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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Justice League Unlimited: "Wake The Dead"

Season Three, Episode Eleven: Wake The Dead
Written by:
Dwayne McDuffie and Bruce Timm
Directed by: Joaquim Dos Santos
Original Air Date: December 18, 2004

In a small room, three young teens are playing around with the Dark Arts--they've got hoods, candles, a rune drawn out on the floor, the whole bit. They cast a spell, but after some ominous clouds form, nothing much else seems to happen. Two of the three teens, disappointed, head home.

Later, the third teen hears a furious pounding on his door. He assumes its one of his friends, but when he gets close:
...not good!

Meanwhile, at Dr. Fate's tower, Aquaman is playing chess with Hawkgirl, while Amazo watches:
Aquaman is relentlessly insulting and condescending to Hawkgirl, even mocking her abilities because she's a woman. But Hawkgirl refuses to take the bait, and mopily loses another round to Aquaman. After she declares, "It's only a game", Aquaman smacks the chess board into the air, causing her to wander off.

It's here we learn that Aquaman has been trying to get a rise out of Hawkgirl on purpose, hearing that she's a broken spirit ever since she left the Justice League. But his efforts didn't seem to work, so he's left playing chess with Amazo.

Hawkgirl talks a bit with Inza Nelson, who tries to comfort her. But even that doesn't seem to have much effect. Hawkgirl admits she doesn't know who she is anymore, what's she worth. Inza counsels patience.

Later that night, Green Lantern shows up at a fashion show to pick up Mari McCabe, aka Vixen--they've got Justice League business: Solomon Grundy is back!
Green Lantern muses aloud how this can be possible, since Grundy "is supposed to be dead." Vixen replies, deadpan, "Um, aren't all zombies supposed to be dead?"

Despite the combined powers of GL and Vixen, Grundy is unable to be stopped: he seems more powerful than ever. Superman arrives to help, but he's shocked when Grundy almost crushes the Man of Steel's hand in his vice-like grip.
Back at Dr. Fate's castle, he informs Aquaman that Grundy's grave is empty. Aquaman's response, worthy of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, is: "Tell me where to find who's responsible...then dig more graves."

Hawkgirl overhears all this, and insists on coming along--she feels they owe Solomon Grundy that much. Dr. Fate agrees, tentatively, and retrieves her powerful mace--which he keeps in alternate dimension for safekeeping.

During the battle between Superman and Grundy, a nearby bridge is damaged and some of its support beams begin to crack. Luckily for the drivers above, Aquaman and one of his octopus pals are there:
Green Lantern is a little taken aback to see his former flame Hawkgirl, and Superman's plan is to strike at Grundy all at the same time, Amazo included.

Hawkgirl wants to try and talk to Grundy first, but when she tries, he grabs her and slams her into a wall. He's about to strike again, but Aquaman comes to the rescue:
Dr. Fate says he cannot find any trace of the Grundy they knew inside this rampaging beast, and he is more powerful than they have ever encountered before, thanks to the Chaos Magic the three teens were dabbling in earlier.

After dropping a statue on him, Vixen thinks the job is done, but she is shown the error of her ways when Grundy reaches through the tons of rock to grab her, nearly snapping her in half.

Hawkgirl wallops Grundy with her mace, forcing him to drop Vixen. She hits him again, knocking him into a sinkhole into the sewers below. Dr. Fate says the Nth metal Hawkgirl's mace is made from repels magic, leaving it possibly to be the only thing that can "put that creature out of its misery."

Hawkgirl is aghast at this, but when Green Lantern offers to do it for her, she declines. She heads down into the sewer, and finds Grundy laying on the ground, seemingly in agony. She tries to soothe him, and he listens when she tells him to close his eyes:
Moments pass as the rest of the League waits above. Just as Superman prepares to go in after her, Hawkgirl emerges, saying, "It's over."

Nearby news media flood Hawkgirl with questions, followed by citizens calling her a traitor. Green Lantern and Superman step in, saying Hawkgirl is welcome back to the League whenever she wants. A young girl who Hawkgirl saved thanks her and calls her a hero.

Whew--what is it about Solomon Grundy that inspires the Justice League writers to tackle such tough issues? In the episode(s) this show is more or less a sequel to, "Terror From Beyond", the show dealt with faith and religion. Here, the topic is mercy killing--pretty heady stuff. I don't mind admitting that the idea of poor Solomon Grundy having to be put down like a wild animal made me more than a little emotional.

Aquaman's presence is a bit diminished here, which is too bad since it was his final appearance on the show. There was some weird legal complication involving the Aquaman live-action pilot that kept him off JLU after this point, never to return. Of course, the writers didn't know this at the time, otherwise I think we can assume they would have given him a bigger send-off.

Although, as I mentioned above, hearing Aquaman say "
Tell me where to find who's responsible...then dig more graves" is a pretty damn good exit line!


David J. Cutler said...

One of the better episodes, to be sure. They managed to do quite a bit with Hawkgirl here, enough to make me a fan when I'm not really normally. Great post!

Bleak said...

Being a big Defenders fan, this episode is one of my favourites.