Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 16 Failsafe
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 16, Failsafe.
Episode synopsis: Aliens are invading, and they’ve killed all of the Justice League leaving only the Team left to save the Earth. During their attempt to steal some alien weaponry to fight back Artemis is killed. The Team then go to the Hall of Justice to show humanity that there’s still hope, but that ends with the army units getting destroyed, along with their captured weapon and Aqualad. But they’ve found an no-so-dead Martian Manhunter, who is acting a little bit off. With Robin in charge now they plan to take down the main Mothership, and rescue any survivors that the aliens might have teleported there, like Artemis and the League. Except there are no survivors and Robin’s mission succeeds in blowing up the Mothership, but killing him, Superboy, and Kid Flash along with it. As the sky fills with another Mothership Martian Manhunter stops it by stabbing Miss Martian through the heart. It was all a training simulation using telepathy, but due to Artemis’ death M’gann accidentally took control of the simulation, nearly killing them for real. The Team sit there, traumatised by what they’ve just experienced.
Failsafe is an… odd episode to talk about here. In a real sense not much actually happened, none of what we saw was real, and the character stuff and their reactions are the focus on the next episode. So what is there to talk about?
Well there’s the ‘just a dream’ aspect to the story. It’s been a long standing cliché of fiction to pull out the ‘just a dream’ scenario where the writer can do whatever they like, no limits whatsoever, and doesn’t have to worry about the consequences afterwards. So using that storytelling device is tricky as it can make for lots of cool and unique things happen, but it can feel like a cheap cop-out in the end. The key thing is the ending, if there’s no ramifications afterwards then it certainly makes the story feel like it’s pointless. It can be a fun ride from beginning to end, but that ending will still feel disappointing every time you get to it. This episode did something not a lot of dream episodes do, it has consequences for the characters. Not physical ones, but there’s emotional trauma from the experience. Even if the bulk of that is explored in the next episode we can see at the end that the six main cast members were affected by this experience. M’gann especially. So the audience can get the sense that there’s little relief from it being ‘just a dream’ and not everything will be going back to normal next episode.
I’ve been reading fan reactions since season 2 was put on Netflix, watching how the fans reacted to episodes, revelations, and of course that jump between season 1 and 2. One of the things that kept coming up, outside of reactions to the series final, was this episode. It does seem to have traumatised some of the fans the same way it traumatised the main characters. Watching characters they love ‘dying’ and then finding out in the end it was all for nothing as the second alien Mothership descends. I didn’t experience that when I first watched it, or have that much of a severe reaction when rewatching it as some fans do. Maybe it’s because I’m used to TV shows and so seeing characters killed off like this, in very rapid succession, was a red flag that none of them were really dead. Add to that the show being a cartoon means it’s even less likely to have a lot of character death. But I’m not all of fandom, my reactions differ from others, and so it seems like even if it was ‘just a dream’ the episode still had an affect on the fans.
One thing that is nice to do is rewatch the episode with the foreknowledge that it’s all a simulation. It’s not just the lack of reactions at the start to their mentors deaths, which is pointed out at the end. It’s the way the characters almost treat this like a game, they still take things seriously but there’s a sense that the situation isn’t as deadly serious as it’s treated after Artemis ‘dies.’ Things like Conner sad reflection as he finds out Superman has a Fortress of Solitude, which is another reminder of his non-existent relationship with Superman. Robin knew about it but Conner didn’t. Then there’s the little details, like Wally not having his cast for his broken arm.
I did like how the alien ships seems to have a War of the Worlds design element to them, their main weapon especially so. They reminded me of the 1953 movie design for the alien crafts specifically, not the famous Tripod design for them. Though there are some Tripod looking alien machines quickly seen in the Mothership. I think it might have inspired a few fans to speculate that they were White Martian invaders, since the simulation was made by the Martian Manhunter. That’s a little bit preposterous, especially since we know this isn’t like the comics where the White Martians killed the Green Martians and then came to invade Earth. We know the White Martians are just an oppressed minority on Mars rather than conquerors. Who knows where the Martian Manhunter pulled the imagery from, but it is funny to think it’s from a movie he saw in the 50s about Mars invading Earth.
There’s an interesting little idea that seems to be glossed over, that the League think to do a training simulation about an alien invasion. It seems they, or at the very least Batman, has a worst case scenario in mind, where they face an invasion from aliens that aren’t as friendly as Superman or the Martians. The Earth’s planetary defences consist solely of the Justice League, and they aren’t exactly equipped to fight an army, either in resources or man-power. They know aliens exist, they know even without any technology they can be more powerful than anything else on the planet, so an invading army is a scary thought. I wonder if the League ever did any of these training simulations, and how many of them were for an alien invasion. The League training against nightmare scenarios that can overwhelm even their immeasurable power is a sobering thought. Something that oddly falls into The Light’s goals and motivations when we learn them at the end of the season.
No Light coda this week. No Light involvement at all, there wasn’t even any supervillains in the simulation. There was just faceless aliens. That itself is a little terrifying. No communication with them, no negotiation, they just want to kill the entire population and they think so little of our lives to bother telling us why. Just simple and quick extermination.
Little things I liked, Wally saying “Hello Wally” because that phrase is just a part of their vocabulary now. The fact that they have Arctic gear, which looks like their regular suits but warmer and all-white. The alien mothership central core has so much mass it has it’s own gravitational field, so we get some cool visuals playing with gravity. They pronounced General Eiling’s name correctly, something Justice League Unlimited got wrong, it helps that this show was made by one of Eiling’s creators. The general acceptance of Superboy as a hero to stand by because he’s wearing that symbol, and his unevenness about this.
Quote of the episode:
“So what’re we waiting for, a theme song?” Superboy.
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“In terms of raw power, she has the strongest telepathic mind I have ever encountered. Stronger, by far, than mine.” Martian Manhunter about M’gann. Foreshadowing some events with M’gann in season 2.