Thu Feb 7 2013 at 12:00 PM
This episode paid homage to some of the lesser known superheroes from the 70's/80's Superfriends series. Focusing on the rescued Reach abductees, we take a step away from the season's major storylines and follow these kids and their newly developed superpowers. The story acts as a tangent but wraps itself around the answer to one of last week's questions; what exactly has become of Blue Beetle now that he is "fixed".
* Warning: This review contains spoilers *
We start off in Taos, New Mexico where the rescued kids (Virgil, Tye, Eduardo, Asami, Nathaniel) are being intensely trained by STAR Labs. After the session is over, Virgil convinces the others (except Nathaniel AKA "Neutron" who wreaked havoc in "Bloodlines") that their treatment at STAR is no worse than their Reach captivity and that they need to escape. Nightwing assigns Blue Beetle the mission of bringing the kids back, eventually tracks them down and offers to help by taking them to Green Beetle. Back at STAR, a thought-to-be-dead Red Volcano tears into the building in search of Amazo's body parts. Nightwing sets stopping Volcano as a higher priority for Blue and the kids decide to return to help (given Eduardo's father works as a STAR scientist). Blue battles Volcano and eventually triumphs. The kids sneak away, only to be found by Lex Luthor, who convinces them to go along with him. By the end we find out Green Beetle's fix was putting Blue Beetle back on-mode and that Green has been working with the Reach all along.
Although this episode veered from the more important storylines, I thoroughly enjoyed it due to the likeability of the runaway kids. What surprised me the most was the treatment these kids were receiving. To think the Justice League would approve of training sessions of "five hours straight", pushing each individual to their limits is a little difficult to comprehend. Not to mention it seems like they've not left STAR since their rescue, despite Virgil telling Black Canary he wanted to return to his family back in "Cornered". Sure, it's for their protection but come on. At the very least is some proper mentorship too much to ask? To move on from one gripe to another, I think the premise of the episode focused on the wrong "home" for the runaways. We already knew from "True Colors" that Lex wanted to recruit them, and what the Light wants, the Light normally gets, making the ending somewhat moot. I guess it shows us what triggers them to go from the League's side to the Light's but I would've preferred to see them training/working under Lex, something I'm sure we'll see anyway. And while I've stated in the past that I enjoy the fact the heroes are the underdogs, but it's getting a little old that nearly EVERY event is a result of the Light's/Reach's planning.
This was very brief but I do wonder what the focus on the clock was during the rescue of the STAR faculty. In the wreckage the "camera" focused on the clock with the time being midnight.
The producers have said from the start that Young Justice is a DC Universe show, and Season 2's expansive roster has certainly delivered that. It's easy to criticize a show on it's choice of character focus when you know it's going to end in 6 episodes. Obviously Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti would've continued this world for as long as they could and in turn give all their characters the development they deserve, but alas it isn't meant to be. I do recall that Greg mentioned they had already spec'd out Season 3 (makes you even more sad about the non-renewel huh). Anyway, what I'm getting to is even though this episode basically introduced 4 new characters instead of giving screentime to our main and secondary characters, I found them interesting enough it didn't bother me. They had a good group dynamic and were relatable. It would've been so easy to make them punk-ass runaways but I couldn't help but empathize with them. They're all good kids, and by episode's end, I wanted to get to know them even more.
What's really sad about Young Justice not getting another season is that given the chance, I really think the show could've expanded and be for superhero animation what Marvel's successfully done for their live action movies; ie. have multiple shows for mentors/proteges/teams that form a cohesive universe. The depth and manner in which the characters have been written always leaves me with an "I want more!" feeling. Can you imagine a Bat-family series? A series set in Atlantis? We've already seen a "Flash series" episode. Heck, I'd even watch a "Runaways" series. And have these series running parallel with Young Justice. Have it all tie together. *Sigh* I'll just have to continue to dream.
What was really cool was to see these kids reimagined yet paying homage to their counterparts from the Superfriends show. I'll mention who represented who below.
Blue Beetle - Poor, poor Jaime. After all he's tried and been through, he couldn't escape the prophecy. Now everything I've come to love about him is withering away. His well-being of others? Dead as a bug on a boot. The rebooted Scarab now gives us a cocky and aggresive Jaime Reyes. What's most interesting is he's not instantly evil. Most of his persona is still there. It's just his values and motivations have shifted. Of course, this is all M'gann's fault ... again.
Green Beetle - Well, even though all signs were pointing to it, my fears came true. Despite last weeks obvious hints, I REALLY wanted Green to be one of the good guys and play an important role in helping our heroes defeat the Reach. But instead, we got yet another double agent who was a plot device to get Blue back in the Reach's control. Let's see if he continues to "assist" the League/Team. As with Blue, I do like the fact that he has a distinct personality but just happens to be on the side of evil. He's a nice contrast to Black Beetle.
Virgil Hawkins - While he's more famously known to fans as Static Shock, his position in the group best pays homage to the Superfriends character Black Vulcan, who had the ability to manipulate electricity. While initially coming off as a rebel with an attitude, it was great to see how down-to-earth Virgil was. The way he described how close he is to his family must've been a testament to how he was raised. It was reflected in the way he wanted to help his friends, and even the STAR labs "bystanders". He fit comfortably in the unofficial role as the group's leader.
Tye Longshadow - He's a homage to the character Apache Chief, who could physically grow in size up to 50 feet. It's a little sad that in talking about family, Tye never mentioned wanting to go home to see his mother. He must be really scared of her boyfriend Maurice who we know from the episode "Beneath" is the reason Tye ran away. I love the creative change the showrunners made in depicting his powers. Manifesting an astral form not only looked cool, but it also fit perfectly with Native American culture/mythology. The "Oooohm" chant-like sound as the projection manifested was cool.
Eduardo "Ed" Dorado Jr. - He's a homage to the character El Dorado, who possessed the ability to teleport himself and others using his cape. The writers knocked off development of 2 characters with one stone. Albeit short, linking Ed to Eduardo Dorado Sr. as father and son brought forth a sad yet touching scene. I gusss Eduardo Sr. comes off as a workaholic and doesn't appreciate or sees how much his son cares for him. Good to see that despite having frequent fights that Ed doesn't hold it against him.
Asami "Sam" Kaizumi - She's a homage to the male character Samurai, who had the power to manipulate wind. Despite her inability to speak English, Sam still fit perfectly into the gang. My guess for why she was written this way was to help in adding the humorous responses from her colleagues. I was a little unclear on what her powers were to begin with. I thought she created bursts of energy, especially the way she charged up. And while yes, wind is a form of energy, the way the powers were used and visually depicted had me second guessing on whether it was wind power or not.
Nathaniel "Neut" Tyron / Neutron - While having more of a cameo, it was good to see that his destructive experience in nearly destroying Central City (albeit under the control of the Reach) gave him a very clear and fearful understanding of the dangers that come with superpowers.
Red Volcano - I love staying from spoilers/trailers. His appearance was a great surprise. Obviously used as nothing more than a distraction, if a character who lacks development makes up for it in the action and fight scenes, I could care less :P
I thought Virgil's recurring "No idea." response was a fun bit of writing, and never felt overused like say a Family Guy joke can often get. What sold on it's constant reuse was Bryton James' acting and how each response emoted differently based on the situation; some came off as a shrug-like response while others had more serious thought.
The "Volume on your phone is maxed out." reference to modern day phones was funny coz well, it's true. Depending on a phone's call volume, you can normally hear someones conversation pretty clearly without speaker phone being on.
Now my fondness for the "new kids on the block" wouldn't have been garnered if not also for the solid performances of each of their voice actors. They (Bryton James as Virgil, Gregg Rainwater as Tye, Freddy Rodriguez as Ed and Janice Kawaye as Sam) each shared the same feeling of mistreatment in the beginning and a rightful revolt. And later as we got a better understanding of them, their acting portrayed each characters vulnerabilities, innocence and strengths perfectly. You felt the bond between the characters through their dialogue and reactions between one another, even though they're all essentially strangers.
Although it would make no difference to the general audience, I do like the fact that the producers cast voice actors who had the same ethnic background as the characters. For voice over fans like myself, it just made the performances feel more genuine.
Tidbit: Having read that the producers avoided hiring voice actors who had already voiced the same character in previous animated incarnations, it's interesting to note that Gregg Rainwater reprised his role of Long Shadow from the Justice League Unlimited episode "Ultimatum". The only others I'm aware of to reprise their roles have been voice actors who worked with the producers in past projects; Bruce Greenwood played Batman in "Batman: Under The Red Hood" (directed by Brandon Vietti), Steve Blum played Count Vertigo in the "DC Showcase: Green Arrow" (written by Greg Weisman), as did Ariel Winter playing Queen Perdita.
"No problem. Tye will do his thing. Take the roof off the building and pull us all out. Right?" - Virgil Hawkins
"Wrong. I don't know how to active my (in finger quotes) thing. It just happens." - Ty Longshadow
"Time to sacrifice your victory and save the meatbags like a good hero." - Red Volcano
"You shouldn't stereotype!" - Blue Beetle
What could've been considered a bit of a waste of an episode given the very many other importants events going on, the runaway characters made this one of my favorite episodes of the season. What will our heroes do now? Unbeknownst to them, they've now lost 6 individuals (2 Beetles, 4 runaways) to the Reach/Light.