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Monday, 25 of May of 2020

Young Justice – “Happy New Year”

“Soft gig, huh?”

YJInvasionTitleCardI was out of town this weekend, so I missed all my Saturday morning shows. I was fully content, when I arrived home very tired after 6ish hours in a car to get around to these shows after I watched and wrote about The Good Wife finale (which I missed as well). But I received a Twitter DM from someone else who watches Young Justice with the following: “And with one episode, any excitement and interest I had in Young Justice evaporated completely…” (he followed up with “Furious” today).

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am no longer interested (I am less excited) in Young Justice; I am interested in so far as they explain some things, but “Happy New Year” is a decidedly frustrating episode, and I can’t help but feel that it is in part motivated by a desire to sell some new toys.

And I get that. I understand the kids’ programming is dependent on licensing and merchandising, and introducing a plethora of new team members means more action figures, and tie-ins. And it also expands the show to include other members of the team from past and current comics, which could drive kids to pick up the comic book as well.

But on a show-level, this five year time skip does more harm than it does good (unless you were pleased with the aged-up Zatanna costume). The entire situation is fairly “Argh” inducing simply because the show was on an upswing, finding its momentum with both its character and its narrative, and when you suddenly cut out the entire team that had built that had just found that momentum and introduceĀ  way too many new characters in one episode (Hello there, Blue Beetle, Lagoon Boy, Wonder Girl, andĀ  Tim Drake! And welcome to the team, Mal, Karen, Garfield, and Barbara!).

And these characters are introduced at the expense of Artemis, Wally, and Kaldur, who are nowhere to be seen. Zatanna and Rocket (the latter of whom appears to have joined the Team if only so Kaldur had someone to get a kiss from in the finale) have become members of the Justice League while Dick (now Nightwing), M’gann, and Konner are still with the Team (the latter two of which have broken up, and M’gann is now involved with Lagoon Boy).

And I only say ‘expense’ because so much of the first season was grounded in developing the first team’s emotional stories (especially the back half), and connecting those stories to the larger plot of the Light that to just scuttle any complications or fallout from their “victory” over Vandal Savage’s plans seems like the frustrating story mechanics I thought the show had grown out of recently. And while the five year skip gives the writers lots of materials to work through via flashbacks, seeing those events happen without having inklings of the conclusions would’ve been more satisfying.

So, with that gripe out of the way, let’s consider “Happy New Year” as its own episode, and how it sets up things for the future. The closest thing I can compare “Happy New Year” to is the first Justice League Unlimited episode, “Initiation”, and the pilot of this series. In it, the case of the previous Justice League show has expanded considerably, but the show provides a soft intro to this new series by using Green Arrow to allow the audience to get a handle on the new stuff going on in the series. “Happy New Year” doesn’t do any of that, plunging the audience in with a bunch of new characters that, like on JLU, aren’t necessarily very well known outside comic book fans.

“Happy New Year” borrows from the pilot of its own series since it plunges three of the heroes into a sticky situation and they have to do deal with it solo. And while I get a nice sense of Blue Beetle and Lagoon Boy here (the latter is clearly our new Wally), Tim remains a bit of a cipher to me. He’s lacking in confidence as a leader, something Dick is trying to bolster here, but I’m not sure as to why Tim lacks confidence (hasn’t really been Tim’s personality in the comics), so it makes his screentime a little less engaging.

DC has been pushing Jamie Reyes as the Blue Beetle for a while now, and given how the aliens respond to him during the attack, I fully suspect that he will play a significant role in the new season. And I’m okay with that. Of the new/re-introduced characters in the episode, Jamie feels the most exciting and interesting here, if only for his one-sided discussions with the alien scarab that produces the suit. They’re humorous, and no one else seems quite sure how to react to them, adding to the enjoyability of the scenes.

But, on the whole, the episode felt weighed down by all the new characters with a lack of a clear perspective from which ground an audience member in as they re-adjust to all this newness. That being said, I do think “Happy New Year” is a good enough a starting off point if you’re new to Young Justice, and don’t want to watch the previous season. You wouldn’t be too lost, and I think that, along with all the new toys!, could be a reason behind this sudden expansion of the show’s cast.

DC Nation Short: “MAD Presents…Teen Titanic.” There are a couple of good jokes here, like Raven doing a “King of the world moment” and Robin sketching Beast Boy. But I can’t help but feel, given how popular the Teen Titans characters are, both with their own shorts in this programming block, and now their appearance here, why they just don’t bring back Teen Titans? (So they can avoid confusion with Young Justice, I know, I know.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Poor Jason Todd.
  • I’m not the world’s biggest Lobo fan, so I wasn’t disappointed with his lack of a role here, though I would’ve liked to see more of Cassie and Barbara fighting him.
  • “Yeah, yeah, ‘keezy femme.’ I’ve been called worse. I think.”
  • G. Gordon Godfrey‘s appearance was a welcomed on. I’ve been a bit surprised that he hasn’t shown up in the DCnu given its concerns about metahumans, but the spot-on Glenn Beck riff, coupled with Tim Curry’s melodious drawling, probably made it the best scene of the episode.
  • “Neptune’s beard!”
  • Why do the black guys have to get monitor duty all the time? First Mr. Terrific on Justice League Unlimited and now Mal. I do like that the show is ethnically diverse (I don’t expect any gay characters on the show, but boy would that be something), perhaps more diverse than most live-action primetime shows, so hopefully Mal gets some field time soon.


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