The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Endgame



Well, that's that.

I've had a week to theorize about what would happen in the, now, series finale of "Young Justice," which joins the pantheon of Greg Weisman produced animated series that has been taken from us way too early. In some cases, more like months to theorize. For everything that I predicted would happen actually happening, there was always something to subvert that expectation. I've been going back and forth in my head over how I should review this. Do I spoil the whole thing, as I often have, or be vague in case someone reads this first who hasn't watched the episode? I think I'll pick and choose on that point.

I was a little shocked that Black Beetle got taken out before the five minute mark (proving the comparison I made between him and Lord Cedric last week wrong), but by then, being the subtle guy that he is, he had already activated his plan to destroy the Earth which led to an all hands on deck episode that, unlike the all hands on deck to save the Earth from destruction finale of "Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes" actually had narrative build-up. "Endgame" felt like a culmination of the forty-five episodes that had built up to it, which is what any good finale should be. It's why "Hunter's Moon," "Z Is For Zenith," and "Final Curtain" worked so well. "Endgame" evoked everything that came before while still planting the seeds for what would come next.

The Earth was saved, however, as in all good fiction, there is always a price. Goliath saves the world from Demona, two of the three Hunters are enlightened, the gargoyles get invited back to the castle, and Goliath and Elisa kiss; however the gargoyles are revealed to a world that is unprepared to welcome them, and one of the Hunters pays for his enlightenment with the use of his legs. Spider-Man saves the city, unmasks and defeats the Green Goblin; but he can't be with Gwen Stacy. The Team, well... I won't spoil this here. If you watched it, you know what I'm talking about, and that was the biggest shock of the episode.

I think my favorite shot in the series was the "Rimbor Six" returning to Earth only to have the Team descend on them from the air like gods, a callback to "Fireworks" and "Happy New Year" which also was a perfect visual of just how far this team has come. To paraphrase Red Arrow back in "Independence Day": don't call them sidekicks, not after today. And, of course, it ended on Independence Day. Perfect.

However, and I can't let this go, I wish I could, but I can't. Miss Martian and Superboy getting back together is something I cannot root for in any way, shape or form. He broke up with her in the first place because she tried to erase his memories of a fight they had because she was forcibly extracting information from the minds of living beings, leaving them in vegetable states. What she tried to do to him was a terrible violation, and at one point I asked myself, what if a male character had done this to his female significant other? Yes, mixed feelings and lingering chemistry on both parts is understandable and realistic, especially after M'Gann admitted she was wrong and stopped doing it. But that's the sort of thing that should be a deal breaker in regards to ever pursuing a romantic relationship with that person again. I suppose the silver lining is that they never really got back together... they almost kissed before being summoned, and who knows, maybe after the episode ended, they both realized pursuing a relationship again wouldn't be a good idea. But if they did, I suppose the age old truth applies: men are idiots and women are insane. I was hesitant to write this paragraph, especially when I am friends with the producer. But this aspect of the episode really bothered me, and if I'm not honest with my criticisms, then I can't be honest when I praise.

Aside from that, if I have any complaint it was that the episode was too short. But that's hardly a deal breaker. Twenty-two minutes is not as much time, you have to budget every second you have. While I would have liked to see Red Arrow and Cheshire helping in the fight, maybe even Sportsmaster, too, you'd have to cut something to get that. And in an episode was was trying things up and planting seeds for what was to come, time is a luxury and you have to service the show, not just a segment of fans, and I understand that. Now I'm sure some would say they could have done less seed planting, and more tying up. But, at the time this episode was written, I'm sure they were still hoping for a third season. I've seen what happens when a show with a multi-year plan appears to be getting cut short, so most of the loose ends are transported into the penultimate season before they surprisingly get a renewal; it happened to "Babylon 5" and look at the amount of crap the first half of the fifth season gets to this day because of that. It's better to hope for the best and to take a risk than it is to prepare for the worst and blow your wad way too soon.

Never the end.

How did I feel about "Young Justice" as a whole? I did end up loving it after all, even if during the earlier sections of the first season, I found myself wondering if that would ever happen. In my case it was because both "Gargoyles" and "The Spectacular Spider-Man" had me hooked before their pilots were over, while YJ took longer for me. If I had to rank this as compared with Weisman's other shows, I would put it above season two of "W.I.T.C.H." (which was also very good), but below "Spectacular Spider-Man" which itself is below "Gargoyles." This is not a knock against any show, since all of them are amazing. These are just my personal preferences.

Now, before I continue, I know I took some heat, and perhaps rightfully so, for my comments about "Justice League Unlimited" when I wrote my review for "Auld Acquaintance." Fundamentally, I do agree that the worst way to build something up is to tear something else down to make the object of your praise look good, so this time I won't do that. But as a fan, I'm sure I'll be guilty of that again some day, but today I'm going to try to avoid it. I think it was the best DC Comics based animated series since "Batman the Animated Series" which, and I promise this time is not to diss "JLU," which did episodic storytelling very well. "Young Justice" did serial storytelling very well, and my tastes tend towards serialization over episodic, not that it makes it automatically better, as I prefer good episodic to bad serialization... it's always about execution. And since I'm the one writing these reviews, my taste is the one you're stuck with. So while both were high quality shows, this was more along the lines of what I'd like to see. Although, I like to think no one will disagree with me when I say that Greg Weisman, Bruce Timm, Brandon Vietti, and Alan Burnett are masters at producing good television.

While I didn't like all the characters, to this day Superboy and Miss Martian do next to nothing for me, I loved this show's take on Dick Grayson and Wally West... especially the extra dimensions added to Wally so he wasn't just the dumb, gullible guy; but his basic humanity was the essence of who he was, and in the end, he was the most heroic out of all of them. Kaldur turned out to be a cool, badass and yet very human character. I've heard of Blue Beetle, but knew next to nothing about him, and he turned out to be a very enjoyable character. While I missed Zatanna after she was promoted to the Justice League, she was a favorite too, and I loved getting to know her and explore her in ways previous DC shows didn't. And I absolutely loved Artemis (and Tigress), and I want to give a special shout out to Stephanie Lemelin for her voice and performance.

It was also refreshing to see a show that seemed to remember what it was like being young, warts and all. I know some people didn't like the sexual tension on the show, or when the main cast displayed some unlikable qualities  but... well, they're teenagers! I thought this show was a realistic take on the teenage mindset, if said teenagers were working in a cover-ops team. I know some people wanted more of the Team to be pissed at Nightwing over what he did, but at the same time, this is the life they chose when they joined the Team. Covert-ops. Ask Valerie Plame what happens when secrets aren't kept.

I admit to being a bit iffy on the villains at first, and anyone who knows me knows that I love villains. I always felt Weisman's greatest strength when writing characters was his villains. As close to perfect as "Gargoyles" was, I find that outside the fandom, David Xanatos and Demona are who most people remember, because they stood out so much from every other villain on TV as strong, unique characters. Nerissa on "W.I.T.C.H." was just great. Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Tombstone, Venom and even Vulture were perfect on "The Spectacular Spider-Man," but then so was everything else on that show. So for the first half, or even two-thirds of season one, with the Light hiding behind the scenes and the barest of glimpses being occasionally given, I felt that they didn't really have time to develop as characters in their own right. That changed later, and the fact that we saw them only on occasion turned out to be a strength. "Young Justice" gave us the definitive Vandal Savage, with a design that evoked his origin and perfect voice acting from Miguel Ferrer. Ra's al Ghul was fun when we saw him, and Oded Fehr did great with his voice (although, I still prefer David Warner). This is the first time I ever enjoyed Lex Luthor as a character, but this time he was written with an EQ to match his IQ. What can I say about Queen Bee, I wish we saw more of her (and heard more of her). Poor, disgraced Ocean Master is the one character who made no impact on me either way. The Brain was fun with his creepy design and voice. Klarion was just a riot (I love Evil Thom Adcox). And Black Manta was great as a villain with some noble qualities, but whose villainy ultimately won out. I could go even further, and talk about how awesome this show made Sportsmaster, and how cool Cheshire was, but we'd be here all day. I will say that the ending the Light received was probably the perfect ending for them... and given Vandal Savage's motive and the way the show ended, I have a feeling that in a hypothetical third season, the heroes wouldn't have had to stop the Earth from getting invaded, but given the Light's true partner and Lex Luthor's new position, they'd have had to stop the Earth from becoming the next galactic conquerors.

DC has never been my preferred comic book company, I was a Marvel Kid growing up... but between this and the DCAU, I think I've learned my fair share of the DC Universe as a whole to appreciate its cast and world, and say it intrigues me as much as the Marvel Universe ever did. Mostly I've sporadically read Batman and read a lot of Vertigo. Hell, while Marvel was my preferred company, DC published my favorite comic book of all time, "Lucifer," which is a breathtaking story. Will I start reading more DC? To be honest, nothing about the New 52 has intrigued me, in fact most of what I've heard has encouraged me to avoid it. Not that Marvel is doing much better these days, they're a hair away from losing me as a customer all together. But the point is, it's stupid to be so loyal to a brand that you won't check out their competition. No law says you can only like one company, maybe there are things at both that will appeal to you, I'm sure there are things at your favored brand that you have no interest in touching. As someone who made that mistake at a young age, thank you "Young Justice" and thank you DCAU for showing me another world that I wish I had spent more of my childhood in.

It's interesting that "Young Justice" ended when it did, because we also lost "Green Lantern" on the same day, "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" several months ago, and will be losing "Transformers Prime" and some other action cartoons, with no signs of new ones going into production. Marvel Animation is gearing itself towards more comedic takes on their classic characters, targeting a younger audience (or rather talking down to a younger audience with tripe like "Ultimate Spider-Man"), but shows like "Adventure Time," "The Regular Show," and "My Little Pony" seem to be ruling the airwaves... also the fact that these shows as well as shows like "Ben 10" and "Johnny Test" being much, much cheaper to produce is not lost on me.

In fact, I would dare say that today is the day that the pendulum has swung away from action-drama in animation. We've been here before, of course, back in the late 90's when "Gargoyles" and other action-dramas of that era died, and while there were some exceptions, soft and quirky was where it was at. Right now, we've got "Legend of Korra," and maybe "Beware the Batman," two shows that don't excite me all that much, to be honest. The pendulum will swing back, eventually. There will be a new era of action-drama, but for now it's going away. But when it comes back, I'll be there. In fact, I hope the pendulum swings back at the same time 90's nostalgia heats up and Greg Weisman re-teams with either Frank Paur, Vic Cook, or Brandon Vietti to bring us "Gargoyles 2198."

Fair thee well, Earth 16, maybe we'll see you again some day. In the mean time, I'll be watching season five of "The Venture Bros" and pre-ordering my copy of "Rain of the Ghosts."

24 comments:

  1. Before I talk about what I'm sure your thinking of as "the white elephant in the room for me". I'll just say this, it was tastefully done. His last ounce helped save the Earth.

    Call me a cynic, and most people will. BUT I just can't get behind the fact that it HAD TO BE WALLY and not Barry.

    Remember how you said in the Depths review, that you wished it was anyone else? Well here we are, and I definitely wish it was someone else.
    If anything killed my love for the show, it was fulfilling the DC Comic Books status quo, and killing off one of if not the shows most interesting characters. If it was something like believing he had fulfilled all he could as a character, this might not bother me as much. But I just have a hard time believing this wasn't done without some input from DC in anyway shape or form.

    I was really wishing for a season 3 after this, but not anymore. Maybe after a couple months I'll be able to digest this more properly and not just venting about this in a flaming manner; but right now I'm still not feeling that "his death" was specifically a necessity for this story to work.

    I'll just say I agree with everything you said about Supermartian and leave it at that.

    Yeah War has consequences, but couldn't the casualty been someone like Aqualad or Superboy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing is, about Artemis, yes, I admit, I would have been momentarily pissed... but having my favorite character die is not something that kills a series for me. Just not the way I'm programmed.

      Hell, for all I know, if "Gargoyles 2198" ever gets made, Demona dies in episode seven... would I be pissed in the moment? Yeah. Would it kill my love for the series? No. But maybe since I'm throwing out a hypothetical situation, this here isn't all that honest.

      But I'm used to my favorite characters dying in fiction, it happens a lot. It never ruined my love for a series.

      Delete
    2. Also, I've seen some of your comments on ToonZone and Superherohype. If I were you, I would hold off on the conspiracy theories, but you really can't know for sure. I tend to believe this was all Weisman and Vietti.

      Delete
    3. I never said I don't like the show, but killing off a character you find vastly more interesting, than many others. Kind of hard to get too attached to seeing more of it. At this point, Artemis and Nightwing are the only 2 characters that I love. Miss Martian I only find interesting half the time, and Superboy & Aqualad just bore me.

      For me I tend to believe in the late Boyd Kirkland's rule about storytelling, "Good story telling always has to begin with characters you care about and can relate to on some level. If you don't have that, who cares what their powers are, or what happens to them? BTAS often had very compelling scripts that recognized that, which made it a great show to be working on."

      To me the characters come first; that's just the way I am.

      Sorry but when Wally West is being treated like crap by DC Comics, and THIS happens within the span of 1 1/2-2 years. It's really hard NOT to think someone is pulling strings somewhere. Even if I believe that were the case, I wouldn't blame Greg and Brandon for this 100%. In their industry they have to pick their battles, because there are more important things than what happens to fictional characters.

      I wasn't planning to say anymore of the conspiracy theories, besides that. Unless someone asks me about it. Which I'm sure some people will.

      Besides, if you think I'M PISSED. Can you imagine what Dread's going to post later? ;)

      Delete
    4. Well, as a Joss Whedon fan; a "Babylon 5" fan; a "Cowboy Bebop" fan; and a "Berserk" fan.... been there, done that. Got the t-shirts.

      I suppose this is as good a time as any to drop this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTdkkFLmAOU

      I'd still happily watch season three, I imagine the affect this would leave wouldn't be forgotten.

      I get that it's hard not to think about that, but I'm used to seeing this line of thinking in Spider-Fandom... remember when Spec Spidey started and Mary Jane didn't appear until episode six and people were whining and moaning about Joe Quesada because OMD had happened? And then it continued because they didn't become a couple? Yeah... it's kinda like that for me right now on this issue.

      As for you and Dread, well... I hope SHH has the bomb shelter ready.

      Delete
  2. "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTdkkFLmAOU"

    You act as if this view from Greg is new to me.

    I'm not denying that Wally dying doesn't give the story that effect. I'm just not convinced the same effect couldn't have been gained if it was Barry in that slot.

    I never bought into the MJ thinking simply because Gwen was a main character on the show to begin with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I disagree because, well, but the affect wouldn't have been the same because, well, Barry wasn't a character we cared about on this show while Wally most definitely was.

      "I never bought into the MJ thinking simply because Gwen was a main character on the show to begin with."

      I didn't say you did, I'm just saying that people did.

      Delete
    2. I was referring more to the line of thinking in that War has casualties, not how much we liked that character or not. I think we had enough of a glimpse of Barry that I and I think many others would've felt for him, but that's just me.

      Having said that, even WITH a death that I felt was needless and still makes me mad, this show STILL managed to give me the Wally West I REMEMBER loving from the comics once upon a time. The fact that I still even consider THAT after the fact is a testament to how good the show was.

      Delete
    3. Glad to hear. In the mean time, Jeph Loeb's #1 Fan, TheVileOne has started his trolling early.

      Delete
    4. As someone else put it on another forum, "it should have been Barry, but let's face facts. Aside from the people actually running DC Comics? Nobody cares about Barry. You want a gut-punch? You go for Wally."

      Another reason why: it got the woman who runs the DCWomenKickingAss blog's 6 year old girl crying because she loves Wally. If they'd killed Barry then we wouldn't even be having this type of conversation, we'd probably be saying how Barry was the "safe choice" to kill off.

      As for the "Wally West is being treated like crap by DC Comics," let me remind you he died saving the world and did it without a second thought. He inspired a legacy in Impulse and we see that Impulse is wearing Wally's colours to honour him. That's far from the DC Nu52 crap of "Wally doesn't exist anymore and never will"

      Also given the amount of "WHY WALLY!" questions on Ask Greg now I'm sure we'll be seeing an answer at some point.

      Delete
    5. There's a quote--I thought it was by George RR Martin, but can't find it right now--that if you kill characters off when they've fulfilled their narrative potential, then basically nobody cares. If you kill characters that nobody cares about, then nobody cares about the death. In order to have an emotional impact on the audience, it has to be a character that people like and that could have gone on to bigger and better things... and they didn't, because their life was cut short. YJ did that, and it clearly worked.

      Delete
    6. @ Reaf: How many people cared about Zatara in DC right now or on the show before it started? By the time Misplaced came around his "death" and the impact it had on Zatanna was felt. They could've got the same effect with Barry if they wanted to, it's all in the execution.

      Also "it got people talking" is a terrible rationale for doing that.

      My problem with Wally's death is the cons outweigh the pros. IMO there hasn't been a single convincing arguement that there was nothing more they could've done with Wally as a character before killing him off. Barry? Not so much.

      Would it have been more predictable? Yeah. But Sportsmaster being Artemis's father was predictable. Why don't we swerve people with that? Zatarra donning the helmet of Fate? Ditto. Need I go on?

      My point is it's all in the execution. Not what it looks like on paper.

      Delete
    7. Nygma, I get it, I do. But despite what TheVileOne (who has been trolling this show and other Weisman shows for years) says, there was set up. But I need to say... sour grapes much? Ever read any George R.R. Martin?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lTCAxGcSDU

      Delete
    8. I never denied there was any setup, just that I'm not happy with where things ended up.

      Case in point Lexiac in Divided We Fall on JLU, there was setup in how they got to that. Doesn't mean that some people were not happy with it. ;)

      Yes I've seen his stuff, but I still maintain my views on just because you pull the trigger seemingly unexpectedly doesn't make it the right move.

      Delete
  3. Forgot to add Zatanna in their amongst the characters that I love. But I was mainly talking about amongst the original six.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well,this was a fun, strange ride. While the ending was certainly...frustrating, it was still very enjoyable and a good way of tying up the majority of plot threads this season, while still opening up the third. I really hope the third season would have had a brief time skip, because the new status quo that was set-up interests me.

    If it helps, both Arsenal and Red Arrow were among the crowd. I know, not much, but still.

    I'll be looking forward to "The Venture Brothers". The Halloween special was great. "Legend of Korra", warts and all, was still damn enjoyable, and even if "Beware the Batman" turns out to be underwhelming, at least Greg is writing some eps.

    All in all, I'm grateful for this current wave of action/drama cartoons, and I can only hope the wait for the next wave is rather short.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The revelation that Superboy wasn't actually dating Wendy and might get back together with Miss Martian was also the one thing I didn't care for in this episode. In addition to the very serious issues you pointed out, it seemed too pat. Like a step backward. Kind of like if Angel and Buffy were to get back together - David Boreanaz himself said that would be a terrible idea and that Angel's relationship with Cordelia was a step forward.

    And I think they really do need to look at the Superboy/Miss Martian scenario through a reversed-gender lens, 'cause it doesn't look good. At least he didn't disagree or say he should have held on more or something like that when she said it was all her fault.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I shed some tears at the ending and then I cried out in a happiness/frustration sort of thing when the credits were rolling.

    Season 1 did nothing for me emotionally much, but season 2? Hell yeah! Season 2 was a ton of fun, but a bit too short. If Greg says "Never the End", then I'm going to need to see some papers.

    I'm going to admit, the "SuperMartian" thing was abysmal at the start and abysmal to the end. My friends and I NEVER liked it. Individually, Superboy was decent if not a bit underdeveloped for my tastes. Miss Martian was almost a tie with Lion-O 2011 for my worst character of recent cartoon network history. Almost.

    Blue Beetle was done well in this show, but I still prefer Brave and the Bold's version for the fact that he was more entertaining.

    Mongul for one episode....ugh. Not enough Keith David for my tastes, but whatever.

    Moving away from YJ for a bit:
    I thought that show ended a bit early too, but damn was the finale entertaining.

    To be honest, I think I'm calling it quits as far as animation after this. There's nothing on the horizon, other than Turtles 2012, that even half-way interests me. Whelp, so long, it was fun YJ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to animation.... hell, not even the Toonami block can bring me back.

      I have some hope for Legend of Korra season 2, but I'll call it quits after I'm done watching the season in question.

      Well: At least I got The Americans, the last half of Breaking Bad and that show, Hannibal interests me so far.

      Delete
  7. So... how about a Top 11 episodes of YJ?

    ReplyDelete
  8. The action fights with the Beetle drones were a big letdown, but given the time frame and what they were trying to do with it, I'll let that go. I wills say that I felt Wally's death wasn't the best move because I feel like it he was killed simply for shock value, something that I hear DC editorial does WAY too much.
    On the note the pendulum swinging, it kinda makes me wonder what anybody is thinking, or if they are thinking. Do people making shows at some point just run out of ideas for drama or they just suddenly think "lets do comedy instead." Well regardless, I guess I'll just tide myself over by looking around for new stuff online while I wait for the pendulum to swing back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not the people making the shows, just the bean counters who decide what gets made.

      Delete
    2. Fair enough. I often feel like the people who decide what gets made wouldn't know a decent show if him the face.

      Delete