Young Justice Re(af)Watch Episode 26 Auld Acquaintance
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 26, Auld Acquaintance.
Written by: Greg Weisman
Directed by: Michael Chang & Lauren Montgomery
Episode synopsis: Red Arrow is being hunted by the Justice League, the Team get told by Batman of him being the mole and that his efforts to control the League with Starro-Tech failed. But they find Red Tornado trying to infect them when Batman leaves. Searching for answers they go after Red Arrow and put Tornado in his civilian android body of John Smith. They find out that Savage controls the League and that Red Arrow has been a clone this whole time, programmed in infiltrate the League. The Team devise a way to beat the Starro-Tech and strike back against Savage. They cure all of the League and drive Savage and Klarion off the Watchtower. The day is saved, but questions remain over where the real Roy Harper is, where Savage sent the League for 16 hours, and what he had them do.
This is the season 1 final and if the last episode was character focused then this one can be called ‘plot and action’ focused. We get to see the Team take down the Justice League and finally find out what The Light’s motives really are. It certainly feels like the culmination of the everything the season was doing, in a very literal way the Team prove that they are not sidekicks but heroes in their own right. They can save the day just as well as the League could, even if it needs saving from the League itself.
The episode does have it’s flaws, it’s very exposition heavy in the first half. There’s a lot of explaining the Red Arrow situation and then Vandal Savage gets to explain The Light. It wasn’t unnecessary by any means, it just felt like a lot of information was being dumped onto the audience, with flashbacks to those moments from earlier on in the season. The episode was certainly feeling the weight of being restricted to 22 minutes. Everything was happening at a lightning pace and it only slowed down for exposition. It needed more time to improve the pacing and let the League threat really build in its horror potential, as the beginning showed how terrifying the League could be if they wanted to. But I’m not sure how you’d improve things.
The big issue with the Starro-Tech was the ease of which it got taken out. In the space of a scene break the Team has already gotten workable patches that neutralise the tech and gotten a plan together to infiltrate the Watchtower and take the League down. The reason for them taking out the tech is that they got help from the scientists and magic users they’ve seen and helped this season. Which does make some sense, since some of what The Light used to make the Starro-Tech were things stolen or being studied by those scientists. It still felt a little too easy and quick narrative wise, and especially doing it off-screen did not help one bit. I think all it needed was an extra 5-10 minutes to help at least fix this a little, or perhaps make it a two-part episode. But the problem then becomes what do you remove to get that extra time. If you make this a two-parter then you’d have to lose one of the earlier episodes, which certainly isn’t worth it. Or if you want 5 extra minutes you have to pick what 5 minutes to cut out from this episode, which is equally impossible. This doesn’t excuse the episode’s problems, but the solution to these problems isn’t exactly problem free either. So when stuck with the impossible situation the creators made it work the best they could. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.
Other than that the Starro-tech is quite cool, made using some of the plots The Light were doing over the course of the season. Primarily using the Starro alien found during Downtime and with various bits of nano-tech, sorcery, and control mechanisms added to make universal mind-control chips. I really liked how they made it clear that it’d be hard to make given that it has to control humans, robots, four different alien species, and magical beings. They didn’t just pull out a mind-controller from their junk-drawer like some ‘villain of the week plot’ that’s been done on other cartoons. It was also good seeing Klarion being there and controlling it all rather than the Starro-Tech just flipping their switch from good to evil. Originally it was meant to be the Joker in charge of controlling all of them, a call back to Revelation when he controlled the plant creatures worldwide. But that was cut for budgetary reasons and because Klarion was able to do more things for the plot.
The fight against the League was incredibly well done. It helped that despite being outmatched the Team still could still win without needing to make them overpower the League. They just needed to outsmart the person controlling them all, and since that person isn’t as adept at using the League’s powers and abilities it means making mistakes the League wouldn’t make. That plus all the Team needed to do was make contact with them to plant the vaccine patch on them, which made some of the fights a lot easier. It seemed the Trinity was the hardest to take down, as you’d expect from Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It also got Conner to feel what Kryptonite was like for the first time, which I’m sure he wasn’t too happy to find out.
We also finally found out about Red Arrow and what was really up with him this season. He’s a clone of Roy Harper and programmed to get into the Justice League, so that’s why he’s been pretty hostile to any other ideas that didn’t include a League membership. It is fun to rewatch these episodes and see all the hints and little things put in there now that we know he was an agent of The Light. It was also revealed that he was taken right after he’d become Green Arrow’s sidekick, so this was a long game for The Light. It also means that with the exception of Green Arrow no one else on the show knew Roy, only Red Arrow. So is he more than a clone, is he his own person now that he’s free from The Light. He’s surely not just a copy, he’s got his own life, friendships, things that Roy doesn’t have. At the end of the episode he’s having a bit of an identity crisis, thinking about how he’s not Roy and trying to sort out what that means. Though he’s making it his mission to get Roy back, obviously taking some responsibility for him taking over Roy’s life and costing Roy those years of his life. He’s not in the best of places right now, and in the future things aren’t looking too bright for him.
The Light’s motives were finally revealed to us. It seems the founding of the Justice League caused Savage to form The Light, feeling that the heroes were causing humanity to become stagnant by saving lives on a large scale rather than living by “survival of the fittest.” The Light is there to push humankind into advances and force them to ‘evolve’ into a better species. They are doing what they’re doing to help humanity and are considering the long term development of the species. So to that end they don’t care about short term losses so long as their long term goals stay on track. This is why they are great villains, they don’t consider themselves villains but agents of change for the betterment of mankind. If they don’t really care about money or power then there’s no infighting, no betrayals, no last minute changes of heart, nothing that is typical of supervillain teams. They are committed to a higher cause just like the heroes are, that makes their actions that much more interesting to watch. Quite frankly Savage does make a compelling argument for why The Light exists, how the League can cause long term damage to humanity, and if their methods weren’t ethically and morally questionable then you could argue they are the good guys here. It would be interesting to see one of the heroes be swayed by Savage’s argument, to have them join The Light because they believed humanity could be better and wants to work to change that.
Little things I liked, Superman finally has a talk with Conner, he seems to have gotten over at least the majority of his problems and is trying to make a relationship work between them. Zatanna taking the opportunity to try and remove Dr Fate’s helmet, only for it to fail. She’s not given up on getting her father back, but it’s still not easy for her all the same. The Leaguers that went missing for 16 hours are the line-up as the old Justice League cartoon, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter, and John Stewart. Except for the Flash, who wasn’t there for storyline reasons in season 2. When Red Arrow being a clone comes up it does visibly affect Conner and is a lot more sympathetic to his situation than the others.
Robin’s word of the episode: “That’s why Batman keeps it in an overwhelmingly impenetrable vault in the Batcave. Well, more like a whelmingly penetrable vault.”
Quote of the episode:
“Human customs still elude me.” Red Tornado, about the couples kissing at midnight.
Quote that takes on a new meaning after watching the series:
“Allowing Earth to take it’s rightful place at the center of the cosmos.” Vandal Savage.