Much has been made of the "dark" storylines told in the DCEU, portraying a steelier Man of Steel and a darker Dark Knight than fans are used to. Widespread criticism of said approach led to concerted efforts from Warner Bros. to switch things up, lightening the tone in subsequent #DC movies such as Wonder Woman and the upcoming Nightwing. However, the Season 3 premiere of Supergirl proved that darker character arcs shouldn't be avoided just for the sake of it. If handled right, morality tales of this nature capture the essence of these heroes in a way that more straight-laced storytelling never could.
'These Are The Beginning Of The Dark Days...'
As her friends point out early this week, Kara Danvers is no longer "Little Miss Sunshine," yet it's easy to see why. After all, six months may have passed since Supergirl sent Mon-El away in a space pod, but the pain of this separation can't be sent away so quickly. Kara chose to make this sacrifice, something that Superman claims he himself could have never done. It's no surprise then that guilt weighs down heavily on Supergirl's super-strong shoulders.
Now that Mon-El is no longer in her life, Kara has become antisocial and depressed, throwing herself into super-heroics to avoid dealing with the pain of her actions. Although fans have already been introduced to a "dark" version of our Kryptonian hero before, this was previously motivated by external forces, most noticeably in the Season 1 episode "Falling" where Supergirl was exposed to Red Kryptonite. The difference here is that Kara's negative coping strategies can't be cured through scientific or magical means, and this is precisely why Supergirl's behavior this season is so much more distressing to see. The Girl of Steel may be impervious to harm, but her heart is not.
In the wrong hands, this disconnect could have been somewhat contrived or downright irritating for fans who are used to seeing Supergirl in a positive light. Luckily, #MelissaBenoist reminds us once again here how she's become the leading lady of The CW, impressing with a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of a girl suffering from heartache and loss — one who just so happens to hail from an alien world.
While her friends reach out to Kara in different ways, it's Alex who finally gets under Supergirl's steely skin and makes some sort of breakthrough. As her adoptive sister, Alex is the only one who can call out Kara on her "pity party" without fear of pushing our hero away further, even if it seems harsh at the time. When Alex asks who Kara is right now, the pain in her response is telling:
"Kara Danvers sucks right now. Supergirl is great, Supergirl saved the world, so if I could choose to be her, why would I choose to be that sad girl?... I don't like that girl, Alex."
Unlike the rest of us, Supergirl chose her own identity after arriving on Earth, so it makes perfect sense that she would want to escape that life in the wake of her tragedy. By distancing herself from humanity itself, Kara hopes to also retreat from the painful emotions that such humanity continues to inevitably bring:
"That's what humans do and I'm better than that. I will always make the decision I made. I am not a human. I tried to be, but I'm not. Kara Danvers was a mistake."
However, just when it looks like Kara is lost to us forever, Alex drops a bombshell on her sister, reminding Supergirl that she'd be almost nothing without her humanity:
"Kara Danvers is my favorite person. She saved me more times than Supergirl ever could... so just think about that while you're trying to get rid of her."
Although Kara doesn't react visibly in the moment, it's clear that Alex's words have hit her hard, beginning a journey of recovery that continues on the rooftop with Han Henshaw and ends at the alien dive bar, reunited with her friends.
While some of us may retreat from life or wish we were someone else when the going gets too tough, Supergirl can literally stop being Kara Danvers, which is what makes her eventual decision to rejoin humanity that much more powerful. Yes, this development may have felt somewhat rushed, but we doubt that the ramifications of Mon-El's departure will be ignored now for the rest of Season 3. In fact, it's likely that this premiere has helped develop a far more nuanced take on Supergirl's character, one that will embrace the darkness alongside Kara's innate propensity for light.
Now that the success of Wonder Woman has shifted the DCEU in a similar direction, let's just hope that Warner Bros. will draw inspiration from #Supergirl and portray more rounded heroes who battle the forces of darkness internally as well as externally.
Was Supergirl too dark in the Season 3 premiere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!