Young Justice Season 1, Episode 16
SUMMARY: When aliens attack, everyone dies! Or do they? Probably.
Syd: The episode starts with two Green Lanterns fighting a spaceship in space. I was just starting to think that there are too many Green Lanterns when they both get vaporized. Oh well, there are more where they came from.
Margaret: I was surprised the killed the Green Lanterns off so quickly. That surprise was quickly expounded upon as they kill not only random Green Lanterns, but all the recurring League characters. It was quite a shock.
Syd: This episode is hardcore. As soon as we get back from the theme song, we cut to Iris West-Allen’s report from the ground and people are being killed left and right. Like, you see their skeletons and everything.
Margaret: Yeah! It’s insane. Everyone is dying everywhere! Iris is in the middle of the action, as any good reporter on the ground would be. Flash and Zatara rescue her and put her on what they assume is a safe rooftop. A grateful Iris remains professional by thanking, “….The Flash” because she obviously was about to thank Barry.
Syd: It seems like Cat Grant has been promoted to anchor. Last time we saw her, she was a field reporter. It looks like, despite Kaldur’s meddling, she’s well on her way to her own media empire, then leaving the show when shooting moves to Canada.
Margaret: That hurts me where I live. Cat Grant was the best part of Supergirl and I hated the fact that when they moved to the CW and Vancouver that Calista Flockhart couldn’t be on the show any more. There was a remarkable moral and professional woman’s viewpoint that left the show when Calista did.
Syd: Then Jimmy took over the company, eliminating both of the best characters in one fell swoop.
Margaret: In fact, from what I have read, both Cat Grant and Jimmy Olsen left the show when they moved to the CW.
Syd: Anyway, speaking of women in power, we cut to Wonder Woman and this is the first time we see her actually doing anything.
Margaret: And as soon as we see her do something, she immediately dies. She doesn’t even get a line. I guess I should be more upset about that, but now EVERYONE is dead. It’s such a crazy turn of events that every single member of the Justice League is now dead that I can’t even be mad about the fact that Wonder Woman dies before she says anything on this series.
Syd: It’s not just that everyone is dead, it’s that we actually see each member of the Justice League skeletonized. There is no doubt. This is not normal comic book death. The most surprising thing is that it seems like the Justice League’s first strategy against an unknown enemy is a direct attack. Good thing the kids are smarter, or else this would be a short episode.
Margaret: Wait, so, no one knows that Superman has a Fortress of Solitude?! I feel like that is such a well known thing for both fans and people within the universe. The fact that this is a surprise to everyone is very weird to me. I am not a huge Superman fan, but what I know about him is that he is from Krypton and has a Fortress of Solitude. That is also a recurring theme in the movies.
Syd: The idea that the Fortress of Solitude isn’t public knowledge on this show is anathema to me, just because in most incarnations of Superman, it’s essential that Superman shares as much about his life as possible. I have had conversations with people who think it’s completely implausible that people can’t figure out Superman’s secret identity, but to me, it makes sense so long as it seems clear in universe that Superman has nothing to hide. His face is well known. His real name is Kal-El. He’s from the planet Krypton. He lives in a fortress on the North Pole. There is no reason for anyone to think he has a secret identity.
Margaret: That makes sense to me, though seeing some internet trolls, I could believe that there is always going to be someone out there that wants ‘the dirt’ on Superman and not believing he could actually be as good as he says he is. It’s a toss up. I would believe that most people would believe that since he has put his cards on the table there is nothing to find and that conspiracy theorist thinking, “No one can be that good. There has to be buried bodies somewhere.”
Syd: I kind of like the idea that there are “Clark Kent Truthers” in the DCU, except I hate the “conspiracy theorists are right” trope, when “conspiracy theorists are reflexively antisemitic” is on the table and closer to reality. DCU conspiracy theorists probably think Superman is really George Soros. Getting back to the fortress, maybe it is public knowledge, because Robin mentions the fortress very offhandedly, and you would think that Robin in particular would be very careful about disclosing secret information – he would at least not be casual about giving something like that away. Then again, wouldn’t Cadmus have made sure that Superboy had all available knowledge about Superman?
Margaret: That’s an interesting thought about Cadmus. If they were developing Superboy to be a weapon against Superman, he should know where he might be: Metropolis and the Fortress of Solitude. I guess the argument could be made that they were not yet done ‘downloading’ all the information into him because he was rescued by The Team and not yet an active agent, but it seems very strange that the Fortress of Solitude is a surprise!
Syd: Fortunately before they can discuss this further, Wally says something stupid.
Margaret: Wally remains the worst in immediately trying to rev everyone up by saying they’ll kick “all aliens in their ugly faces” despite the fact that they are all in the presence of Megan and Conner: both aliens.
Syd: I kind of want to excuse that because he was thinking of specific aliens, he wasn’t thinking of his friends as being part of the “alien” category. Then again, they were JUST talking about Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Like, aliens were in the previous sentence. Wally is still the Worst.
Margaret: But, just because he doesn’t specify a certain group doesn’t make it less despicable. That’s like someone saying, “Immigrants” when they specifically mean, “Mexicans” because they’re trying not to sound racist.
Syd: Look, I agreed Wally is the worst. The longer we talk about this the worse he is the worst. Unless that’s just our bias as East Coast intellectual… I can’t even finish that joke, because I threw up in my own mouth a little.
The Young Justiceros face off against the aliens on the North Pole. While their ship is [something science something] to incorporate the alien gun, Artemis has to hold off the aliens on her own. And she isn’t immediately killed! These ships can actually be shot down with a damn bow and arrow! What the hell kind of spaceships are these?
Margaret: Maybe they are like those very precise scientific beings where if one thing is knocked out of place, the whole thing goes up. Either that, or this race of aliens just has incredibly flimsy ships. Or Artemis has incredible foresight and aim to find exactly where the best place to shoot an arrow that will make an unknown alien ship blow up.
Syd: Well, Greg Weisman very famously questioned the need for a speed-force by asking why there isn’t also a strength-force or an archery-force, but this seems like very strong evidence that despite a lack of speed-force, there is DEFINITELY an archery-force on Earth-16 and I am totally for this. Anyway, Artemis does eventually get killed, making her the first Young Justiceketeer to die.
Margaret: Wait! But before that Wolf jumps in front of a blast to protect Superboy! They killed the dog first! And the Team, is justifiably upset, while Superboy shrugs it off and gets back to work. It’s a very interesting insight into Conner’s character. He is not the person who will break down as something happens, he pushes it down. Which is the exact opposite to Megan after Artemis is killed.
Syd: I do like that this episode shows how each member reacts when they’re pushed to the limit. So far we know that Conner is a pragmatist, Megan is emotional, and Artemis is self-sacrificing.
Margaret: And that is particularly interesting due to the fact that Artemis is still under suspicion as being someone who could be untrustworthy on the Team. The idea is out there that a Mole could be involved and in this moment it’s proven that Artemis – even if she is that Mole – went out of her way to protect the Team. Also, they can’t have really killed Artemis, right? What the hell?!
Syd: Anyway, the scene ends with Wally vowing to kill “every single alien – if it’s the last thing I do.” And he’s already been called out on this. This is no longer an innocent mistake.
Margaret: Exactly! This would actually have been a moment where I could maybe understand him yelling that and people saying, “Hey Wally, Megan and Conner are standing right here.” At which point he would have gone, “Well, obviously, not you guys.” THAT would have been an interesting point, I think it’s the show runners saying, “When you face something incredibly emotional, sometimes your unsavory viewpoints come to light.” Because Wally has definitely has some questionable viewpoints before this, but him saying that and everyone else – who is also upset – calling him out would have been an interesting moment.
Syd: Except, they already did the joke one time, and they’re not going to break the emotional moment that way. I think it’s just shows that Wally has some issues that he will need to address at some point. Kaldur’s response to Wally is, “There will be time to mourn later,” and doesn’t acknowledge that Wally’s way of mourning is unbridled rage.
Margaret: Yeah. Kaldur’s leadership, however, has generally been about pointing the Team’s viewpoints and emotions in a way that is beneficial to the mission. I assume that’s what he’s trying to do here with Wally’s rage. And, in fact, he immediately directs the conversation to the point that has not yet been brought up yet: without the Justice League, does that make them the heroes to protect the planet? Kaldur says yes. They should go to the Hall of Justice and show the world that they were not abandoned.
Syd: At the Hall of Justice, Megan finds J’onn buried under a statue of J’onn. In a nice little touch, Kaldur makes Megan psychically scan him to make sure it’s really him, which he is, but he has no memory of how he survived the alien death ray or how he ended up in the Hall of Justice. He has a vague sense that there was something important he was supposed to tell the team. But before they start unraveling the mystery, as is becoming a pattern in this episode, the scene ends with Wally saying something stupid – this time “Hello, Wally!” which was cute. But unlike the last time he said something stupid, the scene transitions to him being useful – spouting comic book science. He believes that the alien’s guns emit zeta beams that teleport their targets rather than destroy them and that everyone is still alive. That’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t explain how we see all of their skeletons as they’re vaporized.
Margaret: It seems as if Wally – who is actually a scientific genius, despite being the worst – is attempting to use his knowledge to find a way for everyone to still be alive. Before this, I was convinced this couldn’t be real, because there is no way the show is killing all of the Justice League and Artemis at the same time. Maybe it’s a different kind of zeta technology where the skin goes first and then the skeleton?
Syd: Anyway, the aliens show up and start blasting the soldiers defending the Hall of Justice. Superboy saves Jason Bard, who injured his leg, because reference. It’s kind of weird that the Justice League computer recognized Jason Bard. Where would he have encountered the Justice League before this?
Margaret: The aliens take over the base and after Superboy and Jason Bard are through, Kaldur helps J’onn to the portal. As they make it there, Aqualad tells him, “They need you more than me!” and throws him through the portal. As soon as J’onn is through, Aqualad is ‘Zeta Tubed’. Though, they show his skeleton, still. Are we sure they’re not dying? They can’t do that and still have a show, right? This is making me very conflicted.
Syd: From next episode on, the show takes place on Earth 2.
Margaret: From here on out we get to see what it would be like if Robin was the leader of the Team. Already, I think Aqualad was a better leader. Robin’s plan is to sacrifice Superboy so the others can infiltrate and when Megan protests, “Aqualad would never do that!” he snaps, “Aqualad would sacrifice himself, a mistake which just cost us our leader.” It did, but it’s already clear that Robin doesn’t think about the Team as a whole in a crisis, he thinks about the Mission First with the Team being expendable parts within it.
Syd: I think he realizes that without the Team, there won’t be anyone to fulfill further missions. Still, in a crisis, Robin shuts out sentimentality completely. As much as Superboy was someone who focused on the mission after the death of a teammate, when he is sent on a suicide mission, he still thinks, “It’s what Superman would do.” Superboy still wants to be the hero and still wants to save others. Robin is entirely devoted to stopping an overwhelming enemy at any cost.
Margaret: Sure, but he also does not have the leadership touch that Kaldur does. Kaldur was able to refocus the Team after Artemis’ death in a way that was constructive and Team Building. Robin’s technique is to chide Megan’s valid protest about sending Conner to die and silence her without an ability to speak her mind.
Syd: Well, he doesn’t treat his teammates as people, which is why Kaldur is better suited to lead them.
Margaret: A plan of action decided upon, The Team broadcast to…the East Coast? The US? The world? We’re not sure how far the signal goes, but it’s a stirring speech about how there is still hope as long as there are still those amongst them that will fight the aliens attacking them. I’m reminded of the rallying speech about hope in the finale of Supergirl Season 1 and how this just does it so much better. The characters actually maintain the ideals they speak about. While they are not perfect, they have not murdered anyone.
Syd: Well, Kaldur did kill some enemy soldiers in the episode “Downtime.” That’s not murder, technically, but they aren’t strictly against killing.
Margaret: Right! However, the public hearing the speech wouldn’t know about that. Also, Kaldur – as he sacrificed himself earlier – isn’t there, so the idealistic speech isn’t as hypocritical. Though, come to think of it, I’m not even sure the public of National City know about the people Supergirl’s killed. So, they might not find it as hard to swallow as we do.
Syd: The public on that show is oddly incurious about what happens to the aliens she fights. Given what we know, the idea that she just kills all of her adversaries is kind of the least disturbing possibility. Maybe they address the issue in season 2, but I guess we’ll never know.
During the speech, Rocket, Zatanna, and Red Arrow are in Mt. Justice when Tula and Garth join them. So does Roy know Tula and Garth? We’ve never seen them together, but they could have met during one of Roy’s side adventures that happen between episodes. Come to think of it, Red Arrow has been a solo hero for over three months by this point. I would totally read a comic about Roy’s adventures that we’re missing out on, unless, like in Rise of Arsenal, most of those adventures are heroin related.
Margaret: Amidst all the horror and the fear, Megan uses the moment to tell Conner to be careful and tells him that she loves him. It’s the first time that it has been said on the series, which is a touching moment, though it seems clear this is coming up only because Megan fears about his safety.
Syd: Also, there is no fear in saying it because Conner is immediately killed and it seems like Megan will be soon, too. J’onn tells the others that there isn’t a detention facility on the ship and everyone else is gone forever. To Wally’s insistence/denial. Robin confirms that he had been scanning for signs of the Justice League and they weren’t there. The mission is no longer to rescue, but to destroy the aliens so that the human race could survive without its heroes.
Margaret: It’s becoming very clear that Robin is Batman’s protege in this scene. He knew immediately once they arrived that he sent Conner on a suicide mission and said nothing. Even after Conner is killed, he feels no remorse, because he sees a bigger mission they must handle. There’s no remorse for Artemis or Conner, only facts. It’s so remarkably cold and calculating. It was really a chilling moment from the kid who jokes about being ‘whelmed’ and ‘chalant.’ You could have forgotten that he was trained by Batman from the age of nine (again, what the fuck Batman) until now.
Syd: Robin and Kid Flash destroy the mothership and themselves in the process. Megan and J’onn get clear in time to watch the mothership be destroyed – and then for another bigger mothership to land. It seems all is lost. Then J’onn murders Megan.
Margaret: That was like the last insane twist on this episode filled with twists. I was completely surprised until Megan woke up immediately. So, it was a dream the whole time?! That’s so frustrating!
Syd: It wasn’t a dream, exactly, it was a simulation. Megan was psychically creating a situation that the Team couldn’t beat. It was like the Kobayashi Maru. Unfortunately, Kaldur, for all his skill, is not as good a Captain as Kirk when it comes to the ever-important life skill of cheating to always prevail.
Margaret: Knowing now that the episode was all a simulation, there’s a few things to discuss! First of all, even if the death of the entire Justice League was not the first hint that not everyone was dead, we all should have known once Wolf was killed. That’s the whole ‘Killing the Dog’ trope. You don’t do that!
Syd: It’s interesting, because Wolf is the most expendable character, but also the most innocent, so he’s the one you least want to see die. Then, after the most innocent member is dead – which could have been a permanent change in the series – the character with the most troubled past goes, which is something the series couldn’t abide.
Margaret: I can’t seem to find the actual trope I was thinking about, but it’s the idea that a movie will have a good ending because they save the dog and a bad ending if they have to kill the dog. Speaking in Will Smith movies, Independence Day will have a happy ending because they save the dog in an impossible situation. I Am Legend has a sad ending because he has to kill his dog. Killing Wolf was kind of a signal that this was an impossible situation.
Syd: Knowing that the Justizjugend subconsciously know that this is a simulation could explain Wally desperately trying to convince everyone that nobody was really dead. Otherwise, we would have to accept that Wally has no way of coping with death, which will eventually be a pretty big problem.
Margaret: Though, I thought the premise was that they knew it was not a simulation until Artemis’ death and after that, Megan’s incredibly telepathic abilities overrode the program. So, Wally really might have thought that Artemis was dead and was desperately attempting to come up with a reason why she could still be alive. I came away from the ending believing that he truly did think Artemis might have died.
Also, I have to say, Billy is not the worst any more, as he immediately goes to comfort a clearly devastated Megan. No one else does! It’s only Billy.
Syd: No, sorry, Billy is still the worst.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: C-. There was some real emotion, but the ending fell completely flat. It seemed like this episode just didn’t need to happen. I know, none of these stories really NEED to happen, but this one especially felt like it could be removed from the series with no structural damage.
Margaret: I’m more of a B-, honestly. I liked seeing what all those characters would do in impossible situations. It was interesting to see how calculating Dick is or how much Artemis’ death affected Wally, but the ending did feel very flat. It was more of a character study or a good fan fic than an actual episode. It felt like just a necessary episode to bring on character development later.
Syd: You’ve convinced me. C+. This was kind of like a good enough imaginary story, but the particulars of it don’t stick with you.