Young Justice, Episode 2.20: “Endgame”

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. Spoilers for everything up to these episodes.

Last episode felt like a mostly satisfying conclusion to everything that had gone on during Season Two. I rather wish the season had stopped there. The actual finale tries to do a lot of things, but doesn’t manage to pull them all off.

The one unresolved plot line was the trial of the Justice League on Rimbor. For all its potential significance, it was easy to forget that it was supposed to be going on in the background of everything unfolding on Earth. From a big picture perspective one can understand why this plot line existed. The Light needed these foundational heroes — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc — out of the way for their schemes on Earth. Young Justice needed them out of the way so that the Team could be the stars of the show. The details of the trial were never quite clear. The League was charged with some vague crimes of cause havoc on Rimbor, an almost lawless planet run by openly corrupt officials. Bribes are standard operating procedure there. Was anybody expecting a fair trial? Did it matter that the League had expert-on-galactic law Icon as their attorney? What was the punishment if they were found guilty anyway? When Superboy and Miss Martian show up with evidence proving it all a Reach plot, nobody really cares and neither do we. Their fast talk with the Rimbor authorities about the commercial value of appearing to make a just ruling was cute, but a sputtering ending to this contrived, if necessary story thread.

As part of mopping up back on Earth, the showdown between the three Beetles nicely recapped the relationships that defined what Blue and Black were. Jaime and his scarab have been partners all along, and Black never needed his for him to be a weapon of oppression and violence. My unanswered question is why the Reach consistently referred to humans as “meat.” I suspected sometimes that their ultimate purpose for us was as a food source. Or is it that Reach biology was plant-based rather than animal? Trivial, but I wondered about it all season.

The show now has about 15 minutes for a big save-the-planet extravaganza. In the older days of superhero comics, when there’d be a special, epic crossover story with a large number of characters, it was common for them to divide up into pairs or other small squads to take on the aspects of a huge threat. So we see that at play here — and also see the heroes very effectively carry out their plan (though the early statement that each of the Reach drones had the power of a Beetle warrior gets quickly forgotten, as they actually go down easily). There are some nice, concluding character beats as well, particularly Lagoon Boy pride at Aqualad’s trust. That seemed to heal his self-esteem from being dumped by Miss Martian quite quickly. Artemis and Wally are sweet together — and if only they had left it there…

We know of course that the good guys are going to save the Earth. That isn’t really a source of suspense But when a DC comic reader sees a Flash start to do something dangerous, a different expectation arises. You see the thing that Flash does (any Flash, as there have been a lot of them) besides running very fast is… die heroically saving the world. That started with Barry Allen dying in Crisis on Infinite Earths in comics in the 1986, happens in other ways to other Flashes in subsequent stories, and even gets used in the TV adaptation of Crisis last year. When our three Flashes start running in a vortex to contain the doomsday device it was a direct evocation of Crisis. Who was going die this time? Maybe the one who was the reluctant hero dragged into battle? The one with a loving, emotional relationship we connected with? The one who was passing on his mantle to a successor? He was the cop on the last day of duty before a peaceful retirement. Killing Wally off was a clumsy cliché that we could see coming from miles away. I think the show could have done better, particularly since Young Justice has its own continuity to play with, unfettered by connections with comics or other shows.

And then there is the third thing that Flashes do. They come back from the dead. I have little doubt we’ll see Wally again.

Wally’s death was of course meant to represent a “price” the heroes had to pay. Yet what they had is far from a complete victory. Lex Luthor has spun the situation nicely, getting himself positioned to become Secretary General of the United Nations. And then there is the long, long, long awaited revelation that the Light is working with Darkseid, or at least Savage is, and maybe has been for millennia. In typical style for the show Darkseid is not named, though the show gives a typically understated location title card for “Apokolips.” Jack Kirby’s masterpiece villain has been handled and mishandled by many writers over the years. His appearances in Superman: The Animated Series and the following Justice League cartoon are classic. What, I wonder, will Young Justice do with him, and the mythos that surrounds him?

I’ll have one more post on Season Two, summing up my experience watch it.

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