“Darkest” is true to its title as it focuses on Kaldur’ahm and his attempt to earn the full trust of the Light by attacking his former team in their home, Mount Justice. This probably would have been a better episode than “Satisfaction” to serve as the mid-season premiere, because it definitely delivers a hell of a bang.
Right before Young Justice: Invasion took its summer break, we all learned that Kaldur-ahm, formerly Aqualad, was actually working undercover for the team to infiltrate the Light. Artemis’ death at his hands had been faked, and she was joining him undercover with a false identity. This episode picks up from there with Kaldur’s father requiring one more mission of him to prove his loyalty to the Light and their mysterious partners. It’s a mission that serves as his biggest betrayal of his former friends so far and shows just how far he and Nightwing are having to go to carry out their plan.
If I had to pick a favorite character, I would most likely choose Kaldur. Coming in a close second would be Artemis. So it goes without saying that “Darkness” holds a lot of appeal for me.
What probably makes Kaldur’s role as an undercover operative so interesting is just how good he seems to be at it. Based on the first season, Kaldur would’ve been one of the least likely characters to imagine in such a situation, but the show has really sold it well. And as Wally West justifiably points out in this episode, Kaldur may be selling it too well. Wally voices some really legitimate concerns after just how far Kaldur goes here. Even if Kaldur’s defection is fake, his reasons for it are not. Tula, the love of his life, did die. He was lied to about the true identity of his father. These two things did have a real impact on him. So how much of Kaldur’s anger and resentment is only an act? How much of the relationship he’s building with Black Manta is only for the mission? I don’t believe Kaldur is working as a triple agent, but in the end, I don’t think the situation will be as clear as Nightwing planned for it to be.
Interestingly, this episode throws a bit of the spotlight Mal Duncan’s way as well. Despite not being one of the colorful heroes, I’ve liked Mal in this season. His "everyman" status on the team, working as kind of their operations man, has made him stand out. This episode picks up on something that was hinted at earlier in the season. Bumblebee, Mal’s high school sweetheart, doesn’t have much time for him anymore. It’s a harsh truth that is presented in a way he can’t just ignore this time.
It’s also presented in a way that makes us sympathize with Mal more than Bumblebee, so I expect major things are to come for Mal, likely taking the form of him becoming a superhero as well. For those who don’t know, Mal Duncan was actually one of DC Comics’ earliest black superheroes. That said, he’s been around for 40 years while barely being around at all. He was never exactly a well utilized character. What that means is the character is just one big ball of unrealized potential, and Young Justice: Invasion will very likely be the best the character’s ever gotten it. I’m very interested to see how the show develops him and which of his various hero identities he ultimately goes with.
It’s fun to see the Terror Twins again, who appear as a part of Kaldur’s strike team. It’s a nice bit of continuity from the first season where Superboy and Miss Martian posed as them to infiltrate Belle Reve. What I really appreciate is the attention to detail in their character designs, though. These are now the adult Terror Twins, and they look it.
My one disappoint with “Darkest” is the lack of attention paid to Artemis in her new role as Tigress. Tigress is actually the character’s regular identity in comics, where she has generally been a villain rather than any kind of hero. The show’s incarnation of her is a truly different take on the character, but it’s a really nice touch that they use Tigress as her undercover identity. She is at Kaldur’s side and has a sweet fight against Nightwing. But we don’t get much of substance for her. This isn’t a huge disappointment, though. I have no doubts we’ll get an episode focused on her soon enough.
The big event of “Darkest” is truly shocking. While this kind of thing happens way too often in comics, you usually see shows reserve it for big finale moments. We aren’t even quite halfway through the season yet and something like this happens, which is a surprise, and it really amps up the excitement level for the season as a whole.
“Darkest” is a hell of an episode with big action and big developments. The cliffhanger is a bit weak for comic fans, given that they probably already know exactly who the mysterious partners are, especially if they are Blue Beetle fans. However, Kaldur’s assault on Mount Justice really ups the stakes for the season; putting into serious question whether Nightwing’s secret plan against the Light is the ace up his sleeve or something that has now spun out of his control.