Despero Measures

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Young Justice Season 2, Episode 11

“Cornered”

SUMMARY: In a meeting with the United Nations, the ambassador for the Reach goes out of his way to make the Justice League look bad. Despero comes to Earth looking for a champion to take home as a trophy. The Team relocates to a warehouse in  Blüdhaven.


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Syd: The episode begins with L-Ron, the cutest non-Star Wars related robot in the world briefing his master Despero on Earth and which of its champions would make the best trophies for him. It’s a standard villain motivation when you want a fight scene but don’t want to waste time on a plot or anything frivolous like that.

It’s interesting that L-Ron notes that Despero can’t target Rimbor because it’s under Green Lantern protection, but Earth should be fine. See, this is what happens when you send both of your Green Lanterns into space.

Margaret: Shouldn’t Earth be under Green Lantern protection no matter if there’s one in residence or not? That’s like saying England isn’t currently under British Rule if the Queen visits the US.

Syd: I guess the Corps can’t protect the planet if there are no Lanterns present. It’s like how the next time the Queen is overseas, I’m going to try to take the throne and see what happens.

Margaret: At a press conference, Captain Atom and the Secretary General of the UN are greeting the diplomat of the Reach. The representative is totally passive aggressive, insinuating that because Captain Atom has powers he can ‘make’ peace should he wish while still doing it with that very monotone alien voice. I already hate these guys even more now. Torturing kids is one thing, passive aggression on a universal (literally) scale is just beyond the pale.

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Syd: Since they have the passive aggression covered, we turn to G. Gordon Godfrey for the active kind. He is incensed that Captain Atom wants to meet the Reach in private, but isn’t surprised, since most of the Justice League wear masks. Honestly, it does seem kind of weird that a group with no diplomats is meeting with the alien ambassadors.

Margaret: Right? I was just about to say, is GGG annoyed when diplomats discuss things behind closed doors regularly? Does he really want a broadcast of France and England discussing what room is best for the photo op? Though, there is a great scene in the West Wing where Sam Seaborn is discussing this all with Russian ambassadors and it’s great.

Syd: I’m on the opposite side. I want all ambassadors to start wearing masks and colorful costumes.

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Margaret: I’m pretty sure I don’t want our diplomats acting like that, but it would be entertaining. It seems as if the Reach is outmaneuvering the Justice League in the diplomatic arena, but as you said that’s not really surprising as the Justice League is not a diplomatic organization. They are – if anything – a military or peacekeeping force. The fact that they are expected to have the same levels of training in galactic protocol is pretty strange. It really should be the Secretary General greeting them and making the speeches.

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Elsewhere, Black Canary is interviewing the children that were kidnapped by the Reach. Part of the Team is outside waiting. Ty exits the room and Virgil takes his place. Jaime is immediately ecstatic to see his friend alive and well, calling out to him. Of course, Ty has no idea who the Blue Beetle is and he has to try and cover it up with a lame, “Tyyyy—-ime to stretch!” Bart, how could you ever believe this guy is going to be someone who tortures people?!

Syd: I feel like we’re at the point where we can acknowledge that the inept and incompetent can still be dangerous.

Meanwhile, Virgil recounts to Black Canary that he was being tested with Static Shocks (this show loves its title drops) of increasing intensity. He was one of the ones who responded to their experiments with superpowers. The ones who didn’t were disposed of. So the Justice League knows that the Reach straight up murdered children. You’d think they would want to make this knowledge public, right?

Unfortunately, they have their own problems, what with their old headquarters just having blown up and apparently not having Batman bankrolling a nicer place for the Team.

Margaret: This is a really bittersweet moment of the team relocating from the destroyed Mount Justice to a new place. It’s more bolt hole than home and Mal is less than pleased that it’s basically just a few cots in a warehouse split level. Megan has said absolutely nothing through this whole ordeal and Conner is suspiciously watching her. Nightwing is trying to do his best to put a good spin on it, telling the team to bring what was salvaged from the cave to turn this ‘Warehouse into a Warehome!’ Oh Dick, not even your turn of phrases can put this into a good light.

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Syd: Mal proposes that he move in with Karen and Karen is completely not ok with this, but tries to play it off, making excuses for why they can’t. I feel bad for poor, oblivious Mal, who has no idea what troubled straits this relationship is in.

Margaret: Man, she has been blowing him off the entire season. Poor Mal. How in the hell does she think that Ray Palmer is a better dude than Mal? That guy is blander than dry white toast.

In any event, it’s clear the only reason they are there to pick up their things from the Justice League headquarters is to conveniently put them all in one place for the plot.

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Syd: Oh, right, I almost forgot we had a plot set up. A force field lowers around the Hall of Justice, locking everyone in. L-Ron shows up to announce Despero and yadda yadda yadda, “Let the Cage Match begin!” Captain Marvel gets the Worf Effect immediately and I don’t even feel bad, because I kind of wanted to see Billy get punched the first time he showed up.

Margaret: I was about to argue with you Seinfelding the build up to what this episode is about, but…then I realized it was just L-Ron explaining everything again for the benefit of the characters. We, as the audience, already know why they’re there. There is so much interesting other character stuff that could be happening right now that I’m annoyed they’re wasting it on a throw-away punch ’em up episode.

Syd: This is an old-fashioned comic book convention that every issue (or episode in this case) requires some action, to give a sense that you have some conflict and resolution even in the talky, character development episodes. In theory, this is narratively satisfying, but in practice, you have a lot of villains showing up out of nowhere and heroes going violently off the rails way too easily. The first season worked the action into the episodes much more organically, but what they are trying to do with the characters this season is much more involved, so it’s kind of a trade-off.

It’s tough to have a satisfying resolution in a story that is set up to have things that can’t be resolved – like the mortifying meeting between Captain Atom and the Reach ambassador.

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Margaret: Like we said previously, it’s really weird to have the League meeting with an alien ambassador as it’s clear Captain Atom has no real diplomatic training. The Reach has been observing Earth for awhile and knows quite a lot of information the League has been keeping secret. It’s very convenient that he says the Reach is all about ‘open communication’ and then only reveals secrets that the League has been holding. First of which is the attack on a Reach ship. Captain Atom responds that they only attacked because the Reach kidnapped and held a number of youths. The Reach ambassador then accuses him of alien racism, saying that it was the Kroloteans who kidnapped the children. I mean, sure, but they were still being held and tortured on a Reach held ship.

Syd: This was a clever ploy by the ambassador, because he immediately asks for evidence that implicates the Reach while also calling the credibility of all of the witnesses into doubt, and Adam was already on the back foot, because the easiest way to put a white guy on the defensive is to point out racism.

Margaret: It just continues to show how silly it is to have an untrained diplomat there to try and do any sort of negotiating. Atom wasn’t prepared for any of the things thrown at him. If anyone was going to do well at this meeting it’d be Batman or Dick. They’re used to people trying to toss them on their back foot with ill-gotten information.

Syd: What about Wonder Woman?

Margaret: Wonder Woman is a professional diplomat, but she also would not have been at all polite about that ill-gotten information. It’s the difference between a Lawful Good negotiator and a Chaotic Good one.

Syd: Speaking of negotiations breaking, down, back at the Hall of Justice, Despero is wiping the floor with absolutely everyone. Bumblebee uses her blasts to try to revive Zatanna to no effect. She also tries to distract Despero, also to no effect. Realizing that physical attacks are not working, she tells Megan to mind-blast him, but Megan is still traumatized by mind-wiping Kaldur. On the one hand, it’s nice that Megan is grappling with the ethics of the way she’s been using her mind powers offensively, but on the other, this was absolutely the worst time for her to suddenly have a problem with it.

Margaret: This is the one point of this episode that I do actually like, the exploration of Megan’s newfound horror at what she has done in the past. Sure, it’s inconvenient that it’s happening now, but it needs to be inconvenient. She’s so worried about her past actions that she cannot use her main power in order to save the people she loves. It’s a good moment of character growth and if it was used in any other way on lower stakes it would have less meaning.

Syd: With most of the Team out, (we didn’t mention how Billy was incapacitated, but he was) Bumblebee goes back to physical attacks and is able to short out Despero’s psychic attacks by blasting his eye, but she is quickly knocked out. When Despero is about to deliver the killing blow to her, Mal shows up having donned Guardian’s costume and claims to be Earth’s champion.

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Margaret: In Black Canary’s office, they discuss the fact that the scarab they thought to be an invention of Ted Kord is obviously something of the Reach. Jaime can’t deny that, but he also hides the fact that in Impulse’s future he turns into one of the people who enslave humanity. What he tells Canary is the truth – they think the only way to get the scarab off of him to reboot it is to kill him. Canary makes the understandable leap that that means he is a great asset to them: a person who has Reach technology that is not following the Reach’s orders.

Syd: Impulse, for his part, also wants to keep his dystopian future secret. He thinks that it could have been the Justice League discovering the scarab’s purpose that led to it being activated. He doesn’t mention that it could have been Jaime trying to get the scarab removed that activated it or any number of other things. Jaime, understandably, doesn’t tell anyone that he has the scarab’s voice in his head telling him to kill, but that also seems to be an important factor. I don’t think Bart really can even keep track of all the things that could go wrong with his plan.

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Margaret: Neither of them seem to know what it is that triggers the dystopian future, as Bart’s original plan certainly didn’t succeed…not that even Bart knows that. All he knows is that he did his duty and saved the Flash. For all he knows the main future is saved, he just has to make sure the Blue Beetle doesn’t go bonkers. Just, like with all plans like Bart’s, the course of not telling anyone seems like a pretty bad idea. That’s always what actually leads to the thing you didn’t want.

Syd: Back at the Hall of Justice, Mal is desperately distracting Despero – and amazingly, thanks to Black Canary’s combat training, it’s actually working without him having to land any hits. Megan takes Conner and Karen to safety, then tells Conner that she can’t bring herself to attack him psychically. Conner understands and tries to save Mal by caving in the floor under Despero. I like how Conner doesn’t push Megan to do to Despero what he had been disapproving of all season – which would have been hypocritical on his part – and instead figures out how to use his own talents to help.

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Margaret: I didn’t read Conner’s tone or actions as being understanding, more annoyed at her for finally realizing that what she has been doing all along has been wrong. He sounded more exasperated when he says, “Then don’t!” when she tells him she just can’t psychically attack him. Paired with how he has been looking at her suspiciously since her attack on Kaldur, I did not read any of these actions as understanding, but more of confirmation of what he thought might have happened.

Syd: Well, Conner usually sounds angry. Maybe it was ambiguous, but I liked how it resolved. And Megan does end up helping psychically, by undoing Despero’s psychic attack on Zatanna, allowing her to magically to defeat Despero, which L-Ron had already pointed out was cheating. L-Ron’s last words before he self-destructed were, “Poor Sportism!”

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Margaret: I’m glad that Megan is starting to realize that her mental powers aren’t only good for attacks. They can be used for defense, or like in this case to help others shake off enemy psychic attacks.

Of course, much like what seems to be the theme of this season, Justice League headquarters (at least on Earth) have been reduced to rubble. They’re losing a lot of real estate assets.

Syd: Of course, as the Reach’s ambassador helpfully points out, the Justice League still has the Watchtower orbiting Earth.

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Margaret: Basically, they’re using all of their secrets against the population. And, yet, we still have no official diplomatic reason as to why the Reach is on Earth, why they have a gadget that could deactivate Despero’s shield, or how they know all these things. They’re just using all of the Justice League’s secrets as some sort of shield.

Syd: What bothers me is how suspicious Secretary Tseng is of the Justice League’s motives. I can understand Godfrey having turned some of Earth’s populace against the League, but Tseng had been personally saved by them twice. You’d think they’d be afforded some benefit of the doubt over the aliens who showed up out of nowhere with no explanation.

Margaret: No, I get Secretary Tseng. He trusted the Justice League and had defended them in the past. For them to keep all this stuff from the public is one thing, but they should have been above the board with governments and/or the UN at the very least. Hiding it from everyone really makes them look guilty.

Syd: Meanwhile, Megan moves into her new place that she got by impersonating her uncle John. She lives with Ida Berkowitz, which I guess means she is now Linda Danvers’ neighbor. La’gaan calls her, but she doesn’t feel ready to take the call. I guess La’gaan doesn’t know yet that if you want Megan’s attention, you have to show up at her door, like Conner does.

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Margaret: I think it’s actually pretty smart for her to move into John’s place. That means people aren’t going to start talking about the fact that John conveniently disappeared the same time that the Martian Manhunter did when – as I am sure is coming – The Reach reveals that those Justice League seven are on Rimbor and have been for awhile.

Syd: To wrap up the episode, Black Canary sums up what they know – what a metagene is and why the Reach want it. Then Jaime bursts in and provides them with another bit of intel – that he becomes a monster in Bart’s future. He demands that they remove his scarab.

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Margaret: I’m glad they actually nip that particular plot point in the bud. I was going to get annoyed if they spread it out over any more episodes. I get why Bart and Jaime would keep it hidden, but it just seems like something that is meant to blow up in their faces. Now that everyone knows, steps can be made to actually tackle it rather than all the plot points being damage control to keep a secret.

GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: I’m at a C. Not a great episode. It mostly felt like housekeeping.

Margaret: I’m at a C+, maybe B-. I didn’t like the Despero storyline, but where they’re going with the Reach ambassador is interesting and I’m liking how they’re handling Megan’s recent character development. Basically, I liked this episode despite itself.

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