By: Jon Weisman (writer)

The Story: The YJers finally turn in their sidekick roles—for sideshow status.

The Review: We’ve had a whole string of character-centric episodes lately, each showing us a different side of a YJer.  So it was only a matter of time before we revisited Robin, whom we haven’t really explored since his leadership troubles at the start of the series.  This may have been a conscious decision by the creators; Robin is easily the most familiar member of the group, so it was enough to let him coast on his popularity alone while the others developed theirs.

Although this episode has Robin at its emotional center, you don’t really learn anything new about him so much as you get to see what happens when you peel away the sunnier layers of his personality and reveal the pensive, almost melancholy youth lurking inside.  This isn’t the Robin who snickers mockingly, unseen, in battle; this is the Dick Grayson who lost his parents in a senseless, traumatic incident and will never quite recover.

For better or worse, Weisman (and, by extension, Robin himself) allows us only brief glimpses into this moodier person.  While investigating Haly’s Circus, his former home, Robin purposely leaves out Kid Flash, the only person who knows the truth of his past.  He claims it’s to avoid having questions regarding his objectivity, but you suspect there’s more to his decision than that.  Just as his mentor buries his tragedy under a cloak of intimidation and coldness, Robin hides his with a show of cheeriness.  If anything, this episode doesn’t discredit the sincerity of Robin’s good humor, but it does let us know there’s a bittersweet tang to his jokes and optimism.

As I said, however, much of this character material gets minimized against more long-term plotlines, particularly the question of who’s the team mole.  The show has dangled this red herring in front of us practically since it started, and now that you’ve had the luxury of hanging out with each YJer individually, it’s almost impossible to believe any one of them could be the traitor—voluntarily, that is.

Of all the suspects in focus here (Miss Martian, Artemis, and Superboy), we know the girls have dark secrets they want to protect, perhaps to the point of compromising their loyalty.  Superboy has secrets of his own, but the show has established two other avenues for him to make a betrayal: one is his mental link to Luthor; the other is his growing crutch on the “patches” Luthor gave him a couple episodes back.  The fact Superboy has started using them even when his baseline powers would suffice shows he’s already addicted to the literal power rush, and it’s starting to mess with his head, if his momentary neglect of Miss Martian is any indication.  At this rate, Luthor may not need to recite a code to exercise leverage over his “son.”

I really wish the team would do this kind of real undercover work more often, as it allows them to make use of their international settings and do something other than stakeouts all the time.  It would like it better if the team could do undercover work as themselves—i.e. act like teenagers who have lives outside of costumed crime-fighting.  That’s been a lingering problem with this series: the team simply doesn’t have much group chemistry.  Even at this late stage of the season, they still behave mostly like comfortable coworkers, with a few friendly/romantic pairings within.  When’s their secret, co-ed campout going to be?

Conclusion: An entertaining outing for the team, but it feels more like the episode sets up future plotlines rather than deliver a focused one of its own.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – For half the episode, I kept wondering why no one questioned the fact the “Dangers” stayed in costume constantly, even when they’re moving stuff onto the train.  Then I remembered that circus people probably have good experience of tolerating freaks.

– Someone in the animation team is definitely a Cowboy Bebop fan, if Robin’s “hacking faces” says anything.

– And the award for Most Solid Wordplay Comeback Yet goes to Kid Flash for, “You know what I’m doing?  Making a baloney sandwich—kind of like you just did.”