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Monday, 25 of May of 2020

Young Justice – “Darkest”

“I believe I have outgrown the name Aqualad. And anything resembling regret.”

YJInvasionTitleCardPardon me while I try not to get my hopes up too much.

Probably for the first time since “Usual Suspects” did I really enjoy and legitimately like an episode of Young Justice. I mean, sure, there’s the Mal-Karen thing in Ivy Town, but it was just more of a narrative contrivance that didn’t do much to undermine the otherwise strong episode that legitimately raises the stakes of the invasion storyline (even though I still think it’s pretty of muddled as a whole).

The destruction of Mount Justice (though, oddly, Happy Harbor survives) at the hands of Kaldur (and Artemis posing as Tigress, an identity her mother once held (at least in the comics; here I think she was Huntress, but not that Huntress)) is one of those big moments that actually works on the show. Compare this to the reveal that Bart’s future is a barren, nuclear winter-esque wasteland, and it’s the show demonstrating that it has some sense of scale and emotional heft. It also shows the benefit of allowing the audience to build a relationship with characters and places. Blowing up Mount Justice (and having Kaldur do it) means something because the audience has a connection to it. It’s not an abstract thing and it’s not something we’re not familiar with, done at the hands of someone we don’t know.

One thing that it has me eager to see more of is the weight that this off-the-books covert op that Dick, Wally, Artemis, and Kaldur are running will start to have. Clearly Wally is having the toughest time between the “loss” of Artemis and the sacrificing of Mount Justice, and it’s what leads him to breakdown a bit and suggest that Kaldur has become too comfy in the role of a double agent and may, in fact, be a triple agent. It’s an interesting idea, but that the show is willing to put that out there says to me that it’s not likely to be the case, and it’s just Wally reacting to stress.

But I like how pragmatic everyone else is about the loss of the headquarters. Dick demonstrates the sort of “It had to be lost for the sake of the mission” mentality that Bruce would’ve drilled into him, and Kaldur is operating within a similar operational mindframe, but the weight has to be heavier on him since he’s the one ordering these things, doing these things, for the sake of the mission. I want that kind of character work…I need it.

On the flip side of this, it does sort of demonstrate a bad trend from a scripting stand point, but a dark one from a narrative one: The newly introduced characters like Bart, Jaime, and La’gaan are just pieces on the board to be sacrificed for the sake of this mission that they are unaware of. This feels a bit cheap from a screenwriting perspective, an easy was to give the illusion of sacrifice without actually having the audience experience any. But it does, within the narrative world, speak to the extremes that some of the original team is willing to go to stop this invasion. There are morally ambiguous plans that could result in real loss, and that haven’t told anyone.

While I’m liking these developments, I’m not entirely hopeful about their payoffs. I’d feel better if this entire arc had, frankly, been season 3 or 4, and we had time to appreciate both the new characters and the risk that they’ve unknowingly taken.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Yeah, that Mal-Karen thing was just so Mal wasn’t in Mount Justice when things went boom, but it’s better than a random bridal shower/lunch/crime bust.
  • As a reminder, I’m doing brief thoughts on Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series at TV.com on Saturdays. I am hoping to speed up these expanded thoughts here, but the past two weeks have been kind of crazy, forcing them to later than I would like.  And like I said last week, if you’re interested in Arrow (and you should be, the pilot’s actually pretty good), I’ll be doing weekly, full-length write-ups at TV.com starting this week.

 


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