“What are you to my daughter?” Cadmus’ Doctor, a.k.a. Lillian Luthor, demands of Kara Zor-El in this week’s Supergirl. “I’m a friend,” poor, imprisoned Kara responds, only for Lillian to scoff, “I’ve heard that before.” As the title implies, we’re delving into the darkest places in this week’s episode—and that dark place seems to be trust, or rather, the absence of it. National City fears the Guardian after a copycat murders the criminals he’s supposed to bring to justice; J’onn J’onzz learns that he and M’gann M’orzz don’t share the same past; Alex can’t just be Maggie’s friend; and Kara comes face to face with Cadmus and its secret inhabitants.
Spoilers for Supergirl 2×07 “The Darkest Places.”
Supergirl is playing around with structure more, as this episode opens on the formula of “show a mini-cliffhanger”—here, J’onn seemingly trying to kill Kara—and then rewind back to “24 hours earlier.” The single shot around the table where Kara, Alex, James, and Winn are chattering about the Guardian, interspersed with flashbacks of his vigilanteism, was also very ambitious.
No doubt James is bummed that Kara doesn’t immediately make room for the Guardian—not out of ego, but simply because she thinks he hasn’t earned National City’s trust. For one, he wears a mask and alters his voice, things that Kara has never done. Of course, you can easily make the debate that’s already been made for Superman, that “Kara Danvers”—her glasses, her look, her entire demeanor—is Kara Zor-El’s disguise.
At any rate, James and Winn may have gone overboard on making the Guardian unrecognizable… especially since it makes it that much easier for someone else to dress up in an approximation of his uniform and riddle criminals with bullet holes. This impostor resembles the Guardian enough on grainy security-cam footage that the National City news media is calling for the latter’s arrest, and Snapper Carr is upbraiding James for having confirmation bias when he argues that the Guardian would never kill someone in cold blood: “You’re in the tank for superheroes.”
But the copycat does not share superheroes’ belief in mercy, and his view of doing the right thing is majorly skewed: “I thought we could be allies, but you aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to get justice done,” he tells the Guardian before fleeing the NCPD, led by Maggie, and leaving the Guardian to get arrested. But Winn’s interference—by admitting the truth to a stunned and angry Alex—gets James off the hook, for the moment. Thankfully, Winn is able to use some hacker skillz to track down the copycat: Phillip Karnowsky, ex-Navy SEAL and widower, who’s targeting criminals that he thinks gamed the system after his wife’s murderer went free.
The thing is, I would have loved to see the Guardian and whatever this guy decided his vigilante name should be team up to tackle these gray areas. No, it’s not their right to kill criminals, but that doesn’t make his area of focus any less important. But we had to wrap the plot up in one episode, so Winn and James take down Karnowsky, and the only lasting effect will probably be that they’re more careful about leaving crime scenes before vigilantes come swooping in to smear the Guardian’s name.
Where I did appreciate more plot being laid was in a similar ethical quandary: J’onn discovers that M’gann is a White Martian—not because she told him, but because he’s suffering hand shakes and hallucinations that make him almost open fire on a fellow DEO agent he thinks is part of the race that murdered his wife and children (he sees them, too). She admits to the truth once he tracks her down, ready to skip town, and he forces her to transform into her true self so that he can fight her properly.
And damn, she’s twice his size. I did not realize this until the two of them were face-to-face.
But M’gann pleads with him that she’s not like the other White Martians; she’s the empathetic guard she told him about, who refused a kill order in the internment camps and tried to help the Green Martians escape. Of course, she wasn’t very successful in doing so before she had to flee, to save her own skin, but she means him no harm. J’onn reins himself in enough to capture her at the DEO instead of kill her, and it’s probably a good idea he did—because she reveals that he is slowly transforming into a White Martian thanks to her blood transfusion. So, he could use her help more than ever.
David Harewood pulls double duty this week, both as J’onn, wrestling with his changing genes… and as Hank Henshaw, the real one, who’s been locked up at Cadmus for the past fifteen years. Not only did they save him, but they turned him into a cyborg. Nay, into… Cyborg Superman.
Cyborg Superman has been on Supergirl fans’ radar since the series premiered over a year ago; at the time, fans were expecting that to be Hank Henshaw’s secret identity, instead of the reveal that he was actually J’onn J’onzz inhabiting Hank’s body. Now, and imagine this in Harewood’s wonderful growl: “Hank Henshaw is dead. I’m Cyborg Superman.” And his target is…
You guessed it, Supergirl. That’s how we get back to where we started, with Supergirl at Cadmus’ hideout being chased by Cyborg Superman. Kara probably would have been there at the Guardian crime scene to find out James’ secret identity if she hadn’t gotten distracted. Lured by Mon-El, who was in turn tricked by who he thought was J’onn, Kara meets Doctor Lillian for a second time, but for the first time as their true selves. I really appreciated their back-and-forth about friends and trust, as it gives Lillian some dimension: Superman was supposed to be Lex’s friend, had promised a new world and a new dawn for mankind, “and then he watched as your kinsman infected this country with his propaganda, as his power became unchecked.” When Lex tried to take back his power, she says, Superman convinced everyone that Lex was evil.
This would be bad enough if Lex had been an average Joe, but as a billionaire and public figure, his humiliation and defeat were total. Now, of course, Lillian is leaving out the part about her son being a villain, but she doesn’t see it that way. Now I’m really curious to see how much Lena knows about her mother’s side project with Cadmus. She’s seemed tolerant of Lex but not as protective as Lillian, yet knowing this new information, you have to wonder if her decision to foster a friendship with Supergirl is some sort of rebellion against the family, or a long con.
Supergirl’s curiosity over Lena’s intentions is temporarily overshadowed by the surprise savior who arrives to spring her and Mon-El: Jeremiah Danvers!
Dean Cain is back, at least for a few scenes, as he removes the lead bullet from Mon-El’s leg and sends them on their way. Of course he has to stay at Cadmus so as not to arose suspicion, of course Cadmus’ home base disappears when the DEO and poor Alex return… and I wonder if there’s something more to that. It seemed too convenient that he could just save them without fear of repercussions, that he would bid Kara goodbye saying something along the lines of “I’ve been here for 15 years, I can wait a bit longer.” I would not be surprised if he’s somehow allied with Cadmus, or at least if they know that he’s a powerful tool they can use.
We end the episode on some small movements in the love department. In addition to finding out her dad is definitely alive but at an undisclosed location, Alex has also been wrestling with the fallout of thinking Maggie had feelings for her, using that as encouragement to come out, and then having Maggie let her down gently:
Alex: Initially, I was terrified, but ultimately, I was proud to come out, because it wasn’t just some concept, it was about my feelings for this amazing woman. But now, I don’t feel liberated, or like I am on some great journey. All I feel is pain because you don’t want me.
I loved this. So many coming-out narratives are about pride, but Alex is so scared that she can’t take strength just from being true to herself. After being vulnerable about her botched relationships and never feeling comfortable with another person, Alex showed that she needs the knowledge that someone wants to be with her as the justification for coming out. And now that Maggie has turned her down, Alex is back where she started—worse, really, because not only is she still alone and not in a fulfilling relationship, but now she feels off-center. But then Maggie points out that there are other important relationships that are just as valuable to her:
Maggie: I don’t meet many people that I care about. And I care about you, a lot. You’ve become really important to me, and I hope that one day you and I can be friends. Because I don’t want to imagine my life without you in it.
I’m hoping this means that there’s hope for Maggie/Alex down the road, but regardless, it’s important to see this friendship being rebuilt less on flirtation and more on genuine care for one another. So of course Alex invites her to play pool, because they’re friends.
Then there’s Mon-El. Mon-El, who tells Kara that “there’s something I have to tell you, about Daxam” but of course gets cut off before he can spill. Mon-El, who obliviously asks the two worst possible people—that is, James and Winn—if Kara is seeing anyone. Mon-El, who I am so not interested in as a love interest for Kara. I hope whatever secret he’s hiding is worse than M’gann’s and we can nip this dumb romance in the bud.
One more little cliffhanger answering the question of why Cadmus forced Kara to solar flare so she would be at a human level of strength, and what they want with her blood: Apparently, it’s Cyborg Superman’s key into the Fortress of Solitude. Now, the name seems to be something of a misnomer, however; from my understanding of the comics, Cyborg Superman was able to recreate Superman’s body, albeit made out of metal, hence identifying with the Man of Steel. Unless… unless that’s why he’s at the Fortress of Solitude? Aside from figuring out what Medusa is, of course.
- Did anyone else cringe at J’onn’s happy-go-lucky/possibly flirty dialogue with M’gann before the truth was revealed? “Well, thanks to you and your Martian blood, I’m almost back up to 100 percent.” Ugh, J’onn, stop making this worse. “First you save my life, then you make it better.” J’ONN. STAHP.
- “Why am I strong enough to say no to joining your fantasy football league but not this?” Winn/James superteam 4eva.
- According to Doctor Lillian, Cadmus was the first Greek hero, and he killed monsters—nice naming choice there.
- “I’ve just learned that there is a long-standing mating ritual here where if you like it, then you should have put a ring on it.” There should be entire scenes of Mon-El misinterpreting pop culture.
- I miss CatCo’s Balcony of Feelings. Kara’s apartment seems to have taken over for that setting, but it’s just not the same.
- Next week is the Supergirl/Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow crossover!