“Hank Henshaw is dead. I’m … Cyborg/Superman.” That’s not a line from a decades old comic book about the death and rebirth of one Superman. It’s from tonight’s very special episode of Supergirl, “The Darkest Place.” It comes earlier than expected too as Supergirl/Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) loses a fight against the real Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), the anti-alien, xenophobic head of the DEO who presumably lost his life a decade and a half earlier, only to be replaced by the pro-alien Martian Manhunter in human disguise. This Henshaw hates aliens with the fire of a thousand dying suns. Thanks to Project Cadmus, a super-secret, privately funded organization, he has the cybernetic enhancements necessary to defeat Supergirl.
And when Supergirl goes down, she doesn’t get up. Sidestepping the two- or three-fight formula typical of Supergirl and other superhero shows, Supergirl doesn’t come back by episode’s end to exact a measure of revenge and/or justice on her oppressor. She escapes all right, but only through the grace of Supergirl’s able script writers and the timely intervention of Supergirl’s adopted father, Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain, grateful for the two minutes of screen time). Without word or explanation, he drops into Project Cadmus’ supposedly secure facility, frees Supergirl and Mon-El (Chris Wood), the super-powered Daxamite who’s managed to get himself into all sorts of trouble in just a handful of episodes, and disappears into the night.
The mystery of Jeremiah’s resurrection, his connection to Project Cadmus, and how he freed Supergirl and Mon-El will remain just that, a mystery for at least one more week. In the meantime, Supergirl has other problems on her mind, like how to take down Cyborg/Superman, what to do about Mon-El’s growing romantic attachment, and whether she’s shown her sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), ace DEO (Department of Extra-Normal Operations), enough love and support when Alex finally decided to come out to her. Alex has issues of her own, of course, like what to do with Maggie “Let’s be friends” Sawyer (Floriana Lima), the object of Alex’s romantic infatuation and the primary reason why Alex went on a soul-searching mission in the first place.
The push-pull of the Alex-Maggie relationship will resolve itself eventually. So will Supergirl’s romantic life (permanent singledom isn’t a viable, longterm option), even if her relationship with James “Call Me the Guardian’ Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) has been pushed onto the back burner while he fights crime in a low-rent Robo-Cop costume with Winn’s (Jeremy Jordan) tech help. Another push-pull relationship, the Henshaw-as-the-Martian-Manhunter’s connection with M’gann M’orzz (Sharon Leal), another Martian, quickly devolves into a near fight to the death and all because M’gann decided to give blood to save Henshaw’s life. Unlike Henshaw, she’s not a Green Martian (a peaceful, benevolent, now extinct race), but a White Martina (a warring, genocidal race). Not surprisingly Henshaw doesn’t take the news well, not when he accurately blames White Martians for the deaths of his family and his race.
By the end of episode 7, “The Darkest Place,” Henshaw hasn’t moved to the “forgive and forget” stage; he’s imprisoned the Martian who saved his life at the DEO without the benefit of legal representation or judicial proceeding, essentially promising M’gann life in prison without the possibility of parole. Whether he’ll relent or not (chances are, he will, also eventually, and only when push comes to shove and he needs M’gann to give him another life-saving hand), he has to contend with an unexpected side of the blood transfusion: He’s being turned into the very thing he hates: A White Martian and it doesn’t look revocable (it’s a metaphor, in case you’re wondering, for our difficult socio-cultural, political times). At least he won’t be the last Green Martian standing if the change does, in fact, take hold permanently.
Despite the shortage of Supergirl kicking rear this episode, the final scene offers a brief taste of things to come: the real Henshaw has made his way to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic (as usual, Superman remains MIA where Supergirl is mostly concerned), gaining access to the Fortress’ central computer thanks to a vial of Supergirl’s blood – collected by the head of Project Cadmus, Lilian Luthor (Brenda Strong)– during a moment of physical weakness (Supergirl’s, not Luthor’s). Luthor forces Supergirl to “solar flare,” temporarily burn out her powers in exchange for saving Mon-El’s life. Supergirl later wonders why Cadmus wanted her blood, but it’s not a thought that lasts long, not when there’s a friends and family pizza party to enjoy.