “Ceuf”) just to talk to him, for instance. And in the Angel episode (“Coquilles”), Beverly approaches Will again, offering help and asking him to confide in her; they interact closely once more in episode 6 (“Entree”). I’d really missed how close these two are in my first viewing of the show, and this makes Beverly’s devastation at Will’s arrest that much more heartbreaking to witness as season 1 moves toward its close.
The Wolf Visits the Sheep
In Episode 4 (“Oeuf”), in one of the best scenes across the entire show, Hannibal explores Will’s house. And I think upon rewatch this is just an incredibly rich and fascinating scene. Hannibal enters as a guest (and we later learn that Will asked him to feed the dogs for him while he was gone), and absently feeds Will’s beloved dogs, who adore Hannibal instantly. Hannibal, of course, feeds them what we assume is yikeshannibalsoylentsausage. Of course, he then simply wanders through Will’s home, and it is just sort of mind-bogglingly, quietly amazing to watch him do so. I think it’s easily one of the most naked moments for Hannibal in the course of the story. We get this rare opportunity to simply watch him study and react without the need to play the role of the guy in the human-suit that Bedelia calls him out on being.
As he enters Will’s home, Hannibal pats and feeds the dogs, then (in a poignant note for me as a classical musician) notes that Will owns a piano but that it is out of tune.
I found this moment lovely and subversively interesting for what it says about both men. Hannibal is a person who writes and plays music at a superb and virtuosic level, and who listens in the same way. Now he enters Will’s home and sees, unexpectedly, another fraction of his heart. Another realization, piercingly, that Will is like him. He is not alone. So yes, my favorite part of this scene is how Hannibal sees the piano and his glance lingers on it.
And right there, to me, I think is when Hannibal becomes a love story.
The Search for Connection
It’s not really about romance, to me, however, but about something more subtle and fragile—about recognition. Kinship. Fellowship. The pleasant, guilty surprise of bondage. Forget romantic love. Love’s less complex in this universe, and I’m not even sure it’s given anywhere equal weight. What the show is seeking and exploring, ultimately, is a dozen times more complex: the connection of equals, a speaking of souls. The mitigation of loneliness.
Hannibal as a character or person may not believe in love, but I’m certain that he (and the show) believes in soulmates. More casual viewers, I think, may miss that about this show. Hey, ship anything you want, any character combo that floats your boat. Seriously, I get you. I ship Hannibal and Will, at varying moments, with pretty much every adult who shares a scene, not least because Mikkelsen and Dancy both have chemistry with everyone around them.
But what Hannibal is ultimately about, to me, what sets it apart and makes it real genius… is loneliness. And connection. Hannibal seeks it, and is surprised and charmed to find it in Will, even in his home. We already know how much Will desires and fears the same thing.
And everyone else we glimpse, don’t they want that same sense that someone knows and understands them? Jack? Alana? Beverly? Every single cop, medical examiner, or killer we meet?
Of course. Cue drama.
Make Yourself at Home
So back to my point. I mean, Hannibal’s visit to Will’s home is fantastic. And pivotal. To me, it’s the core moment in their evolution as compatriots and friends and, perhaps, lovers. It’s so intimate.
Moving on. In his home visit for Will, Hannibal also notices a full outboard motor evidently in repair in Will’s living room (tellingly, later, in the “therapy” session with Hannibal, Will talks about his father’s work in boatyards from Biloxi to Erie).
Hannibal then checks out Will’s bureau and oh, Lord, gloriously, yes, there are the white tee shirts and socks, neatly stored, although I imagine the filmmakers simply cut out Hannibal’s full-body recoil at the sight. Hannibal then goes over to Will’s desk, looks through the magnifying glass there (nice subtext) then plays with one of Will’s fishing lures, carefully adding one of the feathers from the tray on the desk, before deliberately cutting himself with the hook he has just perfected. Then he licks the wound. And, yeah, it’s weirdly erotic.
This is also the episode when Will confesses to Hannibal, in one of the show’s most beautiful moments, that he only feels safe from a distance: “At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields,” he says quietly. “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” It’s yet another in a long line of beautiful boat references that help us to get to know Will that will also come back into play in later seasons.
Hannibal, potential anchor that he is, merely gives the tiniest hint of a smile. Because he is in control. He doesn’t need an anchor… or does he?
But although it’s fun to watch Hannibal become fascinated with Will, I forgot that Hannibal initially befriends Jack much faster than Will. Jack joins him for many more dinners at this point, actually. Jack and Hannibal become good friends, and Hannibal’s friendship visibly means something to both men.
Meanwhile, complicating those waters, is Will, of course. I mean, “Coquilles” is also the episode where Hannibal sniffs Will! And Will notices! It’s weirdly awesome. (Will: “Did you just… smell me?” Hannibal: “Difficult to avoid. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave. That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.”)
I also love Will’s conversation with Jack here:
Will: This is bad for me.
Jack: I’m not your father, Will. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do.
Will: Seems like that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.
Jack: You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.
Will: Maybe. And then maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.
Jack: You wanna quit? Quit.
Interesting that Jack smiles to himself as he says that. He knows Will can’t quit. When it comes to duplicity and hidden meanings, Jack is every bit as subtle as Hannibal himself. And he’s willing to do it because he’s willing to risk Will’s sanity in order to save lives—and because he’s also confident enough that he can see Will through it without harm.
Onward to therapy!
Episode 7 (“Sorbet”) is pure genius with its series of therapy sessions—Hannibal with Franklyn, Bedelia with Hannibal, Hannibal with Will. In each session there’s this tangible subtext of yearning and loneliness yet again: of Franklyn trying to impress Hannibal, of Hannibal trying to impress Bedelia, and then having a glass of wine with Will. There is something sort of poignant and lonely about Hannibal saying, “I have friends.” And we know who they are and how much he hides from them. (Note: I also think that it’s telling and important that Jack dreams of a mutilated Will in this same episode, as well.)
Episode 8, meanwhile, features one of my favorite exchanges between Hannibal and Will when Will says, “I feel like I dragged you into my world.” And Hannibal quite truthfully replies, “No. I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company.”
What’s interesting as I rounded out Season 1 here is the way Hannibal interweaves that loneliness I mentioned earlier as an almost palpable, touchable aspect of the show’s fabric. I was constantly struck by how solitary everyone seems to be in Hannibal’s world, how disconnected—a fact emphasized in many scenes by the show’s lighting, which is moody and dark, with characters illuminated in stark relief as if trapped onstage. Every major character also seems caught in a dreamworld now and then, as if mute on the most important level—speechless about the things they truly want—yet all are yearning, and all are quietly starved for connection.
Not just Will, but Hannibal himself, and even Jack, Bedelia, Bella, and Beverly. They all seem like characters seeking connection and safety. Alana is the only one who, to me, implies a rich external life elsewhere, and it’s interesting to watch her move in and out of all these other lives with so much ease, especially knowing what lies before her in later seasons.
One thing that really struck me upon my Season 1 rewatch was just how fantastic the actors are. I’ve talked about Will and Hannibal, but let’s just call out Caroline Dhavernas as Alana, for instance. She in particular is just wonderful, much stronger than I remember her being (and it really sucker-punched me when she goes to the car to scream and cry; at that point I realized then how much she did truly love Will). I also loved the chilly, gorgeous Gillian Anderson as Bedelia, and thought Kacey Rohl was amazing as Abigail Hobbs. It’s a performance where she has to walk so many lines in so many conversations, and Rohl was able to do that with a lot of delicacy and hidden nuance.
And then of course there’s Fishburne’s presence and gravitas, Dancy’s vulnerability and anguish, and wonderful Mads and just how much he’s able to communicate in every single graceful movement and microexpression.
While it’s hard to watch Will spiral downward in the final episodes of season 1, I do love the conversation in “Buffet Froid” (1×10) when Will is ill and floundering, and Jack is surprisingly warm and supportive:
Jack: Let me tell you what I think. I think that the work you do here has created a sense of stability for you. Stability is good for you, Will.
Will: Stability requires strong foundations, Jack. My moorings are built on sand.
Jack: I’m not sand. I am bedrock. When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt me too.
Near the end, when Hannibal brings Bedelia the veal, what’s fascinating is that, in an entirely different awareness of context, I’d argue that she is absolutely aware of exactly who Hannibal is and of what (or who) they may actually be consuming. And before she does so, she unexpectedly and blatantly warns Hannibal:
Bedelia: You have to be careful, Hannibal. They’re starting to see your pattern.
Hannibal: What pattern would that be?
Bedelia: You develop relationships with patients who are prone to violence. That pattern. Under scrutiny, Jack Crawford’s beliefs about you might start to unravel.
Hannibal: Tell me, Dr. Du Maurier, have your beliefs about me begun to unravel?
The way she takes the bite, with her eyes on Hannibal, very slowly, implies to me that she is doing this deliberately, perhaps almost as an odd form of answer. Foreplay? Or communion?
The Last Bite
Every meal has a finish. And so we come to Will’s horrified, beautifully gradual realization of Hannibal as the real killer throughout episode 13 (“Savoureaux”), leading to the confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen, the site of their first connection and mutual recognition:
Hannibal: At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you. You are alone because you are unique.
Will: I’m as alone as you are.
Hannibal: If you followed the urges you kept down for so long, cultivated them as the inspirations they are, you would have become someone other than yourself.
Will: I know who I am. I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore.
There’s such symmetry in that final, raw and terrifying confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen between Will, Hannibal, and Jack. And it’s awful to watch, to see Jack as adversary, to see Will led off as a criminal, to see him processed by the team (and to see their personal, anguished and angry reactions), and to then see Will locked up and facing Hannibal, who is of course still free and confident and smiling. And still there! Just on some level, you know, he’s still so creepily happy to see Will. To be a part of his life and world.
A caged Will is just more accessible, after all… more fun for Hannibal to play with.
Anyway, wow. I really loved taking another look at this first season of Hannibal, and what’s interesting is it’s my least favorite of the three, so I’m looking forward to the chance to rewatch the next two even more. Most of all, I’m so pleased to have found the show even more rewarding upon rewatch, not less. There’s so much detail to Hannibal‘s world that there’s always some new little treasure to notice.
What did you think? And what did I miss? And what do you think Will really smells like? I’m guessing Old Spice, sea salt, engine grease, and warm dog. Want to live on the edge? What does Hannibal smell like? My own guess on this is that he smells absolutely fantastic, like Italian cologne, fresh sage, and the faintest breath of electric wickedness…