TV Review: Supergirl S2E7 The Darkest Place Retreads Old Plot Points
Lots of things happen in Supergirl Season 2, Episode 7 “The Darkest Place“, which earns its title as director Glen Winter loves shooting in crowded corridors and using almost hallucinogenic filters in his cinematography. Even if some of the fight scenes have that herky, jerky Arrow Season 1 feel (See the Martian on Martian fight when clearly they are trying to save money.), Supergirl‘s weakness isn’t its budget. It’s the way Robert Rovner and Paula Yoo structure the plot going from point to point and rarely giving characters time to breathe or reflect. This episode is about Mon-El and Supergirl being captured and experimented on by Cadmus while Guardian is framed as a killer, and Martian Manhunter deals with hallucinations thanks to the White Martian blood infusion he got from Miss Martian. Like most of Supergirl Season 2, “The Darkest Place” hits some strong character beats, and Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist continue to give strong performances as Alex Danvers and Supergirl. However, the main plot is a fast forwarded retread of the solar flare episode in Season 1 where Supergirl loses her powers, and the B-plot is like the first half of Daredevil Season 2 with far less gravitas.
The filming style for the Cadmus secret base is pretty nifty as Glen Winter makes it look the DEO’s evil twin, and Cyborg Superman (The real Hank Henshaw, who is still played by David Harewood.) straight up says it’s the spiritual successor to the DEO with its alien-hunting and experimentation. There are lots of quick cuts and dark camera shutters in an eerie homage to X-Files as Supergirl goes in alone to the DEO base to rescue Mon-El, who was taken captive at the end of last episode. But then all the interesting visuals and brutal hand to hand combat between Kara and Cyborg Superman gets squandered for yet another depowering plotline that only exists so Dr. Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong is still disturbing as hell.) can have Supergirl’s blood to advance the season-long mystery plot. The loss of her power also allows Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) to show up for two seconds, be a big damn hero, and then leave. The response to Jeremiah showing is actually more powerful than his appearance because Kara immediately tells Alex about it showing that they trust each other as sisters. But Alex knows James is Guardian, and Kara doesn’t so maybe not…
Speaking of Guardian, he and his techie sidekick Winn get the first villain in their rogues gallery, a chain gun wielding, former Navy Seal with a dead wife that is one skull logo away from getting a cease and desist from Marvel. Victor Zink Jr. plays the killer vigilante Phillip Karnowsky without an ounce of sympathy or personality because he’s mainly a prop to have the whole “mask or no mask” debate and give Guardian the requisite “hated and feared” step in his superhero journey. Luckily, Robert Rovner and Paula Yoo don’t have Snapper Carr channel his inner J. Jonah Jameson, but Ian Gomez keeps an even keel on his performance exposing James Olsen’s personal bias towards superheroes in his one scene in the episode.
The Guardian subplot is really paint by numbers with the exception of Alex Danvers easily finding out about James’ secret identity because he and Winn are superhero noobs. (Her “interrogation” of Winn is hilarious.) James gives sanctimonious lectures about not killing to Karnowsky in a terribly mixed growly voice, and Karnowsky has the weak gimmick of only killing criminals, who got early parole or off on technicalities. The bulky mask continues to cover up Mehcad Brooks’ natural charisma, and it’s also hard to have any idea of what he’s saying. The fight between Karnowsky has way too many cuts to probably cover up some of the costuming and effects and is just plain boring as Alex and Maggie Sawyer come in and arrest him. It’s kind of sad that Rovner and Yoo decide to make Guardian a pastiche of Batman, Daredevil, and Green Arrow instead of focusing on how James Olsen transforms beneath the mask, but that is what his role feels like in “The Darkest Place”
The third major plot in “The Darkest Place” is Martian Manhunter’s sickness and hallucinations of his dead daughters and White Martians. Glen Winters creates a nice visual continuity between his cluttered mindspace and the claustrophobic halls of the Cadmus base before Rovner and Yoo use the sickness plotline to make him a creature of total vengeance. After finding out that Miss Martian is a White Martian through some blood tests, Martian Manhunter spends the rest of his storyline whaling on her. The fight culminates in an obscured CGI Martian beatdown with Martian Manhunter still under the effect of the plague. And the plague raises a question. Why would Miss Martian give him a blood transfusion when she knew that it would transform Martian Manhunter into a White Martian? The underpinnings of this are left on the backburner for fisticuffs though.
Although filled with some excellent individual character scenes, like Alex going full vulnerable with Maggie in response to her or Mon-El admitting his fear of death while being captured by Cadmus, the overarching plots of “The Darkest Place” feel like a rerun of previous episodes of Supergirl and other superhero TV shows. This and the continuing trainwreck of the James Olsen as Guardian makes this episode the weakest of a stellar second season. Also, the writers tease at a romance between Mon-El and Kara, which is a little disgusting, considering how he has treated and talked about women in previous episodes. However, Cyborg Superman has a chance at being a super cool and twisted villain, especially as David Harewood gets to go all Angel/Angelus and showcase his villainous acting.
Overall Rating: 7.0