‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 26: ‘Auld Acquaintance’
How do you do, fellow teens? Because you demanded it, Young Justice is returning for a third season in 2017, and that means that there's no better time to get caught up on the first two seasons. Elle Collins, who has seen the entire show and likes it a lot, and Chris Sims, who hated the pilot and never went back, are sitting down to watch the entire series before it makes its triumphant return.
This week, it's the senses-shattering first season finale! "Auld Acquaintance" was written by Greg Weisman, directed by Michael Chang and Lauren Montgomery, and originally aired on April 21, 2012.
Elle Collins: It’s New Years Eve, and Red Arrow is being chased by Justice Leaguers through a subway tunnel. Meanwhile, Batman is explaining to the Team that not only is Red Arrow the mole, he’s also a Cadmus clone, has been for years, and nobody knows where the real Roy Harper is.
Batman explains that the League stopped Red Arrow from betraying them to Vandal Savage, and then he leaves. Red Tornado suddenly shuts down, and Zatanna reveals that something vaguely magical is going on, while Robin points out that Batman called them kids, which he never does.
They move Tornado’s consciousness into his new android body just in time for Black Canary to show up and attack. Because of course the League was betrayed, and while he is actually the mole, Red Arrow is the only one not currently under Vandal Savage’s control.
Having subdued Canary and found an Atlantean cure for the Starro-derived mind control implants, the Team invades the League Watchtower, and basically the rest of the episode is fights. As each Leaguer is subdued and given the cure, they pass out. Robin is fighting Batman, and Superboy is fighting Superman, when they realize they have to work together to defeat their adult counterparts. With the mind-control plan going south quickly, Vandal Savage and Klarion flee the Watchtower.
As the episode ends, Red Arrow swears to find the real Roy Harper. But then we see that Roy’s in a stasis tank that’s being moved out of Cadmus, and he’s missing an arm. That leaves one other big mystery as the season ends: six Justice Leaguers --- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and Hawkwoman --- were sent on a sixteen-hour mission while mind-controlled, and nobody knows where they went or what they did.
Chris Sims: Well, Elle, here we are at the end of the first season, and as the resident curmudgeon, I have to say that basing massive chunks of your season finale around Roy Harper and Red Tornado and expecting people to care is… well, it takes chutzpah, that's for sure.
Elle: Well you can say this for Roy Harper --- he may be annoying, but at least there's only one of him. Wait.
Chris: I have to admit, though: when the show opened with Batman telling the kids that Roy was a mindless clone and that it was probably okay to just blow him up because he's not really a person, I was genuinely expecting that to be a complete fabrication. I mean, we the viewers already know that Vandal Savage has taken over the League, and as many problems as I have with this show, I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't just ditch a cliffhanger right before they went into the season finale. But when it turned out that that part was real? It's not just a surprise, it's the kind of surprise that made me laugh out loud.
Elle: I like that the finale actually says, "Remember in the premiere (and the whole season), when Roy was a total jerk that you hated? You the viewers were right to hate him, and we the characters were wrong not to notice something was up." On the other hand, I'm still not sure how he was the mole on a team that he wasn't even on when they started talking about a mole.
Chris: Young Justice's version of "we planned this all along!" feels a lot like WWE's, you know? I'm not saying this wasn't the plan from the start, because it does all fit together, but for a show that I've been told has its greatest strength in its ongoing narrative, it's not one that I found particularly interesting. I really like parts of it — the kids fighting the grown-ups, led by Vandal Savage, the grownest-up of all, and Klarion, the teen who isn't really a teen — but the stuff with Roy and the whole mole plot feels almost unnecessary.
Elle: I can't disagree. And I feel like if I was a big Roy Harper fan --- and I've heard they do exist --- I'd be really annoyed that the Red Arrow who's been around all season isn't the real one, and the real one's in a tube somewhere.
Chris: Missing an arm! Because of all the things that this show could've been drawing from, they decided they needed the Roy Harper from The Rise of Arsenal, the comic so bad we had to throw out an entire universe immediately after it was published.
Elle: Much like the show, we've spent too long talking about Roy Harper. So let's talk about my favorite moment in this episode, which is Rocket saying, "So Red Tornado built this android... to party?" And Zatanna conceding that yeah, he pretty much did.
Chris: This, more than anything else, more than the missing 16 hours or the commitment to the mole plot, is my biggest question about Young Justice Season 1: Why won't they stop reminding us about Red Tornado's fully functional human genitals?
Elle: Thanks to Black Canary, nobody has to worry about Red Tornado's doodads anymore. Except Red Tornado, who may want to rebuild them.
Chris: I'm going to be worrying about them, Elle. I'm going to be worrying about them until the day I die because of this show.
Elle: I love the way Dr. Fate, Icon, and Captain Marvel are used in this episode. There's two separate moments when those three mind-controlled powerhouses teleport in, and it feels like a game over. That's two Superman analogs and a Lord of Order. Might as well give up.
Chris: The one thing that I think is just completely unimpeachable about Young Justice is the way that the show handles fight scenes, and that's on point here. You mentioned above that it's most of the episode, and while that might normally be a bad thing, it's genuinely stellar here. We got all the good character development for the main characters last week, so opening up the floor for the big throwdown is awesome, and taking so much time means that we get to have a spotlight for stuff like Batman vs. Robin and Superman vs. Superboy.
Elle: I really like that too. You and I (especially you) have criticized "hero vs hero" as an overused DC Comics trope, but it feels earned here. Having the Team fight the League is a great season finale choice not just because the stakes are so high, but because it shows how far these teens have come that they stand a chance now.
Chris: I think the difference here is that it's thematic — kids vs. adults — and it's not the only thing that they ever do. They fight bad guys all the time, so switching things up with the good guys make sense. And it's also really cleverly done, particularly the scene you were talking about with Icon, Captain Marvel, and Dr. Fate.
Zatanna using her magic to literally make him "blurt out 'Shazam!'" and getting Billy Batson'd in the face because he was flying straight at her is great on multiple levels. It's smart, and it works with "curing" Billy, because we've already established that the "Starotech" only works on your specific physical body.
Elle: I actually turned the subtitles on there so I could see exactly what Zatanna says. I feel like this might be the first use of the word "Mazahs" in a DC property. Somewhere Geoff Johns heard Zatanna say that and he started thinking.
Chris: So the premise of this column is that you're the fan and I'm the skeptic, but as we've gone through this first season, it's felt like you've been agreeing with me more than not. Looking back on it, what was it like to revisit the first season knowing what's coming next?
Elle: I still feel mostly positive about this series as a whole, but there also some things, especially in season one, that I feel like ultimately get forgotten or squandered. And that's frustrating. We'll be able to talk more specifically about that as we move on to season two.
The other difference is that when I watched this the first time, I was just watching to enjoy it. I probably was multitasking most of the time. Watching it to discuss it puts everything in a different light. The good episodes are still good and the bad ones were always bad, but the ones in the middle don't hold up to much scrutiny. This show is often very bad at the "Wait, why is this happening?" test.
Chris: I have noticed.
Elle: So what did you think of the season as a whole? I knew you came in with some negative impressions, and certainly some episodes only reinforced them, but there definitely seemed to be moments when it was really working for you.
Chris: When I originally watched the pilot — what, five or six years ago? — I absolutely hated it, and watching it again didn't really do much for me either. Even though I'm pretty far removed from the immediate resentment of seeing it as a replacement for Brave and the Bold, the show sets a lot of bad habits in that first hour that it just kept falling into throughout the season. Two that readily spring to mind are the bad wordplay — "aster" comes back in the finale — and the literal darkness that works for a show like Batman: The Animated Series, but just ends up making everything look muddy and raising the question of why these kids only seem to do stuff at night.
I will admit that it does get better as the season goes on, but the biggest problem is that it's extremely uneven. We'll have great episodes with solid character work and engaging plots sandwiched between a couple of complete snoozes, and the ongoing meta-plot of the season was, frankly, pretty boring.
Elle: I'm really curious to revisit Season Two myself, and also see what you think of it. It's a departure in a lot of ways, although looking back I'm not sure how many of the show's specific problems it addresses. We'll find out soon enough.
Chris: I've been told by enough people that they love Young Justice that I was actually prepared to go into this having to admit that I was wrong, but I think my initial feelings about the first season held up. The second, though, is intriguing — "Where was the Justice League and what did they do" is a much more compelling mystery than "Why is Roy Harper being such a jerk," and I've also heard that the rough parts of the first season are smoothed out when it comes back. There's enough good stuff here that I want to see it be great, I just don't think the first season got there.
Elle: I guess we'll find out how the second one holds up soon enough! Hopefully you'll be sufficiently whelmed.
Chris: Ugh. Definitely not an aster, Elle. Not an aster at all.