Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Supergirl Episode 207: The Darkest Places

Supergirl Season Two has been very entertaining so far. Between the Superman visit, the personal growth of the character, and the very strong performances of the cast, the show has been gripping. I have had my minor complaints, no doubt. Some of the political messages have been delivered in a very heavy handed manner. Some of the character beats (specifically James deciding to be a costumed hero) has seemed rushed. But overall things have been fantastic.

'The Darkest Places' aired this last week and was one of the strongest episodes of the season so far. There are basically 4 plots happening, one for each of the major characters. Each plot pushes these characters' individual stories forward, some of them nudged, others pushed forward rapidly. But, for me, the biggest thing about this episode is that it also pushed the overal season's story forward as well. We have known about Cadmus before. But now we get a sense that they have a big plan. And they have an enforcer. And they are willing to do whatever they need to do to achieve their goals.

Now this isn't a perfect episode. Nothing is perfect. I think the Maggie/Alex storyline was advanced almost too quickly here. After last week's emotional ending, I almost wish this subplot was left alone to let Alex's issues sort of simmer a bit. Instead, we get a bit too much progression. And both Supergirl and The Doctor seem to make classic comic book mistakes which are hard to dwell on. Sometimes, you can't think too hard about plot points or suddenly you realize how ridiculous these things can be. But these were minor issues.

But overall, this was an action-packed, quickly paced, powerful episode. When watching with my youngest, she looked at me and said 'this is too intense!' That is definitely a good sign!

On to the details.

 The episode starts with Alex, Kara, Winn, and Jimmy relaxing at the alien bar. Now, right off the bat, this seemed off. Why would Alex, still reeling from Maggie's rejection, go to the bar she knows Maggie hangs out at? Wouldn't that be the last place she would want to go?

At the bar, the discussion revolves around The Guardian. Kara doesn't trust him quite yet. After all, her cousin used to team up with a masked vigilante with 'tons of gadgets and lots of demons' who was a bit too weird. (Yay Batman reference!) Alex thinks The Guardian must have a sidekick who is feeding him information. And James and Winn play coy. We see flashbacks of the Guardian doing good, stopping robberies.

But the conversation is interrupted by ... Maggie. She tries to clear the air with Alex. She wants to remain friends. Her decision wasn't anything personal. Alex accepts the friendship offer, although it looks like she does so begrudgingly.

Everyone assumes that Mon-El is at some random girl's house. He is called a male floozy. Hmmm ...

But the plot thickens for everyone.

We see Mon-El at Cadmus. He almost escapes but it seems Hank is also captured. To make sure Hank survives, Mon-El agrees to be put back in his cell.

But the real Hank is at the DEO. He again thanks M'Gann for helping him. But Hank is troubled by visions of his family.

Guardian stops a robbery at The Newsboy Liquor Store (nod to Newsboy Legion!) But the thief left hanging from the street lamp is subsequently killed by another masked vigilante.

And Snapper Carr runs with the story that the Guardian is a murderer. When James says it isn't true, Snapper lectures him about biases and the need for journalistic intergrity.

 One of the things I like about this season is that this is a more mature Supergirl who, having worked through major personal issues last season, can give some advice.

J'Onn admits to Kara that he is seeing visions of his family. Kara thinks it is J'Onn worrying that the addition of M'Gann in his life will diminish his family in his mind. She tells a nice story about how Eliza never tried to replace Zor-El and Alura. But Kara deserved to be loved. It is a nice anecdote adding some depth to Kara's backstory.

How interesting to see Kara be the mentor here.

 Guardian ends up fighting the killer vigilante and needs to run away.

Supergirl tries to help find the Guardian but is called away. Cadmus sends her a hypersonic signal telling Kara that Mon-El will die if Supergirl doesn't show up alone.

Arriving at Cadmus, Supergirl meets the 'real' Hank Henshaw. He is angry and powered and thrilled to work for Cadmus who has 'inherited' the DEO's 'glorious purpose' of killing aliens. They brawl which leads to the reveal that Henshaw has been upgraded. He calls himself the Cyborg Superman and knocks Kara out.

Meanwhile, Winn tells Alex that the Guardian is, in fact, James. James isn't a killer. The police need to back off. Angry at the deception, Alex smacks Winn on the head. It is a perfect character moment for both.

But she agrees that James can't be arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Alex goes to Maggie and tells Maggie to back off a bit with the Guardian pressure.

The conversation veers to the personal. And this is where I think things get rushed. Alex sounds almost petulant. Alex says that her coming out and telling Kara felt empowering and liberating. But then Maggie's rejection ruined it. All she feels is pain. She doesn't want to be friends.

I just think all of this felt a little rushed.

 At Cadmus, Supergirl awakens in a cell next to Mon-El. The bars are made of Thanagarian Nth metal(!!) and unbreakable! The Doctor arrives Supergirl recognizes her from Lena's office. The Doctor reveals she is Lillian Luthor. She goes on a nice Luthor-ian rant about how Lex was wrongly jailed, unrecognized for his genius. Lex, a true Superman, was fooled by the Kryptonian one. And now Superman's power and influence has gone on unchecked. It is a wonderfully delivered unhinged monologue.

The Doctor also shows Kara that Mon-El is vulnerable to lead, shooting the Daxamite in the knee. Luthor will kill Mon-El unless Kara complies with a request. She wants Supergirl to be 'human' and she'll accomplish that by having Kara 'solar flare' into a special helmet, depleting her cells of their energy.

Kara complies.

And this is where I just need to roll with things.

Kara was in her secret identity when she saw the Doctor in Lena's office. Isn't that a risk to revealing who she really is to the bad guys? [EDIT: this is wrong. It was as Supergirl that Kara saw Lena's mother. Sorry! And thanks KET for the correction.]

And couldn't Kara fake the flare? Pretend to be depowered for a second but then turn things around? Not expend every bit of energy? At this point, in the helmet, she is out of the Nth metal cell and standing next to the Doctor. What about super-speed?

But no, she truly depletes herself. The Doctor has her thugs manhandle Kara, tie her to an operating table, and get a sample of Kara's blood. Why doesn't the Doctor just kill Supergirl then?? She is a Luthor! She hates the Supers! She has Kara completely depowered! Why throw her back into her cell!!

 Back in National City, Winn susses out who the masked vigilante killer is. He is an ex-Navy Seal whose wife was murdered. The murderer was set free on a technicality. Now, the husband goes out and kills people who were released on technicalities.

Every character has grown since last issue. But Winn has really changed. I really like his character this season. Smart, confident, and finally comfortable with who he is.

Kara and Mon-El are both powerless and scared. Mon-El is dying from the lead bullet in his knee. Kara asks Mon-El (should he survive) to tell Alex that Alex needs to live life on her terms.

She also tells Mon-El that he can't have survivors guilt. Again, this is something she dealt with last season. It makes sense for her to help him this way. I loved that little bit of the conversation most of all.

But then, in  a major reveal, Kara and Mon-El are freed from their cages by ... Jeremiah Danvers!!! He removes the bullet and gets them out of the building. Neither hero are in any shape to fight back. And Danvers knows he needs to stay. Kara and Jeremiah hug.

So we get both Cyborg Superman and Jeremiah Danvers in this episode!

 But the subplots are just as crazy.

J'Onn continues to have visions and tests show that his blood has been tainted by White Martian blood. He confronts M'Gann. He demands she take her true form and he attacks. It is a well done fight. J'Onn is filled with a deep desire for vengeance.

M'Gann admits that she was the White Martian who refused to kill any more Greens. She tried to free some. And she doesn't consider herself a White Martian. She takes her human form. This is who she is.

Again, this is potent scene. J'Onn's anger. M'Gann's guilt. The history of these two. Just fantastic.

 And the Guardian ends up finding the killer and also melees. This is another well-done fight sequence. Guardian gives a decent speech about how this spree won't honor the killer's wife's memory.

James incapacitates the vigilante. And Maggie lets the Guardian slip away.

Whew. Lots of plot progression for everyone!

But that's not everything. There is a lot of wrap-up.

Alex, Kara, James, and Winn all meet at Kara's apartment for pizza and potstickers.

Kara has her powers back.
Guardian is cleared of charges.
Alex says loudly that the Guardian will surely reveal who he is soon.
Mon-El seems to be crushing on Kara.

Then Maggie shows up and asks Alex to stay in her life. She cares for Alex. This also seems a bit too soon. Maggie tracks Alex down? Asks her to remain friends? It all seems just a tad rushed. There isn't any room for the decisions of these two to breathe before the next step is taken.

But there is even more.

M'Gann, imprisoned at the DEO, tells J'Onn that her blood is rewriting his genome, turning him into a White Martian. Now that is a bombshell.

And then one more ...

The Cyborg Superman uses Kara's blood to fake his way into the Fortress to learn about something called Medusa.

I'll say it again.

Whew ....

There was a lot in this episode. It was very intense. There were several plots but the episode didn't feel compressed. And we had almost too many reveals to count.

Lastly, there wasn't any hammering of political viewpoints.

This felt almost like a fall finale. And that is high praise.


Anonymous said...

No politics! Yay!

I agree the Doctor grabbed the Villain Ball as hard as Black Flame in Adventure Comics #400: "Kara Zor-El is at my mercy at last! Unconscious and dying from Green-K poisoning! Quick, bring her here before the Kryptonite kills her!"

I'm thrilled by the Batman reference, but not for Batman but for the possibility of Batgirl making a future appearance.

Supergirl: "Who are you?"
Batgirl: "Don't you recognize your best friend?"
Supergirl: "My... best... FRIEND?"
Batgirl: "Yes, we are besties. We are not aware of it yet but we will be the world's finest friends before the end of the episode. By the way, can I get your autograph? A blonde-haired, violet-clad friend of mine is a big fan of yours."

I'm intrigued about that Medusa reference. Maybe we'll see a Supergirl's original menace for a change.

KET said...

"Kara was in her secret identity when she saw the Doctor in Lena's office. Isn't that a risk to revealing who she really is to the bad guys?"

Actually, that's not true. Kara was leaving Lena's office as Supergirl when Lillian dropped in unannounced at the end of "Crossfire".


SG Fan said...

Good review!

I've heard one of the reasons this one had a lot of the story plots due to Melissa having the film the crossover episodes.

My only complaint with this episode was the idiot ball, Alex, Winn, and J'onn got handed. "Hey have you seen Kara? No she's probably at Catco. Oh okay..." Seriously in S1 Kara was out of contact for a night and Alex, Jimmy, Winn kicked down her apartment door (Black Mercy episode).

Overall though this was a good episode. I liked the various subplots and while I think they should have let Alex stir some with her anger at Maggie, I thought they handle it well. Plus they didn't just rush into the romance with them yet, so still a chance to grow it.

It will be interesting to see how Kara interacts with Lena going forward. I don't think Lena's evil but it's going to strain her and Kara's friendship I bet.

Anonymous said...

Great review as always Anj, and agree that for some plotpoints that fail the "suspension of disbelief without breaking one's
brain / ruining the enjoyment" test, the episode was still quite enjoyable.

I have to agree the strongest point was The Doctor's monologue and twisted sense of history of her son and Superman. I was
waiting for a new character to hit the "Maxwell Lord" level of loathable, and that scene definitely kicked it over the top
for me!

Regarding J'Onn and M'gann, myself I have to wonder if she's genuinely as remorseful as she makes herself out to be... or is
just a very good liar. I loved the moments J'Onn had to work through his prejudices about White Martians... but I'm expecting
the rug to be torn out from under us.

Regarding the KaraxMon-El romance... Just... No! Personally they could sell me on "budding respect" and the whole "get over
your prejudices," but another romantic suitor (again)?

...and can't 2nd previous Anon's comment of seeing Batgirl in this series enough!

See everyone on the other side of the 4way crossover next week!


Anonymous said...

Everytime I see mention of Supergirl and The Doctor I think how much more amazing it would've been for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special to have been a crossover with Supergirl instead of the Superman facsimile they are going with.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments,
Thanks for correction KET, I edited the review to reflect.

I forgot about the door kicking when Kara was missing for a day last season. There was a lot of assumptions this time around.

And who can blame Mon-El for getting a crush?

Anonymous said...

Wow I think Kal and Kara definitely need to upgrade the Fortress of Solitude's Security Protocols...a vial of blood and Hank is In Like Flynn? Well it beats the wide open sanctuary Luthor burgled in "Superman Returns" I suppose....but still its another annoying example of the show's maddening recourse to "Klunky Writing"...
BTW here is a question I've been wondering about all week if the original Hank Henshaw knew that Kara Danvers was a Kryptonian then he must realize Kara D and Supergirl are one and the same, therefore does Lillian know Kara's "Big Secret"?
Moreover if Henshaw is alive then he is a mortal threat to the entire Danvers' Family...he simply knows too much.
Kara and Mon is sort of funny to me, in a meta context one of the things that makes Kara interesting to me, is that she is good looking and charismatic and from 1959 to the present she remains charmingly clueless as to her power over the opposite sex. Mon El seems like yet another poor schnook who fell hard for The Maid of Might....he'll have good stories to tell Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad when he gets to the 30th Century undoubtedly....
BTW this was an Ultra Violent episode and a rebuke to the notion that moving to Vancouver meant a drop in the show's overall quality...


Scrimmage said...

Easily the best "non-Superman" episode so far this season, but like others before it, it suffered from a lack of focus on the title character in order to advance the subplots surrounding the supporting cast. I agree that the show seemed rushed, and I think that the storylines about Alex and Maggie, and James as Guardian in particular, should've been in separate episodes. The whole Guardian thing seems particularly contrived, with James facing off in a conveniently equal match against a "villain" who is also just another guy in a suit. I did enjoy Snapper Carr calling James out on his "Confirmational Bias" in favor of superheroes. He also nailed him on being the ultimate "Fanboy" (which SHOULD'VE been James' superhero name). Snapper is growing on me.

While all the action sequences were well done, I found it hard to believe that the guy with the shield was really Jimmy Olsen. I also couldn't help wondering why we were wasting time watching him fight an unnamed bad guy who wouldn't have lasted two seconds against Supergirl, which brings me to my main complaint about the show in general.

I'm getting REALLY tired of seeing Supergirl getting her butt kicked EVERY week, and taken by surprise and /or manipulated by the "Evil Villain du jour." Rushing in blindly to Cadmus' trap, and allowing herself to be ambushed and taken captive was bad enough, but to be FORCED into de-powering herself, and then giving up one of the rarest, most valuable substances in the universe - Kryptonian Blood - was a HUGE mistake, and the kind that a superhero can't afford to make. She's lucky they didn't dissect her. If Lillian had a reason for keeping Supergirl alive, they could've at least mentioned it, which is ANOTHER problem I had with this story

I found it odd that they would make Cyborg Superman (Stupidest... Villain Name... EVER!) the original (but enhanced somehow?) Hank Henshaw. This is going to get confusing, much like Cadmus' needlessly convoluted plans for dealing with the "alien problem." If Cadmus can turn Original Recipe Hank into a cyborg that can go toe-to-toe with Supergirl, then why don't they make an ARMY of them to take on Superman, and ALL the Heroes? If they can harness the power of a Kryptonian's "solar flare," then what are they so worried about?

I also felt like the literal "spilling of the blood" that Cadmus had gone to such great lengths to obtain was rather melodramatic, not to mention extremely wasteful. Wouldn't the Fortress computer be capable of recognizing just a few drops of Kara's blood, instead of pouring it all over the console? You'd think something like that would make it assume that Kara was severely wounded. You'd also think that the computer could recognize a Cyborg when it sees one, or that it would at the very least, inform Superman that he has an unexpected guest. I'm sure there's an app for that.

I enjoyed the Dean Cain cameo, and Kara's story about Eliza gives me hope that Helen Slater will also be making an appearance soon. Mon-El's attraction to Kara is the LEAST shocking development of the season, but one I am looking forward to, nonetheless. I appreciate that they're trying to make a recurring gag about Mon-El's unfamiliarity with Earth customs, and especially American slang, but they need to be a bit more creative about it. I think they should go back and watch Jeff Bridges' performance in "Starman" (1984) to see how the "Stranger In A Strange Land" bit is REALLY done!

Martin Gray said...

Chris Wood really is a joy as Mon, so funny yet not an idiot.

J'onn was needlessly cruel to Megane, she isn't like the others - or is that his new White Martian-ness coming through?

I wish shows wouldn't name the Surprise Guest Star at the top of the episode. And never mind the Stupid Ball, is it not suspicious that Apparent Jeremiah could just show up and Kara and Mon are unguarded? Are there not even cameras to expose him? I'm behind US viewers, maybe it's all been explained by now, but I'd not be surprised to find he's the Cyborg Superman playing Kara.

Jimmy'a Guardian voice is stupider than Bale's Batman, and that's saying something.

Anj said...

Interesting thought about Jeremiah Mart. He did come and go pretty quickly.

Wonder if he was Cyborg Superman v1 who broke free of Cadmus.