The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Auld Acquaintance


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.

13 comments:

  1. Nice review as always, Greg.

    JL(U) had it's moments to be sure, but I always had the impressions the creators could never decide what they actually wanted the show to be. It adopted a very "lets throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach, which worked well for them sometimes but other times... not so much.

    In contrast, YJ clearly has a clear guiding vision. Everything's part a cohesive whole. You can tell Weisman and Vietti went into this knowing exactly what kinda show they wanted to make.

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    1. I don't want people to get the impression that I didn't like JL(U). I did, it was very good. But I don't think it deserves to be on the pedestal it has been placed on.

      ***In contrast, YJ clearly has a clear guiding vision. Everything's part a cohesive whole. You can tell Weisman and Vietti went into this knowing exactly what kinda show they wanted to make.***

      That's how I like my TV.

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  2. I watched Fireworks again not too long ago, and curiously Vandal Savage wanted Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash killed after they were cloned. So why did he keep the original Roy alive? Is this version of him one of Vandal Savage's descendents?

    I love Vandal Savage's motivation for The Light. The Light meaning get on board with Evolution or be forced to. It makes total sense now for them to have been trying to conquer as many countries as possible all season. The more kingdoms they influence the more control they have.

    YJ vs. The League was great, and World's Finest vs. Worlds Finest 2.0 was suitably epic. The only part I felt was cheap was how Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Flash got knocked down.

    Kid Flash: "I should've done this a long time ago."
    Artemis: "No kidding."
    Artemis took the words out of my mouth.

    I thought it was adorable how Wally scooped Artemis in his arms and she pretty much accepted it then they kissed. A nice call back to Bereft when they first started getting along better, and probably started developing closer feelings for one another. I'm anxious to see where they both go in Season 2.
    Wally and Artemis's romance on this show is not only my favorite on the show, but might be my favorite romance on all the show's Greg Weisman has produced. That's no small feat amongst company like Goliath/Eliza, Fox/Xanatos, Peter/Gwen, Spider-Man/Black Cat.

    As a Wally West fan (my favorite of the Flashes), Greg and the YJ crew have also done something I didn't think possible. Make me want to see him end up with someone besides Linda Park. Not that I wouldn't mind that as a detour, but as long as all roads end with him and Artemis together I'd be happy.

    Okay to break up the mushiness, I loved Red Tornado's retort to all the teens kissing at midnight.

    I have to say after watching Spectacular Spider-Man, re watching Gargoyles last summer, and watching Young Justice. I can officially now label myself a Greg Weisman apologist like you are. :p

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    1. ***I watched Fireworks again not too long ago, and curiously Vandal Savage wanted Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash killed after they were cloned. So why did he keep the original Roy alive? Is this version of him one of Vandal Savage's descendents?***

      I'm going to assume he is. It would make sense.

      ***I love Vandal Savage's motivation for The Light. The Light meaning get on board with Evolution or be forced to. It makes total sense now for them to have been trying to conquer as many countries as possible all season. The more kingdoms they influence the more control they have.***

      I was reminded of the Shadows from "Babylon 5" a little. Creating chaos, conflict and war to force others to evolve. That also makes one understand why Klarion is with the Light and Dr. Fate is with the League.

      I love the entire episode.

      ***I have to say after watching Spectacular Spider-Man, re watching Gargoyles last summer, and watching Young Justice. I can officially now label myself a Greg Weisman apologist like you are. :p***

      LOL! I'm not an apologist, there's nothing to apologize for. Except Max Steel, but that totally sucked. Sorry, Greg. ;)

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  3. You still planning to do episode reviews of "The Legend of Korra" as well, Greg?

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    1. I am. Expect it some time tomorrow at the latest.

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  4. Now that was a spectacular episode. Everything worked and was setup throughout the series. Even the fakeout at the beginning fit within the show's framework of focusing on the Team rather than the League, so it's possible that could fool some viewers into thinking it was true.

    After marathoning all of season 1 today I can appreciate the Red Arrow mole plot even more. I called the Cadmus clone twist but I never expected it'd go as dark as it did. Something else I thought about, what if the Injustice League wasn't just a cover for the Light's activities but also a way to get a recruitment drive started for the League? All of the candidates were in the thick of that ep, including Red Arrow.

    One thing I didn't like was the Starro vaccine and how fast it was developed. In under a day the Team managed to pull all their scientist/sorcerers together and come up with, and produce, a vaccine for a mix of alien/magic/tech that took months to make? That's a little to fast a turn around for my tastes. The fact that it happened off screen is what really makes it feel cheap to me.

    I know, I know, you can only do so much in 22 minutes. It didn't ruin the rest of the ep for me, but it was the one blot on an otherwise perfect final.

    As for JLU comparisons, if this was JLU we would've gotten a brawl with all the members of the Light vs the Team. With the Team beating them all and them all going to prison, cut and dry. This ep we got two Light members on the Watchtower controlling things and that was enough. They got away and the League doesn't have any idea how big this organisation is or who else runs it.

    I'm curious how Phase 2 requires the League to be alive. At least we have some answers to why there's an invasion, because it's Savage's "survival of the fittest" for the world. Maybe it is Darkseid invading, we'll find out next week I suppose.

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    1. ***One thing I didn't like was the Starro vaccine and how fast it was developed. In under a day the Team managed to pull all their scientist/sorcerers together and come up with, and produce, a vaccine for a mix of alien/magic/tech that took months to make? That's a little to fast a turn around for my tastes. The fact that it happened off screen is what really makes it feel cheap to me.***

      I kind of agree. The script for the episode may have went long.

      ***As for JLU comparisons, if this was JLU we would've gotten a brawl with all the members of the Light vs the Team. With the Team beating them all and them all going to prison, cut and dry.***

      Indeed, and in my experience some people prefer their TV shows this way.

      ***This ep we got two Light members on the Watchtower controlling things and that was enough. They got away and the League doesn't have any idea how big this organisation is or who else runs it.***

      They know about Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Brain, and Klarion. Not sure if they know about Ra's. Pretty sure they don't have any idea about Ocean Master.

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    2. Based on the involvement of the League of Shadows they should know Ra's is involved. Batman, Robin, and the rest should be able to put two and two together like they have done previously.

      Ocean Master's been the quietest member of the Light; he hasn't even fought the Team on screen only in the comics. I'd like to see more of him and Black Manta as well, especially since the show has barely touched on Aqualad's true parentage.

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    3. I suspect Ocean Master and Black Manta will play a larger role in "February" when Queen Mera is due.

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    4. "One thing I didn't like was the Starro vaccine and how fast it was developed. In under a day the Team managed to pull all their scientist/sorcerers together and come up with, and produce, a vaccine for a mix of alien/magic/tech that took months to make?"

      Technically it took them months to get the supplies for it. Doing things in the shadows didn't make it easy for The Light. Once they had all the supplies to make what they needed (Klarion, Ivo, Starro itself) creating it only took less than a night. So I can buy that they could conjure up an antidote in that amount of time.

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  5. This was a fun episode. Unlike other shows that kept questions unanswered season after season, we got things from the season answered and resolved (of course, leaving new questions for next season, but they are -new- questions, not old ones).

    I enjoyed the action, though I admit I would have enjoyed seeing more with some of the League that got 'glossed over' specifically the aquaman/flash/green arrow vs artemis/kid flash/aqualad fight, but I fully recognize there is only so much that can be allowed in the given amount of screen time (as well as budget -- probably couldn't get all those actors in to do more that might have necessitated actual speaking roles).

    I did at scratch my head a little at the speed at which the anecdote was researched, developed, produced.... but i chalk it up to having the piece(s) of starro to work with.

    I can't believe this season has taken so long to air! Very frustrating. But we got it none the less, so I'm thankful for that.

    Of the Light, Ocean Master _seems_ so uninvolved in activities, but that may just be a matter of what is seen on screen (and the comic does seem to have a couple issues with him -- just referring to on tv though, he didn't do much....that we know of).

    I am not initially a huge fan of 'alien' story lines (they tend to just too over the top or convoluted or you get in to the realm of godlike power levels which minimizes the relevance of any regular team members) -- i like the basis being mundane/magical/technical. But I'm optimistic and keeping an open mind for this series since the writing seems to be 'under control' and 'smart' (that is to say, 'writing for the characters and story' rather than writing just for the sake of including everything)

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  6. To be honest, I knew that it would require something of an asspull for The Team to deal with the mind control. This I feel is the main problem with letting the villains win too often, you do and it can end up stretching the credibility of any that they're defeated. Hopefully the next big fight will avoid this. Apart from that, I really enjoyed the battle with The Team going up against their much stronger counterparts in the JL.
    I noticed the stuff you mentioned Vandal Savage's plan in "Doom". Well, in the story that was based on, Ra's Al Ghul was the main villain. I have no idea why they switched him out, since the plot made more sense with him than Vandal.

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