Young Justice, Episode 2.16: “Complications”

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.

With the Season Two ending in sight, enough is going on that we get another A/B plot episode.

The episode is framed by the consequences of what happened last time. Blue Beetle is covering up his betrayal by playing the innocent, claiming Mongol escaped, taking the other heroes with him. There’s even evidence to backup up his story that Mongol used an emergency Boom Tube. Nobody seems to make to much of a deal about the use of Boom Tubes so I can only guess the Earth heroes think of it as just another teleport technology — and are ignorant of the connotations that Darkseid and Apokolips are somehow in the background.

Beetle “blames” himself for what happen. The full-activated Scarab seems to have a lot of insight into both Jaime and Dick’s personalities, doing a perfect job imitating the insecure young hero and anticipating how the protective Nightwing would react.

Even with all that going, the main plot is what’s going on aboard Black Manta’s sub. I’m not even going to try and untangle all the factions involved here, how many different groups are sneaking around, who all is pretending to be someone else, pretending to be someone pretending to be yet someone else, or the multi-layered family/friend/rival/enemy relationships are at play. It’s Shakespearean in the complexity of secrets, disguises, and sudden reveals. It’s a lot of fun, my only narrative criticism being how much everything neatly returns to the status quo that existed before this whole story arc began. At least Miss Martian finally knows the truth of Aqualad and Artemis’s undercover mission (though Cheshire and Sportsmaster know as well now…).

The focus then returns to Nightwing on the captured WarWorld. Like his mentor Batman, Dick is a detective. His investigation of the Mongol fight turns up evidence that all is not as Blue Beetle described it. Even worse Jaime, himself is now appearing on TV as the Reach’s advocate and pet superhero, a role he’d never would have been comfortable with before.

Young Justice, Episode 2.15: “War”

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.

This episode rapidly builds up to a whirlwind of action. It is the nature of this season that each chapter isn’t just “an episode” but an progression of the story where things happen and the situation in an irrevocable way.

We start check in on Rimbor, where the Justice League is on trial. Things are not going well, especially since the locals don’t understand why some convenient bribes haven’t ending it already. The choice of the planet Rimbor (traditionally a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” in the DC Universe) seemed quite the well-calculated choice as a trap for the League, since anything like a fair trial is unlikely here.

But even this far across the galaxy, there is news that the Reach is occupying Earth. There is then uncharacteristic datadump of exposition. Young Justice usually presents a minimal amount of backstory for all its many characters and situations. The show either lets information accumulate over time, or just assumes viewers know the comic book lore already. Maybe the producers thought with so many plot elements and bizarre characters active across multiple planets, there just wasn’t enough time to be subtle. 

Characters explain the details of the treaty that restrains the Reach, and about the newly introduced threat of  Mongol and his WarWorld.  Mongol was created by Len Wein and Jim Starlin in 1980, as a space-based enemy strong enough for a punch-out against Superman.  Starlin also created Thanos for Marvel Comics, and his distinctive style explains Mongol’s physical resemblance to him. He was a minor character in DC until his famous appearance in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1985 “For the Man who has Everything,” one of the most critically regarded Superman stories of that era. Still, Mongol is a largely a blank slate alien space Hitler who is easily re-interpreted by comic and animation writers as needed. 

Here in Young Justice, after learning what is going on Earth (with some goading by Vandal Savage, who is also lurking around at the League’s trial) Mongol decides to put Earth out of its misery from Reach domination. He brings WarWorld into the Solar System and triggers an all out defend the Earth battle. Even the Reach joins in, revealing that they had a secret spaceship armada. The League and the Team show off their power, teamwork, and tactical skill. Letting heavy hitters such as Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel and Captain Atom hold off the main attack while the covert Team puts into action multiple simultaneous plans to take out WarWorld from within. That sort of well-thought out, logical approach to a goal is  something you rarely see in the genre. Of course it all falls apart due to Blue Beetle now being a double agent for the Reach. Additionally Nighthawk continues to send Arsenal on missions for some reason…

After Blue Beetle betrays the Team we are left with a mystery of what actually happens to them. We can assume they were all Boom Tubed into Reach imprisonment. It’s all a win-win-win for the Reach, since Mongol is defeated, they’ve captured bunch of heroes, and they’ve gained the control of WarWorld. And Earth thinks all the better of them for helping hold off the attack. Mongol repeatedly said the Earth would be better off destroyed by him than in the control of the Reach. And given how often the Reach refers to earthlings as “meat” their ultimate goal seems pretty ominous. 

Ultra Q: Final Thoughts

blu-ray box

I had some general knowledge of Ultra Q before I started watching the actual episodes. I knew about its historical significance in the Japanese science fiction and monster genres, the way it was a transition between the Godzilla movies of the 60’s and the Ultraman TV shows (though still not that well known in the West, Ultraman remains a thriving superhero franchise, with new series being produced to this day).

My biggest surprise when I began watching was how much the show swung being the poles of science fiction, humor, and horror. Some episodes were light children’s entertainment, while others I do not think were appropriate for children at all. The best episodes for me were ones that developed from the central theme of “Unbalance,” the original concept for the show, before giant monsters became such a feature. The modern world has come unbalanced both as an external realm and an internal experience. From this are monsters born. To me it seems a very East Asian concept. In the West, we tend to expect specific answers, clear cause-and-effect. Aliens are invading. The government is hiding a conspiracy. A gate to Hell has opened up in a small town. But in Ultra Q’s “Zone of Unbalance,” an invasion of space aliens is not the cause of things going wrong, but a symptom. That’s a strong premise for an anthology show of weird stories. There have been two follow up/remakes to the series: Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy in 2004 and Neo Ultra Q in 2013. If I ever get the chance to see them I’ll be curious where they take the “Unbalance “theme.

Neo Ultra Q

Ultra Q is most known for its monsters. Tsuburaya Productions was founded by Eiji Tsuburaya, the man who created the special effects for the Godzilla franchise, and the series is a showcase for their style. Ultra Q episodes included both Tsuburaya monsters than had been built for other films (including a recycled Godzilla costume) as well as new monsters who went on to becomes “stars” themselves and appear in laters shows (such as Pigmon, the Kemur Man, or Kanegon). The monsters, either people in monster costumes or puppets, can (literally) overshadow the intricate miniature landscapes, buildings, or entire cities. These models are amazing creations and it can be sad to see them be crushed, incinerated, or blown to bits at the climax of episode, for all that they were created for just that purpose. The painstaking detail and the fiery pyrotechnics remind me of what was being done two continents away in Great Britain by Gerry Anderson, with with “Supermarionation” puppet shows such as Thunderbirds, which was being produced at roughly the same time. I wonder about what connections and influences there might be between these special effects pioneers.

Thunderbirds explosion

As I have mentioned in my Quick Thoughts about the series, Ultra Q had a very high budget for a Japanese TV series of its time, though in our computer graphics saturated era we think of monster suits and miniatures as low budget. I imagine a lot of the money went into those miniature buildings and props (and into blowing them up). There is also some interesting and effective optical composite work, for instance miniature vehicles and sets appearing in the background of live actors. Sometimes it isn’t used so well, such as where a character vanishes from a scene but parts of their body leave a “hole” in the shot from where the matting didn’t quite work. The more artist and stylized use of opticals are always a treat. A lightning bolt splits a shot in two. A missing person becomes an empty silhouette, which gets filled with clambering reporters asking questions. Credits for an episode might spin across the screen, roll past, or appear in the reflection of a sports car’s hubcaps. Likewise the theme music might be a played as a jangling surfer’s guitar or a bouncy children’s march. The show’s sense of freedom to experiment and try new ideas keeps each episode a surprise.

Within the constraints of half-hour format the show frequency manged to tell quite a complete story. There are a few scripts that leave you scratching your head, but more often a premise, a mystery, a monster, and a resolution unfold. The plots of many giant monster films, from both side of the Pacific, can be a little thin — filler between cities being demolished or titanic creatures in wrestling matches. Condensed down to this format and scale those kinds of outlandish tales can be satisfying mini-epics.

Our heroes

From the perspective of what 21st Century television has become, where Ultra Q seems the most dated is in characters. There is a small cast of continuing characters, particularly the trio of Yuriko, Jun, and Ippei. The series is from an era when there was no continuity between episodes. Aside from the two stories that are direct follow ups to earlier episodes, the various tales of Ultra Q are intended to be viewable in any order. With so many modern shows essentially being serials, we can forget that was once the norm. TV was meant to be broadcast once, maybe have a rerun, and then go into syndication where local stations had no constraints about what episodes were shown or in what order. There was no point in having character arcs or narrative growth. Yet even with that limitation, characters of Ultra Q are little more that quick sketches. We hardly learn anything about their lives outside their work or adventures. Rare details, such as that Jun is an aspiring science fiction writer, have almost no relevance. They and their relationships are always in a “now” and they don’t even seem affected by the bizarre experience they endure. It is almost shocking when the last episode “Let Me Out!” Suggests Jun and Yuriko are dating. Again I wonder how the relationships for the apparent parallel characters in Neo Ultra Q compare. For all the monsters, weird events, and conspiracies of The X-Files, probably the most memorable and lasting parts of that series were the personalities and interactions between Fox and Mulder. Our trio of heroes are sometimes background characters to the main action, even just cameos in some episodes. It’s the scientist who gives his life to stop the monster his jealousy created, the lonely child who befriends a 4-dimensional time-travelling prehistoric bird, or the magician whose conflict between protecting his daughter and having a successful stage show unleashes a demon — these are the characters we really remember, even if they appear for only a single outing.

Tsuburaya and friends

Of course Ultra Q never claims to be a character based drama. Even the thematic warnings about Unbalance are only heard in some of the episodes. The series is an exercise in imagination. What crazy ideas can we come up with this week? An alien invasion? A mole exposed to super nutritious honey? A folktale come to life as a schoolboy’s adventure? Climate change? A salaryman’s soul crushing angst? It’s all there. Somebody came up with a cool optical printing trick? Use it! Look at what we did with this leftover monster suit! Great, use it! That is the impression I get of what developing this show must have been like. Much of the background information on the show is still not that widely available in English. The Eiji Tsuburaya biography “Master of Monsters” by August Ragone is high on my reading list. The website Vantage Point Interviews does have an interesting interview with Yashuhiko Saijo, who played Ippei.

As mentioned, Ultra Q set the stage for the monster-fighting giant superhero Ultraman, which has developed over the decades into an expansive universe of TV shows, comics, movies, and endless merchandise. I have seen a little Ultraman, since the first series did, unlike Ultra Q, get an English version distributed to the United States. I’m excited to see the original episodes, and follow the franchise’s developed, especially now that I’ve experienced its origins.

I plan on doing more commentary on Ultraman, but we’ll see if I have enough to say to do a series of posts, or if I’ll just reflect on each season as a whole.

Quick Thought: Ultra Q, Episodes 24-28

Finishing up my series of comments and observations on this classic 1960’s Japanese tokusatsu, or “special effects” series. Assume some Spoilers for each episode.

I’ll follow this up with an overview of my thoughts on the series as a whole.

The Idol of Goga

Ultra Q steps into the waters of yet another genre: this time with a secret agent story involving international art thefts, kidnapping, and lots of James Bond gadgets and plot twists. It’s a particularly violent and scary episode too, with several onscreen deaths, both from guns and from snail monster flesh melting eye beams. At first our usual trio of investigators seem in over their heads once they get caught up in it all, but even Ippei demonstrates he can be an action hero when necessary.

Speaking of “necessary,” the giant monster in this episode might not strictly have been needed, but it did increase the tension, with an escalating threat in addition to the main plot’s chases, fights, and gunplay. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many of the kaiju in the series have been puppets, giving it some nonhumanoid variety, rather than every threat being a man in a monster suit.

Devil Child

The Devil Child

Episodes have been getting kind of grim lately. Alien invaders or giant monsters are one thing, murderous ghost children are something else. There’s not only the child in danger aspect, but there’s almost a cruelty in the glimpses into the lives of victims just before their untimely ends. Characters make a couple puzzling references to “the ghost girl and the doll,” which I’m guessing is a well-known legend or folklore ghost story. What’s happening in the episode may be a modern, sci-fi update of that story. Ultra Q is sometimes compared with The X-Files, but this is really the first story that could easily be made to work for either show.

Ultra Q’s occasional narrative framing uses a phrase commonly translated as “Your eyes will leave your body,” but in these subtitles is “You will experience a separation of mind and body.” That is literally what this episode is about, so maybe it is based on an older script from before the show became so monster focused. It also emphasizes that these events are occurring due to the Unbalance that fills the modern world. Unbalance that can make even an innocent child into a devil.

Blazing Victory

Some episodes of Ultra Q have a monster inserted in them for less than justified reasons. This one might get described that way — but I don’t think it should. Joe’s pet lizard is a reflection of the Unbalance that comes to haunt him. He at first he is using “Peter” to reinforce his own confidence, by claiming the animal is predicting the outcomes of his fights. When doubts begin to haunt him and he runs away, hiding as a stage show clown, Peter’s own form becomes unstable. The crisis of Joe’s internal conflict is what brings about the crisis of Peter escaping and becoming a rampaging kaiju. The connections between the Unbalancing of mind, body, and nature is the central theme of the show.

If I was a producer of this episode what I’d be wondering is not why the script needs a giant monster, but do we really need to spend all that money to build this intricate miniature dock and marina, just to incinerate it in a huge fire just because it’ll look cool?

Manga cover

The Disappearance of Flight 206

The above manga cover makes this episode look quite a bit more exciting that it actually is… An airliner disappears into a time-space vortex and gets attacked by a giant walrus. Not much else to say about this one, try as I might. I kind of think somebody in the Tsuburaya special effects department developed some impressive looking vortex techniques with a cloud tank and they needed some excuse to use them. Plus there was this walrus suit lying around left over from another movie. Maybe this series’ lavish budget was running low?

Trapped onboard

Open Up!

The final episode comes with no giant monster in sight, though with lots of unnerving optical effects. It’s haunting note to end on — that the only escape from the pressures and anxieties of the Unbalanced, modern world is into fantasy and imagination — and perhaps madness (reminiscent of Terry Gillian’s Brazil, nearly 20 years later).

This story is the only one to suggest that Jun and Yuriko have a romantic relationship. In the past Ippei clearly has a crush on Yuri-chan, but otherwise the gang has just been good friends and adventuring companions. And I felt bad that the couple were so mean to Ippei, ditching him with his arms full of groceries. I rather hoped the episode would end with him playing some trick on them to get his revenge. Maybe there was an intent to show the consequences of thoughtlessly running away from responsibilities?

Young Justice, Episodes 2.13 And 2.14

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.

The Fix

Artemis, disguised as Tigress aboard Black Manta’s ship, wonders “How did it all go so wrong?” The answer to that seems pretty clear: when Nightwing decided not to trust his team with the plan for Aqualad to go deep undercover to infiltrate the Light. Sure, you can see keeping Lagoon Boy and other newbies out of the loop, but why Superboy, why Miss Martian? Maybe he’ll reveal some explanation, but for now that is looking like a big mistake. I’m impressed at how well Conner handles the revelation. He is clearly furious, but manages to keep himself under control. He’s come along way since the first season.

Aqualad

This episode is focused on the complications of getting Miss Martian to Aqualad, so that she can attempt repairing the damage she’s done to his mind. Having characters “enter” a disturbed psyche is a common troupe of the genre, and it’s handled well here. Artemis is another character who has matured a lot, and her own struggles with fractured identity and trust have given her strength. It’s a somber but believable element that even with making contact with Aqualad’s consciousness, recovery is still a long way off.

Besides that core plot development, the episode has an intriguing parallel structure. At the same time as Artemis is trying to maintain her façade as Tigress and keep Manta’s trust while she and M’gann secretly work against him, Green Beetle is trying to prove to the Team that he is trustworthy and is there to help them. Particularly he offers Jaime the possibility of mastery over his Scarab and its Reach programming. In both situations an outsider is offering something highly desired. How much is the promise of that desire going to outweigh caution? Both Black Manta and Blue Beetle make the same decision. More on the consequences of that next episode.

Runaways

Young Justice frequently trusts its viewers to fill in events that take place between episodes. A group of teens rescued from the Light back in “Before the Dawn” have had their meta-gene detected and are ongoing training/testing at a S.T.A.R. Labs facility. They all have interesting, if convoluted, connections to comic book lore.


Longshadow

This group includes Jaime’s friend Tye. I mentioned in an earlier post Tye’s comic legacy going back to the token Native American “Apache Chief” in the Super Friends cartoon, who was reinterpreted as the genetically engineered “Longshadow” in Justice League Unlimited, and now is again reinterpreted as a Native young man with latent meta-gene powers. Just growing into a giant is a superpower that is not very imaginative and can look kind of silly in animation. Giving Tye a radiant “astral form” is a much more effective visual approach to his power.


El Dorado

Super Friends had an “El Dorado,” a Mexican hero with vaguely defined powers, including teleportation — which is the meta-ability the new Edwardo Dorado has. The story makes him an example of how the meta-gene adapts to the situations that trigger it: Edwardo’s father studies teleportation so his son has been exposed to Zeta rays all his life.


Samurai

Super Friends “needed” an Asian hero, and so introduced “Samurai,” a Japanese character, again with an array of powers, which included controlling the wind. Justice League Unlimited revised him into “Wind Dragon.” Descriptions of Young Justice’s Asami Koizumi, who can manipulate chi energy for flight and attacks, refer to her as a female version of this character, but really the only thing they have in common is being Japanese.


Black Lightning

Another Super Friends character was the electrified “Black Vulcan” (who, surprise, was black). His backstory is even more complicated, since DC Comics already had an African-American lightning based hero, Black Lightning, but rights issues prevented him from being included on Super Friends. Black Vulcan was presented as a replacement. Justice League Unlimited revised him as “Juice.” Now today, the original Black Lightning is well established, with his own live-action TV show, so Young Justice made the wise decision of, rather than creating yet another copy of the hero, using the opportunity to introduce into their distinct continuity, Virgil Hawkins, the popular character Static Shock, who conveniently is both African-American and electrical, though with his own unique version of that power set.


Neutron

A fifth member of the experimental group is Neutron, who appeared in “Bloodlines,” and was a C-List supervillain in comics.


These characters are mostly fed up being poked and prodded as test subjects. With Blue Beetle’s help they manage to escape from the lab — though just as the Red Vulcan robot attacks (no explanation about how he came back from being melted several episodes ago). Working together they defeat Vulcan, though Beetle shows an unusual lack of concern for collateral damage. Similarly he exhibits a new interest for being in the superhero spotlight in front of news reporters. Turns out, oops, the Team shouldn’t have trusted Green Beetle anymore than Black Manta should be trusting Artemis. Somehow, despite mind probing from Miss Martian, Green Beetle’s story of being free from the Reach’s control was a lie and, rather than helping Jaime shut off influence from his Scarab, it is Jaime who is now cut off, fully under control.

It’s classic Light “scheme in a scheme” approach, their having sent Vulcan to initiate just this situation. The new meta-gene heroes, free from the Lab, but frightened of the personality changes in Blue Beetle, walk willingly into Lex Luthor’s embrace. Or, as is more likely, this is “scheme in a scheme in a scheme”. I rather doubt Lex and the Light are planning on just going along with the Reach’s plans for Earth. An inevitable betrayal between baddies is likely in store at some point.

Superheroes classically have to deal with being reactive. They don’t do much until the villains make the first move, with heroes responding and trying to stop them. In Young Justice, the heroes continue to be completely outclassed in the scheming department. The Light is always a couple steps ahead of them. I’m sure Batman must have made Dick Grayson read The Art of War at some point in his training. Nightwing really needs a refresher course in the subject.

Quick Thought: Ultra Q, Episodes 20-23

Short comments and observations on this classic 1960’s Japanese tokusatsu, or “special effects” series. Assume some Spoilers for each episode.

The Undersea Humanoid Ragon

Ragon

It would be fascinating to see a natural history textbook from the world of Ultra Q. The existence of giant monsters seems an accepted part of things. People are surprised at the appearance of a kaiju, but not shocked and horrified. In the 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Gillman is a discovery that overturns every conventional theory of biology and evolution. In Ultra Q, a geologist can casually pick up a text book that explains, with illustrations, about the race of aquatic humanoids that existed 250 million years ago — and continue to thrive today, beneath the sea. Supposedly they only have the IQ of “a gorilla,” but it is hard not to think of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Deep Ones,” who, immortal and vastly more advanced that we apes, have been the true superior life forms of Earth for eons.

As other episodes have shown —with the week’s monster appearing in the opening credits — Japanese shows have a different sense of mystery and suspense than we are used to in the West. Fans of anime from the 80’s and 90’s are used to major “spoilers” being given away in just the title of an episode. If Citizen Kane had been an anime, its title might have been: “Rosebud: the Mysterious Sled of Nostalgic Youth!” So with Ultra Q we are used to episodes begun with titles such as “The Undersea Humanoid Ragon,” which kind of gives away a lot.

Space Directive M774

Bostang

If you had a friend who started going on about seeing a UFO and how a voice starting talking to them through a doll, warning of alien invasion, you’d probably be justified in suspecting a joke, mind-altering substances, or mental disturbance. But given what the characters of Ultra Q have experienced so far, I think Jun and Ippei are a little too quick to dismiss Yuriko’s account of such things. Those are not the strangest things that have happened to these characters so far in this show.

Despite ominous warnings, the monster Bostang is that most unusual of mysterious creatures, one that is easily dealt with by human military power. The would-be invaders from Planet Keel didn’t do due diligence in researching Earth’s defenses. The true creepiness in this episode comes from the “good” alien Zemi, who can hijack our technology, instantly create a false human identity, and reveals that extraterrestrials have thoroughly infiltrated Earth society and live among us everywhere, enjoying the paradise our planet appears to be.

Metamorphosis

Either for budgets reasons or just because it’s an idea that’s hard to resist, this series featuring giant monsters decided to have an story about a giant… giant — that is, a human who grows to Godzilla proportions. What’s interesting visually is that this episode does much more with low camera angles, lenses, and slow motion to create the effect of an enormous creature than is usually done when featuring a ”normal” monster of the same scale. The “realism” of the giant required more careful cinematography than the fantasy of a 50 meter tall lizard, ape, or weirdo space alien. Contrast this with the early “giants” in “The 1/8th Project,” which were shot with more conventional camera work. Even though their proportions relative to their environment were exactly the same as here, they came across as normal human in a miniature world, rather than as giants.

Also this was anther episode where I wondered if the English translation left something out of the script, such as some more explanations about why Prof. Ichinotani had so conveniently invented a weapon that could counter-act the butterfly gigantification poison almost immediately just before it was needed to save the day.

Fury of the South Seas

Though it might not seem that way from our contemporary media experiences, Ultra Q was an expensive program for its time. Even with that budget, in this episode we have some fairly obvious stock footage, both of soldiers, and of reused effects shots from another film. There are pretty good effects though, including an actual octopus photographed to look gigantic — these come off better than the iguanas used as dinosaurs you seem in many American monster films.

Some sociopolitical issues get raised but glossed over in this story, with how casually outside forces decide to try and kill the “god” that has been protecting an isolated island culture from the rest of the world. But that’s a wide-spread mythic form, with a local group sacrificing of lives (either deliberately or through complaisance) to a dragon or other beast, in return for its beneficence. Until, that is, a hero arrives to reveal the monster’s evil, and then slay it

If you are interested in the popular culture aspect of Ultra Q, I recommend checking out the website Black Sun. Among other things they have some fun images from Ultra Q manga adaptations.

Ultra Q Manga

Young Justice, Episode 2.12: “True Colors”

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 this episode.

Fantastic Voyage

Blue Beetle returns to the center of this storyline, beginning with a Fantastic Voyage homage as Atom and Bumblebee try to free Jaime from the Scarab from within. Like most characters on Young Justice, Karen has never had an “origin” story that explains her powers. This situation suggests she uses similar shrinking technology that Ray Palmer uses to become Atom.

Beetle has wisely decided not to keep the secret of the apocalyptic future that Impulse comes from. This show has established clearly the dangers of hidden information. I wonder if there was a specific reason Nightwing didn’t include M’gann in the circle of Team members who knew about Aqualad’s undercover mission? I also question Nightwing’s wisdom of including Arsenal on their stealth mission investigating what Lex Luther and the Reach are up to at the enhanced farming facility. Maybe Dick is forgetting that Arsenal is not the Roy Harper he knew and trusted? Clones are a pain.

The appearance of “Green Beetle” was a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, to get the overwhelmed heroes out of the mess they got themselves into. I believe he is a new character created for the show, so I wonder where they’ll go with him. In usual comic continuity Martian Manhunter is the only surviving Green Martian, but in this continuity Martian civilization seems to be thriving. I wonder if there is also a Martian Green Lantern?

A lot is actually going on within the Light, mostly from the consequences of Aqualad’s mission. Sportsmaster explosively tenders his resignation (and is replaced by Deathstroke) and becomes, for the time being, a third faction in the goings on. He’s targeting Black Manta to pay for Artemis’s death — though more more his reputation than fatherly affection.

We see the mental battle with Miss Martian has indeed left Aqualad in a vegetative state. Psimon is being brought in to rebuild his mind — but that of course will reveal the secret of his undercover mission. While we have seen that M’gann has been shaken and traumatized herself, we don’t know if she’s fully grasped the situation and revealed to Nightwing what has happened. Should we be hoping that Dick is already a formulating a plan to deal with the situation as it spirals out of control?

The Light

Plot continues to be the main focus of these episodes, but we do see that the events have personal consequences to the characters — which then feed back into the situation. Nobody, not even the “scheme within a scheme” masters of the Light know everything that is going on, and can perfectly plan in advance. We’re seeing more of the Light’s internal politics with each episode. Hopefully the heroes can also come to really learn who their enemies are and start winning on that battlefield. Otherwise it’ll be G. Gordon Godfrey getting the last laugh, and last sneer, in the end.