Over 12 years since her last flight on television, Darna has finally returned to primetime with a modern retelling of the origin of the Mars Ravelo character, this time portrayed two actresses from different generations.
In the pilot episode of “Mars Ravelo’s Darna,” Jane de Leon as Narda becomes the unwilling apprentice of her mother, Iza Calzado’s Leonor, oblivious to the responsibility ahead of her.
With rigorous lessons in combat, Narda assumes she is merely being trained for safety and self-defense, and to help protect her younger sibling, Ding (Zaijian Jaranilla).
Leonor’s real purpose becomes clear to Narda when she sees firsthand her mother’s transformation from a superpowered being, Darna, back to her human form. Just moments prior, she saw Darna in the news battling extraterrestrial threats.
Growing up, both Narda and Ding knew of Darna and her origin of Planet Marte, thanks what they thought was a fictitious comicbook written and drawn by their father (Joem Bascon).
In reality, the pages were drawn based on Leonor’s actual account of surviving her nemesis in Marte, who was after the stone that transforms her into Darna, and crash-landing on Earth where she decided to conceal her identity and start anew.
For years, Leonor managed to hide the powerful stone as its designated protector after being declared Marte’s strongest warrior. She also became a mother, and later a dutiful medical officer.
Confronted about her long-kept secret, Leonor explains to Narda that she is the chosen inheritor of the stone. In Narda’s infancy, the alien object glowed when it touched her, making it clear to both Leonor and Narda’s father that the child is its future protector.
Now that invaders from Marte have tracked down the stone, Leonor tells Narda that she must muster both strength and will, as her mother’s mission will soon be hers. Narda, however, remains doubtful of her capabilities and does not readily accept being the “chosen one.”
The maiden episode also showed a glimpse of a mysterious woman (Janella Salvador) who appears to get poisoned from a splinter from a creature of Marte. The fragment fell from the sky after Leonor, in her Darna form, successfully incapacitated the hostile alien.
Brian (Joshua Garcia) was likewise introduced as one of Narda’s schoolmates, whom she helps against bullies. That fight, however, only resulted in her also getting hurt — a lesson about knowing one’s own strength and those of her enemies, as reminded to her by her mother.
The action-packed pilot generated excitement among viewers on Monday, making #Darna the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the Philippines and worldwide. The anticipation also translated to a mammoth audience on Kapamilya Online Live, where it drew 296,334 peak concurrent live viewers.
Darna’s TV return came three years after de Leon was introduced as the lead actress in the ABS-CBN series, which hurdled production delays primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Chito S. Roño with Avel Sunpongco and Benedict Mique, “Mars Ravelo’s Darna” airs weeknights on TV5, A2Z, Kapamilya Channel, CineMo, Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC, and TFC.
Sources: ABS CBN News