Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 8 Downtime
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 8, Downtime.
Episode synopsis: After Aqualad screws up a mission he has doubts as to whether he should be on the Team rather than back in Atlantis. So he goes back to Atlantis to figure things out, and talk to his crush, Tula. Interspersed are small vignettes about the rest of the Team during their downtime, the best one being Batman as a great parent to Dick. Back on Atlantis Black Manta attacks to steal an ancient frozen sea creature that has been recently discovered. Kaldur and Garth stop him, Kaldur finds out Tula and Garth are dating, and so he goes back to being Aqualad and leader of the Team.
This episode is good for getting a lot of characterisation from one scene for each of the Team, as we see each of their home lives. With the exception of Kaldur, who we don’t see at home but with the king and Tula. It’s actually really refreshing to see such a thing in an ensemble superhero show, as the focus on the team leaves those shows without time or inclination to do anything with the heroes private lives. Even Young Justice has a problem with so much going on that there just isn’t enough time to show everything. So things fall between the cracks and the viewer has to put things together themselves. The show had the advantage of a tie-in comic that did fill in some of those blanks, and that’s where things like the Clayface encounter and Kaldur’s split focus between the mission and Tula were shown. It was good to read them and get a fuller story, though Kaldur’s split focus did seem to come out of nowhere at the time. I can understand not wanting to have him seem like a bad leader since they’ve only had 7 episodes before this, and he’s only been leader for four of them. Maybe they could’ve had a shot of Kaldur looking at his phone at a photo of Tula in an earlier episode. Not have an obvious split focus that endangers any mission, but a small seed that’d sprout in this episode.
What was kinda cool was the way the show got around the language barrier. The majority of the episode was set in Atlantis, with everyone speaking Atlantean there. So to get around that they had Kaldur and Aquaman begin talking to each other in Atlantean and then we see Lori Lemaris practising a spell that magically translates languages. So because of that we get the rest of the episode in English. Lori Lemaris is Superman’s college mermaid girlfriend in the comics, oh the Silver Age and its craziness. We also see a few other cameos practising magic, including La’gaan who will become a regular in season 2. Though the best cameo was saved for the tie-in comic, King Sha’ark, who sadly didn’t appear in this episode.
Atlantis looked fantastic here, Or at least the capital city Poseidonis since we didn’t get to see the whole of Atlantis. The domed city, the classical architecture, everything just looked amazing. Then we got to see Kaldur’s backstory, which I suppose was needed for two reasons. First is that he’s a character created for the show, so he’s new and needs some established backstory. Secondly he took the place of the first Aqualad from the comics, Garth, so getting some information on why it was Kaldur instead of Garth was cool. It’s a fun little piece of meta-ness as they pay lip-service to the idea that it could’ve been Garth that became Aqualad instead, but he decided to stay in Atlantis to continue his studies in the magical arts.
Kaldur and Tula were more of an awkward pair, given they both had things they wanted to tell the other. Though it’s funny how everyone seemed to notice that Kaldur had feelings for her, hell Batman could tell and he’s never met her. Though it was nice to see that despite being hurt by it he still respected her choosing another man over him. He still has feeling for her, but he still considers what she wants rather than acting like she betrayed him. We see enough of that in real life from idiots who use the term “friendzone” so it’s good that Kaldur is more mature than those morons. There’s also a little funny timing moment about the attacks on Poseidonis, as it’s either great or terrible timing since it’s in the middle of Kaldur and Tula’s conversation. It puts off an awkward conversation, that’s for sure.
Besides that we got an impressive display of water magic here, seeing that Kaldur really did miss out on a lot of training when he became Aqualad. Tula and Mera both kicked all kinds of ass with their different magical skills. It’s funny that Garth is the one who seems out of sorts when the fighting started, considering he could’ve been Aqualad and he’s a guy in an action cartoon. But here he joins the fighting and seems unable to handle it all. Even though he joins Kaldur in going after Black Manta he seems to be holding Kaldur back because he’s so unskilled. It takes some yelling by Kaldur to get his head right and have him stop the attempts to steal the creature. It seems he made the right choice in not being Aqualad.
The other downtime moments with the rest of the cast were nice little windows into their lives outside of the Team. M’gann and Superboy’s was them having a little romantic moment, but not really knowing what to do about it. Plus it had Red Tornado walk in, look puzzled at their craziness, and just deciding to leave as it wasn’t worth asking about. With Wally there was a nice Flash family get together on Jay Garrick’s birthday, it’s still really nice to see the speedster family especially since we don’t get much of that in the comics now. The Robin one was really great. He’d gotten a bit jealous of Kaldur and Bruce sees that so he makes up for it, with a basketball game. It’s just a really sweet moment between the two that reminds you that Batman is a father, and a good one too. Artemis is the one that adds a lot to her character and background as we didn’t know much about her at this point. Her introduction suggested there was more going on than meets the eye, and there’s some hints at that here. Her mother’s in a wheelchair, they live in an apartment that doesn’t look like it’s in the best of shape, and she gets a scholarship from the Wayne Foundation to go to a prodigious Gotham school. Her mother has to beg her to accept it just so Artemis’ life will end up differently than hers, that Artemis gets to have all the opportunities she never had. It’s just a really touching moment. We’ll see more of Artemis’ home life in the future.
Fans complaining how ‘weird it is that Batman is a better of a father than Superman’ just seems odd when you think about how Batman adopts so many kids, and so he must have more parental instincts than Superman. But then I started thinking about the usual way Batman is depicted in other places, and he’s usually a bit of a dick in them. In the 90s cartoons he started out all right and then became a asshole over time. Robin quit and became Nightwing because of how much of an ass Batman was being. Then there’s Batman Beyond, where he’s a lonely grumpy old man whose friends left him long ago. And that’s not even getting into the comics, which had several big event stories solely dedicated to trying to make Batman less of an ass. So fans sort of expect Batman to be a bit of a dick, but in Young Justice he’s really not. He appears a bit hard edged but we see under that with his relationship to Robin and him pushing Superman to be a mentor to Superboy. This is a Batman I’d like to see emulated more often.
I’m not sure I’d class Black Manta as another villain with a badass upgrade, since he already was such a prominent villain, but he certainly proved to be a tactical minded foe that deserves to be in The Light. We get more of a feel that he does command his own undersea army with his strategic attack on Poseidonis. He gets more action in season 2 and shows a lot more sides to himself than we see here. So look forward to that. It’s still a little sad we didn’t get any Ocean Master action outside of the tie-in comics, but knowing what we get later on it’s good that we got to see Black Manta here. There’s also another distraction to get the League, particularly Aquaman involved, so Poseidonis is more open for attack. But I’m not sure if it counts as an example of an ‘over the top Light distraction’ since all we know was that it happened at Tokyo Bay, not what was happening there.
The Light does finally get some sort of ‘just as planned’ moment here, though it is more of a ‘plan A failed so we had to move to plan B.’ And plan B was to blow the creature up, then when a sample is sent to the surface for study The Light can steal that. Which we do get to see that happen in a later episode, so it’s not some unseen victory but a lose that they turn into a victory later. I do have to wonder how they knew what the creature was capable of, which was obviously the old Justice League villain Starro. Maybe they have an unseen partner that knows a few things about alien creatures and their abilities. Just speculation, as we don’t know how they knew of Starro, but it would certainly fit given the hints we get in the next episode.
Quote of the episode:
“What’s this?” Dick.
“Training. Hand-eye coordination.” Bruce.
“One on one?” Dick.
“If you think you can handle it.” Bruce.
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“Such a waste. You really have no ambition beyond serving Aquaman?” Black Manta to Aqualad.