‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 23: ‘Insecurity’
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, Artemis has a secret! But, y'know, so does everyone else, and none of their secrets involve the Sportsmaster. "Insecurity" was written by Peter David, directed by Jay Oliva, and originally aired on March 31, 2012.
Chris Sims: Hey, remember when this show had a big question about who the mole was, and then it turned out that it was probably Red Tornado, and we all moved on to happier things like Superboy riding around on the Infinity Man's head like he was piloting a Jack Kirby Megazord? Well, I hope you're ready for "Insecurity," the episode that dares to ask the question: Who is the mole?!
After an opening where the Black Spider does his best impression of Mirror Universe Spider-Man, Roy Harper returns to the team he keeps refusing to join and demands that they help him deal with Sportsmaster, who has somehow become the major villain of an entire season of television despite never actually committing any Sports Crimes. This, in turn, leads to some conflict between Green Arrow's former and current protégés. Red Arrow doesn't trust Artemis — and for good reason.
As we the viewers figured out a while back, Artemis is actually Sportsmaster's daughter — and Cheshire's sister — and sent half the team on a wild goose chase so that she could confront her family on her own. After the mission goes pear-shaped, Sportsmaster shows up in her bedroom and tells her that she might as well just embrace the family business — the business of eeeeeeevil — and give up on the team. Meanwhile, Red Tornado learns about pants, and that is neither a joke nor an exaggeration.
Elle Collins: I hate Red Arrow so much. So much. It's like he joins the team just so he can be mean to Artemis. Actually, this whole dynamic around Artemis is pretty problematic, where she's allowed to keep her family a secret from the Team (even though the older heroes all seem to know), but when she actually acts to protect that secret, it's treated like evidence that she can't be trusted. That's no way to treat a teenager, no matter how good she is at archery.
Chris: On the one hand, I kind of like the idea of a team where everybody has a secret, because that's a great way to make for multiple layers of drama. On the other hand, if everyone on the team has a secret, "having a secret" ceases to be an actual compelling plot point and just feels like Batman — the World's Greatest Detective, the only member of the League who knew that Billy Batson was a child, and an actual recurring character on the show — should probably sit everyone down for a Come-To-Jesus Meeting before his whole summer camp project implodes.
Elle: Yeah, it feels like Batman and the other adults must know the kind of pressure these teens are under (especially Artemis in this episode), and rather than making any effort to relieve it, they do things like bring in an older teen who knows your secrets and will absolutely be mean to you about them in front of the people who don't know.
Chris: Honestly, I feel like there'd be just as much drama if everyone actually knew each other's secrets. Like, if they actually knew Megan was a scary White Martian, or that Artemis was from a literal family of supervillains, would we lose any of the tension, or would there just be more of it to work with? Do we get more drama from Kid Flash thinking she's an insecure flake, or from wondering if she's going to shoot him in the back if he runs into battle in front of her?
Elle: That's a very good point. Related: Is it just me, or are there too many dramatic moments in this episode that boil down to, "Behold, it's a tracer!"
Chris: I haven't seen this much talk about a tracer since the last time I checked the Overwatch tag on Tumblr. For real, there are like four separate scenes in this episode where people talk about tracking devices. Y'all can just, y'know, solve crimes. It's easy — if it happened at sea, Catwoman was probably involved. We all know that.
Elle: Well this happened on a river. And if you take "river" and add a "D" for dad, you get "driver," which is a kind of golf club. And who has golf clubs? Sportsmaster!
Chris: Holy apophenia! It was right in front of us all along!
Elle: So I guess it's coming across that I'm not a huge fan of this episode. But on the other hand, at least it had Spider-Man in it.
Chris: I wasn't a big fan of this one either, but it's worth noting that this is our second of four Peter David episodes, and he definitely doesn't lean on the same dialogue quirks that usually bug me. Nobody has a ridiculous tortured pun for a name, for instance.
But yeah, despite the fact that it's tying together a bunch of disparate plots — Hugo Strange is involved briefly, and Professor Ivo makes an appearance, too — but it still feels like a holding pattern. Even the reveal of Artemis's family is something that already happened. But yeah — a Spider-Man analogue saying "nobody likes a crusading reporter" is pretty choice.
Elle: We'd seen how this Black Spider is basically Spider-Man in a previous episode, but the scenes of him swinging through the city and making wisecracks (in the voice of Josh Keaton, who starred in Spectacular Spider-Man) really take it to the next level. DC cartoons seem to love Marvel homages, like those Defenders episodes of Justice League Unlimited.
Chris: And the Fantastic Four episodes of Batman Beyond. And the Kraven episodes of Batman Beyond. And the Venom episodes of Batman Beyond. And… you know, pretty much just all of Batman Beyond.
Elle: Oh yeah, like those episodes of Batman Beyond where futuristic Peter Parker is Batman.
Chris: Literally the best idea anyone has ever had: "What if Spider-Man... was Batman?" But anyway.
Elle: Can we talk about how much effort this episode puts into making it really, really clear that Red Tornado's new android body has junk? It's weird how much that scene is about that fact, while still carefully observing standards and practices.
Chris: I mean, there are few things I’d rather do less than talk about Red Tornado's bathroom area, but if we're both getting paid to be here, we might as well. You're not wrong, either — the whole thing is like a scene from a Zucker Bros. movie, where everyone's just carefully standing so that you can't see "John Smith's" bits and pieces the whole time, but the joke about pants — and the fact that everyone's eyes bug out when they uncover the body — makes it pretty clear that they definitely just saw the Tornado Tyrant under there. Y'know, for the kids!
Elle: This was also the scene where I realized that Red Tornado talks like Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec: "Your approval... is appreciated. But... your presence... is invited." I could see him pointing at people and saying their names when they enter the room, but on this show that's the teleporter's job.
Chris: In the interest of being positive, I do like that he has to honestly ask them if they're sneaking around his RealDoll™ factory because of disrespect, and Megan and Conner answer honestly by saying that it's actually out of curiosity and boredom, respectively. That's a very teenage impulse, and a very blunt question from a guy who doesn't really understand teenagers yet.
Elle: Agreed. I like Red Tornado best when he has these kind of character moments that aren't dramatically overwrought or built around hidden programming. When he's neither crying nor attacking his friends, he's pretty okay.
Chris: Unfortunately, those are his two go-to moves. So… You realize that we need to talk about Red Arrow and Cheshire before we're done here, right?
Elle: Yes, clearly we do. I don't like watching her kissing him while he's grimacing. Their dynamic, and his character, would be more interesting if he seemed more into it.
Chris: Of all the stuff that they're bringing in to create a larger DC Universe, Cheshire and Roy's relationship is one that I honestly never would've expected. And you know, I don't really care about it one way or another in the comics, but I do kind of like the way that it plays out here. The idea that Roy bails on Green Arrow and then immediately finds himself in this weird romantic entanglement with someone who's trying to kill the Justice League, who is also the sister of Green Arrow's new sidekick? That's… well, that's exactly what you'd expect from someone raised by Ollie Queen.
Elle: That's not a bad point. And it puts Cheshire in a similar place with him as she is with Artemis --- knowing they'd rather everyone else not know about their connection to her, and being ready to shout it at the drop of a hat.
Chris: We get some really good animation out of it, too. Cheshire throwing down a ninja smoke bomb and then jumping out to sex-tackle him while going "YAH!" is actually pretty cute. And while it doesn't have to do with their relationship, there's a scene later on where Roy catches Sportsmaster in a flying armbar that keeps up Young Justice's streak of having really beautifully done fight scenes.
Elle: Can Sportsmaster wrestle? I've never been really clear on how many sports he's actually mastered. But he's definitely mastered sneaking into his estranged kid's room without his ex knowing he's around, which is the worst sport of all.
Chris: I genuinely hate this version of Sportsmaster. Not so much for the sneaking-into-Artemis's-room thing, but because he has nothing to do with sports. Like, redesign him all you want, but jeepers friggin' creepers, if you're going to call him The Sportsmaster, he needs to be sports themed!
Elle: Yeah, even if he just pulled out a different piece of sports equipment for each fight scene, that would be a step in the right direction.
Chris: To be fair, he does use a javelin at one point, but even his outfit is just unforgivably generic. The mask doesn't look like a hockey mask, which I think is what they were going for, and the weird one-arm armor thing… what is that, Jai Alai?
Elle: Look, I don't know anything about sports. I just think he ought to be like evil Casey Jones. Which he looks a little bit like, but that's where it ends.
Chris: Exactly! He's like three steps removed — it's the concept of Sports filtered through the original Sportsmaster, then filtered again through Casey Jones, and finally back to YJ Sportsmaster. It's like when you make a reference to Bugs Bunny's reference to Jack Benny, but as a supervillain.
Elle: And maybe a loaded tennis racket like Jim Cornette.
Chris: God, how great would it be if Artemis's shameful secret was that she was actually a long-lost member of the Midnight Express?
Elle: If the other teen heroes find out she's from a Southern Wrestling family, they'll never accept her! That's worse than being a White Martian.
Next week: The circus! It's a good time for everybody, except maybe Robin.