Young Justice Series Finale Review: Business as Usual

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 16, 2013

Young Justice S02E20: "Endgame"

I don't like to speak ill of the canceled, but this was a pretty lackluster finale. You know, aside from that one part that elicited a bit of emotion beyond boredom.

Young Justice has never been that great of a show for me. Its first season picked up a lot of steam toward the end as it finally found a solid balance between character- and action-driven plots, something it had generally struggled to achieve before the last three or four episodes of that season. But then Season 2 more or less eradicated all of that with tons and tons of new characters and a shift from character-focused stories to more action- and plot-driven narratives that ended up being more convoluted than complex. What's more, the show decided to ignore the richer character beats that its undercover operations and burdens-of-leadership plots provided. It would've been one thing had I found the invasion arc and the end of the world timeline more engaging—I could've forgiven its lack of character depth—but since it wasn't particularly satisfying, both flaws became increasingly noticeable.

And that was certainly on display in "Endgame." The big showdown with Black Beetle was hardly worthy of the term 'showdown,' as it essentially amounted to "Get into position to reprogram his scarab." For what has been the show's biggest bad, and the source of some very good action set pieces, this was a very dull fight. It was a good final showing of how Jaime and his scarab have come to terms with each other—and of all the character arcs the show's done in the second season, Jaime's has perhaps been the cleanest and most consistent—but it also very easily set up the final big MacGuffin montage.

Because there's nothing I love more than a MacGuffin montage.

Did any of you find that run around the world to stop the Reach's magnetic disruptors interesting or exciting? I found it decidedly anticlimactic considering the season's worth of build-up that led up to it. Yes, a great deal of that was dealt with in "Summit," but the episode just frittered away the momentum. There were some good bits, including Wally and Artemis interacting in Paris and Black Lightning offering to mentor Virgil, but as a big bit of world-saving action, it was decidedly flat.

Not to mention all for naught if it only takes one of those disruptors to destroy the world—the one at the Arctic was doing a bang-up job of causing (un)natural disasters that would consume the world (why were there 20 of them then?) and bring about Bart's timeline. And so the remedy, as is often the case, was for the Flashes to run really fast, counter to the disruptor's energy flow, to dissipate it. I'm not knocking this as it's a common-enough solution to these sorts of plans in comic book narratives, but they sort of did the same thing in "Bloodlines" to stop Neutron, just sucking out oxygen instead of energy.

At that point, the episode started setting up the third season that will never happen. Wally's death was surprising as hell considering the show's general unwillingness to actually kill anyone prior to now. My sadness at his passing felt a little hollow given how small of a role the character had this season, and was driven more so by my fondness for him last season and Artemis across both seasons. Had he been more involved in the action this season, it might've hit harder. I wanted it to hit harder.

But clearly Wally's death was intended to have very real effects on the characters, and I wish we could've seen that. Dick left the team in Kaldur's hands (with Barbara running missions from the Watchtower!), Bart assumed the Kid Flash mantle, and Artemis retired her archer persona (and cover identity, really) to resume her identity as Tigress because Artemis was Wally's partner. It was a way of honoring their relationship, and it was very touching.

The destruction of those Reach disruptors did serve a narrative need that will go undeveloped as well. It allowed Lex Luthor to become U.N. Secretary General, and Vandal Savage, as had long been suspected, delivered Warworld to Darkseid on Apokolips. So, yes, the universe's most ruthless despot now has a mobile base of operations that is armed to the teeth. No need for parademons now! I wouldn't call this an exciting development since it was something that had been floating around the series since the first season, but it represented a shift to a threat that felt decidedly more brutal and dangerous than the Reach ever did.

Despite my decidedly conflicted feelings about Young Justice overall, and this season in particular, I am sad that it's over. I've been writing about the series since it started, and as a result, it's been a significant part of my writing-about-TV identity, and so it's leaving a bit of a void. But it's also, along with Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (and probably TRON: Uprising), another loss in the ongoing struggle to maintain, at the very least, ambitious and entertaining action animation on American television, and that doesn't benefit audiences.

Notes & Quotes

DC Nation Short: Another Farm League. One with the Flish against Captain Cod that was weird and Green Lamprey versus a hippopotamus Sinestro. My only takeaway from this collection is the reminder that the lamprey is a horrifying creature.

– "Now all the hero meat will die."

– Mark Rolston allowed so much disdain to seep into Lex's voice when referred to everyone as "heroes" while delivering the anti-Reach technology, and I loved it. Best line delivery of the episode. Second best? Black Canary thanking Captain Atom for handing over chairmanship of the Justice League.

– I didn't discuss Conner and M'gann kind of reconciling. It was... fine, I guess? Again, it was one of those incidents where I felt disconnected from the arc because it hadn't been very well developed. But I'm glad to know that Wendy and Marvin are together. Thank goodness.

What'd you think of "Endgame" and the series as a whole?

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  • Appo217 Aug 29, 2013

    It was a good episode, nothing special and Wally's death was very manipulative.

  • tvrotsmybrain Mar 28, 2013

    I'm sad to see the show go as it's one of the only cartoons I've watched in a long time that incorporated interesting arcs and character development.

    One thing I'm critical about the show though is how while it seemed they did a good job of representing just about every race/ethnicity in their characters, Asians, especially Asian males were always portrayed as ineffective and weak. UN Secretary Tseng? Rhelasia? It also seemed like several characteristics of the alien villains suspiciously resembled Asian stereotypes.

    I get that Hollywood doesn't like Asian males (they have no problem portraying Asian women, usually in the arms of white men - I get that), but I was really disappointed in the skewed portrayal in a show that's largely viewed by children, teens, and young adults. I think I recall one neutral depiction of an Asian male in the episode where Earth attempts to launch a satellite into space (he plays an engineer, of course).

    We still have a long way to go.

  • CasTheriault Mar 21, 2013

    YJ and clone wars were the only 2 kid cartoons I watched. YJ had it's moments, I just wanted more from it. It wasn't in the same league as Batman TAS, Justice League, or Batman Beyond. Clone Wars was awesome when it was stories with Maul, the droid arc was a little boring, but Asoka's final arc was well played. Please tell me there are going to be good cartoons coming out....when is the new Batman and Star Wars Detour coming out?

  • prowly Mar 18, 2013

    Also, Jay Garrick's a coward. We saw him as part of the 40 heroes assembled, but he never made it to the north pole? Shame on you, Jay. It could have been you instead of Wally.

  • SteveFreeman1 Mar 18, 2013

    Jay's top speed has always been WAY lower than the rest of the Flash's though, which could be why since he isn't powered by the speed force. In the comics, his top speed was like 200 mph, maybe. However...Wally was also the fastest Flash in the comics, and that wasn't the case in this show. So...who knows.

  • prowly Mar 19, 2013

    Oh really? I learned something new... about Jay, I mean. What about Max Mercury? Where was *he* hiding?!

  • ekarimbvundul Mar 18, 2013

    I knew this day was coming! It didn't make it easier though... To pay my last respects, I won't include any criticisms, just the good stuff ;-)

    I loved the whole YJ series, it's actually the first DC series I've followed. I hear they won an Emmy award! If that's true, a believe they deserved it. The best thing about it was without a doubt the characters. Although, because there were so many of them in Season 2, I think you had to pick your favorite one and stick with them, hoping the next episode will expand on their arc.

    My personal favorite character arcs were

    1. Aqualad - noble responsible soldier, turned arch enemy, turned undercover good guy & conflicted son, turned the guy who fools all the villains and destroys their alliance from within. Phew! What a rollercoaster ride! I don't know whether I preferred AL as a hero or a villain... He was awesome as both, with that same intensity and decisiveness applied to both roles. I would have loved to see him with an on-screen love interest, instead of constantly heart broken over Tula. There was a hint at one, with the kiss on the cheek in the last episode of Season 1, but I guess it's tough to start a relationship when you're going undercover huh.. My favorite line of his was from his Atlantis episode, when he finds out Tula is with his old friend (name forgotten). When they are under attack and Tula is injured, his friend wants to back him up in the fight and he says "No. Your place is with Tula" This line alone showed such insight into the kind of character he was. He wasn't going to fight for her, he respected that she had made her choice. This I believe was also the moment he made his crucial choice of Atlantis vs The Team.

    2. Miss Martian - She grew from slightly annoying taglining teenager, to powerful psychic, and in season 2 got way more secure about the identity she wanted to morph into (doesn't every adolescent want that power), and became quite serious and certain about her role in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps too certain, ignoring Conor's warnings about her power abuse... Then of course she finally sees that her aggressive psychic barrage on her enemies has terrible consequences on a certain undercover friend. I like how the guilt makes her totally withdraw, going the other way and not using her powers at all unless she gets considerable pressure from her team mates. The writers did well in making her gradual recovery from this trauma believable. They are also exceptionally good at placing characters in the right place at the right time without making it seem too convenient and coincidental.

    There is so much more I love(d) about the show, but let me leave it here, else the tears start afresh!

    In a word, Young Justice = Irreplaceable.

  • noelrk Staff Mar 18, 2013

    The show did win an Emmy. Phillip Bourassa won an individual achievement award for his character designs. (Though it should be noted that it's not a "competitive" category, just people who receive the award.)

  • AndyRogan Mar 18, 2013

    Wonder if KF "dying" was all part of the setup to the Flashpoint movie due out in a few months

  • PhantomDragon16 Mar 23, 2013

    woah, is there really a Flashpoint movie? I MUST WATCH!!

  • AndyRogan Apr 16, 2013

    On April 25, 2012, DCAU Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy let it slip that he had just recorded his lines for the animated movie version of DC Universe-changing Flashpoint.

    WBA confirmed the actor will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the non-Flashpoint era sections of the film.

    Along with Ron Perlman, Dana Delany, Vanessa Marshall and Nathan Fillion reprising their roles as Deathstroke, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, actors announced are C. Thomas Howell as Professor Zoom, Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne/Batman, Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg, Cary Elwes as Aquaman, Tim Daly's son Sam as Superman, Danny Huston as General Lane and Justin Chambers as Barry Allen/The Flash.

    The film will be released on July 30, 2013

  • prowly Mar 18, 2013

    I think Wally would have been brought back in season 3 somehow, like maybe his essence was trapped within the speed force or something.

    I do have a question though--who was the guy calling the shots from the Watchtower during the egg deployment mission?

    Oh, and did y'all catch how Arsenal was invited back on the team? Why did you even bother kicking him off, Dick?

  • kanniballl Mar 18, 2013

    Same question about who that was. He looked like he was a white guy wearing civilian clothes. And (if I'm remembering correctly) perhaps with graying hair?

    Later we saw The Atom in his suit and shrunken. Maybe he changed clothes?

    I can't think of who they would have coordinating such an important thing in the WT with that appearance.

  • TomWayne Mar 27, 2013

    Too young to be Ray. My guess is Marvin (noted at the bottom of Noel's review in reference to M'gann and Conner's conversation), since he's the only unnamed person there. Probably from a deleted episode, given that this season ended up short (which would also explain some glaring plot holes I've noted in previous ep comments).

  • prowly Mar 27, 2013

    You know what? I was ready to shoot down your theory, but I don't recall seeing Marvin since the time skip, and it really could have been him. I'm not sure how or why he would have ended up in the Watch Tower, but I guess he learned about the team's secret identity at some point, sort of like Mal. Of course, this begs the question: where was Wendy?

  • prowly Mar 18, 2013

    Light brown skin, brown hair, and a soul patch. The Atom is also seen on Captain Atom's shoulder in the same scene. ... Which brings me to my next question. Captain Atom was just chilling up at the Watchtower while the world was on the verge of being destroyed? Worst. Justice League Chairman. Ever.

  • ryanmck Mar 18, 2013

    I am sad to see this series go, this season finale was not what it deserved as it really was just a SEASON finale. Would have been nice to get season 3 but we all got screwed on that one.

    I wonder how many different characters were ever in charge off the JL before Captain Atom? do they change every year? and I didn't like the idea of Aqualad being placed back in charge after returning they should have taken time for him to learn how all the team members can work together and all that stuff.

    One thing that really upset me about season 2 was the writing off of Red Arrow after Arsenal showed up, I know they are both Roy Harper and all that clone stuff, but why didn't he help out at the end and rejoin the team? especially since Artemis changed outfits and they could use an archer on the team. I liked Red Arrow for all the time he was on the show and he ended up one of the most screwed over characters.

  • kanniballl Mar 18, 2013

    They helped... both Roy and Roy-Clone were among the huge group of heroes awaiting Lex's blue-pod-of-teh-win to be handed out. Though I don't recall seeing them fight the Reach-drones... but we had 20+ drones and we only saw like 5 attacks.

    But I agree with your overall statement... hardly anything happened with them this season. Roy-clone was pretty much off camera the entire season except for those 2 episodes (finding Roy, stopping Roy from killing Lex). And that's it... just mentions of him being a daddy. And Original-Roy... not much save for the whole "You'll never take me alive" bit.

  • DaVulture Mar 18, 2013

    I have to agree with just about everything you said. The first season really came together well at the very end but the Second Season with the additional characters and setting up the Reach just felt short. I think in Young Justice's case their ambition to make a complicated story ultimately fell short. I mean the Reach were never particularly interesting and the whole Blue Beetle angle for me kind of grew irritating, especially when they brought in the Runaways. Still I will miss the show.

  • houbou Mar 17, 2013

    Yeah, this endgame finally was a setup for a season 3.. sheesh.. oh well. sad, I like the show. I think that Wally's death was something to explore in Season 3, perhaps he was.. engulf in some dimension or something.. who knows.. anyways, we had 46 episodes.. better than nothin' :)

  • kanniballl Mar 18, 2013

    Probably into the Speed Force. In the comics, Wally and Barry have disappeared Into the Speed Force for LONG periods of times and were presumed dead. Heck even Bart disappeared into there.

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