Markov and Die

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Young Justice Season 3, Episode 1

“Princes All”

SUMMARY: Two years later, Oracle and Nightwing, now operating separately from the Team, assemble their own team to take down a human trafficking ring seemingly based out of Markovia. This squad includes Artemis – now living with Will and Lian Harper, Superboy – now engaged to Miss Martian, and Jefferson Pierce – recently retired from his role as Black Lightning after accidentally killing a young girl. In a seemingly unrelated turn of events, Batman throws a hissy fit and quits the Justice League, bringing several superheroes with him.


Syd: Now that the first half of the third season is available, I think we’re ready to watch the episodes one at a time to talk about them, but oh my God, I still can’t believe this series is still happening. Forgive me if I pass out several times throughout this blog entry.

Margaret: It’s great that it’s returned! I’m looking forward to it being a show out from under network guidelines and with, hopefully, some room to run.

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Syd: We start with the godawful cg DC brand identification. The worst.

Margaret: That’s on everything, we can’t single out Young Justice for this.

Syd: Just trying to be thorough. Then, before the actual episode starts, we get a repeat of the last scene of season 2, where Nightwing decides to leave the Team and Kaldur takes over. Then we finally get the first new content in years, when we cut to Markovburg in the nation of Markovia, two years later. It seems to me like they knew we would be spending a lot of time with the Markov family, and they forgot to come up with more proper nouns after “Markov.”

Margaret: We do already know from the past season that a Markovian princess is missing and – not only that – there’s metahuman trafficking, so it makes sense we’re starting where those two things meet up.

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Syd: In Markovia, secret medical experiments are done on metahumans by doctors who declare the patients dead and then send them to alien worlds to serve as soldiers. That is super fucked up, and probably not the best way to get recruits for an alien war, but I am most struck by the Markovian nurse – Henchy – was the same guy who was posing as a nurse when Queen Perdita needed a heart transplant seven years earlier. So the Light has some astounding job security.

Margaret: I imagine it’s hard to find villain nurses, so once he was caught the first time, they relocated him. Nursing school is a long degree, man!

Syd: Good point. None of the nurses I’ve known were career criminals. They must be hard to come by. Anyway, on Rann, the Justice League is involved in some sort of alien war. Superman – their best alien warrior – is in his horrible new 52 uniform. This really stings, considering even Action Comics has given him back his trunks. I thought culture as a whole had agreed that Superman in a union suit was a mistake we would never speak of again.

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Margaret: It’s also weird to me that they put the ice person against the magma person. You realize ice is pretty weak against fire, right? It would probably be better to send a wind person? Or an earth person to smother her.

Syd: This is standard superhero stuff – like how Johnny Storm always fought Iceman. It predates Pokemon, so the iffy logic is grandfathered in.

Margaret: I’ve never played Pokemon, so sure! The team tries to stop the magma creature from advancing and Black Lightning shocks the creature to stop them. It’s not enough to kill anyone, he thinks, but they collapse in heart failure only for them to realize that this wasn’t an alien, but a human girl that was fourteen years old.

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Syd: I both like and dislike this scene. It’s something that doesn’t get addressed often when you have a superhero who, as a principle, never kills. When you’re in a fight, it’s not always clear what might be lethal or debilitating and accidents can happen. I really like that this show kind of analyzes the fallout from something like that. It’s something that has an obvious real world analogue that we, as a culture, need to get better at talking about. At the same time, this is a fantasy world, and we have seen some pretty intense fights already, and this seems to be breaking the conventions of the genre. For instance, in the first episode of the last season, Wonder Girl punched Lobo hard enough to shatter the office windows. How did she know that wouldn’t kill him? That’s not the kind of story this is.

Margaret: Sure, though at this point we also don’t know if it was actually Black Lightning that killed her. We saw that button at the back of her neck that seemed to make her go out of control. Was that overtaxing to her system? I don’t find this to break the genre entirely. There’s definitely been intense fights, but the show doesn’t shy away from things like this. To me it’s a bit like Megan’s mindwipe of Kaldur. It seems clear that there was no intent to kill and therefore the things that happened were out of anyone’s control. Seeing the fallout from that is understandable and interesting to me.

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Syd: Back on the Watchtower, Megan is debriefing the Team when Steel and Black Lightning enter. Black Lightning in notably out of uniform. There is a meeting of the Justice League that the show is using as a way to showcase what has changed over the previous two years. For instance, Kaldur is now leading the Justice League, with Megan leading the team. Also Megan is bald now.

Margaret: And also seeming to show off her White Martian heritage. She’s sort of modeled her new look as a female, White Martian version of Earth J’onn. It’s interesting to me that she’s gone through three different looks for each season of the series and now she seemingly is open about being a White Martian, when that was something she was very against in the first two seasons. I think that signals the fact that we’re going to be getting into far more space politics – as we’ve already seen on Rann.

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Syd: This move is interesting to me and I have to wonder what brought it about. In the first season, it struck me that she was pretending to be a Green Martian, when humans didn’t seem to even understand the distinction between Martian races and didn’t even know what Martians look like on Mars. It didn’t matter to Megan – she didn’t want to be seen as White, to be an other, even to people who didn’t understand why she had internalized shame about that identity. Now, she is presenting as White, but she still does not look like a White Martian does on Mars. Is this an expression of her self-identity? Is this the closest to her self-image that she feels comfortable presenting as a superhero? Or was this brought about from outside influences and pressures? In two years, maybe Earth-Mars relations have progressed, and earthlings better understand Martian politics, so she no longer feels comfortable denying her White Martian heritage, but she also doesn’t think the Earth will be comfortable with normal Martian appearance.

Margaret: Or she doesn’t want to blow up J’onn’s spot. He’s been presenting as this version of a Green Martian for multiple years and her suddenly showing up as a true White Martian might make things a bit awkward for him. Or they have bigger plans for Martian politics down the line.

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Syd: I feel like there is a story we have yet to be told. But speaking of filling in gaps, the Justice League are in disarray. Wonder Woman seems to be leading the effort to repair their extraterrestrial relationships after they spent all of the previous season having their names dragged through the mud, but now they see that their efforts are being frustrated by what they had seen as an unrelated issue of metahuman trafficking on Earth – which they have also been powerless to stop. Apparently, they have had restrictions put on them against acting unilaterally by UN Secretary General Lex Luthor, who I know is evil, but seems kind of justified? I mean the League isn’t doing great at this point.

Margaret: Yeah, they haven’t stopped metahuman trafficking, their reputations have been tarnished and Black Lightning feels as if he just killed a teenager. It’s not really going well for the League. But we also know that Luthor is definitely doing things like this to make it easier for the Light, so whatever is going on the behind the scenes over there is probably going to be worse.

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Syd: Batman seems to feel the same way – and he doesn’t think the League is doing any good. So he just up and quits. Green Arrow quickly follows, because he’ll do anything for Batman’s approval. The worst part is, he didn’t tell Black Canary that he was planning this, but just assumed she would go along with them. What the fuck, Ollie?

Margaret: Yeah, that was a super dick move. It’s clear that it was planned out to do this because most of the people on the holocall immediately peace out without ever saying a word. Also a dick move! To me, it’s pretty clear that this is a something they all thought out way in advance. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Kaldur or he and Diana already worked this out so that there can be a League and a group that can work without League approval in the underground.

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Syd: That doesn’t make it less of a dick move – in fact, it’s kind of moreso that way. Also, they totally stole Jeff’s thunder. When he showed up out of uniform, it’s clear he was quitting as Black Lightning – for completely unrelated reasons – and the ever image-conscious Batman HAD to beat him to it.

Margaret: Well, he couldn’t make a huge dramatic quitting speech if Black Lightning quit first. Batman isn’t the type to go, “Uh, yeah, I’m also quitting?” That makes it less clear who the other Leaguers are following in their quitting.

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Syd: On his way out of the Watchtower, Batman picks up his kids – Tim, Stephanie, and Cissie. Obviously, he doesn’t care that he is de facto breaking up Robin and Wonder Girl. What a jerk. Batman offers Jeff a place in his Batfamily, seeing as how he’s quit the League, but the former Black Lightning trusts Bruce way less than the remaining Justice League – as well he should.

Margaret: After everyone has left, Kaldur comments, “Perhaps Dick had the right idea.” What, quitting first? I mean, I guess he did even beat Batman to the punch.

Syd: That’s right! Dick won at quitting! He was doing it before it was cool!

Margaret: He’s always been a hipster.

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Syd: Speaking of Nightwing, he seems to be doing better at breaking up the metahuman trafficking rings than the Justice League. In fact, at that moment, he’s in Moscow doing just that. He had tracked the leader of the ring, Bedlam, to Moscow. He blew up the facility, but not before getting a sample of the tar they used to activate metapowers – which Oracle tells him was imported from Markovia.

Margaret: I think you mean Oracle tracked the leader of the ring to Moscow! And this is the first time we’re hearing Barbara Gordon’s new codename. I mean, it’s not confirmed that it’s Barbara Gordon just yet but it’s totally her.

Syd: Obviously, if Oracle is active nobody in the Batfamily is doing their own research. That was implied. And it’s clearly Barbara’s voice. If she’s Oracle now, does that mean she got Killing Joked?

Margaret: God I hope not. If she is paralyzed, I hope the reason is not such an Alan Moore misogynistic way.

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Syd: From Moscow, we cut to Dick’s destination of Markovia, where Cat Grant is filing an exposition dump. She reminds us that Tara Markov has been missing for two years, and here we come to my biggest complaint for the entire season: the way she pronounces Tara’s name. It’s Tay-ra, not Tah-ra. She has earth powers. Don’t ruin the pun.

Margaret: However with their accent they pronounce it as Tah-ra, too! Cat starts off with an interview of Brion Markov, who is an elder brother of Tara. They discuss that he has a fraternal twin named Gregor who is the Crown Prince as he was born sixteen minutes before him. Before they can get into whether he is jealous of his brother, a press conference starts. The King and Queen make a speech that unequivocally opens their borders to Quraci refugees fleeing an invasion of their land. They also say that they will put all their power into stopping the scourge of metahuman trafficking that has plagued the world.

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Syd: Look I know that they don’t want to spend a lot of time on the press conference and they have a lot of material to cover, but I do think it’s hilarious that in the middle of a speech about human trafficking, the King just declares, “Oh, by the way, unrelated to that, we’re letting in Quraci refugees!” That is some efficient governing.

Margaret: In the palace, Brion moves from the interview to meet with the Markov’s personal physician: Helga Jace. Apparently, he has had himself tested for the meta gene, which has come back positive. Determined to find his sister, he pressures Dr. Jace to try and find a way to activate his metagene so that he can attempt rescue her.

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Syd: Back in America, Oracle is debriefing Nightwing on the situations regarding Batman’s departure and shady dealing in Markovia. She has found that a world-famous geneticist named Simon Ecks is working in a children’s hospital that is using a suspicious amount of electricity. Apparently, this hospital employs people who haven’t watched enough old movies to know that “Dr. Ecks” is clearly a supervillain.

Margaret: Oracle says he will need a team for this and he already has people in mind for that. Cue Artemis.

Syd: And Brucely! And Roy and Lian are living with them. Sorry, Will and Lian. I guess the Harper patriarch changed his name. No longer having two Roys Harper will make talking about their family less confusing.

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Margaret: I really love that Artemis is living with Will and Lian. It makes a lot of sense to me! Will helps Artemis through her grief and she helps Will raise her niece.

Syd: In Markovia, an unidentified (wink) young woman is sneaking around the Markov palace and inadvertently (maybe?) lets in a superfast assassin and Henchy who chloroforms her.

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Margaret: We don’t know that it’s inadvertent! She’s clearly sneaking around, but she’s also holding what looks like a pretty valuable silver plate. Maybe she’s stealing something and trying to sneak out. Or, maybe she’s part of this conspiracy. Either way, she totally gets chloroformed, which is not cool! Lots of dick moves in this episode.

Syd: It’s hard to talk about this scene, because it’s clearly important, but not a lot is explicated about who knows what or what their motivations are. She definitely gasps when she sees a speedster with a knife, but is she surprised that there is a man with a knife, or just because he’s superfast? I feel like more about this scene will be revealed later and I’ll feel really dumb. Anyway, the speedster gets caught literally red-handed murdering the king and queen. He puts up a good fight, but when running away, he runs in a straight line, allowing Baron Delamb the opportunity to take aim and shoot him in the back. Superspeed is wasted on the young.

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Margaret: You don’t know how his superspeed works! Maybe his superhero name is Straight Line because he can only run super fast in a straight line!

Syd: In Happy Harbor, Conner is telling Megan that with Clark out in space, he feels the need to fill the Super void he left. As if on cue, Dick walks in to offer an opportunity for Conner to step up his Superboying. It’s almost like they planned it. Speaking of almost like they planned it, as soon as Dick is gone, Conner gets down on one knee and offers a ring… as a token of their friendship, right?

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Margaret: Auuuggghhhhhhhhh. I have so much to say about this. I remember before we started watching I was both thinking and saying, “If these two just pick up right where the left off as if Season 2 didn’t happen I am going to be pretty pissed.” And so here we are and I am pretty pissed.

I get that two years have passed, but the fact that the show is STILL not even acknowledging how fucked up what Megan did to Conner and shipping them as the show’s lead couple really makes me mad. I have been told that things are a bit better in the comics, but this is not the comics, this is the show and if I am to take the comics into account here, they have to show me something.

Seeing this relationship endgame makes me even madder about the ending of Season 2! When it was the end of the series, I was okay with it because it was a tip of the hat to the shippers while not actually having them get back together. Now it seems as if it was a lead up and that the meeting in the Watchtower was actually them getting back together and that’s kind of messed up.

The way they are downplaying what Megan did to Conner and make it a ‘stumbling block’ in their relationship is not cute and it is not something I’m okay with. They spend more time on her fixing Kaldur then they do in her fixing what she did to Conner. Despite her breaking Conner’s trust in the most basic and fundamental way, with minimal apologies and work, she gets everything she wanted with him! A house, a loving relationship, and now they’re engaged! We see none of why this relationship is healthy now – is it? Can it be? – and only the end result. It makes me really mad! Especially as I loved Megan as a character! This has kind of ruined her for me. They aren’t treating her with the respect I would want for her. For a character who messed up that badly I want to see how they fix it; I don’t want it to be suddenly and magically fixed. Perhaps she has learned her mistake and has become a better person but I have no way of seeing that from what they have presented to me.

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Syd: As the one who reads the comics, I can verify that the comics make their relationship WAY better. It is interesting, because DC released a prequel comic a day before this episode came out, and I loved that comic. I think it handled both of their characters very sensitively. It centered on Conner learning to forgive Megan and I was kind of wondering what it would mean for the series – was this a way to move toward them getting back together or was this just trying to resolve their relationship for people like me who were worried that Weisman and co. thought that their rift was mended at the end of Season 2, when it clearly wasn’t? Well, now I know the answer and I’m not happy about it. I am not as upset as you are, but part of that could be because I was eased into this development, but I still think jumping into them being engaged is a huge unwarranted step and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Margaret: Totally agreed. I don’t want the series to be overtaken by Conner and Megan relationship drama, but letting Megan off the hook this way is a disservice to both her and Conner! At the very least, if they were desperate to get them back together, they can be together and still working through their issues. I want to see that Megan is actively working to fix what she did. Her line of, “I don’t want to be that kind of girlfriend” to Conner is already sounding manipulative! And I don’t like thinking of Megan like that.

Maybe she and Conner are in a place where they should get married, but I don’t see that to be the case and it annoys me that the creators assume that I would.

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Syd: Then we cut to G. Gordon Godfrey saying, “Oh, I can hear you trembling in your living rooms now.” That is kind of a perfect transition from that gut punch of a scene.

Margaret: Goddammit do not make me agree with GGG, because I hate both him and the last scene!

Syd: Someone I saw on Twitter noted that Godfrey’s new voice was Obi Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars cartoon, whereas his previous voice was Palpatine in the same series, so both of Anakin’s mentors have been Godfrey. That’s oddly appropriate.

Margaret: Oh my God that’s so appropriate. He totally would call everything coming from the Rebels as Fake News.

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Syd: Godfrey is interviewing Baron Delamb – and this is such a Fox News thing, giving airtime to a fascist who is advocating closing the borders of his country.

Margaret: Off air, Brion and Gregor argue. Brion thinks he should postpone his coronation and Gregor tells Brion that Markovia needs a leader. And, knowing he is in a comic show, Brion responds to no one: “And a hero.” So, he’s definitely going to go through with trying to become a metahuman hero. Such middle brother syndrome.

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Syd: In Metropolis, Jeff tucks his daughters, Jennifer and Anissa – who are living with his ex-wife – into bed. He tells her that he’s quitting being a superhero. She says that she doesn’t believe he will stay out of action any more than her brother – John Stewart, the Green Lantern – would. Damn, but they are dropping the comics references hard and fast. Considering how little screentime Jeff got in the previous two seasons, there is a lot to catch up on now that he’s a main character.

Margaret: As he’s leaving, Dick – who apparently just knows he’d be outside his ex-wife’s place because Batfamily – tries to recruit him to the Markovia mission. Jeff explains that his powers are not working, but to Dick’s credit he tells him he’s here for the man and not the powers. I like that about Dick, he thinks of people on the human level first. Well, to be fair, he thinks of them on the ‘useful to mission’ level first, then human, then power level.

Syd: To his discredit, he promises that this is a one time thing for a single mission, after which they will all part ways, and I don’t think anyone believes he thinks that’s true.

Margaret: It’s like he doesn’t know this is the first episode of a 26 episode arc!

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Syd: Then Dick’s team gathers in Centennial park – Artemis, Conner, BB8… and Jeff. I kind of love how little time there was between Jeff saying no and him joining the team.

Margaret: I also love Khary Payton’s delivery of the line: “No” to when Conner asks if that is everyone. His complete and utter resignation to needing to go on this mission is just amazing. He conveys so much in just that one word. Poor Jeff. He tries to get out and they keep pulling him back in!

GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: A. This is a very auspicious start to what looks to be a fun and moving season. They covered a lot of ground, but did it with style and I was fully engaged throughout the whole thing.

Margaret: A-. It’s a minus simply because of the Megan/Conner scene. Everything else is great. The Team is back together! There will be new team members! There will be action and intrigue! It’s the most sensational, inspirational, etc.

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