Tuppence to Spend and Tuppence to Lend

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Young Justice Season 1, Episode 11

“Terrors”

Note: This was written before Young Justice was picked up for a 3rd Season.

SUMMARY: Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover in Belle Reve prison in order to stop an attempted breakout. Then they kiss and it’s adorable. 


Syd: The episode begins with the Terror Twins – Tommy and Tuppence Terror – being defeated and apprehended by the Justice League. You may be wondering you these characters are. More importantly, you may be wondering what the hell kind of name “Tuppence” is. Is she worth twice as much as Mike Pence? Actually, Tommy and Tuppence are the names of a husband and wife detective team from a series of Agatha Christie novels, but that should be obvious, because the sort of people who are watching a cartoon about teenage superheroes are exactly the demographic that has a thorough familiarity with the works of Agatha Christie. However, in my research, I also found out that Tuppence is an actual name that parents have given to their daughters, which is kind of unsettling.

Margaret: I think one of the interesting things about those kinds of references is that they’re doing it for themselves, rather than the audience. I doubt the creators thought that any of their audience would get the fact that they named their twin villains after a pair of detectives. They just wanted to name them that.

Syd: I really like the Terror Twins’ character designs. When they first showed up in Young Justice comics, they looked plausibly like the kind of delinquents that I would have hung out with in high school:

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I think I should point out how Hot Topic-level Punk Rawk they look, because although all of the details, like the plaid skirt being held together with safety pins, were present, I don’t think the look translated perfectly to the cartoon. Maybe the animators weren’t 100% confident what suspenders look like.

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Margaret: Oh man, I definitely remember that look from high school. In the show, the suspenders looked like they were just part of their shirts. They were flush with their body as opposed to actually sticking out from the curves, like normal suspenders would do.

Syd: The premise of the episode is that Batman suspects that the ice-based criminals they apprehended in the first episode were getting together to break their friends out of prison, so he is sending Megan and Conner – disguised as the Terror Twins – into the superprison Belle Reve to stop them. Nobody in Belle Reve – not even the guards and the warden – will know that they are not the real Terror Twins, because they don’t know whom they can trust. I have to say that sending Megan in makes sense because she can shapeshift and be indistinguishable from Tuppence, but it seems like so much could go wrong with sending Conner in with makeup and a wig to look like Tommy. Then again, if they had sent J’onn in instead of Conner, we wouldn’t have any sexual tension.

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Margaret: I find it an interesting inversion to the ‘Undercover as Lovers’ trope that you often see with characters that have romantic tension together. Instead of having to pretend to be close to each other for the mission, they have to actually have to pretend to have absolutely no attraction for each other, as that would be kind of weird to have for siblings. Unless you’re Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Ultimates.

Syd: Gross. Why would you ever mention The Ultimates?

Margaret: Only because of relevance. I don’t like to think about it, either.

Syd: When “Tommy” and “Tuppence” enter Belle Reve, the first person they meet is the prison’s Warden, Amanda Waller. I watched this episode shortly after seeing the movie Suicide Squad, and it was refreshing that in this show, we actually know what Waller’s job is. She shows up in so many DC adaptations where she has some vague job for “The Government” where she has access to prisons and the military and can use them for frankly irresponsible schemes. Here, her government position actually makes sense.

Margaret: Conner and Megan find that their separate cellmates are Icicle, Jr. and Killer Frost. Icicle, Jr. actually seems like a decent enough kid that just got into supervillainy because of his father. He immediately looks out for Conner, telling him how he’ll show him the ropes.

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Syd: All of the supercriminals in Belle Reve are wearing collars that inhibit their superpowers. However, Megan reveals that her telepathy is still working, because the collar only inhibited the superstrength that Tuppence had, not the mental powers that Megan has.

Margaret: So, this makes me wonder about the collars in general. If they are general power dampeners, they should take out Megan’s telepathy. However, if they are tailored to the people they collar, that starts to get interesting.

Syd: It actually makes more sense this way. The idea of power-inhibiting collars, which I’ve seen used as a convenient plot device in a few superhero series, never sat right with me. If the superpowers are part of a person’s natural biology, then a device that resets them to “normal human” doesn’t make sense, since normal human isn’t their bodies’ default. However, I am more willing to accept this if the device is designed to counteract a specific attribute that the person is assumed to have. I still have some questions about how the technology works, but this is much more within my willing suspension of disbelief.

Margaret: Right. Also, I just realized that if it was a general dampener, Megan’s shapeshifting would have been taken away, making the entire operation a failure.

Syd: No, if her shapeshifting was taken away, she’d be stuck as Tuppence. If she couldn’t shapeshift, that would mean she can’t change from her current shape.

Margaret: Hm. Maybe you’re right.

Syd: At this point, Professor Ojo recognizes that Tommy Terror is really Superboy. This makes sense, since he had fought Superboy one-on-one. However, before he can tell anyone, Miss Martian mindwipes him. It happens really quickly, but it looks pretty traumatic. Keep in mind that in the third episode, Robin tells Megan that telepathy was ok to use on bad guys, but didn’t elaborate on what the limits were to that rule. Maybe I’m a bit leery after seeing what J’onn’s telepathy did on Supergirl. We don’t know how telepathy works on this world. Surely, Megan wouldn’t have done anything that would cause permanent brain damage, right? Right?

Margaret: I certainly hope so. I mean, Megan doesn’t seem to think she’s done anything wrong, but we’ve also seen that she doesn’t really understand Earth boundaries. Later in the episode, Professor Ojo starts to remember Superboy again, so it seems as if the mindwiping isn’t permanent.

Syd: At this point, Megan and Conner have a session with the psychiatrist, Hugo Strange, which Megan takes as a genuine opportunity to work through Conner’s Daddy issues. Conner is having none of that and lashes out, accusing Megan of being a Pollyanna living in a fantasy world.

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Margaret: They’re both right, but it’s also a little weird for Megan to try and bring up Conner’s real issues with the jail’s psychiatrist. Any actual advice Strange would have been able to give would be coming from a frame of thinking that Conner is Tommy, so it would not really do him much good. Not everyone’s Daddy Issues are the same.

Syd: There’s a subplot in here about Edward Nigma – the Riddler. Throughout the episode, the other inmates belittle him and refuse to even acknowledge his jokes, but by the end, he’s the only one who actually escapes the prison. I kind of love this subplot, but I recognize that it’s completely meaningless unless you already know who the Riddler is. It’s an unsettling aspect of fandom – that the fans don’t need a full character arc or even a portrayal of what they like in a character, they just need a blank slate with few enough details that nothing contradicts their understanding of the character so that they can project a character onto them. This is something that is disturbing to see in oneself. This show isn’t so bad about things like that. If you were unfamiliar with who the Riddler is on other TV shows, this subplot would be meaningless, but you are given enough information from people’s reaction to him to make sense of it – he’s a nerd with negligible strength and power that the other supercriminals don’t take seriously, but he’s the one who is clever enough to break free when the shit hits the fan. The problem arises when creators assume that the audience doesn’t need coherent stories and characters because they’re already familiar with the characters/stories, which has happened in every DC live action production since The Dark Knight. That’s why at the end of the (fucking atrocious) movie Man of Steel, Jenny – upon seeing Superman for the first time – says that he saved her. We, the audience, know that Superman is a hero who fought off invading aliens, but all Jenny knows is that her city was destroyed in an alien battle. It’s why in Supergirl, Alex immediately trusts J’onn, even though all she knows about him is that he’s a shapeshifting alien who is impersonating her boss. It’s why in the (bad, but not Zack Snyder-level bad) movie Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller never explains why her first choice to fight off a city-leveling threat is convicted criminals instead of supersoldiers or – say – Batman, the Flash, and Aquaman, who, by the end of the movie it is clearly established she already knows. Seriously, Young Justice is the only thing since the 2011 reboot that has done the DC heroes justice and I hope it isn’t gone forever.

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Margaret: There’s a lot of shorthand that movies and TV shows do. They use audience knowledge to fill important gaps in their plots for convenience. Alex trusts J’onn because we know that J’onn J’onnz is a good guy in the comics, no other development is necessary. A lot of the time it’s fine because it’s things that would be a boring explanation. However, with all the examples you’ve listed, it just makes for worlds and characters that have no discernable internal logic.

Syd: Superboy starts ingratiating himself to Icicle Sr. by offering to help coordinate the breakout through his psychic link with Megan, which he attributes to twin powers. I am perfectly willing to believe that this is a thing in this universe.

Margaret: Me too. I mean, there’s a lot of other stranger powers out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there actually was a pair of twins in the DC verse with those powers.

Syd: I Wonder how those Twins might Activate those powers.

Margaret: I keep forgetting that the Wonder Twins are DC. The not-twins get wrapped up into the jailbreak, which starts with Mr. Freeze getting taken to Waller’s office after picking a fight with Icicle Sr. Freeze uses his powers to break his handcuffs and then his collar, causing Waller to put the entire jail under lockdown. He freezes Waller’s arm and shuts down everyone’s collars.

The jail riots and Megan blows her cover when she stops Killer Frost from killing a guard. Despite Conner trying to get back into contact with her, they’re no longer telepathically linked.

Syd: Superboy reactivates the collars, knocking everyone still wearing them unconscious. Mr. Freeze suspects Tommy and Icicle Jr. of treachery, and when Jr. takes Tommy’s side, it leads to a fight with Mr. Freeze, Desmond, and Baran. During the fight, Superboy breaks Freeze’s helmet, which is pretty brutal, because he needs that to live.

Margaret: He also uses poor Icicle Jr. against his father’s cronies, convincing him that the loyal prisoners are actually turning against his father. Now it looks like Junior turned on Senior with Tommy Terror and that’s just not going to go well for him. It’s been shown previously that Senior is not shy about being rough on his son.

Syd: Superboy breaks through a wall to find Megan had been frozen by Killer Frost. Conner uses Devastation as a weapon to beat Frost and then breaks Megan out of her ice prison. The two then share their first kiss.

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Margaret: I’d been rooting for that for a while now. I’m glad they actually acted on their attraction relatively early on in the season. This is something I would have pitted as being a season finale sort of thing.

Syd: There was a show called Moonlighting. While I was too young to watch it when it was on television, I did see how it fucked up television for years on shows like Friends and The Office. To wit, it demonstrated that you can hook an audience in by teasing them with whether two leads will get together, but established the precedent that giving a definitive answer leaves you with nowhere to go. That’s a bummer for me, because I find exploring relationships much more compelling than watching attractive people flirt. I know, I’m weird.

Young Justice takes the bold stance of following through on a relationship that we all knew was going to happen in a timely manner. We’ve had enough build-up – it’s time for Conner and Megan to get together. Maybe this was even a bit belated – and God knows I’m still champing at the bit for Wally to realize that he’s obviously Artemis’ love interest – but we are less than halfway through the first season and this is a particularly interesting relationship to watch develop. Conner and Megan are both aliens who are new to Earth and have a lot to learn about socialization and teenagers – even ones who have been on Earth their whole lives – learn a lot about socialization through relationships. Frankly, I think I would have gotten sick of a whole season of “Megan thinks Conner is cute / Conner doesn’t know how to show affection.”

Margaret: It was incredibly satisfying to see the relationship come to fruition. I was definitely shipping Conner and Megan before this and worried they would only hint at the possibility that they would ever get together. Of course, it was also hilarious to see Icicle Jr. look on in horror and yell, “Dude, that’s your sister!”

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Syd: That moment where Megan shapeshifts back to her normal self, making Icicle Jr. slowly realize he’s been tricked and then groan, “My dad is going to kill me,” is both funny and heartbreaking. Icicle Jr. seems like one of the more well adjusted characters on this show. He isn’t living for anyone’s approval and he’s nice to Tommy. You really want things to work out for him, but they absolutely don’t.

Margaret: Yeah, despite his ways of crime, he does seem like he’s a nice enough guy that looks out for others. There’s no reason he had to be nice to Conner, but he was and all it did is get him in trouble. I doubt he’ll be as trusting after this. See, this is why there are supervillains!

Syd: After this, Hugo Strange is instated as the new warden at Belle Reve. It turns out that he’s evil and he’s working for the Light – you know, the cabal of supervillains that has been hinted at all season? – but mostly I’m reminded of the movie Suicide Squad, where everything bad that happens is Waller’s fault, but she gets to keep her job. I can only assume that after becoming Aqualad, Kaldur’ahm introduced a series of reforms that led to a greater accountability within the government.

Margaret: Yes, but unlike Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller didn’t actually do anything wrong in this episode!

Syd: Look, the consequences are harsh in Kaldur’s America, but you can’t argue he isn’t tough on crime!

GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: A. This was a fun episode. I liked the jailbreak plot and the way it allowed us to see a whole mess of supervillains working together. Also, it’s really gratifying to see Conner and Megan get together, because then we get to watch their relationship for the rest of the series rather than a cliched will-they-or-won’t-they.

Margaret: I’m at an A, too. I’m glad they put Megan and Conner definitively together and I love a good heist.

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