This week brought us the midseason finale of Young Justice: Outsiders, so there’s a LOT to unpack here! Beware of spoilers as I take you through my thoughts on “Exceptional Human Beings,” “Another Freak,” “Nightmare Monkeys,” and “True Heroes!”
This week on Young Justice!
This batch of episodes has a little bit of everything fans love about the show: all-out action, teen drama, and twisting plot threads that all hinge upon character development. The first episode of the bunch, “Exceptional Human Beings,” featured an exciting black ops mission led by Batman, accompanied by classic Outsiders comics mainstays Katana and Metamorpho. Although there were some cute asides with Dick training his new team, the meat of the episode is focused on Batman and company attempting to find the missing Princess Markov.
We get to understand some more of the inner workings of the League of Shadows’ new regime, with Shiva essentially taking the job of Deathstroke (and Sportsmaster before him) as the Light’s main enforcer, freeing Slade to take his place within the Light. This helped to clarify quite a few questions I had after the showdown on Infinity Island from a few episodes back.
It also gave the show an excuse to feature Batman in his first fight sequence from this season. Boy, it did not disappoint! Pitting him against a Venom-less Bane (still voiced PERFECTLY by Danny Trejo) was a smart choice; it gives the entire situation weight for viewers familiar with Bane and allows Bats to be perfectly justified in his cockiness walking into the fight. The battle between Metamorpho/Katana and Slade/Shiva was a blast, as well. I particularly enjoyed Fred Tatasciore’s vocal performances as Metamorpho and Deathstroke. Tatasciore tends to be cast as more monstrous characters (Hulk, Grodd, etc.), so it’s cool to hear more of his range. His Deathstroke is calm but callous, while his Metamorpho has a boisterous, car salesman-esque quality that is just right for Rex Mason!
If I’m being honest (and I’ll always be honest about Young Justice, y’all), I was a little surprised when I realized we were about to get another take on the Cyborg origin story in this season. After Justice League: War and last year’s live-action Justice League film, it felt like ground we didn’t need to cover again so soon. However, Outsiders has found interesting ways of tying his story in with the Light’s ongoing conspiracy and successfully connects Vic to another new character, Halo (REMEMBER, she’s Violet when she’s not on a mission). What could have felt like a retread instead comes across as a fresh take on familiar ideas. Victor still feels like a monster, but he’s immediately taken in and kept from being a total outcast. He truly is one of the Outsiders from the jump, which I love. His unstable nature also leads to a tense action sequence that brought to mind the classic Kitty Pryde story “Demon” from Uncanny X-Men #143. Seeing Violet using equal parts wits and heart to get out of danger was not only exciting, but offered much-needed character development for Violet, Victor, and Dr. Jace!
Tying Halo and Cyborg’s origins together via the Mother and Father Boxes not only gives us a new spin on Vic’s path as a character, but it continues the forward momentum of the season. This is how you introduce a new character within a pre-established universe! The show doesn’t have to slow down, instead developing Halo further and giving the team a perfect in-story reason to take Victor in.
Speaking of Violet, the highlight of this run of episodes (for me, at least) brought Violet and Forager to Happy Harbor High, the setting of so much of YJ‘s first season. While the episodes didn’t spend a ton of time in the school itself, what we did get was a great deal of fun, seeing Violet and Forager (in a magical disguise) attempting to fit in with regular kids. It was nice to see them being told by someone other than Nightwing that it’s okay for them to be different. It’s so easy to take for granted that Dick, M’gann, and the rest have seen all kinds of things, so of course they’re not going to automatically judge a couple of outcasts from New Genesis. But to have it come from someone who is ostensibly a peer (HARPER freaking ROW in her animated debut!) allows it to hold much more weight with both the characters and audience. Not only that, but it endears Harper Row to us immediately.
YES, Harper Row, a.k.a. Bluebird, makes an appearance in this episode as a student at Happy Harbor High. It remains to be seen whether or not she’ll suit up this season, but it makes me so happy to see her. I was literally just talking about how I was missing her LAST WEEK. So much of this batch of episodes feels like one big love letter to the Bat Family mythos post-New 52. There’s the appearance of Harper, while Bane’s rejection of Venom brings to mind both Tom King’s run on Batman and Gail Simone’s take on Bane in Secret Six…OH, and the Court of Owls, while not mentioned by name, appear to be major participants in the metahuman trafficking ring.
Like I said, there’s a lot to unpack, and we still haven’t gotten to “Nightmare Monkeys,” easily the weirdest episode of the entire series! After several hints toward the true nature of Granny Goodness and her VR goggles, we get to see their true purpose come to light! Yet again, this show proves how adept it is at giving us character development wrapped within an interesting set piece. This time, we catch up with Garfield Logan, a.k.a. Beast Boy, who we have previously seen in this season as an aloof television star. Of course, much of that bluster is a cover for his insecurities, which all come pouring out in a psychic fugue state brought on by the Goode Goggles.
Using a series of hallucinations to illuminate Gar’s past is a brilliant move. One of the hallmarks of Beast Boy’s character has always been his big personality, seemingly unafraid and carefree. Because of this, we’ve mostly gotten snippets of his past through exposition from other characters, such as when M’gann mentions the car accident that killed Gar’s mom between the first and second seasons. We actually see it happen here, or at least we see an approximation of how Gar pictures it. In another example of this show’s writers understanding how to connect with people through larger than life stories, this is exactly how one’s mind works when they lose a loved one in an accident. Whether they want to or not, there will always be a picture in their head of how it could have happened. Seeing Garfield dealing with a realistic vision of his mother’s death is not only relatable, it shows how deeply under his skin the enemy has gotten and provides him with ample motive to take the fight back to them.
Another highlight of this episode was the extended Teen Titans Go! tribute. While I’m not the biggest fan of that incarnation of Teen Titans, the shift in animation styles was not only a great way to show us the effect of the goggles on Gar’s mind, but it was a blast to hear those voice actors. Yes, in a move that echoed the Justice League episode “Wild Cards,” Young Justice brought in the full Teen Titans voice cast to play the Doom Patrol! I genuinely laughed at a couple of the gags and marveled as the episode went into a full-on musical number. It may not play as well to all viewers, but I loved how the episode went all in on the madness. Upon further thinking, it also serves as a strong character moment. As I mentioned before, the Garfield we know covers up his pain with swagger and humor, so of course his mind would attempt to process his own trauma in a cartoonish way. The Doom Patrol sequence is a prime example of how to properly balance horror and silliness. It’s probably not something the show should attempt every week, but the willingness to experiment with format is admirable.
The team continues to grow and the many layers of the Light’s plans continue to reveal themselves. It remains to be seen how some of the players will intersect (we have yet to catch up with Ma’alefa’ak), but this episode leaves us in an interesting spot, setting the stage for a take on a classic Teen Titans plot line. Knowing this show, however, we can be certain it will play out in ways we never expect!
- I love that Victor’s hoodie looks basically exactly like the one Lee Thompson Young rocked as Cyborg on Smallville.
- Speaking of Cyborg, one nice little sound design detail I noticed during his pensive scene in the rain: as the rain falls on Victor, you can faintly hear a sound similar to that of water dripping on a tin roof.
- Sooooo, Halo/Violet/Gabrielle is totally Dr. Jace’s daughter, right? C’mon! Where are my YJ conspiracy theorists?
- Love is in the air! Jefferson and Dr. Jace are hooking up, Babs and Dick are happily dating, Connor and M’gann are engaged, and Violet and Brion have begun their own romance. Me, though? My ship is a literal one: Forager & Bio-Ship forever, y’all.
Alright! I think I’ve rambled enough about Outsiders for this week! It’s been a blast recapping and gushing over the first half of this season. The show will be back in the summer, but until then, sound off with your Outsiders theories and predictions in the comments!