‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 3-4: ‘Welcome To Happy Harbor’ / ‘Drop-Zone’
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, we go from Happy Harbor to Santa Prisca on a tour of the DC Universe, and grit our teeth through the advent of Miss Martian's catchphrase. "Welcome To Happy Harbor" was directed by Jay Oliva and written by Kevin Hopps, and originally aired on January 21, 2011. "Drop-Zone" was directed by Christopher Berkeley and written by Andrew R. Robinson, and originally aired on January 28, 2011.
Elle: Hey Chris, look who's here at the start of Episode 3! It's Speedy, who's still a jerk. He gets invited to join the team again, just so he can refuse in the most petulant way possible, again
Chris: I think my favorite thing about this is that Speedy is so mad about not being made a full member of the Justice League that he no longer wears his hat. It's like when Donald Duck gets so mad that his hat starts popping off of his head, but permanent.
Elle: What I think is funny is the idea that this kid, who's so concerned about image and desperate to be taken seriously, was apparently wearing a jaunty red hat with a feather in it until like yesterday. It's like he just became a teen all at once last week.
Chris: There's kind of an element of truth to that, though, right? Like when you're a teen and one of your slightly older friends gets cool, and then just immediately hates the stuff that you were doing, like, two days ago. Except in this case the thing that he used to do that he now hates is riding shotgun in the Arrow-Car and firing arrows that do not just straight up explode on contact.
Elle: That's a good point. One day you reach adolescence, and boxing glove arrows just aren't cool anymore. Or you discover girls and become an obnoxious parody of a human being, like Wally West.
Chris: Quick question: Is the super-powered mobster that they're taking down in the opening meant to be someone in particular? I mean, I feel a certain sense of pride in being the person on staff here at CA who was called on to identify the Mime and March Harriet when those Lego Batman Movie minifigs were revealed this week, so if it only took Young Justice three episodes to stump me, that's actually pretty impressive.
Chris: Dang! All right, score a point for Young Justice, then.
Elle: Brick isn't the real threat of this episode, though. The real threat is that Batman has left them in a cave with no missions and nothing to do except bake cookies and be annoying teens at each other.
Chris: The theme here is team-building, and after watching the kids get so bored that they raided an underground monster factory the last time that they weren't allowed to go on a mission, Batman — The Master Strategist! — has decided that they should hang out together with no mission for a week. With Red Tornado. I can only assume Batman just hates those kids in this universe and this is their punishment.
Elle: Yeah, but Red Tornado totally lets them fly around unsupervised in Megan's fancy bioship. Which basically means they have no supervision and could go anywhere and do anything.
Chris: Right. So after Miss Martian's disastrous attempt to make cookies, Kid Flash's disastrous attempt to flirt with her, and Superboy's disastrous attempt at not being The Worst, they decide to head out for a bit of a joyride, leaving behind the Secret Sanctuary. Except that for some reason, they don't call it the Secret Sanctuary, preferring to give it the new and equally silly name of... Mount Justice.
Elle: It's just outside the town of Happy Harbor, so I think silly names are just standard in the region. But as soon as they're flying around, Red Tornado, who has already explained that he doesn't assign missions, totally assigns them a mission.
Chris: Along the way, we get a glimpse of Miss Martian's powers, which is pretty handy since they didn't bother to write her into the show during that first adventure. She can read minds and communicate telepathically, which makes Superboy a grumpy jerk for the rest of the episode, and she can shape-shift, which she demonstrates by turning into teen girl versions of Kid Flash and Robin, claiming that mimicking boys is more difficult. Keep that in mind, because it's absolutely not going to be important later.
Elle: She also has telekinesis, which I'm pretty sure is not a standard DC Martian power, but that's never really addressed either.
But I really want to get to the main villain of the episode. It's fun that they included Mr. Twister, good old Bromm Stikk, who was the first villain the original Teen Titans ever fought in the Silver Age. Except there, he wore old-timey clothes and a feathered cloak. Here he just looks like an evil Red Tornado.
Chris: So much so, in fact, that the kids eventually start to suspect that this entire thing is just a test to see if they're ready for field work. It's not actually a bad assumption — Tornado tells them early in the episode that they're going to be tested soon, and like you said, this assignment comes from Tornado, not Batman. It's hard to imagine that Red Tornado would, you know, try to throw them through walls and all, but still, it's decent deduction. It's also very wrong.
Elle: It's totally believable (because the whole episode is set up that way) that they'd think Twister is Tornado. But in fact, he's just looking for Red Tornado. Almost as if there's a long-game subplot about Red Tornado's origins coming back to haunt him. I can only imagine how excited you are to learn more about that.
Chris: Oh boy. Listen, is it too late to get out of this? Between "Hello, Megan!" and the promise of long-running plots built around Red Tornado, I'm about ready to tap out here. We could watch The Batman! That's on Netflix! Or… There's that Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon where they're a rock band searching for their mom!
Elle: I would love to watch either of those shows with you, but I don't think we want to be known as quitters. Speedy's a quitter, and nobody likes that dude. So we're just going to have to get through it. I remain pretty sure that this show gets better, but with each episode I become more reluctant to promise you that.
Chris: Fine. To be fair, I'm once again pretty impressed by the animation that's going on here. The fight scenes still look good, although there are two weird moments in this sequence: First, Mr. Twister just hangs out floating above the kids while they have a pretty lengthy conversation about his identity doing absolutely nothing. Second, there's a scene where Superboy stands up and dramatically tears off the jacket he's been wearing over his Superman t-shirt, but since it's been open the entire time to show the logo, it looks for all the world like he's just tearing off a ripped-up Superman shirt to reveal a pristine one beneath.
Elle: Yeah, I was real confused about that bit. One thing I liked in the action scenes here is that they're already setting up Aqualad as the clear leader of the team, which gets paid off in the next episode. I also like how well they execute the "one disastrous fight, then a second fight that goes well because they work together and have a plan" plot that's so standard for new superhero teams.
Chris: In this case, Round 2 happens in Happy Harbor itself, where Mr. Twister is dropping boats on large portions of the community, and the new strategy comes from the third — the third! — "Hello, Megan!" of the episode. So, you remember how Megan mentioned that shapeshifting into boys was more difficult than her standard teenage girl form? It turns out that is not a restriction that applies to androids.
Elle: My personal theory (headcanon if we must), is that Megan was 100% lying about that limitation because she's really invested in being a cute teen girl. But I've seen episodes that you haven't yet, and you're totally right.
Chris: Listen, that's fine, and the actual bit where she's turning into Robin and Kid Flash is really fun and a cool way of introducing her powers, but why bring it up as a limitation if it's not going to matter at the end, especially if the entire resolution of the fight relies on Megan shapeshifting? It sets up a problem that doesn't end up happening, which is really frustrating.
Elle: Speaking of androids though, can we talk about what Megan does to Mr. Twister at the end of the final battle, and how it makes absolutely no sense in context of all the characters treating Red Tornado like he's a person?
Chris: Oh, totally. The violence at the end of this fight is genuinely shocking. After Megan fakes out Mr. Twister by shapeshifting into Red Tornado, Superboy runs up and cold punches a hole through his chest, and then they just give him the most brutal beatdown, ending with Megan literally dismembering him, and then smashing the robotic man inside with a boulder.
Elle: Yeah, and everybody freaks out because Megan killed a dude and they don't do that, but when she reveals he was an android, they're all relieved that he wasn't a person. And you know Red Tornado's watching this and thinking, "I should never go near these children again."
Chris: Wally picking up a very convincing human eyeball and calling it a cool souvenir is some incredibly disturbing stuff, Elle. Sonic Underground's starting to look a whole lot easier to take.
Elle: Who even builds a big red suit of robot armor, and then builds a realistic robot doppelganger to pilot it? Bromm Stikk made more sense when he had a magic staff and was trying to collect a debt of pigeon feathers, to be quite honest.
Chris: It all turns out to be a plot by T.O. Morrow, who was working with Stikk (voiced by John de Lancie!) to get some kind of vague revenge on Red Tornado. But now that they've failed, we can move on and I will never have to think about Red Tornado again, right? Right.
Elle: Let's embrace that assumption. He's certainly not relevant to the next episode, at least.
Chris: So let's start in on "Drop-Zone." We open on Santa Prisca, where Bane is in a conflict with Kobra, and suddenly, I am 100% back in. It's Kobra, Elle! He's the most dangerous man alive! Because he wants to rule the world!
Elle: This episode is one of my favorite takes on Bane. Not only is he the intelligent schemer he's supposed to be, they lean all the way into him being a Spanish-speaking Latino character, whereas so many adaptations (looking your way, Nolan) just whitewash him. Here, Bane is voiced by Danny Trejo, which is amazing.
Chris: For real, Young Justice seems to be doing pretty well with its stunt-casting, even if the main cast (and Batman) still have a bit of growing on me to do. Anyway, Kobra wants to pit Bane — fully juiced up on Venom — against his own "champion," who turns out to be a skinny goth kid with a collar on. But then, he gets shot up with something else, and undergoes a pretty terrifying and grotesque transformation.
Elle: That kid is Mammoth, by the way. And the girl with him is his sister Shimmer. They're both from the Fearsome Five, but they're pretty much unrecognizable here. In the comics, Mammoth's skin covers all of his muscles.
Chris: It's pretty weird to see them here, knowing that this portrayal is going to be sandwiched between the much less horrifying versions on Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go.
Elle: It's weird how everyone in this episode looks at Mammoth, whose skin is basically falling off his body, and says, "This new Kobra Venom works great! I want some!"
Chris: So with the problem of new Kobra-modified Venom on the streets that can turn you into Lord Zedd as the Hulk, Batman decides that he should probably send a bunch of #teens down to Santa Prisca to scope things out. He gives them the assignment, but the one thing he doesn't tell them is who should be the team leader.
Elle: Batman, who as you mentioned before is a master strategist, definitely sends five teenagers into an unstable country full of super-powered criminals and cultists. And while they're there, figuring out which of them should be in charge will be a fun game to play.
Chris: This is a show that asks you to buy that Batman underestimated how dangerous a situation would be. Batman. And while I'm willing to give it that, the fact that the mission is definitely different from what he anticipated right from the start of things makes his reaction to the kids at the end of the episode a true jerk move. Also jerky? Superboy.
Chris: When everyone else is suiting up for the mission in their cool Stealth Gear, Superboy scoffs at the very idea of a costume, and, c'mon, dogg. You're going to stand there in cargo pants acting like your three weeks out of the clone tank make you a fashionista?
On the one hand, I buy this as Superboy wanting to distance himself from Superman after Clark's dismissive rejection in the first episode, but on the other hand, we should probably take a minute to talk about how T-shirt Superboy is one of the worst costumes ever.
Elle: I remember when Superboy first got the T-shirt costume, and some creator (I don't remember which one) said it was a good look for Superboy because a black T-shirt and jeans will always look cool. I think that's actually kind of true. But first, that doesn't make it a superhero costume. And second, it's only cool if the jeans are cool. The moment there are cargo pockets involved, the entire idea falls apart.
Chris: Real talk, the fade and the leather jacket were a cooler look than the T-shirt ever was. I was actually thinking about this the other day in the context of how much I ended up liking T-Shirt Superman in the New 52, and I think it comes down to two things:
1) Superboy not only wears cargo jeans, but he tucks his shirt into them like a turbonerd.
2) The cape makes the look.
Elle: No arguments there. There's a problem I have with a lot of live action superheroes, and it totally applies to this animated Superboy too: I just can't get behind a superhero who acts like being a superhero is embarrassing.
Chris: Again, if we want to be charitable, I think we can write a lot of that off as Superboy reacting to his first experience with the guy he's cloned from, but still, it makes him pretty hard to like.
Chris: After some sartorial diversions, the team drops down into Santa Prisca, and while they're doing their best to be stealthy, that doesn't last. They're immediately attacked by Bane and some Kobra soldiers, but it turns out that Bane's not really that into it.
Elle: I already said that I really like this version of Bane, but I'm going to mention it again. I love that he blocks Megan's telepathy by mentally reciting soccer scores. I like that he teams up with the kids without ever being trustworthy. I also like that Robin calls him out on being a luchador.
Chris: It's also pretty great that Bane simultaneously thinks the kids are stupid, but also realizes that they are a superhero team, which means you don't bet against them if you can help it. But just in case Bane, Kobra, Mammoth, and Shimmer weren't enough villains for this half-hour episode of television, it's time for the main event. The baller. The shot-caller. My main man… Sportsmaster.
Elle: This is the part where I debate with myself; "Should I go ahead and tell Chris that Sportsmaster becomes an integral and ongoing part of this series going forward? Will he even believe me if I do?" But yes, Sportsmaster --- the second most noteworthy supervillain to have Crusher as a civilian name --- is definitely in this show for some reason.
Chris: Hell Yes. I love Sportsmaster. He's a dude who is so good at sports that he can do crimes. Sports crimes!
Elle: He's like Casey Jones without the moral compass. The great thing about Sportsmaster is that he was originally a Green Lantern villain. Because the original Green Lantern's weakness was wood, so you could totally beat the crap out of Alan Scott with a baseball bat. And this is the guy who did.
Chris: He's great. For some reason, he's working for Cadmus (did they breed him genetically for sports crimes?!) and he's showing up to buy all of Kobra's venom. And, like you said, he's very stoked about becoming a horrifying monster if it means he can punch Superman in the face.
Elle: I don't think those guys on the video screens represent Cadmus. They were secretly controlling Cadmus through Desmond, but they're clearly up for anything that involves making monsters and using them to beat up superheroes.
Chris: I need you to tell me right now if it's Simyan and Mokkari working for Darkseid. I need that hope.
Elle: I'm pretty sure all those characters are eventually revealed, but I genuinely don't remember who most of them are. It's probably not Simyan and Mokkari, but you never know.
Chris: So as Kobra is making the deal with Sportsmaster, Bane decides that the best course of action here is to just start murdering everyone with his bare hands, blowing the kids' cover and leading to a fight that they have to beat a hasty retreat from. It's that "lose the first one" pattern you were mentioning earlier.
Elle: I enjoy that this mission starts as a "do not engage" recon and by the end the kids are escaping from a burning factory after fighting at least five supervillains and an army. They're basically the Dirty Pair without the bikini outfits.
Chris: While they're hiding out in the caves, Aqualad has a Come-To-Jesus meeting with Robin where he basically gives him the Bob's Burgers "You're my family and I love you, but you're terrible, you're all terrible" speech about leadership.
Elle: There was never any doubt that Aqualad needed to lead this team, right? Superboy's a jerk, Kid Flash is an idiot, Megan has no idea what she's doing yet, and Robin is a tiny child. If Aqualad has a flaw, it's that so far his main qualities are calm and competence, and that doesn't make him terribly interesting.
Chris: Yeah, that's The Leonardo Trap.
Elle: So that makes Superboy Raphael, Robin Donatello, and Kid Flash Michelangelo? This actually makes sense, except that I like Raphael and Michelangelo a lot better than these takes on Superboy and Wally.
Chris: That also makes Miss Martian April O'Neil, unless you want to go strict turtles and call her Venus De Milo instead. But then, I think we both like Megan a lot more than that, even if that "Hello, Megan" catchphrase is wearing on my last nerve.
Elle: That catchphrase leads to a payoff, weirdly enough, although I'm not sure that makes it better. Also, the second female team member is showing up pretty soon, which can only help this show evolve.
Chris: Once we've got a new leader established — and once we get through Bane's pretty much mandatory betrayal — the kids put an end to the Venom operation by dropping a helicopter onto the factory and blowing it to smithereens. You were not kidding with that Dirty Pair comparison.
Elle: Look, far be it from me to judge Batman's actions, but if you're going to make a bunch of high school kids your black ops team, this is the best outcome you can possibly hope for, in that none of them are dead amid the chaos they've created.
Chris: Speaking of Batman, this show has him pull a total McCloud ending, where he lines all the kids up to read them the riot act for how bad they handled a simple recon mission and then growls a "good job" at the end. I'm not sure if it's the writing or the performance, but it really just makes him seem like a jerk.
Elle: Oh he's a huge jerk, and that seems like a choice they've made about which sort of Batman should be in this show. It's the wrong choice.
Chris: Which is another reason that we're four episodes in and this show still feels like the uphill battle of the pilot for me. I have to say, though, "Drop-Zone" was the best one we've seen by far. As basic as the idea of a simple mission that goes wrong is, and as much as it's overloaded with villains, there's a lot of fun stuff here. I even like the slow build of the love parallelogram that we're getting, with Kid Flash crushing on Miss Martian, who is in turn crushing on Superboy.
Elle: Hopefully things are looking up. I'm not sure what's to come in the near future (except for Artemis), but I hope the fun only increases from here on.