NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Supergirl” are present in this review
Supergirl put James’ new Guardian vigilante identity front and center this week, after James first suited up to help do battle with Parasite in the previous episode. “The Darkest Place” immediately sent James through the wringer by having Guardian framed for murdering criminals, though that was sadly the most tedious plot in a somewhat shaky episode overall, one that once again has Supergirl taking a nasty tumble from its excellent start to Season Two.
Making James into this universe’s version of Guardian was definitely a bold move, but it’s one that also reeks a bit of the showrunners still not having a great idea of how to effectively capitalize on James’ character on this show yet. Being Guardian definitely gives James a way to stay closely connected to Kara’s heroic dealings as Supergirl, but the fundamental lack of logic behind James becoming any kind of competent superhero keeps dragging this plot down at every turn.
Another big problem is that the evidence against James in this episode is incredibly flimsy, being one poorly-lit video that is obviously the work of two separate people, as James hangs a criminal to leave for the police, while someone else comes from the opposite angle to shoot him dead. Really? Even Snapper Carr fell for that? Granted, it wasn’t an intentional frame job, but there still isn’t nearly evidence to suspect that Guardian should be any kind of issue for National City, especially in a universe where Batman is supposed to exist off-screen, something we got another painful tease of when Kara brings up her cousin having worked with a masked vigilante that has a lot of gadgets around the start of the episode.
Another major problem with this episode is that the villain-of-the-week is really lame, and has the unfortunate drawback of being featured immediately after last week’s excellent Arrow episode, which brought DC anti-hero, Vigilante exceptionally into The CW’s main shared DC Television Universe. The criminal-slaughtering vigilante is just a poor man’s Vigilante who is killing criminals because his wife was murdered, yet the killer went free on a technicality, and then the guy somehow responds by building an impossible, gatling gun-equipped super-suit to punish criminals with. This villain idea has got a lot of holes in it, and even if the guy is a former Navy Seal, that really doesn’t help to explain the leap from A to B. It’s the problem with James times ten, and James isn’t even a Navy Seal!
Fortunately, a few other storylines fared better this week, especially since Cadmus is finally slowly on the path to becoming better antagonists. Kara being captured and having to give some blood to avoid Mon-El being killed was nicely tense, as was the proper revelation that the head of Cadmus is Lillian Luthor, mother of Lena and Lex Luthor, which DC fans no doubt already put together, after the scene with Lena a couple of weeks ago. We even get to see Mon-El’s own Daxamite-themed weakness from DC lore, a severe vulnerability to lead, put on display as a means of torture until Kara complies, with bullets being a huge hazard to Mon-El, for obvious reasons. Fortunately, Jeremiah comes in to bail out Kara and Mon-El, even if this felt pretty plot-convenient.
A big reason why the Cadmus storyline took some great strides forward this week is because we finally got to revisit the Jeremiah/Hank Henshaw conflict. Just as Jeremiah was revealed to be surviving within Cadmus, as speculated, the real Hank Henshaw also came back onto the scene, being the one who first subdues Kara, with Cadmus having already fit Hank with cybernetic implants that allow him to go toe-to-toe with a Kryptonian. Hank already declaring himself to be Cyborg Superman, his original super-villain identity from DC Comics lore, feels a bit premature, but the episode ending with Hank using Kara’s blood to get access to the Fortress of Solitude’s data banks is a fairly compelling tease for next week.
Alex and J’onn (I guess I should just call him J’onn now, since the real Hank is back on the series), also get their own storylines this week, though both of them felt largely overshadowed and somewhat half-baked. Alex having to navigate her way back to friendship with Maggie had some decent moments, but the drama with Alex just never truly felt like it fully registered. Alex seems too mature to shut out Maggie the way she did, even if coming out is something that must have made her very vulnerable. Truth be told, J’onn’s storyline at least made a bit more sense, but J’onn abruptly turning on M’Gann and immediately trying to kill her once he learns the truth about M’Gann being a White Martian felt pretty excessive. Is he not even going to hear her side, after she saved his life especially? Even throwing M’Gann in jail at the DEO feels rushed and overly personal. What charge is she being held on, exactly? Didn’t the DEO learn this lesson already from improperly imprisoning Maxwell Lord last season?
“The Darkest Place” is a frustratingly uneven episode of Supergirl, since great steps were taken in developing the Cadmus plot, but it really seems like James becoming Guardian just isn’t working for now. Alex and J’onn also exhibited questionable behaviour this week, even considering their understandable personal stakes, though the idea of J’onn becoming a White Martian is an interesting one, even if it means little when M’Gann clearly demonstrated that he can still easily pretend to be a Green Martian. I do hope that the ongoing drama with Alex and J’onn actually goes somewhere worthwhile though, even if I’m also relieved to see that Supergirl doesn’t seem to be trying to sidestep Alex coming out as a lesbian, despite her still not ending up with Maggie at this point. James is yet again the character most in need of attention by the writers however. If he can’t find a more compelling reason to be a hero, he should leave the hero work to the real professionals.
- Cadmus stakes nicely raised
- The real Hank Henshaw shows himself again
- Alex and Maggie managing to become friends again
- James' Guardian issues are tedious and illogical
- Vigilante villain is shallow and uninteresting
- J'onn's heavy-handed response to M'Gann