Sub Optimal


Young Justice Season 2, Episode 16


SUMMARY: Cheshire and Sportsmaster break into Black Manta’s ship to kill basically everyone who works there and must be stopped by Artemis, the very person they are there to avenge. Meanwhile, Nightwing investigates the disappearance of almost his entire team.

Syd: This episode starts aboard Black Manta’s ship, with a quick recap to get everyone up to speed. Artemis is pretending to be a villain, guarding Kaldur, who is being mentally repaired by Megan, who Deathstroke has orders to kill. Everybody got all that?

Margaret: It’s a complicated situation, but I guess that’s why that’s the name of the episode. They manage to remind us of it all very quickly. I will admit I had forgotten that Megan was under the ocean and last episode had to wonder why she wasn’t with the rest of the Team.


Syd: The plot starts moving forward when we find out that Kaldur is actually fine and Megan has been stalling to try to come up with a plan. They were just wondering how long they could stall when Black Manta enters and tells them that he’s run out of patience and he’s going to have Megan killed in 24 hours. So that answers that question. It’s funny to me that they never actually come up with a plan – they’re really saved completely unexpectedly.

Margaret: It does sound like they have a plan at one point, but things work out way better due to unforeseen circumstances. Back on Warworld – which is still parked right outside of Earth, by the way – Blue Beetle and Green Beetle tell Nightwing that after their victory, a Boom Tube was opened up and he instinctively flew away, but it got the rest of the Team. It’s confirmed that there was Boom Tube activity, but now they have no idea where Mongul or the rest of the Team is. Or who might have done it.


Syd: Jaime says he’s sorry, and Nightwing gives the badass oneliner – “Whoever did this, they’ll be sorry.” I like that he puts up a tough front when he really has no clue who is behind this or what he can do about it.

Margaret: I figured that’s just what everyone from Gotham does. No one knows what’s going on there 90% of the time, but they have to pretend like they can handle it. I mean, I guess it’s been working so far?

Syd: Well, no name characters ever seem to get killed, so they must be doing something right.


Margaret: Blue Beetle insists that he wants to help, but Nightwing tells him to go home and get some rest. Back in El Paso, he takes off the suit for the first time and we see the Evil Jaime. Poor Jaime, I can only imagine that he’s actually in there somewhere watching an evil sentient bug doing some really crappy things while wearing his face.

Syd: Also, even knowing he’s evil, it is the least threatening face in the world. I guess that makes him a good champion for the Reach, but he never feels like a threat to me. Meanwhile, Cheshire and Sportsmaster break into the Manta ship to assassinate Aqualad and Black Manta, respectively.


Margaret: Cheshire is there to avenge her sister and, of course, Sportsmaster has to prove he’s a bad guy so he’s only there to ‘protect his rep’.

Syd: There’s a nice shot where Sportsmaster insists that they’re not that different as they both put on masks. I love me some symbolism.

Margaret: As they infiltrate, Cheshire finds a very helpful map and layout of the ship on the wall. I know it’s a staple of the genre, but why the hell is there an easy accessible map that has schematics and might as well just say ‘set bombs here’ on a super secret bad guy ship? That seems like bad planning! I thought this guy was supposed to be smart!


Syd: It’s a big ship! You don’t want the crew to get lost! Speaking of the crew, Tigress takes a coffee break and there’s a Manta trooper just at the coffee pot with no mask and I kind of love that they went out of their way to show this moment. When they’re in all black, full body scuba suits with threatening helmets, it’s easy to forget that they are actually humans working a job.

Margaret: See! They’re executing a plan we don’t know about. It just so happens that an even better opportunity shows up when Cheshire drops through a grate and throws a sai right at Aqualad.


Holy crap, Aqualad has some insane control that he doesn’t flinch and trusts Megan to block it when she doesn’t have any of her telekinetic powers. I also like that while Cheshire is totally confused as to why she’s protecting Aqualad – the man that killed her best friend – Deathstroke immediately assumes it’s for self preservation because if Aqualad is killed, they have no reason to keep her alive.

Syd: Outside, Sportsmaster has his showdown with Black Manta, and holy hell is this a sweet fight scene. Sportsmaster is swinging what I guess is a metal tetherball, which might be stretching the sports motif, but this is the first time for me when Sportsmaster seems really capable and cool, rather than just a sneaky jerk. He even seems to have bested Manta until some troops show up and break the fight up.


Margaret: I assumed he was using a modified Hammer Throw! Which does fit in, though all that does is remind me of is Trunchbull from Matilda.

Syd: Another threatening badass, so it works. You know, that’s gotta be a hammer, because the other weapons he uses in this episode are a discus and a javelin. Of those, he only throws the discus, and even then he doesn’t get much distance. I am starting to suspect that Sportsmaster turned to a life of crime because he couldn’t make it in the athletic world.

Margaret: Well, you know, the Olympics are very competitive. If I failed, I might join an ancient order of sports ninjas.

Syd: Anyway, up on Warworld, Dick is examining the scene of the Team’s disappearance, for once actually using his detective skills after he had been completely clueless for the first half of the season, not even picking up on Megan’s mindwipings.

Margaret: Yeah, it’s like he finally remembered he was trained by Batman who is supposed to be The Greatest Detective. And also that he isn’t supposed to trust anyone, even his team members. What is the use of being trained by a socially maladjusted paranoiac if you can’t use it to keep your team from being kidnapped by space fascists?


Syd: Dick notices signs of a struggle, which is inconsistent with the story of the Team being teleported away. He also finds Robin’s birdarang, which you wouldn’t think he would have thrown at a teleportation ray. On a side note, I love the word “birdarang.” It is the perfect goofy name for a comic book weapon.

Margaret: It is also a good name counterpoint to the ‘batarang’. For master infiltrators and planners, the Reach really suck at cleaning up their crime scenes. Also, where the hell is Roy? Why hasn’t he gotten in contact with the Justice Leaguers that are now on Warworld?


Syd: The answer: Not in this episode. Calm down, we’ll catch up with Roy soon. Anyway, back on the ship, Megan grabs a fallen trooper’s gun and shoots out the camera that Deathstroke was using to monitor the room allowing Aqualad to reveal that he was playing possum and tell Cheshire that she has nothing to avenge, since Artemis is still alive. Cheshire doesn’t believe him and the fight resumes, but – long story short – Tigress shuts off Megan’s collar giving her back access to her powers, and Megan telepathically links herself, Kaldur, Sportsmaster, Artemis, and Cheshire so they can all meet in Artemis’ mind.

Margaret: There, Megan shows them a bunch of Kaldur’s memories to prove that he didn’t kill Artemis, he just made it look like he did so they both could go into deep cover and infiltrate the Light and the Reach. Cheshire immediately believes them as she can sense Artemis’ presence, but Sportsmaster thinks it’s just Martian trickery. He can’t sense Artemis and he can’t sense hers either, because he’s a terrible deadbeat father.


Syd: I love that they take every opportunity to drive home what a crappy guy Sportsmaster is. However, back in the physical world, he tries to kill Tigress with a javelin, and she takes him down with a move he taught her, finally convincing him she’s his daughter. Because the only bond Sportsmaster actually has with her is fighting.

Margaret: With her full powers back, Megan and Cheshire put on a bit of playacting to keep up Aqualad and Tigress’ cover. Megan makes as if she was going to kill Black Manta when Aqualad heroically gets up and attacks her ‘forcing’ her to retreat. Also, did Black Manta not wonder why his comatose son was on the floor under a door rather than in the bed? I guess he’s not a detective like Nightwing.


Syd: Sportsmaster destroys the ship’s control room to cover Artemis’ tracks, then he and Cheshire try to escape the ship, but are stopped by Deathstroke. While Deathstroke and Sportsmaster fight, Tigress and Cheshire “fight” and use their fake fighting to catch up a little. Cheshire likes that her sister took up a cat motif like her and Artemis is touched that Cheshire risked her life to avenge her “death.” Though they don’t get along, they do care about each other in their weird way.


Margaret: When the fight is a little too hard to keep up without intervention, Megan comes in and allows Cheshire and Sportsmaster to escape. Then, she turns into a mermaid and swims away, leaving Aqualad and Tigress back on the ship with their cover – hopefully – still secured. It seems that Black Manta still buys it as he’s happy that his son is back. He talks with the Reach and the Light and we see Vandal Savage and that Reach guy on the same screen. Wait, didn’t Vandal Savage just send Warworld to Earth to make sure the Reach didn’t take it over?

Syd: Yes he did. Curious, isn’t it?


Margaret: I’m sure he doesn’t have any secret plans going on.

Syd: I mean the obvious explanation is that he expected Mongul to lose, but clearly we haven’t gotten the whole story yet. Anyway, Jade picks Lian up from Paula, who had been watching her, and finally tells her that Artemis is still alive. I’m kind of disappointed that we didn’t see her reaction. Was she more relieved or upset that everyone was lying to her?


Margaret: Well, technically it wasn’t everyone. It was Nightwing, Aqualad and Artemis. Cheshire and Sportsmaster believed it, too!

Syd: How could you forget Wally being the worst again?

Margaret: Oh man, I forgot Wally. I lived in a happy world where there was no Wally for a little while and you ruined it!

Syd: Damn, I’m sorry. Speaking of spoiling the illusion, Blue Beetle goes on live television to reveal his identity and endorse the Reach and Nightwing finally figures out that Jaime has turned evil, right when it might be too late. And this episode had been going so well for him, too.


Margaret: Oh Dick. Now it’s time to solve the mystery of where the Reach put the rest of the Team. I’m assuming they’re stuffed somewhere in the equivalent of Warworld’s basement. Or they’ve been made into that Reach soda.

Syd: That’s probably too gross even for this show.


Syd: A solid A. I loved this episode. It was one of the most entertaining of this season.

Margaret: I’m at an A, too. I like the way the Megan underwater mission ended and how we got some more Cheshire and Artemis moments. It was a good episode moving into the home stretch.

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