I like it when shows get even vaguely topical about current events and issues. Justified's second season used mountaintop removal, a big, divisive issue in the Appalachia region of the U.S., as window dressing for its larger plot, and The Legend of Korra used abuse of governmental (and supernatural) powers to tackle issues of equality. On Young Justice this week, the real-world topic was a little less sexy than the governmental abuse of power, but probably more commonly known then mountaintop removal: genetically modified foods (but only kind of)!
As part of their PR blitz, the Reach partnered with LexCorp to basically end world hunger by sharing some agricultural secrets, first with LexFarms and later with other farmers so that everyone could benefit from the additives the Reach were including with new fruits and vegetables. So while the overly friendly LexFarms representative insisted there was no genetic modification going on, I have to imagine that if GM foods stir up plenty of debate and protest, that alien-enhanced foods likely wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms. But it was all part of a feint as the real plan for these Reach-influenced goods was in Reach-branded bottled water (or soda or something). “Everything the body needs,” Lex Luthor noted before Vandal Savage corrected him, “Everything the Reach needs it to need.” [Insert ominous organ music here]
In any case, it was a neat way of bringing a contemporary issue into the fold of the narrative, and while I’m not expecting any grand extrapolation or debate over the use of GMOs in the series, I appreciate the gesture. That the drinks contained whatever it is the Reach needs in order to do whatever they need to do to the human race feeds into the real-world fears about GMOs having adverse effects on our bodies.
I do wish a lot of this felt fresher, though. The villains getting good PR while making the heroes look terrible feels very much like Alex Ross’ and Jim Krueger’s Justice comic series from the mid-’00s, while the Light’s desire for its own team of superpowered soldiers is very much in line with a big subplot from the first season of Justice League Unlimited. I acknowledge that this is more of an issue due to my familiarity with past media, and if you don’t have that, it’s all new to you (which is great), but I’m just finding some of the beats... not really bad per se, but maybe just a little less engaging.
In a less “Noel is reading WAAAAY too much into things” take on the episode, the team dispatched to investigate LexFarms—Tim, Jaime, Bart, and the original Roy, now going by the name Arsenal—did battle with the Black Beetle some, and it was all generally well-done. I do appreciate some consistency in power levels, so while Black Beetle was essentially just putting on a show so the team thought they were getting the real intel, he wasn't exactly holding back either, and I like that he still felt very much like a threat.
However, my knowledge of the Blue Beetle mythos had failed me again, and I know squat about the Green Beetle of Mars, if such a Beetle exists in the comics and so on. His arrival seemed a little convenient, plot-wise, as it may be a way for Jaime to break free of the scarab in the aftermath of the failed attempt to get rid of it at the start of the episode (a little mini-adventure—see what I did there?!—with the Atom and Karen), but we’ll see where it goes. I don’t know that this show needs any more characters involved in its plots, but Young Justice has never seemed concerned about over-stuffing things before, and Green Beetle may not be around for too long.
Over in the villain subplot, Sportsmaster attempted to negotiate with the members of the Light for reparations for the death of Artemis. While they offered a significant amount of money, Sportsmaster wanted blood, something the Light wasn’t willing to give. Deathstroke arrived, as the Light’s new enforcer, to chase off Sportsmaster after he made what was likely a half-hearted attempt to kill Black Manta. But with the rejection of the offer, Sportsmaster and Cheshire are now free to go after Black Manta and Kaldur without looking like dishonorable punks. Why that particular aspect for Sportsmaster is so very important I don’t know, but at least this plot is moving along now.
While those pieces are now in place, M’gann’s psychic assault on Kaldur is about to blow the whole op, as Vandal has enlisted Psimon to repair the mental damage done to the double agent. And as Vandal so helpfully informed us, it’ll mean that Psimon will end up knowing Kaldur better than anyone, which means that he’ll find out about the plan just as easily as M’gann did. See, Dick, this is why telling the alien with mental powers about a big covert plan might’ve been a good idea!
Notes & Quotes
– DC Nation Short: It was Part 3 of the Amethyst shorts. I actually rather liked this one as I found the overly chipper talking trees and plants to be more creepy than friendly, which gave everything a slight genre-subversion vibe. I also appreciated that the slime monster, which I’m going to treat as a Dragon Quest shout-out of sorts, was just suffering from allergies.
– How much fun is Tim Curry having with G. Gordon Godfrey? Answer: All of the fun.
– Poor Bart. He really wanted a pluot.
– “Plus I enjoy making Lex miserable.”
– “Nothing like a warm plasma bath to calm the nerves. And wash off the tomato stains.”
– “Cornfield or cornfield?”