By: Nicole Dubuc (writer)
The Story: It’ll be the end of the world unless Young Justice saves us. So yeah, goodbye Earth.
The Review: While the assumption is that the members of Young Justice will take over for their iconic forebears someday, you’re not really inclined to take the notion seriously. After all, time doesn’t really touch the world of superheroes (except during reality-bending crises, of course), so the likelihood of our favorite sidekicks taking over is pretty much nil. That is, unless their mentors vanish and/or perish in some shocking circumstance.
This episode takes not only YJ’s older analogues out of the picture, but every single other Leaguer on the planet as well, leaving the juvenile team as the world’s last, best, only hope. To their credit, they step into the role with considerable aplomb (Aqualad’s “We stand ready” may get your eyes rolling, but an appropriate sentiment nonetheless). In fact, they seem downright indifferent to the sight of their heroic guardians getting zapped into thin air.
That indifference probably helps them operate as effectively as they do as the situation worsens. Each of them knows their particular role in the team (Robin providing intel, Superboy and Aqualad as tanks, etc.), and they execute each tactical point with incredible fluidity. Watching them ambush one of the alien ships and taking its tech for their own use, you can see how much they’ve grown as professional vigilantes since the premiere episode.
And so it’s not out of the question for you to have an expectation that eventually, YJ will come out on top in the end. You keep waiting for events to turn around and slide back toward that mushy happy ending cartoons always have, but the show doesn’t give it to you. The team stubbornly holds onto the hope that once they make it into enemy territory, they, like their mentors would, will find the key that will save the day. But it never happens.
The show remarkably succeeds at capturing a hopeless, end-of-the-world feeling, especially once the invasion reaches America’s capitol, and especially once the casualties catch up to the team itself. When they manage to get into the alien mothership, and Robin finds no familiar vital signs anywhere, you begin to realize something’s afoot with this plot, but by that point, it’s too late; the episode has already reached its despairing climax.
But at the end of the day, this is a cartoon in the middle of its season, so of course the show doesn’t leave you at that. Once the shoe begins to drop, you have to admire the rather daring left turn the plot takes to provide a resolution. Most importantly, it doesn’t do so in a way that feels unnatural or random. Kudos to Dubuc for crafting one of the more subtle and intricate storylines Young Justice has tackled yet, because it works quite convincingly.
Part of the reason you don’t feel cheated out of an ending is because even though things work out for the team, they really were under dire circumstances all along. Spoiler alert—the idea that Miss Martian can subconsciously seize control of a telepathic exercise, convincing not only all her comrades but her uncle J’onn as well of its reality, to the point that their simulated “deaths” actually puts them into life-threatening comas… Well, it definitely has a lot of potential for future, Jean Grey-ish type problems, and it certainly leaves us on a foreboding note.
Conclusion: With this episode, the show has really achieved the maturity it’s been striving for since day one. The plot has no easy answers, and though ultimately the conflict works itself out, there’s no happy ending. Strangely, that may be the thing that makes the episode so worthwhile.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – One big difference from the Young Justice comics that I appreciate is the loyalty the League shows towards its protégés. Even Batman refrains from getting judgmental in spite of his charges’ missteps and tantrums.
– The grimness of the episode got so convincing at one point, I was vaguely reminded of the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3, where I kept wondering, How exactly are they going to play this out so it doesn’t traumatize the kids watching?