Saturday, April 21, 2012
It's hard to believe that we're finally here. "Young Justice" premiered with "Independence Day" on Black Friday, 2010. Finally, on April 21st, 2012, the show's premiere season comes to a close. Twenty-six episodes spread across three separate years. I don't know if this has ever happened before, but it's certainly the longest time I've ever spent watching one season of a television show. But right now, I can think of no better testimony for this series than to point that despite the constant delays in the airing of the series, and even losing some momentum because of it, the show never ceased to be engaging. Sure, in a perfect world, the season would have aired in less than one year, but we do not live in a perfect world. Neither does The Team.
I loved that cold opening. In fact, it almost feels that on any other DC show, Batman would have been so on top of things that they would have stopped Red Arrow, and subdued Vandal Savage. On any other DC show, Batman would have already known that Red Arrow had been compromised as a traitor. Hell, I've seen people demanding to know how Batman missed this after "Usual Suspects" aired last week. Well, Batman might be the world's greatest detective, but he is not omniscient.
The build-up to this episode started as far back as "Independence Day," everything mattered. Every action taken by every character since the pilot has built up to this. Every action had implications and consequences. It was all a slow burn to a boiling pot. Unlike the overrated "Justice League Unlimited" where you were lucky if anything had even short term consequences, and character development was non-existent unless you were named John Stewart or Shayera Hol. What were the long term consequences of the Annihilator armor created for Ares in JLU's horrid "Hawk and Dove" episode? Um, we got a pretty cool Suicide Squad episode where they infiltrated the Watchtower to steal it, and add it to Project Cadmus' arsenal. Quite a lot of build-up and then... Felix Faust took it on a joyride and it got destroyed in an episode that had nothing to do with their Cadmus arc. Not that I much cared for how the Cadmus arc ended... so much great set-up, and then when it got just a touch too nuanced, a convenient bad guy, without the slightest bit of hint or foreshadowing, showed up for them to beat up and no one again questioned whether the League could go rogue because they took down the big gun on the Watchtower (as if that was really the most powerful thing the League had). I, of course, bring all of this up because the acclaimed "Justice League Unlimited" may have attempted a story arc (something its predecessors never tried), but they didn't really succeed at it. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too, which is why nothing really disturbed the precious status quo. Hawkgirl betrays Earth to the Thanagarians (which was a GREAT story, by the way)? Yeah, she takes a sabbatical and comes back to the League, and the only consequences are an "I Hate Hawkgirl" chat room on the internet.
"Young Justice" knew what it was doing from the word go. Yes, there were times when I was frustrated with it, particularly early on, but it was a slow burn. The seeds were being planted. I was wondering how Red Arrow being the traitor was going to work, and in retrospect, boom, it was there since the pilot. There is not a single episode you can take out of the entire season without really losing something. It would be like removing a chapter from a novel, and that's what the first season of "Young Justice" is: an animated novel. While it did take me a while to warm up to some of the characters, hell it took some of the characters a while to warm up to each other, or in some cases warm up to themselves. But, in the end, it all came together beautifully and we got the best DC series since "Batman the Animated Series."
But how does the episode itself stack up? Pretty damn well. It's sidekick against mentor, and some of us discover whether Freud was right. I was wondering how The Team would be able to take on the League and defeat them in a manner that was credible, and they did it... thanks to the Starro Tech taking 0.16 nano-seconds to control the host, long enough for Red Tornado to arrange to save The Team. From there, it's a series of twists and turns, and all those months conducting stealth black-ops missions really would have paid off.
Vandal Savage was in top form here as we learn what his motivation is for all of this. He believes in survival of the fittest, and as the Justice League preserves the status quo, they also slow down the evolution and development of the human race. The truth of the matter is this, he is not wrong. Evolution is come about through conflict. The United States split the atom to end the second world war. The United State went to the moon to beat the the Russians there. With eternal peace, with an eternal status quo, there is no reason to go anywhere. No reason to develop. Vandal Savage has been around for fifty thousand years, he's seen every human accomplishment, and probably had a hand in at least a few. He wants us to become a galactic power, and in a universe where aliens are known to exist, he's not wrong. Weakness can leave one open to invasion (see what I did there?). However none of this makes him the good guy, far from it. What is the price of the strength he wants to give us? Our freedom. But, I think this is a great motivation and plan for Vandal Savage... and much better than the Bond villain with a gimmick from "Justice League" and "Justice League: Doom." The latter especially, where his plan there was to kill off half of the human race, deprive technology to the other half so the survivors would depend on him and make him ruler. I prefer a Vandal Savage who sees the big picture, not one who is short sighted enough to think the plan from "Doom" is a good idea. This guy is the perfect arch-enemy for The Team... an ancient, immortal against young heroes.
Red Arrow? That poor kid. Yes, he may be a clone, he may be biologically eighteen years old, but eighteen is still a kid. He was probably the biggest victim out of anybody. While he was obnoxious and disrespectful at times, he still wanted to be a hero. He still wanted to do the right thing. He couldn't help what he was, what he was programmed to do. On top of all this, he learns that he is not who he thought he was. But he wants to do the right thing, and find the original Speedy. Speaking of whom, that shot where we see the Light clearing out of Cadmus and we see the original Speedy on ice, missing an arm... talk about high octane nightmare fuel. What did the Light do to him.....
... and it really stops to make you think that this is what the Light would have done to Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad in the pilot.
But, this episode is really about The Team, and this was their finest showing to date. They saved the League and handed The Light a real defeat (or did they?). Superboy finally bonded with Superman, and it looks like Superman will finally become the mentor that Superboy needed. Kid Flash and Artemis finally kiss at midnight, and I was even more amused by Zatanna pulling Robin into a kiss.
It's a small moment, but I loved it when Zatanna tried, but failed to remove the helmet of Fate from her father.
I will say that if any member of the Team got the short end of the stick, development wise, this season, it was Aqualad. But, we're now at New Year's. Queen Mera is due in February, and Ocean Master/Prince Orm is still at large, as is Black Manta. I suspect Aqualad's real shining moments are yet to come.
I suspected that the Light would survive this season as an organization, and I'm glad they did. Things should get really interesting now that the League and The Team know that the Light exists. But even worse, six of the League members are missing sixteen hours while under Savage's control. What did they do? Whatever it was, even in defeat, the Light accomplished something and I suspect the consequences will be dire... because in all great stories, actions have consequences.
Bring on the invasion! Bring on Phase Two.