‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 2: ‘Earthlings’
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, the team meets up with Adam Strange for a trip to Rann, and to be honest, calling it My Greatest Adventure might be overselling it a little. “Earthlings” was written by Nicole Dubuc, directed by Doug Murphy, and originally aired on May 5, 2012.
Elle Collins: The episode starts in the Rannian jungle, with Superboy, Miss Martian, Beast Boy, and Alanna running from a big spider-tank. But we soon flash back to how they got into this situation. Having just Zeta-beamed to Rann, the trio of teens are introduced to Alanna and her father Sardath by Earth scientist Adam Strange, who’s come to Rann a few times before, but hasn’t learned the language yet. Miss Martian helps with that by psychically translating everyone’s speech.
Sardath explains that the Kroloteans stole his Zeta beam tech, but he didn’t report it to the authorities because the Rannian Science Command is deeply xenophobic and wouldn’t be happy that he’s experimenting with interplanetary travel in the first place. He also explains that everyone hates Earthlings because six Justice Leaguers did unspecified horrible things on the planet Rimbor.
Everyone but Sardath takes public transit out of town to find the Kroloteans. Beast Boy tries to make things less awkward between Superboy and Megan, but no luck. Then Adam Strange has to distract the Science-Cops by loudly reciting Lewis Carroll and leading them away.
That brings us back to the jungle chase. The group gets split in half, which allows Superboy to confide in Alanna about his relationship with Miss Martian and why they broke up, which has to do with her being a shapeshifter and him not aging. Also Beast Boy comes upon a waterfall which reminds him of his mother’s death. While that’s happening, the two of them are knocked out and captured by Kroloteans.
Everyone knows something has happened to Miss Martian, because nobody can understand each other. Superboy and Alanna rescue Miss Martian and Beast Boy, which leads to Alanna witnessing the unnerving sight of Miss Martian digging so deep in the Krolotean commander’s mind that she leaves him catatonic. As the group prepares to return to Earth, she proclaims that she knows what the six mind-controlled Justice Leaguers did on Rimbor.
Chris: We have a lot to talk about, but before we get into anything else, I do think it’s worth pointing out that after starting off on the right foot with the second season’s first episode, this one feels more like it’s falling into bad habits. The whole thing happens at night, it feels padded out, and there’s some weird tonal whiplash between Adam Strange Jabberwocking at the cops being followed up immediately by Beast Boy falling to his knees in abject despair of having a dead mom. To say the least, it’s uneven.
Elle: Does it take place at night, or is Rann just a planet of perpetual twilight? Either way, I see your point. Also I kept thinking about how much easier Adam Strange’s life would be if Megan would go the Professor X route and psychically teach everyone each other’s language, instead of relying on a translation method that requires her to be nearby and conscious.
Chris: This is a weird portrayal of Adam Strange, too. He’s a character I’ve always liked, but aside from that Andy Diggle/Pascal Ferry miniseries from like ten years ago, he’s not one that I’ve ever thought had a lot of legs as a main character. Still, it seems kind of weird to take the original idea of “What if John Carter of Mars had a jetpack” and replace it with “What if John Carter of Mars was kind of a total goober.” Are you a Strange fan? Stranger? RannFann? I don’t know what Adam Strange people call themselves.
Elle: I’m with you. I like him, but his solo comics don’t usually do much for me. I’ve always thought of him as more of a Flash Gordon than a John Carter, but it’s telling that we’re both inclined to discuss him in terms of what more famous character he borrows from. Either way, I agree with you that this isn’t the best version of him. Also I’m sure this was unintentional, but I kept thinking this version of Alanna seemed like a teenager, hanging out alongside our usual teens, and that automatically makes Adam Strange seem creepy.
Chris: When the episode started, I honestly thought it was Raven, with her Teen Titans design translated through the Young Justice aesthetic. I will say that I really like her portrayal as an interplanetary gossip, though. When she’s just relentlessly prying into Superboy’s personal life with the excuse being “I literally do not care, I live on another planet” to get him to open up and dish that hot goss? It’s pretty great.
Elle: I liked that too. And it gives us some insight into that personal life. Remember, Chris, when DC was super-worried about keeping Superboy from growing up, and found story reasons to say he’d officially be a teen forever? I wish I could go back in time and tell them not to bother, because in less than a decade they won’t care if Kon-El’s around or not, and Superboy will be Clark Kent’s 10-year-old son.
Chris: Yes, but who at DC would believe you if you told him “you’re going to do another reboot and throw all this out the nearest window in five, ten years max”? It’s unprecedented! And we’re skipping ahead here, but yeah, that whole thing is really weird. Like, is Superboy not aging really that big a source of angst in a relationship where one party is a five year-old perpetual teenager and the other party is an 80 year-old shapeshifter who pretends to be a perpetual teenager?
Elle: There are obviously other factors, especially considering she’s now dating a friendly sea monster who says things like “Neptune’s beard!” all the time.
Chris: I mean, look, you don’t have to give me more reasons to think that Superboy would be a bad boyfriend, the show has done plenty of that work on its own. I just think it’s weird that that’s the one they bring up and not, say, everything else. Regardless, I think we can both agree that you’re right, and Alanna looks, at best, like the student that college professor-ass Adam Strange would have an affair with and then try to write a memoir about that definitely used the phrase “laughing her way between the raindrops.”
Even the kids give each other a weird “what’s this about” look when he introduces her.
Elle: Alanna was always sort of infantilized, in the usual manner of mid-20th-Century female love interests. She’s always introduced as Sardath’s daughter. I think if you were creating Adam Strange today, you’d just cut out Sardath and make Alanna the alien scientist, right? But then we wouldn’t have Sardath grumbling around his lab, talking about how he knows goblins stole his stuff, but he didn’t call the police because they’re also bad, but also you guys aren’t the Justice League, are you? Everybody knows the Justice League are bad guys, because the goblins said so.
Chris: There’s a weird bit of space racism in this scene where Adam realizes for the first time that “Krolotean” is the name of an alien race and not just the Rannian word for “thief,” and Sardath is like “Well it might as well be, their entire culture is based on stealing things!” And like, I get that this is something that it’s extremely possible to do in sci-fi and fantasy, and I like the idea of aliens that just go around pillaging other planets for their technology without quite understanding how to make it themselves, but throwing the word “culture” in there 100% makes it sound like Sardath wants to Make Rann Great Again.
Elle: Yeah, between that and the, “Well, you came here from Earth, right? Then you’re Earthlings!” bit to Superboy, you don’t really get the impression that Sardath has fully escaped the influence of Rann’s xenophobia. But here I am generalizing another culture.
Chris: There’s another interesting (and super weird) touch in this episode, too, when we find out that after his mom’s death, Beast Boy was adopted — I guess? — by Miss Martian as a sort of younger brother. And that’s gotta be weird, right?
Elle: It’s a pretty unique family dynamic. She chose to look like a green version of his mom, and then he accidentally turned green because of her blood. But also Megan seems to be playing a similar role for him here as Elasti-Girl plays for Beast Boy in the comics. Which makes sense, since he was adopted into the nameless Team instead of the Doom Patrol.
Chris: I still cannot believe that this team does not have a name. Like, if nothing else, it has been five years at this point. Please, if Season 3 does nothing else, let them actually call themselves “Young Justice.” Or the Teen Titans! Or the Doom Patrol! Hell, call yourselves the Young Heroes In Love or the New Guardians — at this point I don’t care anymore!
Elle: “It’s official,” announces Nightwing to all the young heroes in the cave, “from this day forward we shall be known as… the Ultramarines!”
Chris: You say that like I would not be one million percent stoked to get a reference to the Ultramarines on TV in the year of our lord two thousand and seventeen.
Elle: I’d argue it’s never been more likely than it is in 2017. The Ultramarines could turn up on Legends of Tomorrow next week — 4-D, Knight, Squire, and the whole nine yards — and it wouldn’t even be surprising. Jack-O-Lantern was an Ultramarine, and that guy’s doing his best Norman Osborn impression all over Powerless on NBC right now!
Chris: How did we miss out on the Powerless recap job? [Editor’s note: We didn’t create one.] Instead we’ve just gotta talk about Miss Martian mentally destroying aliens that they’re really hoping we don’t notice look just like G-Gnomes.
Elle: It is strange that Megan won’t do the Professor X move of teaching you a language automatically, but she will do the Dark Phoenix move of just eating your brain.
Chris: The scene of the Krolotean suspended in the air, struggling until he finally goes limp is… well, it sure is some early 2010s DC Comics, isn’t it.
Elle: Yeah, and then they drive it home with that moment of the other Kroloteans dragging him off, which is pretty rough. These are aliens who’ve been introduced to us as jabbering goblins who steal things and kidnap folks, but as soon as Megan does that to one of them, we’re finally given the sense that they might be something like people.
Chris: One of my favorite things is when people in superhero stories react to things like actual people would, and the Kroloteans basically just going, “Yeah, I’m out” and leaving the entire planet after that is pretty great.
Elle: Just pointing at Miss Martian like, “We didn’t know you had one of those! If you’d told us you had one of those we never would have bothered you. We thought all you had was cute little dragons!”
Chris: And that’s pretty much the episode. Not a bad one, for sure, but one that feels like it’s in a holding pattern while we wait for the big reveal of what they actually did on Rimbor. I’ll tell you this, though: I am super excited to see Rimbor in this show. Like, I know we’re still in 2016 or whenever, but please tell me if we’re going to get some Legion of Super-Heroes stuff out of this.
Elle: I don’t believe there’s been a Legion crossover, but it’s possible there still will be, with the show coming back! And there’s definitely some fun DCU stuff to come this season. But while we may visit Rimbor, it’s best to keep in mind that Jo Nah won’t be born for a thousand years.
Chris: That this show has teased me with the greatest idea for a superhero ever and then does not deliver is, perhaps, its greatest sin.
Elle: Hey, maybe after this is over we could recap that Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon. I’ve somehow never watched that.
Chris: I haven’t either! All I know is that the tie-in comic has a teenage Green Lantern named Teen Lantern, and that’s brilliant.
Elle: Now I’m wondering why Young Justice doesn’t have a Teen Lantern. Mal Duncan is right there, looking for something to do!
Chris: I thought that actually was Mal Duncan’s super-power.
Elle: You’re not wrong.
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