Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 1 Independence Day
Now that Netflix has uploaded season 2 of Young Justice it’s the best time to rewatch the series, especially as doing so might mean Netflix picking the show up for a third season. (Though if you live in the UK like me you have to watch it through Amazon Prime and just share around posts about it). This Re(af)Watch series is not quite a review, more of an opinion piece about each episode as I rewatch them. Covering all 46 episodes of the show, and hopefully any beyond that. Starting off with episode 1, Independence Day.
Episode synopsis: The Sidekicks of the Justice League, Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Speedy, are finally invited to the Hall of Justice, the League’s headquarters. Except they’re not being invited to join the League like Speedy thought, and he storms off in a huff after revealing the Hall is just a front and the real HQ is a secret space station called The Watchtower. The League get called away on a mission and the other three sidekicks get told to remain behind. Instead they go off on a mission of their own to investigate Cadmus, a scientific research company. They find it’s a secret genetics lab, making their own genetic creations, and they find the biggest one. A teenage clone of Superman called Superboy. Then they get captured. End of part one. Oh, and the guy who played Odo in Star Trek Deep Space 9 is voicing the head evil scientist.
Now to rewatch the episode.
It certainly still stands up. One thing I did miss out from the recap was the cold open, which was a fight against four cold villains. It was a great way to showcase the four sidekicks in action at the start, seeing their powers and personalities while giving them similar villains to fight. Plus it adds a small seed that maybe some bigger plans are motion with the villains.
We also get some equally small world building that establishes this world as different than the other cartoons of superheroes, they are celebrities. The Hall of Justice is a tourist spot. There’s a reason they had to build a secret headquarters away from prying eyes, superheroes became too popular for them just to meet up without mobs of fans being there too. Plus it’s a good PR move that puts a friendly face on the League, so there’s no “they are gods and we’re ants to them” situation which happened in Justice League Unlimited. We do get some of this later on as we see superhero culture is a big thing and lots of people, especially kids, wearing superhero styled clothing. In other series superheroes are treated as police officers and fire fighters, and sometimes gods, so having the world react to them in this way adds a different flavour to the show. It certainly makes sense given that it’s supposedly been ten years since superheroes began showing up in this world.
It’s one of those little background details you can see from time to time. The design team do a good job of breaking it all up so it’s not just shirts with logos on them. Just in this shot there’s a homemade Batman costume and a girl with a Robin plushy. We get to see more of it in the high school setting, so I can point out more of it when we get to those episodes. There’s also a lot of diversity in that crowd, something that’s still impressive to see.
The fun thing to take away from the Cadmus infiltration is that these three aren’t a team yet, they aren’t used to working together. Robin and Kid Flash, being best friends, are running off and doing their own things, leaving Aqualad in the lurch. Aqualad’s the most formal of them, probably a mix of him being the oldest and that he literally works with his king, Aquaman. He’s probably used to being very formal while out heroing because it’s really hard to not be formal around someone like that. Batman and Flash are parental figures, but Aquaman is the leader of his nation. That’s like being the sidekick to the Queen of England, if she actually ruled the country.
Inside Cadmus we see one of their chief methods of control are the G-Gnomes, telepathic little creatures that can sit on your shoulder while messing with your mind. I did laugh at the head scientist saying “the benefits of instantaneous telepathic communication” because that does become a staple of the series as Miss Martian regularly makes a telepathic link for the Team when out in the field, or just when they want a private conversation. It’s a tool for the bad guys here, though. But they’re using it for evil things like mind control, and we’d never see our heroes use it for evil purposes. Nope.
I really loved the fight scene with the heroes and the Genomorphs, it definitely stood up really well as the first proper fight scene of the show. The ones earlier were them taking down ice villains rather easily, and those were certainly good to look at too. The fight scenes were always great in this show.
The Superboy reveal at the end was something I’d imagine would be shocking given he’s got the S logo on his chest, and he’s in the main title sequence. But when they woke him up he took down the three sidekicks pretty easily. It’s taking his origin from the comics, being a Cadmus clone, but he’s not a jokey 90s teenager here. I’m pretty sure that put some fans off, but they were already put off because this wasn’t a direct adaptation of the Young Justice comics (which were more in tone with the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon, while this is more in tone with the old Teen Titans comics). The series name was already decided upon by WB executives, and not the showrunners, so this was never meant to be an adaptation of the Young Justice comics. The 90s Superboy didn’t fit in with the world the creators made, the villains weren’t going to make a clone that was a jokey 90s teen when they’d likely want a controllable weapon.
All in all a great start to the show, but that was only part one. In the next part, more about Superboy, the sidekicks escape Cadmus, and we meet our enigmatic villains for the series.
Robin’s word of the episode: “whelm” from “You’re overwhelmed, Freeze was underwhelmed, why isn’t anyone ever just whelmed?” Because it was a cute little quirk for Robin to play around with words. So sometimes he’s take a commonly used word and take it apart to make something new. The cool part was that these words would stick in the vocabulary of the Team and they’d start using them too. I think it was something Joss Whedon was said to have done on Buffy the Vampire Slayer “don’t try and use contemporary slag, invent your own.”
Quote of the episode:
“I see Flash and Flash Jr.” Spectator #1
“His name is Speedy.” Spectator #2
“No, Speedy’s Green Arrow’s sidekick.” Spectator #3
“Well that makes no sense.” Spectator #4
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“Ready to see the inner sanctum?” Green Arrow
“Born that way.” Speedy