I am looking at Season Two of the Young Justice animated series, examining its origins in comic book lore and how the show develops its complex mixture of characters and plots. I’m writing as I watch each episode, so Spoilers for everything up to that far in the season.
Many diverse parts of this season continue to get tied together, advanced, and clarified over what ends up as the second of a two-part story, as the episode titles suggest, being two halves of the same phrase.
A flashback depicts how Jaime first found the Beetle Scarab in the debris from an explosion at Kord Industries. This might be the first time we see a hero’s origin on Young Justice. Apparently everyone just assumed that the Scarab was an invention of Ted Kord and not, as is revealed in this episode, an alien artifact. The Light’s partners (after having ditched the Kroleteans) are The Reach, an extraterrestrial civilization that appears mostly humanoid, but still likes to refer to Earthlings as “meat.” The Scarab is their tech, and we see one of their number in a battle armor identical to Blue Beetle’s.
A Reach scientist explains to Aqualad that the meta-gene is what allows some humans to survive catastrophic events by developing new abilities, that is, getting superpowers. The Reach wants to understand and weaponize this potential. This idea of the meta-gene and extraterrestrial interest in it, comes from the 1988 Invasion! mini-series I’ve mentioned before. Involving the Reach, an alien menace introduced into comics much later, is typical of how Young Justice remixes and reinterprets comics lore for their own continuity.
Something that is distinctive about these characters as a team is how they carry out carefully planned stealth missions, full of deception, misdirection, and coordinated attacks. They don’t just smash into the villains’ headquarters and start hitting people. They are so sneaky it can even confuse us viewers on occasion. When Robin and Batgirl appeared out of costume I didn’t even recognize them at first.
The problem with a carefully laid plan is when it smashes into something unexpected. The Team’s multi-faceted operation to rescue Lagoon Boy and the other captives starts to go awry when several unexpected events happen in quick succession. They did not expected to encounter another “Beetle” or how powerful a fully unleashed Scarab could be, Jaime having kept secret how much he was restraining his. Even worse was not considering what would happen, as it does, if Miss Martian encountered Aqualad during the operation. M’gann being one of the Team who was never told about his undercover deception. Miss Martian, having grown both more ruthless and powerful since last season, instantly mentally attacks, causing as yet unrevealed psychic trauma to him — as well as absorbing the truth about everything that has gone, including Artemis’s fake death. That knowledge stuns her as well.
Another thing Nightwing couldn’t have planned for was that Impulse has his own agenda. More than anything else, he is in this time to rescue and warn Blue Beetle. The apocalyptic future he came from is one where the Reach have succeeded in conquering the Earth — something they achieve through the Scarab realizing its true purpose as a superweapon. So another plot thread, Impulse’s future timeline, has been folded into the main story. It’s really a relief to see so much of the complicated plot of this season be brought together. It also makes it all the more disturbing when, to help the Team survive and escape, Jaime has to unleash the full power of the Scarab, the very thing Impulse was warning about.
The Team manages to get away, though with plenty of consequences to deal with — only to discover that the Reach has made friendly contact with Earth’s governments. They are diplomatic and respectful enough that even G. Gordon Godfrey welcomes then. But… then Godfrey is an evil god from Apokalips that no one suspects yet, so that can’t be good.