If there’s one thing I’ll never really understand about Kryptonians it’s their affection for ancient Greek ideas and phrases. Myriad and Medusa, The Republic and Apollonian vs. Dionysian constructs permeate the existence of this alien culture in ways that seem, well, alien.
But let’s be honest, the ancient Greeks were kind of awesome. It’s gods and goddesses, monsters and heroes, allegory and metaphor all the way down. So if you’re searching for a super cool name for your evil organization, you could do worse than Cadmus. Despite her general evilness, Lily Luthor is right. Cadmus is considered the first hero of ancient Greece. He founded the city of Thebes. He fought monsters.
Only the story isn’t that simple. Cadmus’s failures far outweigh his victories. He abandons his questing, brings bad luck and curses down upon his family, and is ultimately forced to abandon the city he settled. But nothing in the mythic world of the Greeks is ever straightforward. There are always lessons about hubris and fate. And so it is with Cadmus. Cadmus slays a dragon favored by the gods and loses everything because he went against the will of the gods. Cadmus remarks—a bit too loudly—that if the gods so favor that serpent he would like to live such a life himself. And because this is ancient Greece, and no television critics were around yet to tell them how terribly obvious this plot twist would be, the gods turn Cadmus into a serpent.
You can’t fight monsters without experiencing some kind of change and revealing the ugly parts of your personality. Because if we learn one thing from going to “The Darkest Place” it’s this: It’s hard to fight monsters without becoming one yourself. Here’s a list of some of our favorite Supergirl characters that spent last night’s episode fighting just this battle.
1. James (and a little bit Winn) Take a Look in the Mirror
Kara’s quick-and-dirty theory that vigilantes are nuts may not be the most sensitive point of view she’s ever taken—I mean come on Supergirl, have you never heard of a tragic backstory?—but that doesn’t make her wrong for being suspicious of Guardian.
It’s hard to trust a vigilante, especially one hiding behind a mask. It may seem like an unfair judgment, but humans are hardwired this way. Someone hides his or her identity from the public, and we’re a lot more prone to think “dangerous psychopath” than “social justice reformer.” And maybe that’s because for every Guardian out in the world cleaning up the streets there’s a Phillip Karnowsky terrorizing them. A Phillip Karnowsky whose tempting argument of “well, you should” is not completely unappealing. If you’re willing to track down and capture the bad guys, why not make sure that our very complicated and fairly unenviable legal system doesn’t let those same criminals go free?
It’s a common dividing live between the “heroic” vigilantes (Guardian, Batman, Daredevil) and their antihero counterparts (Electra, Punisher, early Green Arrow). So how James and Winn react to the temptation and step over the line from judge and jury to judge, jury and executioner is important. When you’re already playing at the vigilante game, you’re certainly at greater risk for being pushed over the edge yourself.
2. Hank Henshaw, No, That Hank Henshaw
So this one’s a bit on the nose, and quite frankly requires you to see things from the Cadmus worldview. The revelation that Hank Henshaw is still alive is nothing short of shocking. The fact that he’s been transformed into Cyborg Superman—but, you know, not really, because he looks nothing like Superman—is perplexing. Still he’s Cadmus in miniature: His quest to fight the monsters has led to this transformation, a transformation from human to monster—even if we all know he was already a monster inside.
3. Dean Cain—At Least in Theory
Dean Cain! Dean Cain is back y’all! And yes, I know his character’s name is Jeremiah Danvers, but he’ll always be Dean Cain to me. Glossing over exactly where he’s been as he waltzes right in when Kara and Mon-El have no way out is one thing. Convincing me that he’s been sneaking around Cadmus in survival mode for anything short of a few hours is laughable. Being able to hide for very long in high tech bad guy facilities or disappearing along with those bad guys is pretty suspicious. Given what we’ve seen of Hank Henshaw, I wouldn’t doubt that Danvers is being experimented on as well. Only time, and multiple guest appearances, will tell if he’s still the man he was when the Danvers girls were little. I’m going to guess the answer is no.
4. J’onn J’onzz: The Green Martian Formerly Known as Hank… Also Formerly Known as a Green Martian
If there’s one thing J’onn J’onzz hates in this universe, one thing he considers to be irredeemably evil, it’s white Martians. Evolutionarily speaking, they certainly drew the short end of the genetic stick. While green Martians are regal looking humanoids, white Martians look like rejected concept designs for the fleas in Raid commercials. With a firm start in the monstrous looks department, and a strong tendency towards Nazi concentration camps and genocide, it’s pretty easy to see why trusting M’gann may be near impossible for him.
Except M’gann is one of the good guys. She tried to rescue green Martians and nearly got killed for it, before abandoning her white Martian heritage and saving J’onn’s life, even though she knew it would result in him hating her. Still, J’onn threatens her, fights her, and locks her up. It may be M’gann’s blood turning the Martian Manhunter into a giant flea, but becoming a monster? He’s doing that pretty well all on his own.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based writer and director, and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website or follow her on Twitter.