Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 2 Fireworks
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. Continuing on with episode 2, Fireworks.
Episode synopsis: To keep Cadmus a secret the head of Cadmus is going to clone Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Robin, then send the clones back in their place. Before that happens they convince Superboy to let them go free so they can help him escape and he can meet Superman. They get out, the leader of Cadmus tries to stop it by turning himself into a giant monster, they drop a building on him, and the Justice League shows up after the fighting’s over. While asserting their independence the League lets the sidekicks become a covert arm of the Justice League, with their own secret HQ, and Superboy joins too. The end.
A solid continuation from the first episode. Much more action packed, but it still has a lot of character focus on Superboy since he needs to be established as a person to follow up on his introduction. Then there’s the introduction of The Light, the main antagonists for the show, and one of chief source of fan complaints in the first season. But we’ll get to that later.
Superboy is one of the main focus characters, all of the characters get focus, development, and character arcs, but some get a little bit more. Superboy is brand new to this universe, so he’s one of the ‘viewpoint characters’ so we can get introduced to things through him and other characters that are new superheroes. Miss Martian and Artemis being other characters that serve this purpose, in season 1 at least.
I liked that when Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad, were first talking to Superboy to try and convince him to let set them free, Superboy spoke very matter of factly. This was his first time speaking to anyone. He learned how from the G-Gnomes telepathicly feeding him information for all of his 16 weeks of life, but he’s not formed much of his sense of self until he’s talking to the guys. He talks a little robotically at first, then as they are asking him about going outside and seeing the sun (or moon since it’s night) you can see him starting to break and form his own opinions on what he wants from his life. There’s also a nice little look between the sidekicks when Superboy says his mission is to “replace Superman if he falls, or terminate him if he turns from the light.” It’s a small concerned look because the idea seems perfectly reasonable, but there’s an edge to it, the uncomfortable nature of breeding a clone to kill Superman. Obviously that’s programmed in there for some plausible deniability, because Cadmus can positively spin Superboy as a necessity if they ever had to use him. Though I imagine Superboy would’ve just been another experiment of cloning Superman, and there would’ve been other experiments to perfect the cloning process of Superman. He would’ve been stuck in a pod as Cadmus moved onto the next Super clone, one with more superpowers possibly, if the sidekicks hadn’t busted him out.
His superpowers, or lack of some of them, are a neat little thing. There’s a great moment when he grabs Aqualad to fly, and he finds he can only jump high rather than fly like Superman. That was a revelation to him, no flying means not being able to be Superman, and it seemed to hurt him a little bit. He’s strong, super durable, he can jump real high, but he doesn’t have heat vision, x-ray vision, or flight. That’s a plot point to be filed away for later. It did annoy some comic fans that he didn’t have tactile telekinesis like he does in the comics. In them Superboy was a clone meant to emulate Superman’s powers, but he wasn’t a clone of Superman. So Cadmus gave him tactile telekinesis that could emulate flight, strength, and let him telekineticly mess things up when he touched them. The show chose to go with a more straight forward route of just having him be a clone but with a muted powerset, which is probably the best way to fit him with the world of the show. They could’ve given him the tactile telekinesis, given Cadmus having a lot of telepathic and telekinetic creatures, but honestly that would’ve just been a cosmetic thing. Something that had the veneer of the comics but everything else was altered, his personality particularly is different from his comic’s persona. Since they changed his personality to fit the show world why not also change the powerset to fit that too. Even his angry personality has a nice payoff later on in the season as we see partially where it comes from. There doesn’t seem much point to add his tactile telekinesis and all it’d do is muddy the waters for the majority of fans who hadn’t read the comics.
Then there’s Superman reacting to Superboy at the end of the episode. That still causes fan outrage to this day. Superman sees him, learns he’s a clone, and acts awkwardly and unsure of what he should do. Pretty much how a regular person would act. But some fans still think Superman should’ve welcomed Superboy with open arms, took him into his home, and shrug off the “breed to possibly kill him” part. Essentially they want him to be the perfect boy scout other fans complain about him being. I’ll get into this more in a later episode, but it was nice to see Superman act this way. He gets awkward and honestly doesn’t know what to do, the easiest course of action is to just let the Justice League handle it. So that’s what he does. He has a human moment and it was great to see.
Though the stand out moment is at the end. Where the League shows up and tells them they won’t be pulling any more stunts like this again; only for Aqualad, the prim and proper one, to stand up to Batman and say “no, we will.” They became a team and they aren’t letting anyone stop them from staying that way. Batman considers it and three days later he’s officially making them a covert team for the Justice League. They’ll work out of the former secret HQ for the League, Mount Justice in Happy Harbor, where Red Tornado will be their ‘den mother’ and Black Canary will give them combat training. It’s a surprisingly nice twist to have a teenage team get actual support from the adult team, usually in comics they are separate entities so the teens get to be independent. But it does make sense given these are the sidekicks and so their mentors want to give them support and also some freedom to grow beyond the sidekick role. They never do get an official team name, though. They are just called “The Team” and it kinda works for the covert ops part of it given there can’t be any real slip-ups as it could mean any number of generic things. But as it’s a superhero show a name would’ve been fun, just something the fans could properly call the Team. On the other hand the name of the show is Young Justice, and logically that should be the name of the Team, and it sounds incredibly patronising for Batman to name them that.
And now to talk about The Light. This mysterious group who hide their identities and are operating some shady dealings without the Justice League’s knowledge. They are a great idea that while the heroes are banding together and being so public their HQ is a tourist spot, that the villains would band together to keep their operations more secret. They are crafty, covert, and clever about it. Though too clever for some fans, as some of them didn’t like how episodes would end with The Light talking like they’d won. They saw it as the heroes never actually winning in most episodes, and “annoying to hear ‘just as planned’ at the end of every episode.” Funny thing is those ‘just as planned’ moments actually didn’t happen. Sometimes The Light managed to get some victory, but a lot of the times they just took their loses on the chin and moved on. They rolled with the punches rather than getting beaten down by them. They wouldn’t importantly shake their fist at the heroes and then have a hissy fit over their lose, like an 80s cartoons villain. They didn’t win in every episode, but because they didn’t act like they had lost some fans interpreted it as them constantly winning. So every episode that ends on The Light having a chat I’ll talk about what they’re actually saying, since it is rarely “just as planned.”
This episode The Light talk about if they can afford to leave Guardian in charge of Cadmus without the G-Gnomes controlling him. The fun part is them pointing out that the League employing children to do their dirty work is a “dark twist” and it really is if you think about it beyond comic book terms. It is a little thing that tells us this group doesn’t necessarily think of themselves as villains. Even their name implies that. They also say they can play the League’s child soldiers to their advantage, and that they consider the lose of Superboy as “temporary.” It’s more reacting to the situation at Cadmus and making plans for the future based on that. It’s a chess game, they lost a piece but are thinking ahead to the next stage of the game.
However The Light has a quirk fandom doesn’t seem to have picked up on, their over the top distractions. They do like throwing things at the League to distract them so they can do something else in secret. Last episode, in a throwaway line, we hear that evil wizard Wotan is trying to blot out the sun. According to Co-Creator Greg Weisman that was a distraction so the Justice League wouldn’t investigate the fire at Cadmus. Blotting out the sun was to cover up a fire, that’s certainly a supervillain way of thinking. It’s not the last of these over the top distractions we’ll see, as they need them when trying to get the Justice League out of the way.
What is a bit puzzling in hindsight is that The Light ordered Cadmus to dispose of the originals when making clones of the sidekicks. In later episodes we see they don’t like to waste things, especially ones that could come in handy later. Someone with powers like Kid Flash, or an Atlantean, would be good for their genetic research. They could easily be put into cold storage for future use, maybe even years down the line if need be. It just sounds odd given the other 44 episodes of the show, but I suppose it sounds more dramatic. “Kill them” has more dramatic weight than “freeze them for future use.”
Quote of the episode:
“That guy is not whelmed, not whelmed at all.” Robin
“What is it with you and this ‘whelmed’ thing?” Kid Flash
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“We have other, subtler, means of control” L-3