Young Justice Season 3 Episode 18 “Early Warning”
Director: Vinton Heuck
Starring: Thom Adcox-Hernandez, Lacey Chabert, Greg Cipes, Zehra Fazal, Grey Griffin, Bryton James, Stephanie Lemelin, Danica McKellar, Whitney Moore, Khary Payton, Freddy Rodríguez, Tara Strong
Runtime: 23 minutes
It still won’t take a place in the Young Justice elite but this episode was an improvement over other recent installments thanks to a unifying theme. There are, as always, a lot of different story threads being addressed (and even more that aren’t) but almost all of them deal with the fragility of life.
The Outsiders are deployed to break up a meta-trafficking ring in Cuba, where the League and Team are forbidden to operate. When the Outsiders (minus Jaime and Bart, who are attending Joan Garrick’s funeral) arrive on the scene they come face to face with Klarion the Witch Boy, who is mystically fusing the kidnapped meta-teens to create the Light’s Project Rutabaga, an immense and horrifying monster. Meanwhile, Dr. Jace informs Violet/Halo that extensive use of their healing abilities have resulted in them only having a few months to live, causing Halo to fall into an understandable downward spiral.
While the Halo storyline and the funeral are the most obvious examples of the theme of life and death it’s also present throughout the Outsiders’ mission. Much like last week, the action scenes aren’t filmed in any especially impressive or dynamic way, but, whether because of how previous seasons have established how dangerous Klarion is or because of the disturbing design of the Rutabaga monster, our heroes feel much more vulnerable than usual, to the point where when Wonder Girl is fused with the monster you believe she might really be gone, before Zatanna (who chose to back up the Outsiders despite her Justice League status because she knew Klarion may prove to be too much for them) is able to separate her and the other kids.
The Halo storyline gives the episode much of its emotional meat, but it also brings with it some problems, mainly in regards to the series’ minority representation (or lack thereof). A great deal of online debate has erupted over a scene in which the frightened, vulnerable Halo kills some time with Harper Row. The two classmates share a beer (after Halo states that despite the hijab, they’re not a Muslim), and shoot a pistol together, before kissing (despite both being in relationships), and ultimately getting arrested. The scene has been criticized for its negative portrayal of a bisexual relationship and it’s easy to see why. Having the series’ first explicit depiction of a non-heterosexual romance (it’s still oddly vague whether Ed and Bart are in a relationship or not) come by both people cheating on their established partners shows poor taste, especially considering that despite all the romantic drama that’s been featured in the series so far, no heterosexual characters have genuinely cheated on their significant others. Having Halo deny being a Muslim is similarly problematic and feels especially out of place given the beautiful moment back in “Private Security” when Halo explained to Artemis that they wear the hijab despite having no memory of being brought up as a Muslim because “it feels right”. Worse is the fact that the “I’m not a Muslim” line really doesn’t serve a narrative purpose. If the creators really wanted Halo to drink in the scene while also addressing the conflict with Muslim custom they simply could have shown Halo ignoring the latter, as that would emphasize how upset they are. Most kids do what they want, regardless of social, or especially religious, expectations when acting out, even in much less serious circumstances than Halo’s and it wouldn’t take much to make it clear to the viewer that that’s what Halo’s doing. As is, the scene feels like the show backing out of making Islam a meaningful part of Halo’s character, while keeping the hijab as a shallow, surface-level type of representation. I’m always cautious of valuing political or social concerns over the needs of a given story but it’s hard to believe there weren’t any other ways to show Halo struggling with their prognosis.
The one storyline not dealing with the mortality theme finds Artemis and Tara continuing to bond during a training session. Artemis really seems to be getting through to the younger girl, this week by empathizing with Tara’s experiences of abuse during her previous training (Artemis referring to how she believes meta-traffickers forced Tara to use her powers for combat, while flashbacks reveal Tara’s really thinking about personal training with Deathstroke) due to Artemis’ own brutal childhood training under her father, Sportsmaster. It’s a lovely little scene that gives Tara much-needed depth while also highlighting how far Artemis has come, given she’s now capable of moving past her family issues and teaching others in a healthy way. Of course, it also serves the purpose of further folding Tara into the family so that someone other than Brion will be hurt by her betrayal. Then again, it also seems possible that her friendship with Artemis could lead to this Tara taking a different path than her comic counterpart.
It still has plenty of issues, particularly with Halo, but “Early Warning” feels like a less scattered version of the current incarnation of the show thanks to the episode-wide theme and focus on heroes’ personal lives.
Wally West Watch: Nothing new.
- Dr. Jace’s latest shady move is encouraging Halo not to tell the others about their condition so that Jace can contact her mysterious “mentor” for help. Jace is as obviously a problem as Tara at this point and the show should probably just reveal what the deal is with her sooner than later.
- Ed decides to join the Outsiders so teenaged victims of meta-experimenting have one of their own to look up to as a hero. I can’t really condone the show promoting yet another character to a presumably major role given how it’s already struggling to manage the cast (what exactly has Nightwing been doing since Forager and the Markovian kids joined the Team again?)
- The episode ends with Gar and company finding out that the Outsiders are now “bigger” than the Justice League online, which is… bad I guess? Having the Outsiders as a more public, open team was a good idea when tied to the meta-trafficking plot given how the lack of discussion and media coverage are big parts of the problem when it comes to real-world human-trafficking crises but all the storyline has really resulted in is a heavy-handed satire of youth obsession with social media.
Young Justice: Outsiders Episode 18
Young Justice's move towards adult drama continues to entertain but Halo's story is getting messy.