Young Justice Season 3 Episode 19 “Elder Wisdom”
Director: Christopher Berkeley
Starring: Troy Baker, Greg Cipes, Zehra Fazal, Bruce Greenwood, Grey Griffin, Jason Marsden, Danica McKellar, Geoff Pierson, Maggie Q, Freddy Rodríguez, Mark Rolston, James Arnold Taylor, Mae Whitman
Runtime: 23 minutes
Now that’s more like it. While the intricate plotting and most of the characters have remained engaging, Outsiders has struggled somewhat throughout this back half of the season to make its many disparate elements feel like they’re part of a cohesive, focused whole. That’s not the case in “Elder Wisdom”, an episode that continues to throw a lot at the audience but does so in a more digestible manner, with the confident sense of purpose that defines Young Justice at it’s best. Some of Season 3’s characteristic problems are still present but so much progress is made with the plot, characters, and themes that the viewer will likely be too engaged to pay them much attention.
The Outsiders run afoul of Lex Luthor this week as the complicated war of public opinion between the heroes and villains heats up. In his capacity as U.N. Secretary-General Lex is leading a climate change conference in the fictional nation of Bwunda that also includes ambassadors Troia and Tempest. The Outsiders (and a more discreet faction of the Team) foil an attack by the League of Shadows, who were posing as a local resistance militia. With the permission of Bwunda’s leader Lex calls in the Justice League and Flash arrives to lend a hand. It turns out the attack was all staged so Lex could demonstrate to the public that his preferred system of the U.N. commanding the Justice League still allows for effective crime-fighting and to discredit the Outsiders as reckless and irresponsible, also taking advantage of a minor injury received by Kid Flash to disguise his objections with false concern for the well-being of the kids on the team.
His plan works to some extent as a discussion of the Outsiders turns more critical. More problematic, some of the Outsiders own loved ones briefly buy into the negativity, with Eduardo Sr., Cassie’s mom, and Jay Garrick, who serves as Bart’s legal guardian, objecting to their kids’ participation in the Outsiders, citing the increased danger and public scrutiny that comes with operating outside the Justice League organization. While Bart, Ed, and Cassie stay behind to hash things out Gar, who is an emancipated minor, heads out on the latest mission (rescuing a girl kidnapped by Anthony Ivo’s robot monkeys) along with Virgil and Jaime, who are both eighteen.
Meanwhile, Halo (who was shown being fairly reckless on the Bwunda mission in light of their prognosis) comes mostly clean with Brion and Tara, revealing both the cheating incident with Harper from last week and the fact that Gabrielle was involved in the assassination of the king and queen. Brion, who was impressively forgiving of the first surprise, is understandably shaken by the second and leaves without a word. Tara’s reaction is more surprising and harder to read given everything going on with her. Her vision becomes blurred and shaky and it seems like she’s having some sort of panic attack before she ultimately texts Deathstroke about the confrontation going on downstairs between the Outsiders and the parents so he knows the young heroes are currently occupied. It’s hard to really critique anything relating to Tara until I know how her storyline is resolved but the show is definitely doing a good job of humanizing her lately. Her bonding with Artemis seems to set up the possibility of regret on Tara’s part while a reminder of the tragedy she’s suffered pushes her closer to Slade.
The parental intervention and Brion-Halo-Tara sequence are good continuations of the themes of family and the personal costs of superhero life that this season has focused on. The former unfortunately doesn’t receive a satisfying conclusion, however. While there’s a nice heart to heart between Bart and Jay (who are still mourning Joan after her random but sad death) the parents reverse their position and lend support and approval to the Outsiders much too easily.
That last beat does at least lead into an important twist. Lex goes on The G. Gordon Godfrey Show to continue his smear campaign against the Outsiders and while Godfrey himself initially shares Lex’s feelings he then embarrasses him. When the corrupt Secretary-General smugly cites the disapproval of the Outsiders’ parents as evidence that he’s in the right, Godfrey is ready with a more up to date graphic of the kids’ social media, showing their parents’ renewed support. Godfrey also cites Gar and company’s successful rescue of the aforementioned girl as evidence of the Outsiders’ efficiency.
Which was apparently all by design of the anti-Light. It turns out the cabal of manipulative heroes staged the entire Ivo situation to give the Outsiders another win to help turn public opinion back in their favor. The anti-Light’s methods were questionable at best already but, as Wonder Woman notes, with this latest move they’ve crossed a line. Pretty much anyone reasonably in tune with current events can attest to the destructive capabilities of fake news and other obstructions of truth, so to see the heroes of the series engage in it is chilling. The focus on such a pertinent issue lends weight to this season’s study of morality that many similar superhero stories lack. The question of heroes using lethal force, in particular, while important, can often fall a little flat because some of the arguments used in it don’t ring true. If Batman kills the Joker sure it’s a disappointing breach of the former’s code but the idea that it makes them the same is ridiculous. Seeing the heroes manipulate information to trick the public (not to mention their own colleagues) to act and think in ways that suit their needs much more effectively blurs the line between them and the villains, given that the latter group often does exactly the same thing. It’s a point the episode makes eloquently with the parallel it draws between Batman and Lex through their identical citation of the difference between “knowing and proving” the truth. While this season hasn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessors in terms of character development or pacing, its political storyline is shaping up to be the best of the three.
Wally West Watch: Wally comes up in Bart and Jay’s talk, with the latter saying he saw Wally as a grandson. That should make the hearts of a lot of Flash Family fans sing.
- It’s always important to see when G. Gordon blindsides a villain because it means Darkseid has a problem with them. That said I’m starting to wonder if the show maybe should’ve left out Gordon’s connection to the evil god. The news briefs are so important to the show structurally and narratively, and Gordon himself is so entertaining that it would be a shame to lose him as a presence if and when the Apokolips storyline reaches its conclusion.
- I don’t know why the writers have made the recent episodes so speech-heavy but it was a bad call. The kids’ argument to their parents about why they need to continue to fight was another dull moment that was clearly supposed to be rousing.
- Cassandra Savage was part of the League of Shadows assault team, along with Lady Shiva. With all the focus Cassandra has gotten this season I’m wondering if Vandal will die or be imprisoned soon, leaving his daughter to run the empire. That could be interesting given that I don’t think the Cassandra we’ve seen so far would be anywhere near as competent or dangerous as her father. She’s always a few steps behind the other baddies and seems like she might only be a villain because it’s the family business.
Young Justice: Outsiders Episode 19
A few hiccups aside, Young Justice's blending of the personal, political, and ethical makes for an excellent episode.