Wow. Look, I know I’m not the most objective viewer when it comes to Young Justice, but I was honestly blown away by the quality of this week’s episodes. This week, I’m taking a look at “Evolution,” “Triptych,” and “Home Fires.” Beware of spoilers ahead!
This week on Young Justice!
This show has always been about the concept of legacies, both in families and in ideals. It’s about heroes passing their teachings onto the next generation of Earth’s protectors and about the sins of elders being visited upon the young. This week really hammered that home with the truly exceptional “Evolution.”
This episode, written by Brandon Vietti, explores the 50,000 year history of Vandal Savage and his long-gestating plans for our world. Along the way, we get our first real glimpse at what drives him and what he’s willing to sacrifice for his goals. This approach both humanizes him and shows the villain to be far colder than we could have ever suspected. It also carries several revelations concerning both the Light and, perhaps, even some of the characters we’ve come to think of as heroes.
The tale of Vandal Savage is told through a book read by his daughter Cassandra, who refuses to allow her faith in her father’s quest to be shaken. These sequences are animated sparingly, giving it an almost storybook quality. It’s a brilliant stylistic choice that differentiates between the sequences from the legend and modern day, where Nightwing’s new team hone their abilities and Vandal fights for the Earth’s safety in a spectacular space battle. Does he truly care for the people on the planet or is he merely protecting his investment? This is just one of many questions raised by “Evolution.” Without spoiling the flashbacks and the episode’s resolution, I will simply say that this may be the best and most complex installment of Young Justice to date. Miguel Ferrer probably would have loved to have played a part of this episode. A special shout-out is due to David Kaye for ably filling Ferrer’s shoes in the role of Savage.
Continuing the theme of legacy, we see our original leads continuing to follow in the footsteps of their mentors. Of course, we have Kaldur leading the Justice League and taking the title of Aquaman for himself. We also see a tender side of Artemis as she both tries to reconnect with her sister and encourages Halo not to beat herself up. Superboy gets more touchy-feely than we’ve ever seen him, extolling the virtues of perseverance and teamwork, actually prompting Artemis to call him on how much he sounds like the original boyscout from whom Connor was cloned. Dick gets all theatrical when telling his new team to select their codenames, bringing to mind both the Batman and his parents from the circus, both examples of incredible performers. While they all mirror aspects of their mentors, our team is clearly more well-adjusted than the previous generation, most likely due to their support of one another. It’s moments like this that remind viewers that we’ve literally watched these characters grow up together, a feat that very few shows attempt.
As for the heroes of the future, we get to meet them at a playdate organized by Iris West-Allen for her fellow super-parents! The Tornado Twins, little Jonathan Kent, and more are all accounted for. It was nice to see how everyone’s lives are progressing outside of the super heroics and was yet another example of the willingness to embrace change that makes this show so special.
Speaking of change, the range of content allowed on-screen has certainly been widened with the show’s move from Saturday mornings to streaming. I’ve mentioned this before, but the level of violence is definitely something parents should be aware of when going from season two to watching season three. It helps that much of the original audience for the show has had six years in between seasons to mature with the series, but it’s probably going to be a shock for new viewers binge-watching the show for the first time. For the most part, the violence is quick and in service of the plot, so it doesn’t necessarily bother me. However, there were a few instances that gave me pause.
In particular, the continued hyperviolence against the character of Halo has been a bit of a surprise to me. I’m sure the creative team feels a bit more of a license to harm and maim her because she’s effectively immortal. It kind of reminds me of the approach that Batman: The Animated Series took with the character of Scarface: since he was an inanimate dummy, the animators and writers exercised their darkest violent urges on him, chucking him into a woodchipper and so forth. It was horrific, but perfectly acceptable to Broadcast Standards & Practices (and kind of hilarious). The difference here is that Halo is a naive young woman and we are consistently seeing her getting impaled or flayed alive. Again, I understand that this is fiction and that it’s a chance to show off her powers, but the frequency with which this happens is a bit icky. I’m hoping this isn’t a well that the show feels the need to revisit each week.
That qualm aside, I continue to find her character fascinating and adorable. She’s very different from the Halo of the comics, but she carries with her new mysteries and intrigue. I love the hints of a romance between her and Brion, as well as the unlikely camaraderie the two of them have with Forager. It’s reminiscent of the Odd Couple-esque relationship between the original team in the first season, only much sweeter and more collaborative. It’s yet another sign of how much this show continues to grow and mature with its characters.
Between the machinations of Ma’alefa’ak and the Light, the zombifying VR goggles, the shakeups within the League of Shadows, the questions of Princess Tara’s loyalties, the budding relationship between Jefferson and Dr. Jace, the brewing possibility of war between Vandal Savage and Darkseid, and the multiple factions of superheroes, Outsiders has more than a few balls still up in the air. It’s hard to see quite where they will all intersect and what may be saved for a future season. This show has always thrived on long payoffs and I cannot wait to see how it plays out.
- It’s pretty rad seeing Starman villains the Shade and the Mist together, even if these are decidedly different takes on the two of them. Boy, would I watch the heck out of a 90s-set Jack Knight cartoon.
- Okay, so Batman definitely knows that Barbara Gordon is Oracle, but I’m still trying to figure out why Dick is hiding her involvement from his team. I understand keeping Batman’s hand in things on the DL, but Barbara? Still so interesting.
- I am LIVING for Tim Drake’s “crew.” I hope we see a lot more of them in upcoming episodes! Orphan’s design in particular is excellent, combining elements of Cassandra’s current comics suit and her pre-New 52 Black Bat look.
- This show is so good at introducing characters and abilities on the fly and making it part of the story, like with the heist in the beginning of “Triptych.” Even a viewer who’s never seen the Shade in the comics before will grab onto the basic idea of his powers right away.
- So, “bastitch” is Interlac for “peon.” Duly noted.
- We’re not even through January, but it’s going to be very difficult for any line of dialogue in 2019 to be better than, “You’ve never had Black Lightning before!” – I howled. Never change, Jefferson.
What did you think of this week’s episodes? “Evolution” might be my favorite ever, so I’d love hear what your favorite Young Justice episodes are!