By: Brandon Vietti (story)
The Story: The rescued become the rescuers; the stealers become the stolen from.
The Review: As we get closer and closer to the end of this series, I can already feel my heart growing leaden with preemptive nostalgia. It’s just hard to believe that in a few more weeks, there will be no more epic DC animated adventures to look forward to. No more clever cameos and no more sly Easter eggs. No more spectacular superheroic action and no more of the most convincing teenage drama in cartoon form in a long while. Alas, alas.
Okay, now that I’ve got my moaning out of the way, let’s focus on the episode at hand, shall we? Even though the show has continued to use the original set of YJers for the center of its stories, it has always respected the newcomers as well. Even with its end imminent, the show continues that tradition by once again spotlighting our runaway quartet. Not only does this episode give them quite a few glorious moments, it promises an essential role in the finale to come.
Despite their trepidation of the thought of breaking into the War World and rescuing the captured YJers, the runaways barely hesitate before deciding it’s the only way they can repay the people who had originally rescued them. This is what the show has always done right: allowing these young heroes to really be heroes. The show has never used the characters’ youth as an excuse to have them act thoughtlessly or impulsively.
That’s why the ousting of Arsenal in this episode doesn’t feel like scapegoating or misguided anger. Nightwing hits the nail right on the head that “intentionally endangering the lives of teammates in order to further his own agenda or guard against his own personal demons” is “unacceptable.” These are ugly words that have to be said, and good on Nightwing for not shying away from saying them—and good on Vietti for putting the words in Nightwing’s mouth; they’re the only ones that you could hear and still respect our dear leader for.
The show’s respect for its characters also allows you to respect the runaways when they basically tell Nighwing to shove his team membership offer someplace uncomfortable. As former hostages themselves, it makes total sense that they’d empathize with Arsenal’s traumatized actions,* and that they’d be disgusted with the shortage of gratitude YJ shows Arsenal for saving them (a curt “Thank you” from Nightwing is about all he gets). And to their credit, the moment they learn their benefactor was the one who entrapped Arsenal, they turn on him as well. This isn’t a team so much as a support group.
It goes without saying that with the unique combination of powers from the runaways, the action sequences in this episode have a lot of fresh snap to them. But as amazing as YJ battles almost always are, the show really deserve accolades for its smart, long-term plotting. The Reach no sooner congratulate themselves on their most recent acquisition when their mission on Earth takes a turn for the worse. Godfrey, amazingly enough, turns his critical eye on them, proving that as much as he hates the Justice League, his loyalties belong to no aliens. And if that isn’t enough of a reminder to you that Young Justice still has a mortal enemy besides extraterrestrial invaders to worry about, enter Lex Luthor and his pawns (“Deathstroke’s more of a bishop, really,” he corrects Arsenal), who take advantage of all parties to allow the Light to be the real winner in this episode.
Conclusion: Treasure every last episode you can, guys. You won’t get a cartoon quite this special again in a long time, and this episode reminds you of that in almost every way.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I actually think Arsenal’s delivery of “You’ll never pod me again! Never!” is one of the better bits of dramatic voice-acting on this show in a while.
– I do enjoy Sam’s almost pathological politeness. She says “please” so nicely, no wonder the Fatherbox does whatever she wants.
– I also really enjoyed Nightwing and Miss Martian’s “guilt-off.” It is the perfect resolution to a conflict between two of Young Justice’s nicest, most eager-to-please characters: no anger or resentment, just a competition to see who can give the most hand-wringing apology.