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Monday, March 07, 2011

Young Justice - "Downtime"

Episode Seven: "Downtime" - Airdate 3/4/11

by Andy Luckett

On this week's episode of Young Justice, it's an Aqua-palooza as Kaldur'Ahm and the rest of the Aqua-family defend Poseidonis from the plans of Black Manta!

As the story begins, we see the team in heavy battle against an unexpected foe: Clayface!
After Aqualad is the last of the members to be immobilized by the monster, Batman arrives and takes down the creature using explosives and electricity. Turns out the entire scenario was a computer-generated training program akin to the X-Men's Danger Room. Batman asks Aqualad to stay behind, dismissing the others, including a surprised Robin. The Dark Knight explains to Aqualad that his recent lack of concentration is becoming a liability and needs to be brought under control. He theorizes that Aqualad is questioning his decision to stay on the surface instead of returning to the undersea realm he left behind. Aqualad agrees, deciding to visit Atlantis (more specifically the capital city of Poseidonis) to try and sort out where he belongs.
Arriving in Poseidonis via teleporter, Aqualad encounters his mentor, who asks him to attend a special dinner at the palace. Aqualad asks if he can bring someone special, to which Aquaman replies of course.
Kaldur travels on to visit his old friends and fellow sorcery students, Garth and Tula! Tula, of course, is Kaldur's special someone, but in his absence, she and Garth have come together. Before all of this can be sorted out, however, the city is attacked from all sides by agents of Black Manta, in pursuit of a fossilized starfish-like creature being studied in the city's science center. With Aquaman having been called away on League business in Tokyo Bay, it's up to Kaldur, Garth, Tula, Queen Mera, and Prince Orm (!) to protect the city and rescue civilians.
The battle is joined, with Mera using sorcery and her hard-water powers to create sea creature-shaped constructs, Aqualad with his water-bearers, Garth with the power of the Tempest (nice shout-out) and Tula creating whirlpools. The conflict finally ends inside the science center, as Kaldur and Garth prevent Manta from capturing the creature, but allow him to escape.

Afterwards, Kaldur tells Garth and Tula that he wishes them nothing but happiness, and decides to return to the surface world and the team, to continue as leader and be committed to the cause.

As you might already have guessed, I really enjoyed this episode. What a treasure trove for Aqua-fans! With appearances by Aquaman, Mera (who announces she's pregnant with Arthur Jr.!), Vulko, Garth, Tula, Orm (and there is also a mention of Kaldur and Garth previously battling Ocean Master, maybe Orm's other identity hasn't been revealed yet?), Topo (the octopus-boy version seen in Sword of Atlantis), Black Manta, and possibly Starro the Conqueror, this was a true pleasure without seeming overstuffed. (Unlike that last sentence…)

On a deeper level, this episode focused on themes of family; scenes were peppered throughout showcasing the other team member's family interactions; from Superboy and Miss Martian's lonely cooking fiasco to Artemis and her mother exchanging harsh words. We even get to see Batman show a bit of a soft side as he challenges a neglected-feeling Robin to a game of one-on-one - for hand-eye coordination training, of course. And we get to see the Flash family enjoying a nice dinner as three generations of speedsters (Garrick, Allen, and West) vie for leftovers.
This felt to me like one of the best structured episodes of this show thus far. It packed a lot of story into 22 minutes, yet everything had its proper space and nothing seemed rushed. The themes flowed organically and well, and there was some real emotion to be mined from many of the situations. The Poseidonis action was well done and exciting, and the smaller-scale drama served to deepen these characters more than a fully action-oriented episode could hope to accomplish. I hope that the creative team decides to sprinkle more of these type of episodes throughout the show's run, as they serve as a nice counterpoint to the main action and draw us deeper into this world.

Hey everyone, this is Rob here again; normally I let Andy handle the Young Justice posts (of which he is doing a bang-up job), but since this episode was so Aqua-centric I thought I'd add my two cents as well.

Like Andy, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, and thought it was one of the best--if not the best--of the series so far. But more than that, I think we are really seeing a renaissance in regards to Aquaman and his universe: after decades of his supporting cast never being seen outside the comics, we now have Mera, Aqualad, Aquagirl, Vulko, Black Manta, and Ocean Master appearing in more than one animated series and, in Mera's case, live-action.

Better still, these characters are written and presented with respect, both in regards to their behavior but also the dynamic us Aqua-Fans have enjoyed for so long: Aquaman is the brave, heroic leader, Mera is his powerful and devoted wife, Black Manta is cruel and clever, and Atlantis is a world rich and vast, full of wonder and danger.

Now having seen both Brave and the Bold and Young Justice give us Aqua-centric episodes makes me more confident than ever that Aquaman could headline his own animated show again, like he did in the 1960s. Whether that comes to pass of course I don't know, but I truly believe this is the best us Aqua-Fans have had it in a long, long time.

Special thanks to our newest F.O.A.M. member Jason Fetterley who wrote pointing the Shrine to The Justice League Homepage site, which featured a great write-up of this episode plus a ton of stills, some of which I used here. Thanks Jason and welcome to F.O.A.M.!


Joe Slab said...

I agree with you Andy & rob!

I am really loving this Earth-16! Aqualad is such a compelling character (more so than he has been portrayed thus far in Brightest Day) and seeing almost a dozen members of the Aquaman family almost made me jump for joy (did ya catch Lagoon Boy and Lori Lemaris?)!

The luminescence of Atlantis was breathtaking and the battle scenes were like Star Wars underwater.

Five out of five stars IMHO

David J. Cutler said...

I agree it's probably the best of the series so far, even ignoring my Aqua-bias--I felt like the series found its direction here a bit. I much prefer this actually underwater version of Atlantis to the usual bubble-domed variety, and was blown away to see Topo. It's been a long time since Black Manta looked so cool (or behaved so competently--if you watch closely Garth and Aqualad aren't able to land a hit on him save for one shock-blast he shrugs off at the end). Pretty awesome!

There may, however, be a stray paragraph from the previous episode left in the plot summary here (the bit about the magic tickets). Just a heads up.

Joe Slab said...

PS - Forgot to mention the level of detail that goes into YJ episodes is just marvelous!

It makes perfect sense that Orin and Kaldur were speaking Greek in the opening sequence.

Joe Slab

rob! said...


Oops, my bad! Thanks for catching that!

Laurie S. Sutton said...

For me, one of the best parts of the episode was the fact that Aquaman and Aqualad were speaking Atlantean! Now that's what I call delving into the mythos.

Laurie S. Sutton said...

@ Joe -- O and K were speaking Greek and not Atlantean? Hmm, I'd say that Atlantis preceded Greece historically, and so the Greeks were actually speaking Atlantean. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see "Young Justice" when it finally airs in Australia, and I'm already eagerly awaiting the DVD releases.

I also hope for another Aquaman animated series or movie, I think Val Kilmer or Billy McNamara would be awesome.

For a live action movie, I would be happy to see Paul Walker, Paul Wesley, Gregory Michael, or Thore Scholermann in the role.

Cheers, Michael

Michael Holloway said...

Sorry about that, I'm F.O.A.M member Michael Holloway from Australia who posted. For some reason my post was called "anonymous".

Cheers, Michael

Keith Jones said...

F.O.A.M. bias aside, I felt like this was the strongest Young Justice episode yet. The comparisons between Earth-16 and Earth-0 for us long-term comic fans were wonderful, as were the cameos ... but they didn't interfere with that theme of family.

Aquaman's family and friends ... the intrigue about "Prince Orm", who is not exactly a hard guess for the shadowy figure giving Manta orders at the end.

The irony of the "family" centric episode is that Aqualad's family was here as well, in the form of Black Manta. But have the cartoons touched on that father/son relationship yet? I don't believe they have ... at least outside of promotional material. So to see Kaldur welcome as part of Aquaman's core group, but to still feel a little bit of outsider mentality, coupled with, well, Black Manta's kind of subtle and funny "Is that all you aspire to?" lecture ... will definitely build his character up.

As F.O.A.M.-tastic as the whole thing was, though, my favorite part was probably Bruce playing 1-on-1 with Dick. (Although Wally's Flash Family dinner was great as well.)

Doug said...

Rob, this episode was so phenomenally Aquamanly, that I was geeking out FOR you!

The scene with Reddy walking into the kitchen and interrupting a moment between Superboy and Miss Martian was priceless though.

Bubbashelby said...

"Turns out the entire scenario was a computer-generated training program akin to the X-Men's Danger Room" I thought that too at first - but I'm not sure if that is the case or if it's just poor editing. I believe the battle with Clayface was genuine, and they cut from Batman in the warehouse to Batman in the headquarters, giving the wrong impression of a hologram scenario. Otherwise the whole team would not be laying unconscious one second and then immediately walking in through the 'front door,' not to mention the fact that they are covered in mud which would not be the case were it all a hologram (although all the mud WOULD be parts of Clayface and therefore they would be contaminating their HQ, but I digress.)

Also I just checked the timelines and the HQ scene is about an hour and 45 mins. after the Warehouse scene. Reinforcing my conjecture that it was not a hologram.

Check for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdRJ2oxPPg4

Shawn said...

Rob -
Any TRUE Aquaman fan would learn to speak Greek (Atlantean)!

- Shawn

Anonymous said...

Really cool episode, also, did anyone else catch what looked like Lagoon Boy near the start of the Atlantis introduction scene?

Anyway, hope we get to see Garth turn in to Tempest somepoint down the line, ooh, and Dolphin too!

Anonymous said...

It IS indeed Lagoon Boy ;)

And we also have Lori Lemaris ! (between Lagoob Boy and Topo appearances)

Easily the greatest animated aqua-episode ever !

(Sharing the trophy with Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure, of crouse ! 8) )

And we haven't even got the "Aqua Vader revelation" yet !

At last a great time for Aquafans !! :))