Young Justice Season 1, Episode 19
SUMMARY: When everyone above the age of 18 (or whatever the magical criterion is) disappears, it’s up to the Young Justicers to defeat Klarion and break the spell. But can they do it without calling upon the unpredictable and possibly malign power of Dr. Fate?
Syd: This episode is an adaptation of the JLA comic “World Without Grown-Ups,” which was a backdoor pilot for Young Justice. Basically the premise was that a child with godlike powers throws a tantrum and banishes all adults to another world. This premise was already adapted into a cartoon in the Justice League Unlimited episode “Kid Stuff.” The comic had more material than would fit in a twenty minute cartoon, but most of it was justifying a Young Justice solo series, which was unnecessary at this point. The villain in the comic was Bedlam – a villain created for this story – and the one thing I missed from the comic was the Team fighting the kind of monsters a magical child would conjure, including a Nazi dinosaur:
It was refreshing that Robin and Superboy don’t debate whether it is ethical to punch Nazi dinosaurs, because they’re good guys. Of COURSE they punch Nazis.
Margaret: I haven’t read the comic, but I liked the ‘realism’ of it just splitting adults and kids as opposed to inserting other villains. But, I definitely feel cheated that there wasn’t a Nazi dinosaur that the Team got to punch into the ground.
Syd: Anyway, in this version, the villain was replaced by Klarion in order to tie the story into the rest of the season. The story begins on a crossroads in Roanoke, which is the logical place to go to make people disappear.
Margaret: In that, Klarion goes to a crossroads in Roanoke and summons four more wizards to help him with the spell he is casting. They all chant along with him and the scene changes to the Cove.
Syd: I should quickly point out that the wizards are all established evil wizards from the DCU. Wotan has shown up before, but I’m kind of impressed that they put in the work to design three whole characters who hardly do anything.
Margaret: In fact, I assumed they were stock characters used as plot fodder! But, I guess I should know better by now. Back in the Cove, they are unloading the Bio-ship of supplies and Zatanna and Artemis enter. Since this is the second time we’ve seen Zatanna in two episodes, Artemis makes a logical assumption that she might be joining the Team. However, she says her father is far too protective and has no idea if that’s even a possibility. However, as they’re discussing that, Batman, Red Tornado and Zatara completely disappear.
Syd: After the title sequence, we turn to Fawcett City, where Billy Batson is watching a news report on his own exploits as Captain Marvel, when his uncle Dudley disappears. His first instinct is to turn into Captain Marvel to find out what villain caused this, but when he noticed that Cat Grant has disappeared, he utilizes his not-quite Wisdom of Solomon to decide that he probably shouldn’t assume an adult body when he still doesn’t know what happened to the adults. This idea is pretty much directly lifted from the comic.
Margaret: Back in the cave, Robin is trying to get in contact with any adult hero and is coming up with nothing. He says that he cannot even get a hold of Red Arrow, which means that Red Arrow is an adult – or at least over 18. Zatanna says very clearly that anyone over the age of 18 has disappeared.
Syd: Okay, but that isn’t a hard and fast cut off, because Megan remains on the Kidworld and she’s 48. She’s still an adolescent, but the magic clearly is not based on chronological age. They don’t tell us exactly what the spell’s parameters are and I think this is going to get more confusing as we go. What is interesting from a non-magical standpoint is that apparently Roy was an adult the whole time and that was never mentioned before. No wonder he was so upset in the pilot about being treated like a kid.
Margaret: Hilariously, I was about to say, it comes as a surprise as he acted like such a child in the pilot.
Syd: Well, he’s probably 18 or 19. TECHNICALLY an adult, but have you had a conversation with an 18 year-old?
Margaret: Not recently, no. As Robin and Zatanna scan the information, he brings up a clip of Zatara finding Wotan and the Injustice League through a spell. He wants Zatanna to use the same spell to locate whoever did this. She, however, is less than confident about her abilities to cast a spell at the same level as her father.
Syd: The Team is rounding up unattended youngsters and bringing them to safety. There’s a cute scene of a little baby who was left in a car seat who is comforted by the symbol on Conner’s T-shirt and an even cuter scene of Artemis not remembering the words to nursery rhymes.
Margaret: Meanwhile, Billy is trying to get to the Watchtower. But, the Watchtower only recognizes him as Captain Marvel, not as Billy Batson, so he is denied access. Dejected, he wanders the streets only to find a broadcast made by the Team led by Aqualad, Kid Flash and Robin.
Syd: As they make the speech, we cut to other cities and see what their children are doing. Rocket is saving a school bus in Dakota City and it strikes me that this is her third appearance on this show and they have yet to explain who she is. Barbara Gordon and Bette Kane, who are not established as superheroes in this series, are taking care of children in Gotham City. According to her wiki page, this is the last time we see Bette in this series, so better luck next reboot, Bette.
Margaret: As we see the speech from the Team, we also hear it translated into multiple different languages: French and Chinese among them, so it stands to reason that they somehow managed to simultaneously translate their words into every language in the world. That, by itself, is an amazing feat and could make them millions of dollars.
Syd: But they have Zatanna working for them. Maybe she has an incantation for that?
Margaret: That is still pretty amazing!
Syd: What can I say? Zatanna is totally amazing!
Margaret: After Billy fails to make it to the Watchtower, he is determined to make it to the cave by any cost. So, he scales a fence of an airfield….however when the shot pans out the door to the fence is open only a couple of feet away. What the hell, Billy!
Syd: They check back in with the Team, where Aqualad verifies that there are also no adults on Atlantis, but honestly, there are an amazing number of teen heroes established on Atlantis in this series – Garth, Tula, Ronal, Lori, Lagoon Boy, Topo, and depending on how you count King Shark (though he would probably help out). Atlantis is probably doing fine.
Margaret: In the Chekov’s Gun moment, Wally brings up Fate’s helmet to Aqualad, wondering if they are desperate enough to try using its power to restore the adults. However, Kaldur reminds him that the next person to put on the helmet will be taken over by Fate, which is not a risk they are willing to take yet.
Syd: That would carry more weight if Kaldur hadn’t just taken the helmet off with no consequences the last time he used it. Anyway, Billy finds a teenage pilot named Amber who is willing to fly him to Rhode Island. Unfortunately, they are still in the air when it strikes midnight on her 18th birthday and she disappears.
Margaret: That does start to punch a hole in the theory that this isn’t supposed to be by chronological age. The minute Amber turns 18, she disappears. It’s unlikely that she magically reached maturity while talking to Billy in that minute.
Syd: You don’t know! She could have passed a crucial rite of passage! Maybe flying from Fawcett to Happy Harbor was the one step on the threshold of her adulthood. Maybe the limit of adulthood is culturally determined. Then again, Aqualad has completed his compulsory education. Is he considered an adult by Atlantean standards? Also, do merpeople mature at different rates than landpeople?
Margaret: So, really, he should be on the Adultland! That’s kind of what I have been saying, that it seems as if some of this is very arbitrary.
Syd: My problem with that line of thinking is that it seems like all of the important details of everything else on this series was considered by the writers and producers of this series. I find it hard to believe that the showrunner wrote an episode where adults were banished to another Earth without a functional definition of what an adult is. Are we just not smart enough to divine that definition from the information available?
Margaret: My problem with that extrapolation is that if it’s too complex for people who are deeply looking into what their formula is, then it’s possibly just a little too complex for the show. I feel like you are starting to make patches for something where I feel like the showrunners went, “It’s Young Justice, the main Young Justice Team are kids, they’re on Kidworld. Justice League are not, they are in the Adultworld.” As soon as you make a hardline ‘at 18 you go to adult world’ but some of them break that mold, I think it turns into something more of an oversight than a large and complex plan. I’m a little bit more occam’s razor about this, I think.
Syd: Anyway, the action cuts back to the beginning of the episode, where we see from Batman and Zatara’s perspective that all of the children have disappeared.
Margaret: Zatara worries about Zatanna, saying she “is so….my only daughter.” She is so his only daughter? I mean, sure?
Syd: She is probably the most his only child of anyone he knows.
Margaret: The news reports start to come in saying that all children under the age of 18 have disappeared and people are desperate to find any answers.
Syd: Meanwhile, in STAR Labs, an unidentified blond guy in a remarkably tight T-shirt starts a riot claiming that aliens stole the children. It turns out he was just creating a diversion so that Ed Nigma could sneak in and steal… something that isn’t revealed.
Margaret: Back at Mount Justice, Batman and Zatara are standing in front of Wally’s trophy shelves having a very similar conversation to the one Kaldur and Wally had about whether they should use the power of the helmet. Batman says that all Justice League members are around the world attempting to quell the chaos and that it’s down to him, Zatara and Red Tornado, but that they will find a way. Just like Wally, Zatara echoes, “Not that desperate, then.” The one bright spot (I guess?) is that they might get help from Captain Marvel, as he’s the only Justice Leaguer unaccounted for.
Syd: Speaking of Captain Marvel, Billy Batson finally musters the courage to say the magic word “SHAZAM!” and transform, which also transports him to Adultworld. Billy has a cute line about how, although he lacks the courage of Achilles, he has the courage of Billy Batson, but that’s kind of undercut by the fact that he is alone in an airplane that he almost definitely doesn’t know how to land. It really doesn’t take as much courage to do the one thing that won’t result in certain death.
Margaret: That still can take some courage! The unknown can be scary. As soon as he says the word, he transforms and we’re treated to a comical view of Captain Marvel sitting in thin air, still flying forward. Ecstatic that he’s alive, he starts flying naturally until he hear’s Amber’s scream and he goes to save her. How long was she falling?!
Syd: They were flying really high.
Margaret: Also, there is now a pilotless plane about to crash hopefully into the water, but she did say they were almost there just after midnight on her birthday. That plane could definitely make it to Happy Harbor!
Syd: I mean, you’re totally right, but since we don’t see it crash into Happy Harbor, I think we’re just supposed to assume that only the plane was destroyed. Also, there isn’t really anything anyone could do to stop the plane wherever it crashed.
When Captain Marvel rejoins the League in Mt. Justice, Batman immediately figures out that reality has been split into two worlds, one with only adults and one with only children, as if nothing is more natural. Furthermore, he knows that Billy can go from one world to the other, so he can be used to communicate with the Team.
Margaret: When Captain Marvel zaps into the Kidworld, he’s right in the base and Kaldur immediately wants to know how he got there. Billy quickly asks Megan to read his mind and she find out that he’s Captain Marvel. Wally is skeptical, to which Billy asks if he really has to bring him nachos and pineapples to get on his good side.
Syd: They don’t really belabor the point that none of this should make sense to the Team and they would probably want more of an explanation of why Captain Marvel is suddenly a child.
Margaret: My assumption was that since Megan read his mind, she got all that information.
Syd: Which would make the nachos and pineapple line superfluous, but that’s the traditional way to show someone’s identity in stories where there isn’t a convenient psychic. Now that that’s settled, the Team and the League coordinate an attack on Roanoke in both worlds. The Team’s first strategy against Klarion is throwing things at him. Then they run at him. Amazingly, neither of those work.
Margaret: Also, why don’t they both shoot the things that have delayed explosions? We know for a fact they have them! That just seems really poorly thought out. On both sides, their attacks are no match for the sorcerers. That seems a little more understandable on the Justice League side. They’re fighting four guys, while The Team is only fighting one.
Syd: It’s clearly implied that Klarion is more powerful than the B-list wizards. That’s why he uses different kinds of magic – like German and backwards talking (though backwards German would require a higher order lord of chaos).
Margaret: I can respect that, I cannot even imagine attempting to speak backwards in German – especially if it’s not your native language.
Syd: So Zatara figures out that the gem in the middle of the pentagram is what is separating the worlds, so Zatanna puts on the Helmet of Fate to attack the gem. And this time, we know that there will be consequences to this, because there’s an act break.
Margaret: Dammit Zatanna!! We know that Nabu has been looking for a magic user this whole time and Zatanna is a very powerful witch. It really annoys me that she knows about the Fate helmet, but apparently doesn’t know that caveat? Or, is it that she doesn’t care? That’s never really discussed.
Syd: I think it’s that she thinks this threat justifies taking drastic actions. She must become as powerful as she can to beat Klarion, regardless of the consequences. I don’t think she’s taking this lightly, although it does seem kind of reckless, since she doesn’t know if she’ll ever get her body back.
Margaret: It makes me wish they had included Zatanna more explicitly in the Kaldur and Wally conversation. At the end of it, Zatanna interrupts them to say she’s ready to try the locator spell. We don’t hear footsteps, so it might be that the showrunners are implying she heard the entire thing – which includes the risk of Dr. Fate taking over her body forever. It would make the worried look both she and Zatara share at the end of the planning scene all the more appropriate. It also would show that she knows the consequences of her actions by donning the helmet. However, it took me two viewings to pick up on the fact that she might have overheard. Previously, I just assumed she knew it was a dangerous artifact, but decided to risk it.
Syd: While fighting Klarion, Zatanna starts getting bad Dr. Fate reception because Nabu is divided between both worlds. How does this work? The helmet is on both worlds because it is an inanimate object and it’s been established those are all on both worlds. However, Red Tornado is a machine, but he’s on the Adultworld. By what standard is he an adult? Also, if Klarion is on Kidworld, why is Nabu on both? Are they the same kind of being? Why isn’t Nabu considered only an adult?
Margaret: That is a good question, to be honest. I have a theory, though it might be a little thin on the ground. Nabu’s essence is tied to the helmet. Even while possessing a host that remains true, as his spirit always stays with the helmet. Since it was an inanimate object when the worlds split, I believe the magic spell split his power between the two planes. Zatanna, after putting on the helmet, only has access to the Nabu power that remained on Kidworld and explains why she gets bad Dr. Fate reception. If she had been wearing the helmet when the worlds split, I think Dr. Fate would then be on Adultword only.
That really doesn’t explain Red Tornado, though.
Syd: That’s possible. But if there are two helmets, wouldn’t there be two Nabus instead of half a Nabu on each world? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what I think there should be because we’re shown the way it is.
To make a long story short, the good guys win, but Nabu wants to keep Zatanna’s body. Kent Nelson objected, so Nabu released him to the afterlife.
Margaret: Damn, Dr. Fate is a jackass. That was his friend! And because he doesn’t want Dr. Fate to possess a teenage girl, he just get released into the afterlife. I guess it’s a happy ending for him as he gets to see Inza again? But, that is still some cold treatment.
Syd: Well, Dr. Fate may be Lawful, but he’s hardly Good. Zatara offers his body in exchange for his daughter’s – a deal that Nabu accepts.
Margaret: And in a heartfelt scene, Zatanna takes off the helmet and sees her father for the first time since the worlds were split. He takes the helmet from her and tells her that he loves her and entreats Batman to “take care of my girl.” Batman, collector of orphans, agrees to do so. Zatanna pleads with her father not to do this as it was her choice and her doing, but he puts on the helmet and becomes Dr. Fate. He flies off with the evil sorcerers (expect for Klarion, who earlier escaped) to do…who knows what with them? He may kill them for all we know.
Syd: We actually don’t know Dr. Fate’s stance on murder. Come to think of it, we never see any of the sorcerers again. They could be dead.
Margaret: We don’t see them again? They are totally buried in a very orderly line of unmarked graves.
Syd: The rest of the episode is mostly wrapping up. Wally is reunited with his family, and after watching The Flash, it’s disconcerting seeing the West family is all white.
Margaret: That’s one of the things I liked about The Flash and having Iris West being a black woman. Not only does it make Barry and Iris an interracial couple, but the relationship to Wally becomes more simplified. Instead of being a cousin, he’s her younger brother.
Syd: I don’t like that they made Wally Iris’ brother so he would be closer in age to Barry, but I do like that they have a more diverse cast.
Margaret: I can understand that. My excuse is that it’s TV, they’ve all got to be young twenty-somethings.
Syd: That’s not a very good excuse. Fucking CW’s demographics.
Margaret: I can’t really argue with that. Zatanna is being moved into a room. Megan let’s her know that her room is right next door if she needs anything, but Zatanna says she just needs some alone time.
Syd: There’s one moment when the Team is leaving where Dick hesitates, just for a second, doesn’t say anything but just looks at her and then walks out. As much as we can argue about the logic of the magic on this show, it’s moments like this that make it great. This show just gets all of the characters and their emotional moments so perfect.
Margaret: I also like the moment where Zatanna is alone and gets a moment to cry. I feel so bad for her and the guilt and mourning she must be feeling. It’s another perfect character beat for the show.
Syd: We abruptly cut from Zatanna crying to Klarion laughing. It turns out that the whole bifurcating the world plot was a diversion for the break-in at STAR Labs. I think this is kind of brilliant. The story of the break-in and missing specimen is bound to get lost the next day and even if someone like Batman looks into it, there is no way he would connect it back to all of the children disappearing. It’s kind of a great – if dramatic – cover.
Margaret: It’s a great cover. My only caveat is that they seemed to take the more difficult approach to stealing it. They had an entire world where there were no adults! The scientists, guards and even the Genomorphs most likely would be on the Adultworld. The Light surely has kid operatives. Why didn’t they use one of them to go to the almost certainly unguarded place and then steal it and wait for the worlds to merge again?
Syd: My No-Prize answer is that they originally intended Icicle Jr. to steal the starfish. That was the purpose of the jailbreak in Episode 10. However, they had to adjust their plans when the jailbreak was thwarted and only the Riddler got away.
What bothers me is that this plan seems to rely on the Justice League undoing the spell. Was that the plan, or was the Light ready to jettison Klarion if the spell remained in place?
Margaret: Since it’s the Light? I’m going to guess they just keep making Xanatos Gambits. Injustice League! If they win? Hey, they beat the Justice League. If they lose? Well, they think they defeated the people actually behind the Light. Kidworld and Adultworld? If the worlds remain split, they got rid of all the sidekicks with only losing Klarion. If the Justice League wins? Well, they still have the seamonster tentacle.
Syd: Well, if anyone can write a Xanatos Gambit, it’s Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman.
Margaret: WAIT, Greg Weisman was the creator of Gargoyles?!!? Oh my God, I had no idea. My heart just grew three sizes. I loved that series as a kid!
Syd: I know!
GRADING THE EPISODE
Margaret: I’m at an A. Poor Zatanna.
Syd: Also A. This is the show firing on all cylinders. Even Billy worked in this episode, and he NEVER works.