Young Justice Season 1, Episode 14
SUMMARY: While the Justice League is fighting off killer plants that have been grown by Poison Ivy, Young Justice must fight Ivy herself and her six cohorts in the Injustice League.
Syd: This episode only exists for the last scene.
Margaret: You can kind of tell that by the fact that the episode starts off so dire so quickly.
Syd: The plants that are attacking Metropolis are picking up cars with their flowers! What are those flowers made of?
Margaret: Miracle-Gro? They’re a big threat, though.
Syd: So, the cold open ends with a reveal of a group of seven supervillains. Can we talk about how insulted we are as an audience that they want us to think that these are the Light?
Margaret: As a first time watcher, I wanted to believe that these were the Light at first. However, as an experienced media consumer and someone who works in the industry, I can already tell that these seven people cannot be the Light. You don’t reveal your surprise bad guys in the cold open in the middle of the season. That’s ridiculous.
Syd: I will give them some credit that they chose some pretty big name ones. Obviously, any Main Villain group in DC is likely to have Lex Luthor, The Joker, or Darkseid in it and we get two of the three in this episode. Of the other six in the cold open, the only one I didn’t recognize was Wotan – though I didn’t immediately recognize Atomic Skull, because what is with that creepy ass character design?
Margaret: Right! They do a good job in trying to tell us that they are the Light, especially as they have that super relevant line, “It’s time for the Injustice League to step into The Light.” That’s classic viewer manipulation. There’s no one there but the audience to lie to and no reason for him to say that except for to make us think they are the Light. It’s incredibly annoying.
Syd: We start with Dick and Kaldur training. They’re both entirely aware that Megan and Conner are a couple, but don’t want to tell the oblivious Wally and Artemis – who we all know are going to pair up anyway.
The Joker interrupts a news broadcast in the middle of Batman’s debriefing about the giant plant situation to announce their superteam and demand 10 billion dollars from the world’s governments – not any particular organization mind you, just all of the governments of the world.
Margaret: At least the Team are already skeptical about this. As Artemis says, “Not so secret any more.” It’s the first seeds to doubt that this is actually the Light. It’s not enough, though.
Syd: But these characters don’t even know that there is a “The Light.” They suspected that there was a cabal of supervillains working in concert, but had no reason to suspect that they had the resources to hire a subordinate group of very prominent supervillains to throw them off the scent. Certainly, Batman seems to think that they’re the real deal – but not so big a threat that he couldn’t have his child army deal with them. Batman is such a dick.
Margaret: Yeah. I mean, in the general concept of the world, it makes sense for the characters to believe that this group of people are actually the cabal of supervillains they have been facing. Making the Injustice League seven characters is a cheap trick to fool the audience. The team have no way of knowing how many people are in the Light. If the creators would have even just shown six bad guys instead of seven, that is playing fair with the audience. It rewards people paying attention that something isn’t exactly as it seems, but isn’t screaming the twist.
Syd: My problem is more that this giant plant attack is implausible as a master plan for the Light, given what we’ve seen of them already. This throwaway plot could have felt worthwhile if it advanced the characters’ arcs, but as it is, it feels pretty inert.
Margaret: I agree. So far, this entire plot and episode feel like an attempted audience rug pull. It’s disingenuous and I dislike it.
Syd: So can we get back to the Atomic Skull character design? It looks like he’s actually decaying! I’m not sure if that’s a complaint or not. There are ways to show the character even with a skull head that don’t come off as creepy, see his Justice League Unlimited design:
but they went full-on zombie. I respect that, as it’s a bold choice – much like the skin ripping off Blockbuster, which also creeps me out.
Margaret: Honestly, he didn’t creep me out! Of course, I had no idea what Atomic Skull looked like in comics or in any other media before this. When I watched it, he was not at all scary. I was mostly focused on the Joker.
Syd: I can’t tell if that’s a knock. I like the character design of the Joker, even if this incarnation isn’t particularly funny. Again, it’s a bold stylistic choice.
Margaret: It wasn’t a knock to start. However, despite my love of Brent Spiner, there is no other Joker voice to me but Mark Hamill.
Syd: Fair enough. Now, the Team approaches the swamp Legion of Doom headquarters and Count Vertigo knocks their ship out of the sky with his disorientation powers. They did go out of their way to establish that the ship was a living being who is susceptible to those powers, but my question is how Vertigo knew it would be.
Margaret: Yes, it’s another point where this episode relies on what the audience knows as opposed to actually established in character knowledge. This is one of the lesser problems of the episode as it occurred to me after the fact, but it is certainly adding on to the theme.
Syd: Next, we have a montage of lesser heroes – like the Plastic Man and Blue Devil – fighting off the plant monsters. This is nice because it fleshes out the world a bit. It makes the world of the series feel more lived in when it’s clear that the stories of the young heroes are not the only things happening in the world. It’s the little touches that make the world and the characters feel real – like Aqualad calling out Maneuver 7 implying the training in which they practiced and numbered maneuvers to use in the field.
Margaret: Speaking of things happening off screen hinted at by these montages, apparently Roy and Ollie are working together again with Black Canary. Maybe it’s just one of those end of the world things.
Syd: Meanwhile in the swamp, Superboy hates monkeys and I’m getting sick of his catchphrase.
Margaret: What I don’t ever get tired of is Robin’s choice words at the right moment. It turns out that the main fight with the Injustice Leauge is just a cover for Robin and Megan to plant explosives on the main plant, which blows up and saves the day. Dick has the great last line of, “Timber.”
Syd: Joker releases poison into the air, which makes Batman tell the Team, “Don’t breathe.” Really practical advice there, Bruce.
It doesn’t matter, because Kaldur – wearing the magical Dr. Fate helmet – saves everyone in a big old anticlimax. Then he just takes off the helmet with no consequences, because there are no consequences to anything in this episode.
Margaret: The problem is that I felt as if going in there WAS consequence. When Aqualad put on that helmet I gasped because I thought there was going to be consequences for his actions. I thought that this was going to a build up to someone taking a sacrifice for his team. I didn’t expect this to be a deus ex machina. When Aqualad simply pulled off the helmet, it felt like a cheap trick. It made this entire episode feel like a cheap trick.
Syd: So, now that we’re at the end of the episode, how the fuck were seven criminals hired to be the fake Light? What was the pitch? Why did they go along with it?
Margaret: It’s one of the many reasons why this episode makes no sense. There is no reason why these high level villains would submit to being taken out by the Justice League – especially the chaos loving Joker – and there is no reason as to why this was their plan in the first place. This makes it all the more frustrating. This shouldn’t have worked as a villain mastermind plan and it certainly did not work as an audience misdirection.
Syd: Also, it calls the Light’s judgement into question that they would hire the Joker for a complex plan and expect him to execute it the way they want him to. When has he ever been hired to do anything and not double-crossed his employer?
Anyway, in the last scene, we meet the real Light. Let’s see who we have:
Margaret: Okay, so this is one of the names I know. Vandal Savage was introduced in a past season of the CW DC-verse as the main bad guy for Legends of Tomorrow.
Syd: Oh. So you already know what his deal is generally?
Margaret: Generally, I guess. In the show, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are originally from Ancient Egypt. There’s a love triangle between Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Vandal Savage and when Savage finds out that Hawkman and Hawkgirl are actually lovers, he goes into a jealous rage. He kills them and then uses their life essence to extend his life. Hawkman and Hawkgirl continue to be reincarnated and Vandal Savage kills them in each reincarnation and uses that and his magic to extend his life.
Syd: Oh, so you have no idea what his deal is. That bullshit is just crazy. I guess it doesn’t matter that we don’t know who he is, since this is the first time we’ve seen him, but he is kind of important if he’s the leader of the Light, since his plans have theoretically been driving everything that has happened so far.
Margaret: Oh. So. CW was making that all up as they went? I guess I shouldn’t really be that surprised.
Syd: She wants to rule Byalia, right? Pretty simple – she wants to rule a country.
Margaret: I, for some reason, thought she already did. I think it’s because of her name. Why are you a Queen Bee if you don’t actually rule anything yet? She was already introduced in “Bereft” as someone of importance.
Syd: No, she is the current Queen. I think she’s trying to maintain control or expand her influence or build more BB-8s? That’s all I’ve got.
Margaret: If she’s building more BB-8s, I’m on her side.
Syd: Going by the comics, we might want to assume that he wants to take over Atlantis, but I really have to stress that we don’t at all know who he is or what he wants. In fact, this is the first time we’ve seen him in person.
Margaret: Yeah, I’ve got nothing on Ocean Master. I didn’t even know who he was before you said.
Syd: It’s hard to be intimidated by Atlantean villains, because Orin, Mera, Garth, Tula, and especially Orm – who is definitely not a bad guy in this series – have the ocean well protected.
Ra’s Al Ghul
Syd: He runs a ninja organization. So… political assassinations? For influence? Or money?
Margaret: I guess if you’re a ninja, you have to find ways to continue to ninja? The ninja business gets pretty slow if you’re not able to kill things sneakily.
Syd: Lex Luthor is an evil businessman who makes money and businesses business. He’s my favorite villain on the show.
Margaret: Luthor is pretty great and I really like his voice actor. I also kind of just like the simplicity in him being into it for the money.
Syd: We still don’t know what his history with the Justice League is or why they don’t trust him. Until they state otherwise, I’m going to assume he has a vendetta against Superman for making him go bald.
Klarion the Witch Boy
Syd: He’s a Lord of Chaos. I was never sure what they did, exactly. He makes things less ordered? Like, he makes lists of things, and has them all alphabetical except for one.
Margaret: That’s just evil. But, I can see where he would be with the Light to just cause disorder and unrest for funsies, I guess? Chaotic Evil? Literally?
Syd: Oooh! Practical D&D!
Margaret: So, what does Brain want to do tonight?
Syd: The same thing he does every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!
GRADING THIS EPISODE
Syd: D-. We knew that the Injustice League was a fakeout, but we had to get through this long, dull, pointless episode to get to a scene that could have been handled in half of a minute.
Margaret: I think I’m at a straight D. There was some interesting action, but the whole plot hinged on trying to fool the audience for no reason.