Justice League Unlimited

Season 5 Episode 11

Ancient History

Aired Saturday 10:30 PM Apr 29, 2006 on Cartoon Network
out of 10
User Rating
174 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


Hawkman and the Shadow Thief (from "Shadow of the Hawk") return and the secret behind both their existences is finally revealed.

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  • this is a great episode.

    third best episode, i've seen, this is a good epidsode it's a good episode, and the plot is very great, the writers are what makes the story and this is a good story, I can't wait to watch it as a rerun, or buy the season and watch it, which ever happens first, this is a great episode,
  • As season three comes nearer to a close, "Ancient History" is an example of how a good show fights from becoming formula.

    Cartoons invariably have a shorter shelf life than live action. Often they are aimed at a younger audience, which means animation is taxed by mandatory "action requirements", restrictions on mature themes (such as death, violence and certain other adult scenarios), the need to promote ideological straight forward plotlines devoid of serious complications and of course, the real humdinger of mediocrity, the need to sell toys and garner oodles of advertising revenue.

    With such a tight band of restrictions, even the most ambitious kid's cartoon series can start to show wear after a couple of seasons.

    As season three comes nearer to a close, "Ancient History" is an example of how a good show fights from becoming formula.

    The first half is, quite honestly, JLU by the numbers. The chase, the fight, you've seen it all before. It's not badly executed, far from it. There is that touch of humor, that good bit of action, but one feels the urge to get past the battles. Five seasons of meta-battles and maybe it's all becoming a little au fey. Still, always nice to see Brit actor Robin Atkin Downes get work and he does a good job voicing The Gentleman Ghost.

    The set up reintroduces Carter Hall who debuted earlier this season in the excellent episode, "Shadow Of The Hawk". Naturally, with Carter Hall - Hawkman to his friends - being obsessed with Shayera and John pretending not to be obsessed by Shayera, there is some friction established. Of course, antagonism between two set heroes is something we've seen throughout JLU many times before. Being a kid's show, you know it will be resolved, it's just whether the numbers it goes by will be interesting.

    Next up is Vixen and Shayera in one of those slightly tongue in cheek "off duty" scenes that JLU excels at. John's concern for Shayera, Shayera's clear interest in John and Vixen's attempt to downplay her concerns are all well played out. Unfortunately the "will they?/Won't they?" tension between Shayera and John Stewart is rapidly translating into a wealth of "I-don't-care-anymore". This character arc has been wobbling on for two whole seasons and aside from the nice twist in "Once And Future Past" it's not really felt as if it's gone anywhere.

    After some more mandatory brawling, Green Lantern is captured by the Shadow Thief, a character you may also remember from "Shadow Of The Hawk". By the commercial break there is a half hearted temptation to leave the room. It's not bad JLU, it's probably great for the demographic it's aimed at, but if you are looking for that extra kick that the show normally pulls from under it's cape, it's not really there yet.. or maybe as I said initially, maybe we've just got too used to the show.

    However part two really makes up for the lackluster part one as the show does something a little different and a little more adult. Anyone who'd made the mistake of wandering off to chase sweet wrappers in the break may regret leaving.

    The second part, with Vixen, Carter, Shayera and Green Lantern at the mercy of Shadow Thief is far more interesting. We are treated to a beautifully rendered flashback to ancient Eygpt with some great visuals and some very nice direction. The story takes us deeper into flashback seen in "Shadow Of The Hawk" (and one wonders whether this episode had made bigger impact if it had sat side by side in the schedule) and explains in detail the tale of Shayera's incarnation as a Thanagarian ruler of Egypt, married to a previous incarnation of Carter Hall. Considering the fairly short length of this segment, it manages to develop these characters backgrounds and motivations with seeming too contrived.

    There is a surprise player in this flashback is an earlier incarnation of John Stewart, who in this incarnate is the King's most trusted friend. The current love triangle is echoed in this tale, creates a very adult scenario swamped in jealousy, murder and suicide. The scenes are all handled with attention and care along side some excellent storyboarding. The scene when the king finds his wife and friend dead together is beautifully paced and rather poignant. You don't have to care about John and Shayera's over played out love affair to enjoy this sequence. What's best about the whole flashback is it's devoid of fight sequences so we get to see JLU do some really nice straight forward character based storytelling.

    The episodes final revelation that the Shadow Thief is the darker nature of Carter Hall made manifest, is certainly a compliment to the voice acting of James Remar who plays both characters without revealing this key deception.

    The final battle is a little more interesting than the standard affair thanks to the horrific break of a forearm, courtesy of a yelping Green Lantern. Beyond this upteenth battle in the space of half an hour, Hall and Stewart shake hands by the end of this episode as Hall rather rapidly realizes the truth behind Shadow Thief and his actions.

    How does this resolve? For a kid's show, not as one totally expected. While Carter's story is completed with a little too much haste, the relationship between Green Lantern, Vixen and Shayera isn't really fixed. John tells Shayera about Warhawk - their potential future son - but explains he has no interest in creating that future as a pawn to destiny. Unless the relationship changes naturally, he'll be staying with Vixen.

    Of course, as an audience we know that they get together since Warhawk appears in Batman Beyond, "The Call". This makes the unresolved outcome of "Ancient History" more palatable. It's very much in character for John Stewart to fight any form of manipulation - even if it means fighting the universe himself. He wants a relationship on HIS terms, not destiny's. One could argue by fighting destiny he's just simply denying what will be for longer, that maybe it would be logical to just accept a fate that you want (it's quite clear he's not adverse to the idea of having a son and Shayera) and maybe he should stop being so bloody minded... but that's people for you, and an example of how the characters remain well written throughout. The only downside to this epilogue is that the two seasons of tension between John and Shayera feels utterly unresolved. For its patience, the audience may feel a little cheated.

    With a nice coda between Shayera and a non speaking Batman, this episode wraps on a far more dignified level than it began. Whether its audience overexposure or simply we are near the end of JLU's longevity span, I do feel this is the best time to wrap JLU. This episode fought against formula and succeeded in creating something special. There were certainly some definitive and successful attempts to break the mold here.

    Nevertheless, this is an episode which feels it's main story should have been resolved a long time back and there are certainly a great deal of elements which feel over familiar. All in all a mixed bag of success and occasional predictability that shows JLU still has some punch, but it's having to pull out the stops to drive them home.moreless
  • Thank god Shadow of the Hawk doesn't end there! Much better than the the first episode regarding this story arc...but it is still dissappointing the way Hawkman is portrayed.

    Thank god Shadow of the Hawk doesn't end there! Much better than the the first episode regarding this story arc...but it is still dissappointing the way Hawkman is portrayed.

    Hawkman has more versions than probably any other hero ever to be created. In fact his identity had become so convuluted and confusing that DC comics actually gave up on him for almost 10 years (1990\'s).

    He never seemed to fit his personality until

    recently, and seen most prominantly in Batman/Superman, Identity Crisis, Rann-Thanagar War, and Infifnte Crisis...A Warrior-like, no-nonsense, hit first and ask questions later-type personality...The version most fans were expecting from the JLU writers.

    It\'s respectable that the episode reflects an attempt to use his first origin story from the Flash comics (Reincarnation from Egypt), but that version has proven quite poignantly not too have worked.

    The back sory of Katar Hol and his wife Shayera was really good though. The end was a little contirved but the inclusion of a GL version in the love story helped to fill the gap regarding the feelings between Hawkgirl and GL and the eventual product of that.

    Although it was a good story explaining the wierd Katar Hol reincarnation it really only served as a bandaid to cover the otherwise gapping wound left from the fact that Hawkman is nothing but a weak human with strap-on wings that could get his @$# handed to him by his feminine counterpart. So now we have Hawkman; the stalker. Alrighty then...

    On a side note, it was good to get a little bit of a conclusion to the unresolved soap opera-like relationship between Hawkgirl, GL, and Vixen. Plus we finally get a follow-up to the future son story Arc of the Thanagarian she-warrior and the soldier-like Lantern.moreless
  • Basically hawkman comes back and shadow man captures him, hawk girl and green lantern to see the past lifes of theirs.

    Well, this episode was really good at first when I thought they were going to get back together. (Hawkgirl & Green Latern) But I guess the screenwriter knew the sexual tension between them were one of the many things that kept the viewers obessed with this cartoon.

    Also there were alot of interesting things because this was a continued episode with the previously one that they did on hawkman\'s first appearance so we get to know if the whole thing was really true on the re-incarnation of Hawkgirl and Hawkmen.

    Plus with the love triangle stuff going on was great!

    But....the end completely made me angry. What was the point in the episode. We only just found out that hawkmen and hawkgirl werent really meant for eachother for real but we kind of got the idea when we saw Hawkgirl\'s son in the previous episode.

    Hawk girl didn\'t get together with green lateren and we do know they will but we just want to see it before the season ended forever!

  • Hawkman lovers may be entertained by this one but for the rest of us it seemed a bit lacking when compared to the rest of this season's installments. Definately a filler episode before the big two part finale.moreless

    If this series was actually going to go somewhere with the whole Hawkman, Hawkgirl, John Stewart future son thing, then this episode may have made a little more sense. The problem is that the episode creates more questions than it answers and as a fan I'm wondering why? It's one thing to create a teaser subplot to keep everyone rivoted but why do this with the series ending in the next two weeks?

    The episode had a decent plot line with some unexpected twists and turns. However, you really had to stretch the limits of plausibility to buy into the whole flashback sequence. It was, however, the most entertaining part of the whole episode! The artwork was sub par in that some of the characters looked out of proportion. This was especially true for the scenes involving Hawkgirl early on.

    Compared to other episodes this was not the best. The truth is that it is still whole lot better than anything else out there.

    Thanks again to the JLU craetors.moreless
Maria Canals

Maria Canals

Hawkgirl/Shayera Hol

Phil LaMarr

Phil LaMarr

Green Lantern/John Stewart

Hector Elizondo (I)

Hector Elizondo (I)


Guest Star

Robin Atkin Downes

Robin Atkin Downes

Gentleman Ghost

Guest Star

James Remar

James Remar

Carter Hall/Shadow Thief

Guest Star

Gina Torres

Gina Torres


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Green Lantern sets the Ion Drive down during his fight with The Gentleman Ghost, but in the next scene it's gone.

    • How did the Shadow Thief get Green Lantern to Midway City faster than Vixen and Shayera could fly there via Javelin? He's never displayed any ability to teleport and even his new origin doesn't explain how he pulled it off.

    • During the fight scene in John's apartment, Vixen dives past John and into the Shadow Thief. He gets up and throws her back the way she came, past John again. But then they cut to a shot of Vixen in the foreground and John and a couch are now between her and the Shadow Thief.

    • As Shadow Thief is approaching Vixen's apartment, Vixen enters the elevator which is perpendicular to the front door of her apartment. We see her running perpendicular to the door, about to tackle Shadow Thief from the right side, but a second later we see a view of her crashing through the front door, tackling Shadow Thief. Her tackle of Shadow Thief should have caused her and him to go sailing past the door, not through the door and into the apartment.

  • QUOTES (12)

  • NOTES (5)


    • Ashari: The land of Kahndaq has been freed from Ahk-ton's rule...
      Ahk-ton was an ancient Egyptian villain featured in the JSA "Savage Times" storyline. He harnessed the power of the orb of Ra to become an elemental monster, similar in appearance to Metamorpho.

    • Shadow Thief: Blackest night beats brightest day!
      Shadow Thief refers to the first line of the Green Lantern oath - "In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night..." - when he defeats John Stewart.

    • Ashari: As tribute, Teth-Adam sends one hundred of the finest stallions on Earth.
      In the comics, Teth-Adam is the given name of Captain Marvel's (sometimes) evil reflection, Black Adam. Originally appearing in The Marvel Family #1 (1945), it was revealed that in ancient Egypt ,Teth-Adam was granted miraculous powers by the wizard Shazam. After Teth-Adam used his powers for selfish reasons, Shazam rechristened him "Black Adam" and exiled him 500 light years from Earth. By the time that Black Adam had flown back to earth, Shazam had given the young boy Billy Batson the ability to transform into the heroic Captain Marvel.