Young Justice Season 1, Episode 14
SUMMARY: The Reach’s former abductees escape from STAR Labs where they are being held, but shortly must return there to save it from an attack by Red Volcano.
Margaret: We start the episode with the titular Runaways (or at least the DC versions, not the Marvel ones. You can tell because this team doesn’t have a dinosaur) that the Team rescued from the Reach earlier in the season. Their powers are being rigorously tested. To the point of slave labor, honestly.
Syd: With the exception of Virgil Hawkins (on loan from the series Static Shock – but also a stand-in for Black Lightning, who is already an established Justice League member in this series) all of these characters are from Super Friends.
What you may not know about the Super Friends original characters is that none of them were given real names in that series, so in this one, we’re treated to a series of joke names. There’s Asami, or Sam for short, or Sam-urai for short, but then the rest of her name added on. Then there’s Ed Dorado, Jr., who is the son of another character named Ed Dorado, just to make talking about them confusing. Finally, we have Longshadow who has giant powers, and that’s the least offensive name. I am not okay with any of this.
Margaret: Yeah, I don’t like any of that. I’m glad they don’t say any of their full names in the cartoon. Or, at least, they don’t address each other that way. Only Lex Luthor uses their full names and we already know he’s a villain.
Syd: Oh, he’s exactly the sort of bastard who would find those names amusing. Moving along, the older Eduardo thinks it’s more than coincidence that he spent his life working with Zeta beams and his son developed teleportation powers. I have no idea what he’s insinuating about how the metagene works. Are we supposed to assume Sam’s father had really bad gas?
Margaret: It seems to be a case of both ‘realizing you’re in a comic book’ and ‘ignoring you’re in a comic book’ syndrome. Ed’s dad works in ‘Zeta Beams’ because Ed Jr. was going to have teleportation powers. If you’re someone who gets powers, it all has to make sense thematically. Ed Sr. realizes it must be connected but doesn’t realize it’s not for anything scientific….it’s only because he’s in a comic book world. He’s going to go insane when he realizes Barry Allen got superspeed because he was always late.
Syd: I kind of love that Ed the Younger is completely not interested in any of this and just wants a cure for what aliens did to him. They don’t dwell on it, but I think he’s the first character who completely doesn’t want to be a superhero.
Margaret: Is that true? I would argue that Conner in the beginning is very reluctant in his role. Though, he falls into it pretty easily after the first episode.
Syd: I would maintain that Conner wanted Superman’s approval, and he very quickly decided that meant becoming a superhero, regardless of whether that’s what he wanted for himself. It’s possible that Sam also doesn’t want to be a hero, but I don’t understand anything she says.
Margaret: I got some of it, as I watched a lot of anime as a kid. I like that they have a character that doesn’t speak English and the joke isn’t, “look at this weirdo who doesn’t speak English” it’s more just along the lines that they don’t understand each other. She’s still a capable member of the team.
Syd: The kids are talking about breaking out of STAR Labs, and I don’t blame them. It doesn’t look like STAR has put forth much effort to be hospitable while it’s doubling as a home for children. Neutron, who is understandably terrified of becoming a supervillain again, says they should all be patient. He’s such a narc.
Margaret: I both get his actions and also want to yell a him, “Dude, be cool!”
Meanwhile, setting up what is sure to be a conflict, STAR Labs gets a lot of boxes marked ‘Hazardous Materials’ from the Justice League for storage. They’ve been given quite a lot of Amazo parts to store in their vaults. That’s the ship from Arrow, right? So, it’s a bunch of things like propellers and siding.
Syd: We have definitely taken too much time off this blog if Arrow is fresher in your mind than the first season. What I’m wondering is why the Justice League is still keeping Amazo parts. That seems really dangerous and doesn’t really have much practical application without reassembling a killer robot. Isn’t that just asking a super villain to steal the parts and make their own killer robot?
Margaret: I was mostly joking. However, I imagine they kept the Amazo parts at the Watchtower, which was entirely secret until about three episodes ago. Now that it’s public knowledge, they felt the need to separate it all out to ensure things like what is about to happen don’t happen.
Syd: Which they wouldn’t if they had just destroyed the damn robot. I seriously question Captain Atom’s strategic thinking.
Margaret: Keeping Amazo would have been not his call at the time, as that was Season 1. I imagine he’s just like, “Well, Wonder Woman wanted this creepy robot around for a reason, better make sure no one uses it to become even more evil.”
Which, of course, is immediately what happens. Red Volcano – who is alive? I guess? How did that happen? Didn’t he get Red Tornado murdered? I distinctly remember him being killed by his brother to save the Team – attacks STAR Labs to absorb Amazo powers.
Syd: I think he was melted in a volcano last time we saw him, which in this episode we are supposed to believe he is immune to and he just laid low for five years? Whatever we are supposed to believe, my headcanon is just that Lex Luthor built a new one based on Morrow’s plans. If one can be built, so can another.
Meanwhile, Nightwing calls on Blue Beetle to convince the restless kids to stay at STAR Labs. I like that Nightwing is concerned that they aren’t happy there, but he really doesn’t have a workable solution. He’s a total narc, too.
Margaret: Nightwing isn’t a Narc! He’s the actual police. He wasn’t undercover with them, he was just doing what he was supposed to do. The only narc is Neutron.
Syd: But despite the efforts of at least one narc and actual armed security guards, the runaways run away, aided by the convenient power outage. Virgil calls his parents for money to get to Dakota. Apparently, the Reach had been abducting runaways and homeless people, but had grabbed Virgil when he was waiting for a train, because their fact-checking had slipped up. The more I think about the Reach’s methodology, the more disturbed I am by this whole season.
Margaret: It seems likely that it wasn’t so much a fact-checking mistake so much as a general profile. Is there a kid, alone, late at night looking like they’re traveling somewhere far away? Nab them. We already knew the Reach was filled with torturous and passive aggressive jerks.
Syd: So when STAR Labs’ goons show up to take them back, Tye, who had fallen asleep, projects the aura of a giant. I guess that’s what he does in this series? Instead of actually growing big, he has a giant astral form that he projects? I don’t know what the logic was there. Did they think him turning giant himself would be too goofy? Because I don’t think astral projection is exactly hardcore gritty realism.
Margaret: I like the visual of the astral projection form. It’s a lot more artistically dynamic than Tye just growing bigger. It reminds me of the Forest God from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke to a certain extent.
Syd: Fair enough. Anyway, the whole situation goes to hell and Jaime shows up to bring the runaways back to STAR Labs. They, naturally, refuse to go and figure that Blue Beetle will be easier to reason with than the STAR Labs security staff. Jaime tries to convince them he’s on their side by revealing that he’s actually Tye’s friend, and he offers to get his friend Green Beetle to help them.
Margaret: DON’T TRUST THE GREEN BEETLE UGH. I don’t trust that creepy smiling jerk at all. Don’t leave a bunch of kids with him. I bet he’ll eat them.
Syd: Fortunately for them, they are interrupted. Nightwing calls Blue Beetle to save STAR Labs from Red Volcano, who is more Bender than ever. Seriously, I was going to keep count of how many times he refers to someone as a “meatbag,” but it doesn’t matter because more than once is too many. Anyway, Volcano had smashed the Zeta Tube to ensure that the Justice League couldn’t teleport in to stop him and the Allens Bart and Barry were busy saving tsunami victims, so it’s up to this ragtag group to save the day. I kind of love how when you have so many spectacularly overpowered characters in a series, you have to justify why you’re focusing on this week’s main characters.
Margaret: Honestly, that whole set up to me seemed incredibly orchestrated. This is all happening right now not to put the focus on the Runaways, but for Blue Beetle to be put forth into the spotlight. When the Flashes are out of town and the Justice League can’t be there, it’s the conveniently placed Blue Beetle that must save the day. The fact that this episode is focusing on the Runaways is really the sleight of hand trick of the plot.
Syd: The younger of the Eds realizes that his father is in trouble and convinces the group to hero up. Again, I assume Sam agrees. She does go along with them. Ed teleports in and teleports his dad out, despite the fact that he had never teleported another person before. Good thing there were no disastrous consequences or side effects to his teleportation – though, I guess if he hadn’t, the older Ed would have been robot murdered.
Margaret: Blue Beetle was already getting beaten up by Red Volcano when the group appears. He’s rescued by Tye and while they’re fighting, Volcano uses spiked concrete to stab into the astral projection. This hurts Tye and the projection dissipates.
Syd: I like the way this show demonstrates all of their powers and how they work and what their limitations are. I mean, except for Sam, whose powers are some sort of wind something.
Margaret: She goes fast, I guess? Tye being injured seems to send Jaime into a rage and he throws quite a lot of power at Red Volcano…enough that it starts to shatter STAR Labs. Virgil, who is understandably worried about the people still inside yells at Beetle to stop. However, he seems too interested in stopping Red Volcano than saving the people inside. Were this at a point where his Scarab still had some control, that would be one thing. However, I thought Green Beetle shut it all down. I don’t trust this at all.
Syd: So Virgil and Sam go into STAR Labs to rescue all of the people inside. It should be noted that Virgil is riding on a manhole cover, which is reminiscent of the Static Saucer that he will eventually use when he is a Proper superhero.
This is like the scene in Captain America: The First Avenger where Steve gets into a fight in an alley and defends himself with a garbage can lid. I like those cute little continuity nods. Anyway, Ed saves Neutron, who is still a total narc.
Meanwhile, Volcano threatens to kill Jaime’s friends, expecting that Jaime will relent to save them, because that’s what heroes do. Jaime declares, “You shouldn’t stereotype!” which, given the content of this episode, I can’t help but think is specifically calling out Super Friends.
Margaret: Continuing to be super aggressive – way more than is necessary – to defeat Red Volcano, Blue Beetle drills into his suit and then explodes him. It’s the most telling that he doesn’t even seem to care about his friends. Nor does he apologize once Red Volcano is killed. Also, he killed Red Volcano. All he’s interested in is getting them back to Green Beetle. Something is definitely, definitely up.
Syd: Look, you’re close enough to this episode’s big twist, let’s skip ahead to the next scene. After Red Volcano is defeated, news crews show up to interview Blue Beetle, which is part of the Reach’s plan to make Blue Beetle more of a public hero, because Green Beetle has gotten the scarab to control Jaime and all of the Beetles are actually working for the Reach. Twist!
Margaret: Augh. I fucking knew it. Green Beetle is the worst. He’s worse than Wally West now.
Syd: Maybe worse than Billy Batson, though Green Beetle at least fits into the world of this series.
Margaret: In any event, in the excitement of the press event, you can see the Runaways slowly back out of frame in the background of Blue Beetle’s interview. They decide not to trust him and are put right into the path of Lex Luthor, who has been watching them for awhile. Totally not creepy at all, Lex. Glad you’re watching kids while they’re unaware. Very responsible.
Syd: Oh come on! Of all of Lex’s faults, irresponsible is not one of them. In fact, he was responsible for the power outage at STAR Labs and for Red Volcano attacking. See, he’s very responsible. Here we see the shoe drop that you probably were waiting for when you first saw the Light working with the Reach – because Lex doesn’t trust aliens at all. What you might not have seen coming was that his response would be to recruit his own Young Justice to counter the Justice League’s.
Margaret: I’m sure this is Lex’s own play, but it seems as if he really is working with the Reach. Or, the Reach is playing Lex just as easily as he is playing them. The ‘distraction’ of the media works right into the Reach’s hands. The attack on STAR Labs lets the kids out into the open where they can be scooped up by the Reach. This is either Dragonchess or Lex is lying a lot. Both are equally likely.
Syd: I know how this season ends, so all I can say of the various plans in play is that nobody should ever trust Lex Luthor.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Margaret: Hmm. I’m at, like, a C. It was a fine episode, but it was very clearly just a set up to the end of the season. It was fine, just not the caliber that I’m used to seeing from this series. It has a lot of interesting things that I am sure will pay off later, but for this episode itself I wasn’t entirely invested.
Syd: I’m at more of a B-. I had a lot of fun with this and I like the Runaways characters and wish they had a different group name.
Margaret: Yes. I like Virgil a lot as a character. This isn’t just because I got him in the SDCC character personality test, either. However, that test means I should be seeing more of him later on and I like that.