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Monday, April 23, 2012

Young Justice - "Usual Suspects"

It's Young Justice Monday!

Hey again everyone, Shrine Correspondent Andy Luckett here again with my review of Young Justice episode 25, "Usual Suspects". You may have noticed that I've skipped reviewing episode 24, "Performance". While it was an enjoyable episode that focused on the team going undercover to catch a thief in Robin's former employer Haly's Circus, neither Aqualad nor any other Aqua-cast member made an appearance or were even mentioned. So, we decided to skip that review and move on to "Usual Suspects", which has a decent Aqualad presence and a non-speaking Aquaman appearance.
It's December 30th in Washington DC, and the Justice League is inducting five new members to their ranks: Doctor Fate, Plastic Man, the Atom, Icon, and Red Arrow. Inside the Hall of Justice, the Young Justice team (including their new member Rocket, Icon's protege) watches the ceremony, although Rocket wants to be outside with the League, since she was the one who convinced Icon to become a hero. After Aqualad assures her that this is business as usual, she slyly indicates an interest in him. Kid Flash expresses his pride at Red Arrow having made it to the big leagues, and his amusement at the fact that there is a 10-year-old kid on the Justice League (Captain Marvel).

Suddenly Robin gets an alert on his wrist computer, stopping the team's conversation. After the ceremony, most of the League leaves, while Aquaman, Green Arrow and Superman answer questions from the press. A handful of Leaguers make their way into the Hall of Justice to talk to the YJ team, but they find that the team has left in a hurry.
In Miss Martian's bioship, the team makes its way out to the Smoky Mountains, where a plane crash has occurred that alerted Robin's wrist computer. Aboard the plane was Artemis' sister Jade, also known as the villain Cheshire. During the trip, the team reviews security footage from the Asheville Airport showing Cheshire boarding a plane carrying the suitcase containing the piece of echinoderm that the villains have been experimenting on.

As they approach the crash site, there seems to be no one alive. As the team examines the remains of the crash, Kid Flash asks why they are the first ones there. Apparently the alert caused by Cheshire's ID was a strictly Justice League alert, but since Robin modified their computer to send the alert to him first, they were able to arrive before anyone. Suddenly Cheshire appears, alive and well, followed by the Riddler, fellow villain Shimmer, and a goon squad. Riddler taunts the team with, you guessed it, a riddle, to which the answer is "ambush". A series of pylons erupt from the ground, forming a force field and trapping the heroes within. According to the Riddler, this ambush is a final scheme from the united supervillains to eliminate Young Justice's interference forever.

And so the battle is joined. Zatanna throws up a snowstorm that turns the force field into a snow globe, and the YJ members each pick a target. Aqualad asks Superboy to take out the pylons generating the force field, and Superboy takes the opportunity to use the last of the power-enhancing shields given to him by Lex Luthor. He is able to take out a pylon, but is surprised by Mammoth. During their fight, Robin notices that Superboy is flying and using his heat vision. As he defeats Mammoth, Superboy almost brings down a mountainside on Artemis, but she is saved by her sister Cheshire.

Soon after the team is able to defeat the villains, but after returning to headquarters they have to deal with Batman, who initially is not happy about Robin hacking League computers and going up against the villains unsanctioned. However, since the team was able to capture the villains, the Dark Knight also praises them for their work. In addition, the briefcase holding the echinoderm is now in the hands of the League, but inside are a group of small thorn-like items that contain a mixture of "biotechnology and nano-circuitry". Even Batman doesn't know what they are, and so they take it to the Watchtower for analysis. After the older heroes leave, Young Justice discusses the mole issue again. Aqualad wants to discuss Superboy's new powers and enraged behavior, but at that moment, Superboy receives another high-frequency message from Luthor asking for a meeting. Superboy turns to the team and says, "There's something I have to do."
Soon after, Superboy lands on the island of Santa Prisca to meet Luthor, who has brought along Queen Bee of Bialya. Luthor explains that Bane is allowing them to use the island in exchange for Luthor's resources. Superboy accuses Luthor and Bee of orchestrating all of the supervillain activity from the start, but Luthor admits that they have many friends. Just then, another helicopter lands, containing Artemis and Cheshire. Artemis tells Superboy that since she wasn't trusted by the team, she has switched sides. At this point, the bioship lands and Miss Martian steps out. Superboy asks for more shields from Luthor, but Luthor sees through his lie, and freezes him by saying "Red Sun". Miss Martian worries about what will happen to him, but then…
The scene flashes back to right after Superboy received the message from Luthor. He did say, "There's something I have to do", but he proceeds to tell the rest of the team about visiting Cadmus, meeting with Luthor, and using his shields. He also tells them that Luthor is his human DNA donor. Artemis takes the opportunity to confess the villainous identities of her family to the team as well, admitting that her mother was the Huntress, her father is Sportsmaster, and her sister is Cheshire. Following their example, Miss Martian shares her true White Martian form to the team, adding that Queen Bee has been blackmailing her. In each case the rest of the team is supportive, and Superboy reveals that he knew Miss Martian's true form ever since they mind-melded months ago in Bialya.

Back in Santa Prisca, the three heroes have no secrets to hold them down anymore, so they take the fight to the villains. Superboy is unaffected by Luthor's code phrase, since Miss Martian wiped it from his mind. He goes after Luthor, but Blockbuster tackles him. The rest of the team is called in, and another battle ensues. Unfortunately Luthor gets away with help from his robotic secretary Mercy, but the team is able to defeat and capture Blockbuster, Sportsmaster, and Bane.
Back on the Watchtower, Batman is analyzing the thorns captured from the villains. Red Arrow comes in and puts one on Batman's neck, where it sinks into his cowl and activates a mind control state. He and Batman walk into the main hall where the rest of the League has gathered, all of them under the same mind control. Batman activates the Zeta teleporter, through which walks…Vandal Savage! Red Arrow, suddenly coming out of it, realizes that he was the mole all along, to which Savage agrees. Savage walks to the window and looks out over the Earth with a not-too-pleasant look in his eyes.
After a long run of episodes playing out storylines and clues to the mole, everything came crashing down in this episode. The catalyst of Superboy admitting to accepting the shields from Luthor allows Artemis and Miss Martian to spill their secrets as well. The interesting thing to me is how little difference it seems to make to the other members. While they are surprised that Superboy's human "father" is Lex Luthor, they don't immediately start to distrust him, but instead allow him to go to Santa Prisca and take down Luthor. Artemis gets the same treatment, probably helped by Robin vouching for her by saying he already knew her real identity.

In Miss Martian's case, her fears go unrealized as the team reacts with more wonder than horror at her true appearance. Superboy also lets her know that he began dating her after he knew her true form, assuming that she would tell him when she was ready. While I'm sure that these revelations will have repercussions for the team later on, it was nice to see that the writers didn't reach for trumped-up, reality show-style infighting, but rather a simple acknowledgement and acceptance of new information.

The other big revelations this episode centered around the nature of the contents of the briefcase. No longer containing the piece of the echinoderm's (aka Starro) tentacle, now it features modified seed-like mind control devices. My guess is that the agents of the Light have, through science and magic, modified Starro's natural mind control potential to allow for Vandal Savage to be the puppet master. Secondly, Red Arrow was the mole? An interesting reveal, although I'm not sure how he would've been able to feed the Light information when he wasn't around for most of the team's early missions. Still, I'm glad the mole turned out to be a hero acting under another's will rather than tarnishing an established hero's reputation. I believe this episode was the season finale, although I'm not sure. But it definitely sets up next season with an excellent cliffhanger ending. I predict we'll be seeing a lot of Young Justice vs. Justice League action next season.

Aqualad's role was decent in this episode as well. He has grown more assured as team leader, and his instructions rarely go wrong. In fact, under his direction the team was able to capture six or more supervillains in just this episode. Unfortunately he was unable to stop Luthor from getting away due to the intervention of Mercy, but still, he has made the leader role his own. Aquaman appeared in the episode as well, as one of the mind-controlled League. Young Justice is going to have a rough time next season, I think.


Jonathan Schalembier said...

This wasn't the season finale. One more episode came after this. Boy, was it a good one!

Joseph Brian Scott said...

Nice recap!

Foremost among this show's many strengths, in my opinion, anyway, is the sure hand it has with arch dialogue, and I don't mean making puns whilst fighting, either. I liked the big confession scene, when Artemis says that Superboy isn't the only one suffering from bad DNA, and when Kid Flash jokingly asks, "Who's next?", and Miss Martian says she is. Also, when Red Arrow says "I'm the mole," the sense of bewilderment and disappointment and resignation really comes across. So I guess compliments are in order for the voice actors and voice director as well. They really get what they're doing and supposed to be feeling.

The biggest criticism I have is the super rapid induction of Rocket; I had no idea who she was or what she does or where she comes from. Granted, these days it's just a few quick taps on the keyboard to pull up the info, and that's what I did, but you shouldn't have to. But then, maybe that's how the casual, non-comic reading audience feels about the whole show.

Russell said...

I am overjoyed with the inclusion of Icon and Rocket, but I also agree with Joseph above that they kind of came out of left field. Nice honor to Dwayne McDuffie, IMO.