Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 15 Humanity
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 15, Humanity.
Episode synopsis: Superboy’s still mad that they’re not out looking for Red Tornado for betraying them. So they sneak out, “kidnapping” Zatara’s visiting daughter Zatanna along the way, and go looking for answers. All the while Tornado’s creator, T. O. Morrow, is downloading Tornado’s memory core while narrating the creation of his many robot infiltrators pretending to be heroes and destroy them from within. All of them failed. But now he’s made a new robot, Red Volcano, that will destroy them all. Including him, as when activated it rips Morrow’s arms off revealing he’s an android too. The Team arrive and Volcano sends Tornado out to fight them, but Tornado never actually betrayed the Team and helps them. Volcano’s master plan is to set up a planet killing volcanic eruption. The Team, Tornado, and his siblings save the day, but not without Red Torpedo and Red Inferno sacrificing their lives.
This is definitely more of a Red Tornado character episode than the Team, not that that’s a bad thing. We get to see not just his creator but why he was created and why he’s a hero. Jeff Bennett pulls triple duty as Red Tornado, Red Volcano, and their father T. O. Morrow, and he’s terrific as usual. Even though it’s supposed to be the same voice Bennett puts in a lot to make each of them sound distinct. Tornado sounds emotionless, Volcano is anger and hate, and Morrow is the smug scientist that is too arrogant for his own good. You’ll be able to tell them apart even without the visuals, and that’s a tricky thing for an actor to pull off, especially when their voices are supposed to come from the same source. Tornado is just fantastic here as the embodiment of the classic emotionless heroic robot, one who is heroic not because he was programmed to be but because he chooses to be of his own free will.
Morrow’s narration was so much fun to hear, as was seeing the black and white visual style for when he’s making the Reds, echoing Frankenstein. We get some small snippets of who Torpedo and Inferno were as heroes, meant to infiltrate the Justice Society in the 40s and destroy them but failed. But they were made to appear to be human, so Morrow made Tornado entirely inhuman to course-correct. Then Tornado betrayed Morrow and must have stopped him for a while at least, since he didn’t try making any new Reds for 70 years. That’s the subtle hint that this Morrow isn’t human himself given he doesn’t look like he’s a hundred years old, he’s an android meant to think he’s Morrow to continue his plans. Whether or not anyone other than his assistant, Stikk (Mister Twister), knew about this isn’t answered. One would presume The Light knew or suspected given they would want to know why he still looks like a young man. But they didn’t know about his plan to kill all of humanity, so who knows.
I liked the quick look at the Justice Society, the precursor to the Justice League that we were told about back in Denial when it was mentioned that Kent Nelson (Dr Fate) was a part of it. But we get some shots of them here, and a very young Jay Garrick as the Flash, and it’s pretty cool. I always like seeing old pulp-era heroes, so even just a picture of the old Justice Society welcoming Tornado as a member was enough to make me happy. Nothing like seeing the old Wesley Dodds Sandman in his old costume to fill those pulp happy thoughts.
Speaking of old-time heroes, Zatara returns here after we got to see him in action last episode. A magician that first appeared in Action Comics #1 along with Superman, so he’s an old-school hero. He’s here to either take over as the Team’s next weekly Den Mother, or just wants to introduce his daughter, Zatanna, to more of her peer group, or perhaps both. But we get to see that he’s a bit of an overprotective father, in some pretty funny moments too. What’s easily missed is the comedic misunderstanding that the Team think him not wanting Zatanna on the Team is him not trusting them after the Homefront incident. When it’s just him being protective of her and not wanting her going on their dangerous missions, as I doubt he’d want Zatanna to hang-out with kids he didn’t trust. So I don’t think he holds the Homefront incident against them. Just as with Captain Marvel the Team is ascribing ulterior motives to their actions when none exist. And it’s pretty understandable why they’d feel that way too. So we can get some drama and conflict without needing to make anyone act out of character or make them outright assholes, looking at you Justice League War.
I’ve already written a bit about Zatanna recently, but she’s still awesome here. Every piece of dialogue was funny, clever, and delivered perfectly. Robin’s obvious crush and her flirting right back was pretty great. One thing I liked, that I haven’t talked about before, was the conversation about magic. We got a nice simple explanation about magic in this world and a good example of how you can have a magical character without causing all sorts of plot problems. Zatanna explains that she needs to know a spell by heart, or have time to prep one, so she can’t make up things on the fly. She also gives a nice shut-down of the “why can’t you solve the plot” questions by explaining that even her father couldn’t make world peace, and she’s not close to his level. Also explaining that magic requires energy, which usually comes from within, so that’s another limitation that fits in well. It’s a good little chat that doesn’t feel like we were getting a “here’s the rules of magic” type talk. It was natural and a cool little bit of world-building.
Now for Wally’s “dumb plan” of talking to a “competitor” of Morrow to get his location. It certainly seems smart for them to go to Professor Ivo and try to get him to talk, and fans have called this out as not actually a “dumb plan” at all. Well the only reason why it worked was the unexpected addition of Zatanna using her magic, something I’m guessing Batman’s not in the habit of doing. More to the point I’m not sure Ivo knew Morrow’s location just due to him being a “competitor in the evil android business” but because of both of them are in The Light. That’s something none of the heroes know about and couldn’t exploit. Batman might not consider Ivo because he doesn’t know how interconnected The Light are. It seemed to me like it was more them getting lucky and Wally thinking outside the box because he’s not as entrenched in criminal activity as Batman is. Or it could’ve been an easy plot reason for them to find Morrow with a weak justification for why the League didn’t do it. Whatever floats your boat.
Despite all of that fun stuff my favourite part of the episode will always be Red Tornado convincing his siblings to help stop Red Volcano and save humanity. It’s a short little scene, but it said so much. Torpedo and Inferno were following Morrow’s orders because they’d lost their way after finding out they weren’t human like they had believed for 70 years. They stopped caring what they were told to do by Morrow because to them there wasn’t any point anymore, “why should we save humanity when we are no longer human” as Inferno says. Tornado doesn’t appeal to their humanity, or any of the clichés usually used in these situations, but with just this, “The premise of your question is flawed. You were never human, but you were heroes.” They had thought of their identity of “human” whereas Tornado never had that limitation, to him there is no choice or conflict, he is a hero and that’s all there is to it. As a fan of old-school heroics this exchange is just perfect and gets me a little choked up every time.
No Light coda this week, in fact despite Morrow being in The Light I think it’s pretty obvious his end goals did not line up with theirs. Robot Supremacy can’t be on their agenda, so he was acting on his own. I think we can see why The Light keeps the Justice League around now, even if they do get in the way of their plans. The League is a way to keep the other villains in check, ones whose plans get in the way of The Light’s. So The Light can work on their own endgame rather than trying to stop the latest person or thing wanting to destroy the world. The League is an asset to them, not an enemy to be vanquished. It certainly makes a nice change from the supervillain teams that only want to destroy the heroes.
Little things I liked, all of Morrow’s creepy music, it added so much atmosphere to his scenes. The psychic conversation that Zatanna picks up on, because they put more effort into animating the body language rather than using it as a cheap way to animate them. Kaldur talking to Conner and drawing parallels between Tornado and Conner being more than the weapons they were designed to be. Tornado learning humanity from the Team just like in the original Young Justice comics. Red Volcano calling them “Meatbags.” Robin referencing The Six Million Dollar Man with his “we can rebuild you” line at the end.
Wally’s souvenir: Robot hand from Morrow’s lab.
Quote of the episode:
“I can’t tell. Not if you kidnap me.” Zatanna.
“…Oh, she’s gonna fit in great.” Artemis.
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“She’s never joining this team!” Zatara about Zatanna. Another light episode for foreshadowing quotes, and this is either comedic-irony since she does indeed join the Team. Or it’s tragic given how she joins the Team.