‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 24: ‘Performance’
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 the debut of Cartoon Network's hottest new show: Circus Teenz! "Performance" was written by Jon Weisman, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on April 7, 2012.
Elle Collins: Five members of the Team are undercover as circus performers in this episode, traveling with the Haly Circus on their European tour. It seems that everywhere the circus stops, some kind of weapons technology is stolen nearby. That’s why Interpol agent King Faraday is investigating the circus as well. But he’s already convinced that owner Jack Haly is guilty, while Robin’s hoping to prove he’s not.
Robin’s sick, which almost leads to multiple trapeze accidents. The Team also fails to stop the latest robbery, or even figure out who committed it. Later, on the train, Miss Martian is also sick, as well as missing her powers. It turns out that both illnesses were brought on by contact with a roustabout named Ray. That’s because Ray is really the Parasite, and the thief.
Meanwhile, Superboy can’t stop using the shield patches that Luthor gave him, which he’s keeping secret from his teammates. He’s wearing one when he confronts the Parasite on top of the train, which enables the Parasite to steal a full set of Kryptonian powers and fly off. The Team catches up with him at the “Large Boson Collider” in Geneva, where they capture him with Faraday’s help.
Robin had been in contact with Faraday, and Robin turns out to have been the only one who’s on an official mission. Robin just brought the Team to help Jack Haly because this is the circus he grew up in with his parents as the Flying Graysons. And Haly recognized Dick from the beginning, but went along with the undercover act. Now that Haly’s been proven innocent of any wrongdoing, the Daring Dangers put on one last show before leaving the circus.
Chris Sims: You know, saying that I've had my difficulties with Young Justice is putting it pretty mildly, but I'm always really impressed at how many deep cuts they can incorporate into their stories. I mean, it's one thing to see the Infinity Man show up, that dude rules, but getting King Faraday into a story about Haly's Circus in a way that makes sense? That's a pretty impressive achievement!
Elle: It is! I admit there was a part of my brain that spent the episode wondering how common it is for American circuses to tour Europe. (Doesn't Europe have their own, classier circuses?) But I liked seeing a story that deals with Robin's roots, and any excuse to dress the whole team up in matching sequin vests is fine in my book.
Chris: Yes! If we're actually going to go with the bizarre premise of this show — which, I remind you, is that the Justice League have decided to send their children on unsupervised black ops missions — then stuff like this makes way more sense than just wearing black costumes and going down to Santa Prisca.
Like the prison episode, which was also one of the ones I really liked, this one makes sense, and it gives them a really good chance to do some innovative stuff to incorporate their powers into the act. The only thing wrong with it is that I'm not really sure why they didn't send the whole team.
Elle: The continual absence of various team members from episode to episode is annoying, and in particular it seems like Aqualad only appears in every third episode and barely does anything when he is around. But at least there's plenty of Red Arrow (I still do not care for Red Arrow).
Chris: I suppose it would've been slightly more difficult to justify Aqualad as part of the family — there's already a scene where the clowns are complaining about this weird new act and how the members of the "Danger Family" don't even look like they’re related — but, like, Kid Flash and Red Arrow are basically just the Grande and Venti versions of the same dude.
Elle: Yeah, but Robin didn't want Kid Flash to be there because he knows too much about Robin's history with the circus... and somehow that would be bad. But I enjoy the audacity of a bunch of teens who don't look anything alike insisting that they're a family. Megan didn't even make herself look like any of them, and that would have been easy.
Chris: I kinda wish she'd stayed green and they'd just been like, "third cousin."
Elle: If comic books have taught me anything about circuses, it's that they're so full of freaky weirdos that any kind of strange alien or mutant can hang out there without being noticed. So I assume that would have been fine.
Chris: You talked about the kids' sequined circus outfits, and I love that they wear them for pretty much the entire episode, but let's not forget that the Parasite is also dressed as Pagliacci with a purple Swamp Thing head for most of the big fight, too.
Elle: I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed how much Parasite looked like Swamp Thing here. Every adaptation and revamp of Parasite tries to give him some sort of bumpy texture, but I think we can agree that the best Parasite look was the Bronze Age version where his face always looked like it was behind a sheet. The Pagliacci costume, on the other hand, is a great touch. You can't go wrong with a creepy clown outfit.
Chris: I kinda like the weird leech-mouth post-Crisis Parasite myself, but yeah. He makes a good villain for the Team, too. The normal trick with the Parasite is that while he can steal, say, Superman's raw power, Superman's always going to be better at using them because he has the experience. With the kids, they're still figuring things out, so you get this monster who's pretty much as good as they are, and just gets taken down through overconfidence.
Elle: That's a good point. It also plays well into the subplot about Superboy's power-boosting Luthor patches, and all the other related secrets he's keeping from everyone. He was quick with the claim that Parasite stole powers he only has genetic potential for, which feels like an even bigger lie because one of his secrets is that he now knows he doesn't even have that potential, being a half-human hybrid.
Chris: I don't want to knock the ongoing plots, because I love long-form storytelling in shows like Avatar, but I really prefer that stuff when it's playing out in the background while the focus of the episode is on a tighter, simpler story, and that's really what we have here. This episode advances the Superboy's-addicted-to-stickers plot, the Red Arrow-thinks-Artemis-is-a-traitor plot, and even goes into Robin-has-trust-issues, but the story is really straightforward and built around set pieces. It's like a Bond movie.
Elle: It also lacked the over-complicated villain situation that's become so common at this point in the season. Sure, Parasite may be working with Intergang, but he's never on a video chat with five other supervillains as they plot to steal part of a starfish arm or whatever. Parasite is the sole villain, he has a plan, and then they defeat him. Straightforward, like you said.
Chris: It still has its problems, though. Is it part of the series Bible that everything has to take place at night?
Elle: In fairness, most of Europe's circus-related crime does occur at night. But I see your point. That train-top confrontation with a scary purple clown would have been all the more impressive in daylight.
Chris: I'm sure it's something you notice less when you're watching the show and not grabbing screenshots so you can talk about it, but everything's always so dark and I don't know why. The one thing I think we can universally agree on is that the actual animation is really good, particularly the action sequences. Lighting everything like the entire show is happening during the world's longest solar eclipse just doesn't do it any favors.
Elle: As a visual choice it feels related to this show's worst tendency, which is that very Corporate-feeling reach for some sort of video game-inspired idea of what's "cool."
Chris: It's really one of the things that keeps turning me off about the show. At its best, there are interesting character moments, good relationships developing, deep cut DCU references that actually function as part of the plot, but the whole aesthetic feels so bland, from that opening sequence of crossed arms, cargo shorts, and sullen looks all the way down.
But I can also see the show improving. Like you said before, we're at the point where (in my view, anyway), every second episode of the show is actually pretty good. Which, since we've only got two more weeks of Season 1, is giving me pretty high hopes for the finale.
So here’s my question for you, Elle: We talked about this a little bit above, but as we've been going through these episodes, I've seen a lot of readers talking about how the show's real strength comes from that long-form plotting. We've both agreed that Season 1 is on some shaky ground sometimes, but Season 2 seems to be what everyone really likes. So going forward, what can I expect? Are there more episodes like this, where we get set pieces and action and threads moving through the background, or is it just a better version of, "Who is the mole"?
Elle: Season 2 is so different from Season 1 that I'm not even sure you've gotten much of a hint yet where things are going. The level of drama and intrigue, and just the size of the cast, increases exponentially sort of all at once. But I do think that the long-form plotting remains a strength, and is certainly more interesting going forward than, "Who is the mole"?
Chris: I've been spoiled on the fact that there's a time jump, which I find genuinely hilarious without knowing anything else about it.
Elle: Oh just wait. We know how much this show loves comics references and borrowed plots, so you can just imagine what the "Here's what happened in the intervening years" updates are like.
Chris: Well we only have a couple more weeks until we find out, and maybe — just maybe — we can finally find out who the mole is!
Next episode: New members join the Justice League, and that also means a new member for the Young Justice team.