‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 22: ‘Agendas’
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 head back to Cadmus and --- whoa, I'm seein' double! Four Superboys?! "Agendas" was written by Kevin Hopps, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on March 24, 2012.
Elle Collins: "Agenda" starts on the Watchtower, the Justice League HQ satellite that’s carved out of a meteor and has trees in birds in it because of course it does.
Wonder Woman says the weight of the world is upon them, as she and the rest of the original Superfriends join the rest of the League for a Very Important Meeting. Despite the funereal mood, it turns out they’re nominating new members of the League.
Meanwhile, Megan and Zatanna are preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Zatanna’s upset because this is her first Thanksgiving without her father. Superboy gets a super-sonic summons that nobody else can hear and flies off to Metropolis. There he meets Lex Luthor, who announces himself as the new Chairman of the Board at Project Cadmus, and reveals they’ve created a new super-clone. Naturally Superboy goes right to Cadmus and demands to see it.
Everyone insists there’s no other super-clone, but Guardian gives Superboy permission to search the place, and he finds a secret cloning room in about five minutes, with a pod labeled “Project Match” that looks exactly like him. He lets the clone out, and is immediately attacked for his trouble. “Match” is more powerful than Superboy, complete with flight and heat vision, but he’s also messed up in some vague way that involves having white-on-black eyes and attacking anyone he sees with an S-shield. He beats up Superboy and disappears.
Luthor (via videochat) tells Superboy that he was made using human DNA to fill in the gaps in the Kryptonian genome, which is why he lacks some of Superman’s powers, while Match is purely Kryptonian, with the gaps just causing him to be uncontrollable. Luthor gives Superboy some arm patches that can temporarily give him full Kryptonian power, but of course Superboy doesn’t want them.
Then Dubbilex reveals his big secret: a secret city of genomorphs hidden beneath Cadmus, where he’s holding Match prisoner. Match escapes and attacks again, but Superboy uses one of Luthor’s patches to defeat him, at which point Guardian runs in with Cadmus Security.
Superboy confronts Luthor about using him to enable Cadmus to track down the missing genomorphs and discover Dubbilex’s secret city, and Lex reveals that it’s his own human DNA in Superboy. Superboy starts to attack him, but Luthor shuts him down with the words “red sun” and escapes.
Meanwhile, the Justice League has voted in their new members, but the episode ends before we learn who they are.
Chris Sims: Okay, so even I can admit that despite my initial misgivings, the show has definitely been on an uptick lately. We had "Misplaced," which was built on a great premise, and the big payoff of "Hello, Megan" worked super well for the show. But this episode… right from the start, we are in some dodgy-ass territory.
Elle: There's something that's barely discussed in the episode that I have to complain about immediately because it bothers me so much. There is no universe where the Justice League should be willing to work with this version of Doctor Fate. Especially in light of what Zatanna is going through in this episode, it shouldn't even matter what Zatara wants. The entire league should gang up on Fate and pull the helmet off of Zatara's head, and then Superman should throw the helmet into the sun.
Chris: I mean, I completely agree with you on that front, but I was actually talking about how they use actual photographs of food when Megan and Zatanna are preparing dinner.
What even is that?! It's horrifying!
Elle: Okay, yeah, that's pretty disturbing too. It's also just pretty weird that this is a Thanksgiving episode, because that doesn't have anything to do with anything. Maybe an earlier draft of the script ended with a big feast in Genomorph City?
Chris: It certainly would've improved things, but only if they were clearly eating cut-out pieces of photoshopped salad.
But yeah, you're right; I was genuinely surprised to see Dr. Fate showing up with the Justice League. I assumed that he'd just head back to the Tower and spend his time fighting against the Lords of Chaos rather than hanging out with his host body's friends.
Elle: In general I'm not a huge fan of this Justice League meeting. Everything just feels unnecessarily dire. And while I like Maggie Q, I don't love this take on Wonder Woman.
One thing I do love, though, is the idea that Superman just always wants to recruit guys he thinks might secretly be from Krypton.
Chris: That was a really nice way to get a second cameo from Icon (and Rocket!), and I did really love Flash suggesting that they get some more muscle by recruiting Guy Gardner, only to have Hal Jordan and John Stewart shut that down with flat, simultaneous "No." It does get pretty weird when they start talking about ages, though.
Elle: Honestly it seems like Klarion the Witch Boy already solved this conundrum for them. Anyone who went to adult Earth during "Misplaced" is old enough to be on the Justice League, and anyone who went to kid Earth is too young. Simple.
Chris: Yeah, except this is the episode where we find out that Miss Martian is actually 48, and is technically dating a one year-old.
Elle: Yeah... I'd rather not dwell on that bit of weirdness. But while we're talking about the membership meeting, my other favorite part is that Captain Marvel giggles uncontrollably every time he thinks about Plastic Man.
Chris: There's a lot of good character work in this. Unfortunately, none of it happens for anyone who's actually on the team. Okay, well, maybe that's unfair. We do get some good stuff with Conner, but I was hoping that this would follow in the footsteps of "Disordered" by leaning into the Kirby weirdness of Cadmus and Dubbilex — and I was really holding out hope that we'd get some Dabney Donovan up in this. Instead it skewed harder towards Superboy moping around and being grumpy at things
Elle: Also, I'm jumping ahead, but how hard would it have been for the clone's flawed DNA to decay further as he fights Superboy, in such a way that his skin goes pale and crystallizes? They even give him a backwards "S," but they never take the obvious next step.
Chris: Technically, I think that's accurate to the comics. Match is definitely a Bizarro stand-in, but he doesn't get the Bizarro look for a long while after his first appearance — right around the time we get T-Shirt and Cargo Pants Superboy, in fact. If memory serves, in his original incarnation, he just looks like a blonde Superboy who — oh my God, I just Um, Actually’d you.
Elle: Honestly, I didn't even realize Match was from the comics. I thought he was just the show doing Bizarro badly. Um Actually accepted. Related question: in the comics, did Lex Luthor ever give Superboy nicotine patches that give him Superman's powers? Because that's pretty weird.
Chris: That, I don't remember, and yes, it super is.
I'm willing to accept a lot of goofy comic book science just by virtue of this being a superhero story, but magic stickers that "suppress human DNA" are like two steps more bonkers than a giant Phantasm sphere that turns into a motorcycle, right?
Elle: Definitely. I do like the reveal that it was all about Lex tracking Superboy to find the missing Genomorphs, though. That's very Lex. And the fact that Conner never thought it through until he'd already given Lex everything he wanted is very Superboy.
Chris: Can we talk about the stuff that goes down at Cadmus for a minute? I really loved the fight scene itself — YJ always does a really great job making action look good, and that initial fight of Superboy being thrown through the vats of genomorphs is a pretty great example — but I do think Genomorph City could've been a much better setting.
Elle: I agree with that. For one thing, I think it's held back by the fact that Dubbilex is the only genomorph who talks or displays much personality. So the city never really feels like a society, so much as a cave full of creatures.
Chris: If you're going to have a secret underground society beneath Cadmus that's full of weird creatures, why not go all out and make it the Wild Area? Or, even better, have Dubbilex building the Mountain of Judgment? Go Full Kirby!
Elle: I agree. But then I haven't been a fan of the design choices around Cadmus since the first episode. Even Dubbilex himself looks like a combination of Blue Devil and a catfish, when his simpler Kirby design would have looked great on screen.
Chris: Lex's manipulations in this episode are solid, and the conflict that's set up here, with Superboy seeing the version of himself that really is just a living weapon and trying to save him is really good stuff, too. Were you a fan of the Lex Luthor Is Superboy's Human Dad stuff in the comics, though?
Elle: I really wasn't, but honestly that may just be where I came in, you know? I was a part of the era of "Superboy's just a clone of a lousy human named Paul Westfield and doesn't even have Kryptonian DNA," so the whole idea of him being a clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor just felt way too on the nose and unnecessary to me. But in the abstract I can see its appeal for building stories.
Chris: It's one of those things that's really interesting for being something Geoff Johns came up with as a fan in the '90s and wrote in a letter that got printed in Superboy, and then made canon ten years later when he was actually writing Teen Titans. And yeah, it's definitely on the nose, but I'm really torn about it. On the one hand, if you're going to have a clone of Superman that needs human DNA, it should be somebody we know. On the other hand, if it's Luthor, then that kind of becomes The Entire Story. And it puts that beautiful '90s fade in danger from male pattern baldness, too.
Elle: You have to feel even worse for this version of Superboy finding out he's part Luthor, because Superman already doesn't want anything to do with him, and this is definitely not going to help.
Chris: Yeah. I usually hate stories where people just keep secrets from their best friends for no reason, but it's one that actually works really well here. Superboy's been so sullen and moody for the entire run of the show, and just as we've seen him progress, he gets this new information, which also causes him to be manipulated into being a weapon again, just like he always feared. Keeping Luthor's "Shields" even when he knows he shouldn't is actually understandable here.
Elle: It really is. I still don't love this version of Superboy, but he feels like a much more fully realized character at this point in the series, which is certainly worth something. And it leads to a lot of interesting questions about what's to come for him going forward, which is also a plus as Season One winds down.
Chris: I do feel like "Hey, Lex Luthor can shut my brain down with a two-word code" is something that you might want to mention to, I dunno, Red Tornado or somebody.
Elle: True. It's not like Red Tornado could possibly hold it against you that you've been programmed by a supervillain.
Next week: Red Arrow finally joins the team, and we get our first glimpse of a suspicious starfish.