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Monday, November 15, 2010

Justice League: "The Terror Beyond, Part II"

Season Two, Episode Sixteen: The Terror Beyond, Part II
Written by:
Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by: Butch Lukic
Original Air Date: November 15, 2003

This episode picks up right where Part 1 left off, with the big reveal of the malevolent force Dr. Fate has been trying to stop. Grundy helpfully calls it "worm face."

Fate tries to stop it, but is blasted. Hawkgirl, chanting an incantation in a foreign language, fights it off!

Superman and Wonder Woman have had enough, and demand to know what in the holy heck is going on. Dr. Fate creates a window into the past, showing everyone a vision of Atlantis from thousands of years ago, when "sorcerer-kings" ruled it. One of them looks mighty familiar:

We see that, one day, Atlantis found itself under attack by a horde of ancient demons, led by the most powerful one of all, a being named Icthutu (sp?). In a last ditch attempt to defeat them, King Poseidon gathered all the mystical energy and forged into a trident which he used to fight them off:
It worked, but in the creation of the trident he sapped the mystical energies that kept Atlantis from sinking into the ocean. He saved the world, but doomed Atlantis to a life beneath the sea.

Now, those demons are making their way back into "our" dimension, and it's Fate and Aquaman who have teamed up to try and stop them. Some of the creatures have already slipped through (like the one that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkgirl encountered in Part 1), so time is of the essence.

Hawkgirl reveals that her people back on Thanagar once worshiped Icthulu as their God, so she suggests--as she always does--a frontal assault. Aquaman, concerned with protecting Atlantis, decides to return home. Dr. Fate protests, but Aquaman insists, so Fate transports him back to Atlantis.

Everyone else decides to go to Icthulu's dimension, which is truly a nightmarish world of horrifying creatures and twisted, inconsistent realities:
Meanwhile, back in Atlantis, Aquaman warns Mera of an impending invasion. Even more worrisome, he has lost touch with the creatures of the sea: he can't hear their thoughts, at all.

In Icthulu's dimension, the heroes (and Grundy) fight their way to the main man, and Hawkgirl even rescues Grundy once, to his relief and appreciation. He likes the being he calls "Bird Nose."

Back in Atlantis, Aquaman is leading his forces into battle against the invading horde of demonic creatures:
As that battle rages, Superman and the rest try to find their way to Icthulu. Hawkgirl reveals that Thangarians stopped believing in any gods ages ago, once they saw how evil Icthulu really was. Wonder Woman can't believe Hawkgirl doesn't believe in any gods, at all, but Hawkgirl is adamant, and skeptical anyone could believe otherwise.

Icthulu shows him/her/itself, and snags Hawgirl with a few of its tentacles. Its power seems unlimited, able to keep Superman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, and the rest all at bay simultaneously.

Hawkgirl mocks Icthulu to its face, saying Thanagarians gave up believing in it because its price for all it gave them--the souls of the people--was too high. Once Grundy hears that Icthulu "steals souls", he thinks it has his soul, so he pounds his way inside Icthulu's slimy body.

In Atlantis, Aquaman hacks and slashes his way through the monsters. He regains communication with his finny friends, and sends out a message to them:
Moments later, Superman and Wonder Woman notice that all the creatures that were heading into the portal to Atlantis are now going the other way--as if they're running from something.

One of the creatures starts to contort wildly, and Aquaman comes bursting out of it:
Superman uses a nearby chunk of rock to plug the portal, and the three of them help Dr. Fate fight off more of the nasty demons.

As Grundy smashes his way to the center of Icthulu, Hawkgirl frees herself and follows. Grundy encounters another creature inside of Icthulu, but his bravery and sheer tenacity cannot be stopped. He grabs a hunk of the being's pincer claw, ripping it free (ew), and using it to stab the creature in the chest.

It collapses in a heap onto Grundy, leaving Hawkgirl to get to Icthulu's true nerve center. It mocks her as a Thanagarian subject, but she is nonplussed, smashing it with her mace, killing Icthulu once and for all.

But not all is good: Solomon Grundy is mortally wounded, and he asks Hawkgirl if she thinks his soul is waiting for him. Tearfully, Hawkgirl begins to answer that she doesn't believe...but then stops herself, telling Grundy what he wants to hear. Grundy dies peacefully, his giant hand holding hers:

Later, they are all gathered at a memorial for Grundy, and Hawkgirl is still confused as to what Grundy was going through--why he seemed to be happy--as he died. Aquaman replies, "It's Faith, Hawkgirl--you're not supposed to understand it, you're just supposed to have it."

Whew, what an episode! Not only does it feature a ton of action--as well as a surprising amount of cartoon gore--but it actually manages to tackle the idea of religious faith, a touchy subject for any TV show, let alone a kids' superhero cartoon. Hawkgirl is, essentially, an atheist, someone you don't see much of in popular culture. How anyone who lives in the DCU could not believe in an afterlife is kinda beyond me--there are literally dozens of examples of such walking around on a daily basis--but its still an amazingly ambitious subject for the show to deal with.

I used to be really aggravated that Aquaman--the only one of the original seven--was dropped from Justice League in favor of Hawkgirl (or anyone, actually), but now that I've had the chance to watch most of these episodes more than once, I can appreciate how much Hawkgirl was developed as a character, something that probably couldn't have been done with the more established Superman, Batman, etc. In this episode especially, Hawkgirl is a lot of fun to watch--a fearless warrior but also a total smartass.

It also helps that Aquaman is such bruiser on this show, again this episode especially. He fights off an entire invading horde of demons, and tears his way out of one in a particularly gruesome moment. This Aquaman would slap you into next week if he caught you littering his oceans.

There are two more episodes of Justice League/Justice League Unlimited that featured Aquaman, which the Shrine will get to soon!

1 comment:

Tempest127 said...

I sat through the whole darn episode grumbling that it was the perfect time to introduce Tempest, as he would have been the perfect match to bridge Atlantean magic to Dr. Fate's abilities...but of course that never occurred to anyone. Typical. Loved Aquaman's sarky attitude, though; that was fun!