Young Justice Season 1, Episode 18
SUMMARY: Artemis and Zatanna spend their Halloween fighting the supervillain Harm. Then they meet a ghost. Meanwhile Happy Harbor High’s Halloween party is invaded by Martians – or at least one Martian.
Syd: So, if we’ve timed this correctly, this entry will be posted on October 31, 2016. We’re on schedule for that, right?
Margaret: Uuummm, yes. Totally on schedule. The episode starts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The sword of Beowulf has been stolen. It can only be wielded by someone who is pure of heart and is supposed to hold great power. The police officer assigned to the case sounds incredibly skeptical.
Syd: It is here that we meet the episode’s villain – Harm, a character created for the Young Justice comic. Harm is kind of a weird name, though it is kind of in line with some other villains like Bane or Stryfe, from which Harm is not too far a cry. Also, he refers to himself in the third person, which is creepy and arrogant and perhaps fits in with the character, but let’s cut the crap, I have read tons of Peter David books and I know that puns are his lifeblood and he did this solely so that Harm could tell people to “stay out of Harm’s way.”
Margaret: But he has yet to say it! Just “Mediocrity such as this is never far from Harm.”
Syd: But you KNOW it’s coming!
Margaret: Let’s keep a ‘Harm watch!’ I think that definitely makes sense. If you name a bad guy Harm in a comic, you should use the full extent of his punny-ness.
As he jumps down to attack the police officers, he wields the power of Beowulf’s blade. The curator is shocked, as he thought that only the pure of heart could wield the blade. Harm’s response is that your heart had to be pure, but it did not have to be pure good. It could be pure evil. It’s a really interesting twist.
Syd: Well, pure can be many things, and I kind of love that this doesn’t put a fine point on how Harm is pure. I mean, when people talk about being “pure of heart,” they rarely mean “pure good” exactly. More often they mean pure to be innocent or pure in intention rather than effect. The fact is that our concept of morality is so complex that no matter how altruistic, no act let alone person can really be considered “pure” good in an absolute sense. In fact, the very concepts of good and evil when applied to actual people become muddled and hard to define. And I trust Peter David – writer of this episode – to understand that at least based on this page (which I love) –
When a character is set up as “pure evil,” I usually find it disappointing, because the writer’s conception of “pure evil” usually boils down to “likes killing people,” which is nowhere near as bad as the quality of corruption displayed by evil people in real life. I’m not sure in what regard Harm is pure – whether he has no good intent or is entirely corrupt or has low good contaminants based on standards only a sword can judge – but it’s something deeper than that he’s a Michael Myers-level bad dude.
Margaret: It is a very interesting dichotomy, to be sure. I like the twist that it doesn’t have to be ‘pure good of heart’, which is generally what people assume when someone says you have to be ‘pure’ to wield something. It’s why I think unicorns are kind of bullshit. The idea of unicorns are great, but the fact that you have to be a virgin or ‘pure’ to interact with them is just such a weirdly archaic thing to me. I like the idea that there might be a really metal unicorn out there that only will respond to the touch of someone who is totally DTF.
Syd: So, in Mount Justice, Conner, Megan, and Wally are getting dressed for Happy Harbor High’s Halloween party. They are going as the Mummy, the Corpse Bride, and Teen Wolf respectively. Conner has the most shoddy costume and Megan cheats by shapeshifting into her costume. Wally seems to be the only one who actually put effort into his outfit. So maybe he isn’t the worst in every regard?
Margaret: Megan is a shapeshifter! She doesn’t need to put effort into her outfit. Also, he continues to be the worst because of his blatant disregard for the fact that Megan is dating Conner. I know they’ve been sort of keeping it under wraps (pun intended), but it’s clear that Megan isn’t into him and yet he continues to try and pile it on thick. It’s just so creepy.
Syd: I don’t want to defend, but I feel kind of bad for him. Being oblivious is not a crime. Sexual harassment is, but he doesn’t know exactly where the boundaries are. I think he just doesn’t know what he is doing is inappropriate, and too many people go through their whole lives that way. It’s sad for everyone. Whoa, that got too heavy. Let’s bring in Billy Batson for comic relief.
Margaret: I understand being oblivious, but at the same time it’s not exactly the best excuse. Who I do feel bad for is Billy! He comes in thinking he’s going to a party with the Team and instead is told he can ‘do his own thing’ without worrying about them. It’s so sad! He wanted to trick or treat with the Team!
Syd: It’s so creepy, because he knows the least of all of them how adults are supposed to act.
Margaret: I think that’s also why it’s less creepy. He’s actually a ten year old. He’s trying to connect with people. However, the Team is completely oblivious and he flies out to trick or treat by himself. Zatanna and Artemis enter and Zatanna immediately asks how long Conner and Megan have been dating, which upsets Artemis. She moves off, no longer in the mood to party, but Zatanna interrupts her.
Syd: Zatanna incants, “Egnahc sehtolc otni ruo smrofinu,” which is backwards for “Solo Adventure!” The A plot of this episode is helmed by the two girls, which is refreshing, because it hasn’t been that long since this show has had enough female leads to do that. Of course, a good chunk of the fandom ships the two because of this, and maybe I can convince myself it’s not just because that’s the only way they can process two girls having fun together?
Margaret: I don’t read Artemis and Zatanna as being interested in each other because of this. However, I understand the desire for lesbian couples in comic media. There’s not really a ton to choose from in the comics – from what I know – and even less in TV/movies. When you also don’t show a lot of female characters interacting exclusively with each other, when it does happen a lot of people will take it in ways they have been wanting to see.
Syd: Over at the dance, we are treated to a great crowd scene, including Mal Duncan dressed as Superboy from the 90s (which he calls “Superman – done right,” because real 90s kids roll that way) and even though most people are dressed as superheroes, Karen has come dressed as a Bumblebee. That’s not very thematic *wink*.
Margaret: This makes me think it was thematic.
Syd: Ok, enough bullshit. What is Snapper Carr supposed to be dressed as?
Margaret: Total change of subject! But, yeah, what is he supposed to be? Deathstroke? Maybe? Just some random guy without an eye?
Syd: That is the laziest fucking Slade costume in the world. Could he not get a prop sword? Or maybe he’s White Nick Fury? Or maybe he just had eye surgery unrelated to the Halloween party?
Margaret: Nick Fury is Marvel! Are you saying Snapper Carr is able to see through dimensions to see a Black Nick Fury and think, “I want to dress up as that, but white.”
Syd: Well, otherwise it wouldn’t be very culturally sensitive.
Margaret: I mean, I guess he could see far back enough in time where Nick Fury wasn’t Samuel L. Jackson, but who would look at Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury and David Hasselhoff Nick Fury and decide that white Nick Fury was the way to go? That’s just…that would say way too much about Snapper’s character and I would not like it.
In any event, Marvin is on his phone because he thinks Martians are invading the Earth, which everyone is very skeptical about.
Syd: Snapper says, “Of course Martians aren’t hostile.” I know we’re thousands of reasons deep into why this series is better than Supergirl, but even as far as any shared universe story, I like how lived-in this world feels. Martians are clearly a known thing in this world. Snapper is skeptical not because there is any doubt about alien life (which wouldn’t make sense in this universe), but because Mars is our ally.
Margaret: Back at Mount Justice, there’s a meeting between Batman, Red Tornado, Kaldur, Roy and Robin about the possibility of a mole. Kaldur is convinced it was a lie to sow doubt amongst the team, while Roy is convinced there may actually be a traitor. Apparently Kaldur and Kid Flash are without suspicion, but Superboy and Megan are still under scrutiny.
Syd: I appreciate that Conner, Megan, and Artemis haven’t been operating as long as Wally, Kaldur, and Dick, but it seems so bizarre to me that they are the only ones whose motives are discussed. Kaldur’s life outside the team is seldom shown, Dick is known to be secretive, and Wally is hardly a “good” guy. The idea that anyone is above suspicion is itself suspect, especially when on a non-diagetic level, it would be so much more satisfying if the traitor were someone in good standing.
Margaret: Yeah. Though there is a scapegoat in that it seems the most obvious that Artemis might be the traitor due to the fact that everyone but Kaldur knows that she is not Green Arrow’s niece. But, it’s weird that they believe their longer known friends above suspicion.
Syd: By the way, why wasn’t Kaldur told about Artemis’ background? I mean, very little has been revealed to the audience, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that she has connections to the League of Shadows. Wouldn’t that be important to a team leader who may have a traitor in his midst?
Margaret: I think Batman answers that. Artemis might not be Green Arrow’s niece, but she is allowed her secret identity. Everyone in that room seems to know what those ties are and don’t feel it necessary to reveal her connection. I wouldn’t trust Batman to tell the truth when necessary, but Red Tornado is a good guy and would put the Team’s safety at the forefront. If Artemis was truly implicated in the League of Shadows, he would have spoken up. This seems like they are protecting her because they know her sister is Chesire. You can’t implicate her only because she is related to someone who is in the League of Shadows.
Syd: Anyway, from the audience’s perspective, Artemis is too obvious, and their suspicions of Conner and Megan are pretty weak. It would take a stronger case for us to believe there’s anything to this mole hunt, except for the fact that they wouldn’t spend so much time on it if there were really nothing to it, as Kaldur believes – assuming Kaldur isn’t himself the mole, that is.
Margaret: Out on the town, Zatanna tries to engage Artemis in a conversation about what’s been going on.
Syd: Wait a second, Artemis says, “I need action,” and Zatanna says, “Maybe you need to talk,” and now I’m shipping them.
Margaret: Ha! Ship away. They would make a cute couple. But, instead of talking, they take out three groups of robbers and muggers, with Artemis getting more and more aggressive at each take down.
Syd: Look, I know Artemis is highly trained, but she is shooting a deadly weapon at moving targets while riding a motorcycle. She could have killed someone. I would have read her flippant response of “No harm done,” as disturbingly callous, if I didn’t know that Peter David LIVES for the puns and that was just a straight line so that Harm could tell her that “Harm is not done.” Also, they “cannot escape Harm.”
One interesting note, while they are fighting Harm, he mentions that he will have to kill their apparent mentors after he has killed them, to which Zatanna gets defensive of her father. It occurs to me that both Artemis and Zatanna use their real names for crime fighting and Zatanna doesn’t seem to think it worth keeping secret that Zatara – who also publicly uses his real name as a member of the Justice League – is her father. It was mentioned minutes ago that Artemis deserves a secret identity, but what about Zatanna? Is it a secret that Zatara has a superhero daughter? Does Zatanna care?
Margaret: I would think that since both Zatanna and Zatara fight under their real names without any sort of care about secret identity, that it wouldn’t occur to them to hide who their family members are. Zatara is a well established member of the Justice League. Zatanna is his daughter. It never really crossed my mind that they attempted to ever hide that from anyone.
Syd: So, the two teen heroes are led away onto a rooftop by a mysterious girl dressed in white who identifies herself only as “Secret.” Or at least, she may be identifying herself, since she has a similar character design to the Young Justice member from the comics named Secret, though this one seems to only say the word “Secret,” so it could mean anything.
Margaret: Harm is quickly on their heels and Artemis offers a fight with him without weapons to prove who is the better fighter. He puts down the Sword of Beowulf and they engage in hand to hand combat that Harm easily gains the upper hand in.
Syd: This is interesting, because by besting Artemis without magic powers, it shows that his “purity” is more than just a gimmick to activate the sword, but it actually gives him strength and clarity that help him in combat. When Zatanna tries to wield the sword, it rejects her for not being pure of heart. What do you figure is the nature of her impurity?
Margaret: I think it is what Harm pointed out about both of them. They don’t have a ‘pure’ motivation. Harm thinks it’s impure to care about others, the opposite of that is to care about only other people and not yourself. I believe Zatanna’s ‘impurity’ involves the fact that she cares both about both her own safety and others’. She’s not ‘pure’ in her motivations one way or another.
Syd: Anyway, Secret has led Artemis and Zatanna to Harm’s house, which is across the street from a magic shop called Abel’s House of Secrets, which is a reference that you don’t deserve to get if you haven’t read Sandman and Swamp Thing. Let me just say as someone from New York City – that is a huge shop. I wonder how something as niche as that stays in business.
Margaret: Back at the dance, it seems that the Martians have taken over Happy Harbor, complete with a PA announcement from Homeland Security. However, Conner’s X-Ray vision easily notices that it’s a student playing with the PA system. The whole thing is a prank.
Syd: The prank backfires when Superboy, Kid Flash, and Miss Martian stage their own Martian invasion to scare Marvin and trick him into revealing his deception. So Marvin is scared by Miss Martian disguised as Marvin the Martian. Hooray for Warner Brothers corporate synergy!
Margaret: After being captured by Harm, he ties Artemis and Zatanna up in separate rooms. He threatens Artemis with killing Zatanna if she doesn’t answer his questions, however as he is distracted Secret helps Zatanna escape her bonds. In searching her room, she discovers that Secret knew Harm and that the room she is tied up in was, in fact, Secret’s old room.
Syd: Zatanna frees Artemis and the two run to the back yard. There they find the tombstone of Greta Hayes – who was Harm’s sister. By his admission, she was the only thing he ever loved, so he had to kill her so that his heart could be pure and rid of compassion.
Margaret: It’s interesting that pure of heart to the sword actually means purely selfish or purely selfless. Harm could have decided to protect people no matter what and use the love of his sister for that cause, but he decided to kill her to become purely selfish.
Syd: Secret – Greta Hayes’ ghost rises from the grave as Artemis announces, “Your Secret’s out!” See, it is ALL about the puns. But also, with his love for his sister reignited, Harm was no longer pure. He could no longer wield the Sword of Beowulf and could be defeated. While this is a clever resolution for this story, there’s also kind of an unfortunate moral lesson hidden about sticking with your toxic ideology no matter what if you don’t want to be beaten.
Margaret: Man, that is a depressing extrapolation I had not even thought about till now.
Syd: What gets to me is how fragile and inflexible this purity is. Even before we saw Harm lose his resolve, we were given some indication of the efforts he took to maintain his “purity” – like how he doesn’t even use personal pronouns because he thinks it humanizes others too much. I can’t help that the Beowulf sword’s intended wielder – the purely innocent or purely virtuous – must be equally damaged, just in a different way.
So, Artemis is disturbed by what she’s seen, because how Harm and Secret’s story ended, reminds her of her own relationship with her sister. Zatanna encourages her to share, saying, “Secrets don’t stay buried. It’s better to bring them into the Light.” Of course, that pun has a further level, because being brought into the Light is exactly what Artemis is afraid of.
Margaret: Instead, like in all good ghost stories, the episode ends on a bit of an enlightening, but creepy note. Artemis draws Zatanna’s attention to the sign outside the fence where Greta is buried: it is a neon sign for Abel’s House of Secrets. All the neon is dead except for ‘Secret’. She observes that that must be the last thing Greta saw before she died and that is why she only said ‘Secret’.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: A. Harm was a great villain – really threatening and even frightening in a children’s-show-villain way and the War of the Worlds subplot was hilarious.
Margaret: A. I like a good mystery and I liked the Artemis/Zatanna team up.