WARNING: SPOILERS (both for the whole series and for the final episode)
(NOTE: this review assumes everybody has a working knowledge of a lot of details about the YJ series: plot points, secondary characters (like Wolf, The Sphere, etc), and has gotten to this point in the show. I’ll kind of try to sum up the series prior to the final episode, however. Lastly, this is a LONG review, unlike my shorter ‘GL Animated Series’ review… be warned!)
This week saw the demise of two great animated offerings from the DC Universe: Green Lantern: The Animated Series (which I reviewed earlier) and of course Young Justice.
Unlike Green Lantern, Young Justice grabbed me from the first episode. It wasn’t campy like Teen Titans (which I sometimes liked, sometimes didn’t… ) and set the stage right away for darker stories to come.
First off, the dates being shown at the start of each episode made me feel that something was coming; it was a sense of impending doom, and was rather subtle in how it was included. We see young superheroes (Aqualad, Robin, Kid Flash, and Speedy) finding their way as superheroes and sidekicks, only to become disillusioned by continued ‘sidekick’ status when finally invited into the Hall of Justice; Speedy is especially infuriated by the treatment of the Justice League. Add in Superboy to the mix and you have a core of rebellious superheroes ready to fight evil their own way (under the watchful eye of the Justice League and being given assignments by Batman)
By the second episode, Miss Martian has joined the team. Her manner and catchphrase (“Duh, Meghan!”) annoyed the crap out of me… until we find out several episodes later WHY she acts this way. (it’s a cool little bit of character development that I won’t completely spoil for those who haven’t watched it yet.) Shortly thereafter, we get the addition of Artemis, a replacement archer on the team with Speedy/Red Arrow having not joined. Immediately we know she’s got some hidden demons to deal with, which of course unfolds as the series progresses.
As the series progressed, we saw new members added, villains fought, and a growing hidden evil organization bent on some insidious plan. Oh, and Speedy refuses to join any team (YJ or JL) and strikes off on his own, becoming Red Arrow.
Throughout the first season, romance blooms between several characters as the Light (the hidden baddies) slowly reveal their plans to we, the viewers. By the end of season 1, we are left with a warm fuzzy feeling for the most part, with the YJ team having thwarted the plans of Vandal Savage and the Light, who had used Red Arrow as a brainwashed mole inside the JLA, who had offered him membership once he proved himself...
ON TO SEASON 2
The series returns, and the opening minutes of Season 2 turns everything we knew about YJ on its ear! After a few brief moments of Batman and Robin trying to figure out what happened when the Justice League was under the control of Savage, we then jump forward in time 5 years!
New members, Robin is now Nightwing with a new Robin on the team, and things aren’t all that warm and fuzzy with everyone anymore. The core of the Justice League is shuffled off to stand trial for crimes they can’t remember committing on another planet, and YJ has to cover for their absence and fight the good fight.
Oh, and Aqualad is a bad guy and Black Manta is his father (I did say there were spoilers here…)
Fast-forward through the second (and final season): The Light has made a deal with The Reach, and alien race who plan to enslave humanity. The season focuses on this, and that Aqualad is actually a double-agent working for the team. Note that the League is pretty much absent during most of this season, the core group having been imprisoned awaiting trial on the planet Rimbor. Also note that The Reach turn out to be the source of the scarab that has attached itself to Jamie Reyes, the teenager who has become the new Blue Beetle. This becomes a sticking point as the season progresses.
Lastly, a speedster from the future, calling himself Impulse, arrives, but claims it is an accident (it is revealed later that he was sent back on purpose to stop Blue Beetle from becoming evil and under the control of The Reach). We find out that there is a Black Beetle, an evil scarab user who is part of the race of The Reach and who is much more in control of his scarab than Jaime is.
There is soooo much more I could go into, but this all sets the stage for the finale, which is what I’m trying to review here, right?
By the penultimate episode, we see the climax of an ongoing plot point: Artemis (believed dead and supposedly killed by Aqualad) has been undercover within The Light’s ranks in the guise of Tigress (thanks to a little mojo courtesy of Zatanna), acting as Aqualad’s enforcer.
This episode, prior to the finale, shows her revealed by Ra’s al Ghul (who gets wise to her necklace, the source of the mojo bestowed on her by Zatanna) in the midst of a meeting between The Reach and The Light, and Deathstroke killing her and Aqualad for their betrayal. This is all a ruse, however, to screw up the partnership of The Reach and The Light, as Aqualad has recorded a hologram that exposes how each side was attempting to double-cross the other. As the hologram concludes ends, Artemis and Aqualad ‘rise from the dead’, having not actually been killed because Deathstroke is revealed to be Miss Martian in disguise (admittedly, this felt a bit rushed in terms of pacing and tying up loose plot points, but the show had been announced as being canceled at this point).
TIME TO WRAP IT UP: The series finale: "Endgame"
Now we see the YJ team going after The Reach.
We arrive at the final episode: “Endgame”. The episode opens with The Justice League’s trial on Rimbor coming to a close. I can’t believe I didn’t see the obvious bit here with the ‘court’. The ‘more to offer’ bit of dialogue, the outstretched hand… but we’ll get back to that.
Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Superman, Hawk Girl, and Martian Manhunter are found guilty (GUUUIIILLLLTTYYYYY!!!!!) by the Rimbor alien court, and sentenced to, well, we assume... imprisonment? This, despite Icon/Augustus Freeman’s best effort to defend them (and Icon being voiced by Tony Todd? MORE, PLEASE!)
As Hawkman joins Icon on the courtroom/arena floor, the JLA disappears into holding cells below the venue. Seconds later, Superboy and Miss Martian leap into the scene with ‘new evidence’ (I kept expecting the ‘chunk-chung’ sound from Law and Order here…) but it is apparently too late. Cue the shocked looks from Superboy, Miss Martian, and their Rimbor liaison. DUNH DUNH DUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHH!!!
Cue the title card…
Now onto June 20th, NYC, and Black Beetle advising The Reach lead science director that it’s time to go. But WAIT! The YJ team is on board the Reach mothership! Aqualad, Blue Beetle, and Martian Green Beetle (both now free of Reach control) go on the attack. Incapacitating the science director and taking on Black Beetle.
Ah, but how soon Aqualad and company forget that Black Beetle is kind of a badass and has taken down almost the entire YJ team single-handedly. Aqualad doesn’t last long, getting blasted across the room; Green Beetle dives in next… and lo and behold we see his plan backfire. He uses his ‘download pincers’ to try to reset Black Beetle’s scarab… but Black Beetle is stronger reverses the process on Green Beetle, totally obliterating Green’s scarab; our intrepid Green Beetle survives the process when most scarab-wielders don’t; Black Beetle comments on this, in fact.
Cut to the courtroom-arena again, with the tribunal not being willing to listen to this ‘new evidence’ Miss Martian and Superboy have presented. Icon continues to argue with the court… and again the ‘more to offer’ bit comes up. They beat me over the head with it, and I still didn’t pick up on it until Superboy does; he realizes the court wants a bribe of some sort. This is a nice moment of Superboy and Miss Martian (falling in step with his angle) getting back to a solid bit of teamwork. The two present a tantalizing counter-offer of the court gaining fame and notoriety by ‘wisely’ reversing the guilty sentence in light of the new evidence… and thereby will gain more ‘business’ in the process. The tribunal ponders this…
…annnnd we’re back to the Beetle fight. Black gets ready to blast non-Green Beetle martian into oblivion, but Blue Beetle intervenes just in time, taking the blast on his own armor. Black Beetle berates Blue and extends his on download pincers to obliterate Blue’s scarab (and likely killing host Jaime Reyes).
Here is where we get into the best part of the second season for me: the relationship of Jaime with his scarab. It’s been great to watch him have a battle of wills with the scarab: Jaime wanting to do things heroically, while the scarab, true to its core programming, wants to usually take the quick, efficient (and often brutal) approach to the situation.
Several episodes ago, both Blue and Green were shown to have been reprogrammed as puppets of The Reach. Zatanna was able to break them of this, however (thanks to some unknown backdoor scheming by The Light against The reach) and at that point the scarab and Jaime bonded as true symbiotic partners, neither of them having enjoyed being made puppets of The Reach. It’s a touching moment when both Jaime and the scarab have a quick mental conversation about being friends and partners, and they are the ones who reverse the download flow back on Black Beetle, then extend their own pincers, destroying his scarab! It was a nice bit of closure for the character. Black Beetle falls to the ground, alive but ‘mortal’ once again.
The victory is a hollow one, however, as Blue has gained knowledge from the contact that Black and The Reach have put in motion an ‘endgame’ scenario that will destroy Earth, thereby deleting the evidence of their influence there. In Gotham City, Paris, and Taipei (and, we assume, other cities around the world) reach technology appears, with two Reach techno-Beetle robots guarding each one.
We jump up to the JLA’s Watchtower in space, where Captain Atom, Nightwing, and Aqualad are brief by Blue Beetle about what these doomsday devices are. As he wraps up the briefing, the UN Secretary General calls… but it’s not the Secretary, it’s LEX LUTHOR (I have to write that in caps, because it’s the exclamation of his name by whichever hero is present that always seems to accompany his arrival on the scene: LUUUUUTHOOOOOR!!!!).
Lex informs the heroes that he, of course, always had a plan in place to defeat such technology, and has a virus that can be loaded into the devices; but each needs to be placed ON each device, 20 of them total (as we find out shortly…)
Now back to the court, where the tribunal deliberates, and Miss Martian and Superboy have a tender moment. After that, it’s an “all charges dropped” decree from the tribunal. The 6 JLA members are free to go (after processing, which keeps them tied up juuuuust a bit longer). Superboy and Miss Martian don’t want to wait around, needing to get back to Earth post haste.
Back to the full JLA and YJ teams (those present on Earth) being given assignments by Captain Atom. He deploys all JLA and YJ members into teams of two, each assigned to one of the twenty Reach doomsday devices around the world. The panning shot of all the heroes assembled (look! It’s Wolf! I love Wolf! And both Roy Harpers!, and everybody else!). It’s some fun pairings of various heroes: Flash and Impulse, Artemis and Kid Flash, La’gaan and Aqualad, and (we assume) others like Zatanna and her father Zatarra (who is still in the thrall of the Helmet of Fate), and more.
The Blue Beetle armor cranks out Reach-styled delivery devices for the virus, which have to be attached to the doomsday devices themselves. Hence the tag-team pairings: one hero to distract the robot Beetles, the other to attach the device. These robot Beetles are like going up against one scarab Beetle, so it’s not going to be easy. Luthor wishes them luck, with the “the fate of the world is in your hands” bit thrown in because, hey… no pressure.
Back to Rimbor, with the newly freed JLA 6 being escorted to freedom by Icon. The celebration is cut short by the appearance of Vandal Savage, who has taken control of the War World (y’know, big fake planetoid capable of obliterating just about any other world… yeah, that WarWorld) and has declared Earth off limits to all outside interference. We’re guessing he’s acting on orders from The Light at this point. It's a good ‘uh-oh’ moment that I’m sure would have been explored if the series hadn’t been canned.
And we’re back on Earth: Remember when I said the YJ/JLA members taking on the robot beetles wouldn’t be easy? It actually turns out to be kind of easy, of the most part. I think the writers are trying to show how far the YJ heroes have come in their skills, training, and maturity, in that all the teams make quick work of the devices and the robot guards. La’gaan and Aqualad defeat an underwater deployed device (and bury the hatchet personally), Artemis and Kid Flash defeat the Paris device (and have smootchies), Virgil (aka soon-to-be-called Static) teamed with Black Lightning (who offers to mentor him after they succeed in their mission); everybody succeeds, in fact.
Except they didn’t. Blue Beetle reports there was a 21st device hidden in Antarctica, and it is going critical! But who can get there in time, with no transport zeta tubes established in that region? Enter The Flash, with Impulse joining him.
The two race to attach the virus canister to the doomsday weapon… but it’s too late! The device has gone critical, and just one of these things can obliterate the Earth (makes me wonder why The Reach felt the need to use 21 of them, though…).
There’s no way to stop it… or is there??? Luthor’s got a plan: Impulse and The Flash can use the power of their ‘speed trails’ (sounds kind of dirty) to siphon off the energy. Back at the Watchtower, Artemis comments “will it be enough” as she turns to Kid Flash… who has just zeta tubed down to Earth to join the other two.
I knew what was coming next, as the series has set it up that Kid Flash/Wally West is a speedster not of the original Allen family line, and as such is not as fast as Impulse (aka Bart Allen, a future Allen relative) and The Flash are. He joins them in the siphoning, but it becomes apparent that he is lagging behind… and the energy is hitting him instead of being siphoned into the speed trails! He’s become (as the arriving Blue Beetle’s scarab tells his host Jaime) an ‘exit valve’ for the energy. In 16 seconds, he will ‘cease’. We see Kid Flash hit with energy, and he is starting to fade out of existence. Flash tells Impulse they have to try to help Kid Flash, but Kid Flash declines, does his part… and dissipates. *sob*
The Flash and Impulse finish the job, thanks to Kid Flash’s help, but at the cost of Wally’s life. The rest of the YJ team has arrived, and Artemis begs them to tell her where her love Wally is…. Flash tells her that Wally told him to tell her he loved her… and Artemis realizes he’s gone and breaks down, held by Miss Martian. *double sob*
The world is saved, at the price of a founding YJ team member. The JLA as a whole return to Mount Justice, fearing the worst. Not to worry, though; the YJ team comes over the horizon looking older, wiser, and in control. Aqualad announces the crisis has passed, but at a terrible cost. We see Artemis arriving at Wally’s parent’s house, and his parents tearfully embrace her.
Big ol’ celebration ensues as Earth celebrates the retreat of The Reach. A quick snarky exchange takes place between the Reach operatives, who are now being escorted by Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner (really wanted to hear him speak and be voiced by Diedrich Bader! Oops, wrong DC Comics show…), as Blue Beetle narrates. We also get a quick G. Gordon Godfrey bit, with excellent smarmy voice work by the incomparable Tim Curry, who reports that the UN Secretary General who allowed the Reach to gain a foothold on Earth has been ousted, only to be replaced by (yell it with me): LUTHOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Captain Atom gets a good zinger in at this point, turning over JLA leadership back to Black Canary.
We see the team dealing with it all: Nightwing turns over leadership of the team once again to Aqualad, and announces he needs to take a break in the wake of Wally’s death (he, Aqualad, and Wally were the YJ founding members, after all). He suggests Batgirl take his place, as she is ready to step up. On to Artemis and Impulse, who are at the feet of the Kid Flash hologram shrine, but Impulse is now dressed as Kid Flash, stepping into the role to honor his memory. Artemis, in the meantime, has donned the Tigress outfit, saying that the Artemis persona was linked to Kid Flash, so she’s trying something different without him, in order to help heal. We get a moment with new Robin, Wonder Girl, and Virgil, who has now officially adopted the Static moniker. He updates them on the others in his super-powered group who are opting mostly to stay out of the superhero game. Also, Robin and Wonder Girl have hooked up. Superboy and Miss Martian follow suit, burying their past failed romance issues.
We see the finale of the ‘Invasion/Season 2” arc and the promotion of the YJ team to official JLA members, though they will keep their YJ team within the structure of the JLA overall. Aqualad gives them a pep talk, then sends them out on various assignments. So endeth the show… almost.
The actual end feels like a standard post-credits bit in a movie. WarWorld heads to the hellish planet Apokolips, where Vandal Savage meets up with Darkseid (the War World’s “owner” ) and (what the WHAT???) G. Gordon Godfrey! So, he’s in on the whole “The Light” thing. Niiiiice.
Business as usual.
Final thoughts on Young Justice’s terminated future:
1) Would have loved to see where Season 3 went. The Light, the new YJ team’s JLA status, etc.
2) Is Wally really gone? Was hoping they would explore the ‘speed force’ subplot, and that he was out there lost in the speed energy, but still alive.
3) More Blue Beetle! More Static!
4) Less La’gaan! Less Bee Girl and Helmet Dude!
5) An episode dedicated exclusively to Wolf and The Sphere, with nobody else. Hee hee…
6) How does Nightwing handle the loss of Wally? How does Artemis/Tigress cope as well?
7) More pairings of JLA and YJ members on missions.
All in all, a satisfying end, but one that was left with new questions to be answered. Sadly, we’ll never get those answers.
** QUICK NOTE: this review posted twice by accident, so I deleted the oldest one because it contained mistakes I corrected in the newer version. Apologies to anyone for lost comments.