Young Justice Season 2, Episode 18
SUMMARY: Zatanna and Rocket abduct Blue Beetle and whisk him off to Bialya to free him from the Reach’s control.
Syd: The episode starts back on Warworld, where Black Beetle is fighting Mongul, and when Green Beetle shows up, tells him that he is disappointed he only has one opponent, which is clearly just bluster, because the two beetles working together don’t even quite overpower Mongul, they just get him into position to freeze him. So, that’s taken care of and we can reflect on what a jerk Black Beetle is. Or should we mention how Despero is still in his pod, so apparently the Justice League is fine with him staying there?
Margaret: As I must update every episode since Warworld showed up, it is still right outside of Earth and messing things up. This time, at least, it’s because we know the key is taken by Deathstroke.
Syd: It hasn’t even been a day yet, so I don’t think Warworld has done that much damage.
Margaret: Extreme weather patterns cause a lot of damage! Aquaman can only be in one place at a time! And we’ve seen that La’gaan is doing nothing! For all we know huge swaths of beachfront land is totally gone.
Syd: Are you forgetting the great hero of the seas, Orm, who is not a villain in this series? Hey, we haven’t seen him in a while. I’m sure off-camera, he’s saving so many days.
Syd: Seriously, in the season finale, Orm is going to show up and make everything right and you will regret your sass-mouth.
Anyway, now that the Reach has lost the key, they need to focus on standing guard to make sure no one USES the key, despite the fact that the Justice League is already doing that. Of course, neither the Reach nor the League trusts the other to do what they both want.
Margaret: While the Team now knows that Blue Beetle has flipped to the Reach, Bart is steadfast in his belief that Jaime is the victim here and the true problem is the Beetle. He’s so clearly crushing on Jaime. It’s adorable.
Syd: There is a non-gay explanation, that Bart is just single-mindedly focused on preventing his bad future, which I’m not really buying. Bart clearly cares about Jaime on a personal level – beyond just wanting the scarab to no longer be a threat, since that’s what everyone wants and Bart is the only one who makes a point to defend Jaime personally.
Margaret: There is totally non-shipping reasons for Bart to be invested in Jaime. But because of his reasons for being invested in Jaime it is also an exact superhero meet cute. I’m fine with either explanation but, to me, the way the two interact seem very ship based to me. On more plot based points, however, the Toyman is taking advantage of seeming discordance and decides to use a large puppet to wreak havoc.
Syd: Of course, his target is The First Bank of Metropolis, as he needs to fund his rather extravagant hobbies. As he notes, “Toyman’s toys break the bank,” as we watch one of his toys actually break a bank and I thought, this is a Peter David episode, isn’t it? Seconds later, the writing credit comes up and sure enough:
Margaret: Blue Beetle comes to the rescue and Toyman laments, “Where is Superman?” It’s a good question as it probably would have been better to have Superman to the rescue as he most likely wouldn’t have left creepy dismembered puppet parts all over Metropolis to then smile for the cameras. We do know the Reach is evil. So, they really don’t care about that.
Syd: I bet the Reach loved Dawn of Justice. Anyway, instead of cleaning up the smashed puppet, the Reach’s ambassador is puppeteering Jaime, and Jaime is not happy about it. This is the first time we hear Jaime’s thoughts while he’s watching two aliens control his body, and I’m glad we didn’t hear that the whole time, because it’s creepy as all hell.
Margaret: Yeah, I don’t like the implications of the Reach hearing all of Jaime’s thoughts and him having absolutely no way to do anything about it. It actually gives me some sympathy for Green Beetle, who must have felt this way for quite awhile.
Syd: I kind of wonder, because we never hear B’arzz’s thoughts – does he continue lashing out at the Reach the way Jaime does this episode or, over time, does his mind just accept their control as a fact of his life?
Margaret: Well, we don’t ever really see him under the Reach’s control with the speakers on except very briefly, so we can’t be sure. But it does seem likely that he has just accepted his way of life and does not think back. Speaking of things that seem destined toward bad ends, Megan comes to pick up La’gaan from Poseidonis and tells him that they need “to talk.” And everyone knows what that means.
Syd: Bleh. When this season started, I kind of liked the idea that the teenage relationship that was set up as “true love” was over, and I was kind of looking forward to seeing what Megan and Conner were like outside of their relationship or in different relationships, and I think we got that with Conner, but this breakup scene between La’gaan and Megan shows that she never got over their relationship. I guess her coming clean with La’gaan is necessary for her character growth and making amends for all the mistakes she has made, but she really isn’t being fair to La’gaan and the way she ends the relationship is not great.
Margaret: Not great is really an understatement. She’s basically telling La’gaan that he meant nothing to her and never did and never would. I get that Megan is a little new to Earth relationships, but she should probably know that framing everything as ‘a rebound’ is really not helpful to anyone involved. That just devalues his feelings and makes her seem incredibly callous. It’s weird. I loved Megan in the first season and this season it has only really made me very annoyed at her and how she deals with people and the situations around her.
Syd: I still like her. I think that in the first season, she was affecting what she thought an Earth girl should be, and this season, she is trying to understand who she is. I think the mind-destroying shouldn’t have gotten as far as it did before she had some real introspection, but when she’s giving La’gaan the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech, it feels like, for the first time, she really understands that it is her. However, when La’gaan tells her that it doesn’t matter where a relationship starts so much as where it can go, I think he’s right, and I think that the way she shuts him down so fast shows that she has some more growing to do.
Margaret: I have been on a downward Megan disapproval since it was revealed that she basically mind-raped Conner. This speech in and of itself only proved that she’s only framing things as she sees them and not what is best for La’gaan’s feelings. It was clear from early in the season that Conner and Megan still had feelings for each other and I get that it’s in character for them to deny this. However, I would have actually believed she had grown a bit more if Megan had let La’gaan down gently rather than frame everything by her own immediate (and not so) immediate feelings. She’s still being selfish, as this season has shown her to be quite a bit. She doesn’t think about consequences, she just acts as she feels like she should.
Syd: This is getting heavy. Let’s get back to an action scene. Batgirl and Impulse confront Blue Beetles and we see Impulse do some slow-motion superspeed stuff and it’s really neat.
Margaret: Beetle is able to disable Batgirl and Impluse and the Reach decides this is the best time to take out two thorns in their side. They attempt to make Jaime kill them, despite his pleading to stop.
Syd: The Reach ambassador notes the necessity of Jaime killing his boyfriend saying, “The first kills are always the hardest.” Then, when Rocket shows up and imprisons Blue Beetle in a forcefield, Jaime notes, “Some first kills are harder than others.” Have I mentioned that I love Peter David’s writing? I don’t think I do often enough.
Margaret: While Blue Beetle has a way out of Rocket’s field, Zatanna’s magic one enmeshed with it stumps the beetle. Therefore the Justice League has now captured themselves a beetle and take them to Bialya. It’s really weird to me that Bialya is somehow a standin for Egyptian mysticism here. All the symbolism and architecture clearly denote Egypt and yet we are told demonstrably again and again that this is strictly Bialya. I am guessing this is to separate it from Egyptian mythology and therefore to make it less racist, however it’s just dressing up Egyptian mythology to suit their own needs.
Syd: Yeah, I kind of approve of it not pulling a Ancient Aliens and tying a real life culture to space technology, so it’s not as bad as it could have been, but everything is still so recognizably Egyptian. Also, Isis is there. They only say her name backwards, so I guess they have plausible deniability?
Margaret: But…if she’s saying the name backward, that means she’s definitely still there. That’s Zatanna’s whole thing.
Syd: But, getting back to the action, the Fearful Five are also there, but short Psimon (who is still unconscious in Manta’s ship) and Icicle, Jr. (whose absence is not explained). Still, even with just three, they make a good show of it. Shimmer melts the floor, which reminds me that I don’t know what her powers are. Did they ever say? I know I looked it up at some point. Well, since I looked it up before, I’m not making that mistake again. Point is, she has powers. Badass.
Margaret: Zatanna moves up to the broken dais and starts to call down some magic. We’re not sure exactly what she’s going to do, but it certainly seems as if it will either shut down or heal Jaime. As beetles start to flare up around the room, either this place was specifically made for something like this or they decorator just liked scarabs. Also another Egyptian thing.
Syd: Speaking of Egyptian things, Zatanna summons Isis. We can say that, right? I mean, she says the name backwards. The Reach sends in Green Beetle to stop the Team, and Batgirl throws firebombs to stop him, knowing that Martians can’t take intense heat. How old is Batgirl in this season? And what is the age at which it is appropriate to be carrying firebombs?
Margaret: I think any age is appropriate to carry firebombs.
Syd: Then, because firebombs aren’t enough, Beast Boy drops on Green Beetle as the lizard from the establishing shot, then turns into an elephant. That is, by far, my favorite thing that Beast Boy has ever done.
Margaret: It was a great stealth attack and I loved the set up. Robin and Wonder Girl also show up to take on the Green Beetle and it seems that he is outnumbered. The Scientist urges The Ambassador to send in Black Beetle, but he refuses, saying Green can handle it.
Syd: I feel like now that he’s under stress, we’re really seeing the Ambassador’s character come out. I like little things like that. At this point, the Blue and Green Beetles start talking in unison, presumably because the Ambassador is trying to control them both at once. You can really see the cracks showing in the Reach.
Margaret: The Beetles both attempt to attack Zatanna, but Bart is quick to speed toss the Green Beetle in the way of the beams and put them both in the ritual circle. After a bright flash of light, it seems as if both Beetles were reset. While the Team is skeptical, Zatanna is sure of her ritual and Tim says that he cannot read any signals from the Reach. That begs the question….how did they not have that technology before!? Why were they relying on Megan’s telepathy if they could just wave scan them?
Syd: My attempt at a No-Prize: They didn’t know what they were looking for before. Now that they know how to scan for Reach signals, they can be sure there are none.
Margaret: Hmm. I guess I can handle that. Meanwhile, there is a two sided but three way conversation between Jaime, the Scarab, and Bart. Now that the beetle is free of the Reach’s influence again, he is glad to help the League. There’s a nice little callback where Jaime yelled at the scarab that if all he sees of his teammates is weakness then he hasn’t been paying attention and then the scarab reminds Jaime that if all he thought of the scarab was that he was a shill for the Reach he hasn’t paid attention. And all this is happening while someone else who – if shipping will allow – has also been shown to Jaime as only interested in certain things if one isn’t paying attention is answering because he can’t hear the scarab’s part of the conversation.
Syd: If the scarab has to stick around, this was a good way to do this scene. The problem is, once the scarab is offline, that story is over. Without the scarab, Jaime doesn’t have super powers, so of course, the scarab has to be onboard to stay and help out, but I’m not convinced of its narrative necessity. Speaking of questionable narrative necessity, now we have a big load of exposition.
Margaret: We now go into a breathless retelling of how they reached this conclusion to fix Blue Beetle. We get flashes of a man named Dan Garrett who is dressed as Indiana Jones and finds the ancient discovery of the Blue Beetle. He brings it back with him and then uses it to superhero fight, as one does with ancient relics.
Syd: When Garrett died, he passed the scarab along to scientist Ted Kord. Kord realized that this was alien technology designed to rewrite his biology, so decided not to use it at all and became a tech-based hero who used his technology to replicate the scarab’s powers. Then the Light found out that he had the Beetle and sent Sportsmaster to kill him – which he did – and blew up his laboratory as Jaime was skateboarding by and now we’re caught up with the story.
Margaret: If the second season wouldn’t have been cut down, I really believe this would have been a full episode. There’s so much going on here and it’s told so off the cuff and in a dizzying smash to the head of lore dump that I have to believe there was a way more elegant way this show wanted to handle this whole thing.
Syd: I do think that this single scene is kind of stupifying in how much data they try to cram in, but also, I think if they did a whole episode of this, it would turn out like that awful Geoff Johns Hawkman episode of Justice League Unlimited, so I’m fine with this.
Margaret: I am sure if they did this episode full sail it would have been the history of the Blue Beetle interspersed with the future of the Blue Beetle with Bart and then the fight scene in between. I think it could have been pretty amazing.
Syd: Maybe I am being cynical. And I do like this series more than Justice League Unlimited (though Justice League Unlimited is mostly great). Anyway, Batgirl reveals that she and Bumblebee had found the temple the last time they were in Bialya. That was how they discovered the ritual that could invoke a goddess to increase their magical power. Of course, this was human magic that Nabu, being of extraterrestrial origin, could not enable Dr. Fate to perform, which is why Zatanna needed months to learn it. This explains why Zatanna had been gone for so long, but it raises tons of questions. So Dr. Fate can’t do Earth magic? Are ankhs space magic? And what about scarabs? I thought it was a weird coincidence that the Reach knew what beetles were? Are beetles from space? Are they an invasive species that was introduced to Earth from space? Oh my God, that explains everything about beetles!
Margaret: I think we have talked before about how Dr. Fate is bullshit and his ankhs are even more so. Honestly, of everyone here, he should be the one that is able to do ‘faux Egyptian magic’ as that is what his entire schtick is based on. However, I will not complain more than that because this means Zatanna is back! And I love Zatanna!
Syd: So, the day is saved. The Team returns to their headquarters where, of course, the first thing Megan does is ask Nightwing where Conner is. Nightwing tells her that Conner is out with Wendy. It serves her right. In fact, it serves all of them right.
Margaret: Man, I hope this Wendy thing actually sticks. I doubt it will. I am sure the end of this is Conner and Megan getting back together, but honestly? That does not make any sense to me. Megan clearly broke up with La’gaan in a cruel manner because she still had feelings for Conner. I’m glad she’s finally realizing her feelings and is no longer stringing La’gaan along but she has been completely and utterly crappy about the entire thing. If she had been kind about the break up and then very softly asked Nightwing about where Conner was? I would have actually believed she had grown. Right now? She still just seems like she’s only looking out for herself.
Syd: But, of course, that is entirely according to the Light’s plan. As Queen Bee reveals, everything that has happened is according to the Light’s plans. I’m sure that will remain the case through the entirety of the next episode.
GRADING THE EPISODE:
Margaret: I’ll give this episode a B-. I’m glad that the Beetles are now free of Reach control, but this was way too much information all at once. It definitely feels as if I just read the Cliff’s Notes of the Blue Beetle and how this all worked.
Syd: I’m going with a B. Everything you said, plus clever dialogue and Beast Boy elephanting.