Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E07 - 'The Darkest Place'

In a world where we already know also includes Superman, it is actually starting to feel a little strange that it would actually be Supergirl who is the first to encounter some of her cousin's most notable villains. Since the second season began, we have already had Metallo and Parasite – both of whom have presented challenges to the Man of Steel, in the past. And, with this episode, the series also gives us its own take on the Cyborg Superman – who, as many in the audience already suspected, turned out to be the original Hank Henshaw.

Or course, while it may have been a development that many in the audience were already suspecting, that doesn't mean that the actual reveal wasn't also very entertaining. Finding himself playing two roles on the series, now (as both an iconic DC hero and villain), David Harewood does a fantastic job with portraying the genuine sense of outrage that this man would feel at seeing his work at the DEO be 'corrupted' by alien influence. Also, the very brief, though very tense, physical confrontation between Supergirl and Henshaw is fantastic.

Honestly, the only real weak-point in his appearance, for me, was the moment in which he actually referred to himself as 'Cyborg Superman' – and, the reason for that is because it just didn't make very much sense. From what I understand, the 'Cyborg Superman' of the comics was introduced as an impersonator who had attempted to steal the real Superman's identity, during that period in the early 90's when it seemed as though he had been killed by Doomsday. When the real Superman returned, it was revealed that this impostor was actually a cyborg – and, he went on to become something of a recurring villain.

The point is, it actually made sense for him to start referring to himself as 'Cyborg Superman', in the comics – but, here, we have none of that history, so it feels like the name was just tossed out there so that the audience would know who this new character was supposed to be. It's only a single line of dialogue, of course – but, it seems to display a lack of care, on the writer's part, that I just found a little frustrating. Also, it came across as a little cheesy.

Of course, the catalyst for all of this was the incredibly random kidnapping of Mon-El which ended the previous episode – and, the mystery of what Cadmus truly has planned. This, unfortunately, is once again where the episode began to falter, for me. While it is definitely great that we have finally received a bit of insight into who the mysterious leader of Cadmus actually is (Lillian Luthor – the mother of Lex, and adopted mother of Lena). The revelation does add an interesting personal quality to this season's central conflict, of course (especially considering the emphasis that has already been placed on the friendship developing betwen Kara and Lena) – and, Brenda Strong does an impressive job with a monologue which goes some toward explaining Lillian's reasoning. Despite all of that, though, I still can't help but find myself a bit underwhelmed by everything involving Cadmus.

Here, for example, Cadmus's ultimate plan is to use Mon-El as bait to lure Supergirl into a rather obvious trap – all so that they can black-mail her into burning herself out (by forcing her to overuse her heat vision, just as she did in an episode last season), so that they can take some of her blood. It's an effective enough plan on paper, of course. But, with each step, it began to feel as though Cadmus were only able to succeed due to Supergirl's own foolishness. A prime example of this would have to be the fact that Cadmus actually let Supergirl out of her cell (one made from Thanagarian Nth-metal, in a fun connection to the broader universe), so that she could use the helmet meant to absorb the energy from her heat vision – and, despite being given a clear advantage, she still goes along with their plans.

Honestly, it was as though Kara didn't even consider the possibility that Cadmus might not keep their word, after she had given them what they wanted. I can understand, and accept, that naive optimism is clearly intended as something of a deliberate character flaw for Supergirl – but, I think the writer's need to understand that if they overplay their hand, on this point, they just end up with a character who starts to look almost irredeemably foolish. Even something as simple as staging the scene so that they handed her the helmet through the bars of her cell, rather than setting her loose, would have been an improvement.

Along with this central plot, the episode also spent time exploring a variety of sub-plots. First, we had James Olsens's continuing adventures as 'Guardian' – where, it seems, he has found himself locked of a fairly classic ideological battle, when the actions of another new vigilante result in him being accused of murder. It was interesting enough, sure – and, I'm still glad that James Olsen is finally being given something worthwhile to do (even if I am still a little uncertain as to why turning him into another costumed hero was the only thing the writers could come up with). But, at this point, it still just feels like a bit of a distraction from more important story-lines.

On a more interesting note, we also had J'onn J'onzz finally learning M'gann's secret, as he finds himself suffering strange side-effects from the previous episode's blood transfusion. There was actually a very interesting parallel in the level of outright hatred displayed by both J'onn J'onzz and Hank Henshaw, in this episode, which I am certain must have been deliberate. Also, that brief fight scene between J'onn and M'gann, each in their true forms, made for a very impressive visual display of CGI work.

The season's seventh episode may have had its issues but, overall, it was still able to provide some interesting development on a variety of plot-lines. James and Winn, and their adventures as vigilantes, continues to be a strange weak-point, if only because it feels so far removed from everything else currently taking place – but, I would genuinely love to see this whole plot-line evolve into something interesting and important. J'onn's current struggle, as it seems as though his DNA is being overwritten by that of a White Martian, is very interesting – and, seems set to lead to some genuinely compelling drama. Also, Hank Henshaw, as the Cyborg Superman, seems to have the potential to finally becoming the compelling, and genuinely threatening, villain that this series needs.

I'll just have to hope that Supergirl can find a way to make the most of all of this potential, throughout the rest of the season.

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