‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 9 – 10: ‘Bereft’ / ‘Targets’
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 psychic battles on the astral plane, a war encouraged by a master assassin, and high school. You know, the basics. "Bereft" was written by Nicole Dubuc, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on March 11, 2011. "Targets" was written by Andrew R. Robinson, directed by Christopher Berkeley, and originally aired on September 16, 2011.
Elle Collins: So, here's how this one opens: One by one, our young heroes wake up in the desert with the last six months of their memories missing. Miss Martian is surprised to find herself on Earth. Robin and Kid Flash know they're superhero sidekicks, don’t know how they got here. Artemis is taken aback that she’s wearing a costume, but assumes it’s a test by her father, who probably wants her to kill Kid Flash (foreshadowing!). And Superboy has no memories at all, because he’s existed for less than six months, so he just runs around smashing things like the Hulk.
Miss Martian is able to use her psychic powers to restore her memories and then those of Robin, Kid Flash, and Artemis. But Aqualad is nowhere to be seen, and a mindless Superboy has been captured by local military types.
It turns out they’re all in Bialya to investigate a powerful object of some kind that landed there, but they were attacked by bubble-headed psychic villain Psimon, who erased their memories. After finding a weak and delirious dehydrated Aqualad, the team decides to get him back to the ship, which is over the border in Qurac --- except for Megan, who goes looking for Superboy.
Superboy is being tortured alongside some kind of giant metal ball, and when Megan attempts to rescue him, they’re both attacked by Psimon. But this time Megan fights back, and they have a whole “astral plane” battle, which Megan ultimately wins with the help of a restored Superboy. The team is reunited, along with the metal sphere, which is apparently intelligent, has befriended Superboy, and as we see in a flashback, came out of a Boom Tube.
Chris: You know, it's pretty rare to see a show take a premise that Star Trek: The Next Generation once did and wind up with an episode that's twice as complicated in half the time.
Elle: I associate the "everybody has amnesia" plot with Buffy and Angel, both of which did it separately. But yeah, either way it's well-worn territory. But it does tend to serve a purpose in highlighting team dynamics and relationships, and in this case it allows for some hints at things we don't know yet about Artemis and Megan (although you already guessed correctly about Artemis).
Chris: I don't necessarily disagree with you, and as much as it's been done before, I think there's a lot of immediate drama to be found in the Everybody Has Amnesia plot. The thing is, I'm not sure that it's really all that effective only nine episodes in. For all that this shows us about the characters, it doesn't really have the impact that it would've if we'd had a little more time to see them develop. Superboy, for instance, just seems like he's slightly moodier than normal.
Elle: You're not wrong. The thing about Superboy is that he barely has any memories in the first place. He mostly just knows the names of things.
Chris: Exactly. Imagine how much impact this would've had if it had come at a time when we'd seen him grow and become a more well-rounded character. Even placing it after the high school episode that's next in the order, where we get to see them living some "normal" lives, would've helped out. And honestly, I think my biggest problem here comes from Megan.
Elle: Well, now you're assuming Superboy's going to become a well-rounded character. I'm kidding! He totally will... I'm pretty sure. But I'm really interested in your problem with Megan.
Chris: Of all the characters that we have here, Megan's the one who's literally an alien. I mean, sure, they grew Superboy from Kryptonian DNA in a tube, but we've seen what happens when he's reduced to being the "Living Weapon" that Cadmus made him into. Megan, on the other hand, has been perky and friendly ever since she showed up, and while I don't really want that to change — I like perky, friendly Megan a lot! — I think there's a lot of drama to be found in the idea that she's on a world that, to her at least, is strange and foreign.
I would've liked to have seen any scenes where we really got into the team being suspicious of each other — because really, you're telling me Robin isn't going to be suspicious of a bunch of costumed teens who show up with no memories? — but with Megan, I think showing her as a little more cautious and a little more wary of her surroundings would've been a good move. Instead, we literally just get "Hello, Megan! I’m on Earth!" and then she moves on without a second thought.
Elle: I see your point. I mean, obviously she'd know about Earth from her Uncle J'onn, and as H.G. Wells was very clear about, the Martians have been watching us for a long time. But she definitely is way more casual about actually being on another planet than you'd expect.
One of my favorite amnesia bits is Robin and Kid Flash already being bros. They've been doing the crossover thing for a while.
Chris: I do think limiting their memory loss to only the time that they've been on The Team, which still does not have a proper name in the show, was a pretty solid move, even if it undercuts some of the drama that you want out of this setup.
Elle: Let's talk about the cause of that amnesia. While the team doesn't have a name (which is annoying), whoever chooses the villains seems to have decided that this is a Teen Titans show. We've seen Mr. Twister, Mammoth, Shimmer, Kobra, and Cheshire already. And now we get another Titans villain, Psimon. Were you excited to see Psimon? Better question: has anyone ever been excited to see Psimon?
Chris: I feel like it's worth mentioning that there's a lot of '80s and early '90s DC creeping into this show in terms of the villains. Cadmus and Superboy are pretty obviously pinned to 1994, but we've also seen Kobra, who first became a really big deal in Suicide Squad. Even Bialya is pulled from Justice League International. But yeah: Psimon's here from New Teen Titans. Maybe it's just that I watched too much Powerpuff Girls, but I have a hard time taking a guy seriously when you can see his brain.
Elle: It's definitely hard to understand how having an exposed brain would make you powerful, instead of extremely vulnerable. But Psimon can be pretty creepy at times, and I like that he and Megan end up having a big no-limits psychic battle, in the style of Professor X and the Shadow King.
Chris: Here's a fun fact, though: There is no story with Psimon that is not immediately and drastically improved if you replace him with Monsieur Mallah and the Brain.
Elle: That's an unfair standard! Any story is going to get better if you add a gay gorilla with a machine gun and his bodiless boyfriend in a skull-shaped jar, and they're both French. And they will eventually show up on this series, by the way.
Chris: What if we swapped out Psimon for Mallah and the Brain, and then also swap out the rest of the characters for the Doom Patrol?
Elle: That is a cartoon I'd very much like to see (especially if it had like Dorothy Spinner and Danny the Street in it), but for better or worse it is not the cartoon we're watching.
Chris: Once again, Young Justice proves that we live in a fallen world. But yeah, back to your point about the big climax, this is yet another big fight scene that's actually pretty great. It's nice that they're finding new ways to make the big fights exciting.
Elle: I love when Psimon's huge in the psychic plane, and Megan combats him by making a bunch of copies of herself. That's fun astral-battle stuff. And it's pretty nice seeing Superboy step up to be helpful in a non-punching-things context.
Chris: There was a nice touch added to that, too: When Megan makes her shield, it's shaped like Superman (and Superboy's) emblem. I might not be sold on the show as a whole, but I definitely like the slow burn of Megan and Superboy's romance. I hope that goes somewhere good.
Elle: It's definitely one of Superboy's top two most important relationships, alongside that big metal ball.
Chris: So yeah, let's talk about that metal ball. I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I have no idea what this thing is all about.
Elle: I expected you to know better than I did, because it's apparently something from the Young Justice comic which (have I confessed this before?) I've never read. And yes, obviously it's also Fourth World-related. Which the little Kirby lights on the sides make clear if the Boom Tube wasn't enough.
Chris: It seems like we would've mentioned this before now, but I'm not a fan of the Young Justice comic either. I read a little bit of it, but it's just one of those things that turned out to be resoundingly Not For Me.
Elle: Man, our readers are going to be so mad at us for daring to talk about this show.
Chris: Eh, what else is new.
Chris: Our next episode is "Targets," which is split pretty evenly between two separate plots. In the first, Speedy's back, and he's been tasked with protecting a delegate to a Peace Summit from being assassinated. It's standard superhero stuff, but it's complicated by the fact that the delegate is Lex Luthor and the assassin is our old pal Cheshire, who's back for another round at the behest of her boss, Ra's al-Ghul.
And while I can't say I understand it, I'm definitely intrigued by the idea of a world where Ra's al-Ghul is so hard up that he's employing the Sportsmaster.
In our second, and far more important plot, Superboy and Megan are going to high school! It's their first day at Happy Harbor High, and Megan's trying out for the cheerleading squad while Superboy gets dangerously close to going full Ten Things I Hate About You in the bleachers.
Elle: I want to talk about the high school stuff too, obviously, but first we have to talk about Speedy. Here's the thing about Roy Harper: This guy can hang out with murderous plutocrat and literal supervillain Lex Luthor, and he's somehow still the biggest jerk in the room.
Chris: You know, I honestly was not expecting Speedy to be sticking around after he walked out on the rest of the team in the first episode. I do like the idea that he's just sort of out there doing freelance superhero work, though. Like, is it just me, or do all of his adventures sort of feel like jobs? He's like James Bond with arrows instead of martinis.
Elle: That's definitely the vibe that they're giving him. And of course Cheshire's around, and even though they're only starting to get to know each other on the show, their relationship is really loaded for anybody who's read a comic about either of them in the past 30 years.
Chris: You've mentioned that there's a time jump between seasons, so I can only assume Lian Harper joins the team in Season 2.
Elle: All I'll say is that Roy Harper's life definitely gets more complicated.
I enjoy Luthor's presence in this episode a lot. Mark Rolston is no Clancy Brown, but this Luthor balances evil with respectability pretty effectively. And the reveal when he gets out of that limo is great.
Chris: Especially with Cat Grant teasing the idea that it might be Superman at the start of things. And also, I do kind of like the idea of this plot involving a massive shift in the geopolitical landscape that involves Superman's arch-nemesis and an immortal 500 year-old bio-terrorist, and friggin' Speedy is like, "Yeah, I can probably solve this."
Elle: I like to imagine that the Justice League of this world is just constantly dealing with Morrison-esque meta-threats to the very fabric of reality itself, and that's why it's up to the teen heroes to go on black ops missions into war zones and delve into international espionage.
Chris: Real talk: If Batman showed up to tell Robin that he had to take care of some problems in the Infant Universe of Qwewq, then I would like this show literally one million percent more than I do now.
Elle: A more immediately relevant question is, how do you feel about this show reintroducing Wendy and Marvin from the original Superfriends cartoon? Or for that matter, Mal and Karen from Silver Age Teen Titans?
Chris: This might surprise you, but I'm all for it. When you have a situation like this, where you're sending characters into the kind of environment that requires a bunch of background characters, like a high school, and you also have a huge library of pre-existing characters, there's no reason to not just go for it. Throw in Marvin and Wendy! Put Bumblebee and Hornblower in there! Go full Gotham Academy with the teaching staff, knock yourself out!
Elle: I'm glad you feel that way, because I largely agree. I have no particular affection for Wendy and Marvin (I was more of a Wonder Twins kid), but they certainly fit into the archetypal high school roles they're given. I have a bit more love for Mal and Karen, and they also fit right in. And I love that Mal is wearing a Superman T-shirt.
Chris: Listen, this is certainly better than Wendy and Marvin's last major appearance, and the less said about that, the better. Are you really a fan of Mal and Karen? I've never felt one way or the other about them.
Elle: Mal and Karen were in a Hawk and Dove annual I had as a kid, which was clearly their first appearance in a few years. I think there's a certain age where you're just starting out reading comics, and any heroes you encounter at that time, especially if they're obscure enough that you feel special for knowing them, tend to stick with you. And more recently I've read a bunch of old Teen Titans, thanks mostly to the Teen Titans Wasteland podcast. So yeah, I'm down with Mal and Karen.
Chris: Aside from these background characters — and aside from the fact that Superboy forgets that normal people can't just literally pick up high schoolers with one hand, no matter how scrawny they may be — we actually get a lot of interesting character development here. For one thing, Superboy finally gets his civilian name.
Elle: I love that scene! Martian Manhunter is so proud of his talent for making up Earth names. And Connor Kent being officially named after Kent Nelson is a nice touch, since he and Clark still haven't bonded.
Chris: I kinda love the idea that Martian Manhunter is suggesting "Kent" as his last name for the obvious reasons, in front of at least two people who apparently don't know the most important secret identity in the world. Also, the "You could be a John too!" joke is pretty golden.
Elle: It really is. John Jones and John Smith are definitely the two guys you want around to help you come up with a totally foolproof human alias.
Chris: Red Tornado: Even His Secret Identity Name Sucks. We also get a few hints of character development for Megan. When the class is learning about the civil war in Rhelasia, Superboy asks what the problem is, since they're all humans, and Megan starts telling him that racism exists on Mars, too.
Elle: Totally. I also love Marvin's line about Rhelasia being "better than fake Asia," since fake Asia is literally what Rhelasia is.
Chris: Something he says to yet another DC character who got a job on Young Justice: History teacher Snapper Carr!
Elle: It makes total sense that the original Justice League sidekick would still be around Happy Harbor, living his normal adult life.
Chris: More important in this scene, though, is Miss Martian talking about how Green Martians treat White Martians as second-class citizens, and then quickly adding, "I'm green by the way, by the way, I'm green." I see absolutely no reason why we should not take her at her word!
Elle: Nope, definitely nothing heavy-handed about any of this foreshadowing! I mean, not to imply that it's foreshadowing.
Chris: But nothing, nothing in this episode is as important as what happens next — not Rhelasia, not Snapper Carr, not Lex Luthor and Ra's al-Ghul. Because now… it's time to Bring It On.
Elle: I'm not really clear on how Megan's going to make it to cheerleading practice and all the football games while also going on black ops missions for Batman, but still, good for her!
Chris: I love that she's trying out for the squad in what is basically just a cheerleading variant of her superhero costume. Not only does that thing have gloves, her shirt has an M on it. For Mars!
Elle: She is wearing gloves, isn't she? Huh, I don't think I even contemplated how odd that is. Of course once she makes the team, she'll get to wear a cheerleading variant of Karen Beecher's superhero costume, like the rest of the team does.
Chris: Does she ever actually become Bumblebee, or is the name of the Happy Harbor High cheer squad the closest we're going to get?
Elle: Oh she becomes Bumblebee. Everybody becomes a superhero sooner or later.
Chris: Well that's good. Either way, there's a fake-out that Wendy and Karen are Mean Girls when they finish up Megan's tryout by dumping a bucket of water on her, but it turns out it's just some (theoretically) good-natured hazing for new cheerleaders. So let's hear it for ritualized public humiliation!
Elle: That's what fitting in as a teen is all about!
Chris: I also like that Superboy is so mad when he thinks they're being mean to Megan that he just tears up the bleachers with his bare hands, and then takes a header into the football field when Megan telepathically reminds him about the whole Secret identity thing.
Elle: He also falls such a long way without hurting himself that I'm not sure it did much to make him look like a normal non-super teen. But I have to admit, I like Superboy more as a dope than as a jerk.
Chris: So yeah: Red Arrow might be calling in the Teens to help him stop a literal war, but I think we can all agree that Megan becoming a Bumblebee was the real important development this week.
Elle: Absolutely, and I know Megan would agree.