Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 4 Drop-Zone
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 4, Drop-Zone
Episode synopsis: The Team get their first official mission, re-con a drug factory in Santa Prisca that has suddenly stopped distributing Venom, the super steroid Bane uses. The factory has been taken over by DC snake cult Cobra, not the G.I.Joe villains, and is making even stronger stuff. Bane has been forced out and wants back in. The Team’s first outing went a little terribly, still rushing in with no proper team work skills developed yet. They team up with Bane, Bane betrays them, and they actually have a talk about who should lead the Team. Aqualad gets elected as leader, because it’s the sane and logical choice, and they stop Cobra from taking the Cobra-Venom drug. Also revamped D-lister villain Sportsmaster shows up and is a total badass, surprising everyone.
Drop-Zone’s a good episode as an introduction to the Team’s missions. We get to see how they work, what Batman is tasking them with, and how they inevitably clash with The Light. So this is more of a secondary intro to the show. We do properly get to see why this is a different superhero show than something like Justice League Unlimited, the covert ops nature allows for a different style of storytelling. Usually superheroes are reactive, a villain attacks and they react to it and stop them. In Young Justice the Team is usually proactive, they go out and re-con areas of suspicious activity. They are doing things in ways we don’t normally get to see in superhero shows, and it’s fantastic. The show can’t and shouldn’t be Justice League Unlimited or Teen Titans, they need a new angle otherwise what’s the point.
The re-con stuff was good here, infiltrating Santa Prisca, finding out what Cobra’s doing, finding out who their buyer is, and stopping them from shipping out the Cobra-Venom. Things escalate so the re-con mission becomes more than just re-con, because we wouldn’t have any action on this action show if their re-con missions went properly. Though the meat of the character interaction was them deciding who gets to lead the Team. Robin just assumes he’s leader, because that’s how he is right now. He’s the guy who will vanish and assume everyone else knows what he’s doing and what he wants them to do, he’s done it in previous episodes too. It helps that Aqualad was separated from them at the start, so Robin got to show off why he can’t be in charge right now. It was nice to see that their eventual leadership talk was handled maturely, and them deciding on Aqualad being the obvious choice for leader sounds odd at first but it makes sense given what we see. When their factory infiltration goes awry it’s Aqualad that gets them all out with his leadership. It’s a subtle thing, but it does set the stage for the conversation afterwards about who should lead them.
Bane had an interesting depiction here. Since his introduction in the comics he’s been watered down as just the superstrong Batman villain. That’s held for most of his appearances in other media, he’s the guy with the drug that gets superstrong and you beat him by ripping the cable out of his head. But his first appearance in the Knightfall story showed him as ‘brains and brawn’ and as a mastermind that could deduce Batman’s identity as well as an effective plan to defeat him. It’s just now most people writing him forget the ‘brains’ part and stick with the ‘brawn.’ (Though if you want to read some great Bane comics read Gail Simone’s Secret Six, he’s fantastic there.)
In this episode we get a weird version of the Worf Effect. Where at the start he’s beaten to show how powerful the Cobra-Venom is. But for the rest of the episode he’s shown as a planner and a mastermind, and he doesn’t use Venom after the opening either. He joins with the Team to bring them to his factory and start a fight between them and Cobra, hoping they’d take out his enemies. If that failed he had planned that their deaths would bring the Justice League to take down Cobra. That’s a bit risky given the likelihood that the League could destroy his factory, but he didn’t have many options. So he starts off as ‘brawn’ and over the course of the episode we see that he’s got the ‘brains’ too. You can see how this Bane might become a formidable opponent to Batman in the future.
On the subject of formidable opponents this episode introduces Sportsmaster, the next D-list villain to get a surprisingly badass makeover for this show. A guy who uses sports equipment as weapons sounds goofy and silly, something more for the Brave and the Bold cartoon. But then comes the realisation that Olympic sports equipment is rather dangerous, and that someone at an Olympic level would be a frightening opponent. Add to that various gadgets and equipment people like Batman and Green Arrow use and Sportsmaster’s weapons become collapsible, have varying uses, and very deadly. Batman’s most memorable gadget is basically a boomerang, which Frank Miller turned into a throwing star, and cartoons like Justice League and The Batman had him start putting bombs in them. So his tech evolved just like Batman’s, and his silly gadgets are now a lot deadlier.
He also gets to show off some fighting prowess, seeing through Miss Martian’s camouflage and hitting her with an exploding javelin. This lead to some confusion with fans, as for some reason they thought “camouflage” meant “invisible” even though that’s not what we see on the show. The camouflage still leaves her partially visible and if you’re good enough and well trained enough you can spot the camouflage effect. Sportsmaster’s probably either fought the Martian Manhunter before or at least prepared to fight him if he ever needed to. So he’s aware of what Martian camouflage looks like.
We also see he’s an agent of The Light, briefing them at the end on what happened. Now there is no ‘just as planned here’ at most there’s the suggestion that the single ampoule of Cobra-Venom he recovered could be reverse engineered. But there’s no ‘plan B’ or alternate way they could be suggesting they somehow achieved victory here. What we do get is them saying that this is the third time they’ve interfered with their operations, that’s no longer a coincidence but a pattern, so they must take action against them.
On the flip side we see the Team realising that there’s something more going on. The Cobra-Venom was made using the Blockbuster formula from Cadmus, that neither Cobra nor Sportsmaster should have access too. They know there’s someone above Sportsmaster that’s pulling the strings. So the heroes aren’t blindly going into each encounter without learning something, they will get pieces to put together and solve this puzzle.
And to add more teen flirting we see the start of M’gann’s crush on Superboy this episode. Though Wally is completely oblivious to it and continues to flirt with her. Because teenagers. We also get the costume upgrade, where there’s a stealth option for them that darkens the colours of the costume. Kid Flash also gets a modified costume, with more padding since he likes to barge into things. The costumes in general have lots of neat touches like that which show some thought about what each hero needs to do and their powerset. Then there’s Superboy, who is matter of fact in his choice, “no capes, no tights.”
Robin’s word of the episode: “concerted” from “disconcerted”
Wally’s souvenir: a Cobra mask and hood.
Quote of the episode:
“He’s mentally reciting football scores, in Español.” Miss Martian on why she can’t read Bane’s mind
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the season:
“Then I accept the burden, until you are ready to lift it from my shoulders. You were born to lead this Team, maybe not now, but soon.” Aqualad to Robin