‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 11-12: ‘Terrors’/’Homefront’
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, there's gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town --- but not if Superboy and Megan have anything to say about it! "Terrors" was written by Greg Weisman, directed by Jay Oliva, and originally aired on September 23, 2011. "Homefront" was was written by Jon Weisman, directed by Michael Chang, and aired on September 30, 2011.
Chris Sims: Hey, remember that attack from four ice-themed villains in the pilot episode? Well, this week, we finally follow up on that with a story where Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover into Belle Reve, the supervillain prison that you may know from Suicide Squad.
It seems that Icicle, Killer Frost, Mr. Freeze, and Captain Cold are all part of a plot to orchestrate the biggest jailbreak in supervillain history, and when the Justice League catches wind of it, they send the kids in disguised as the Terror Twins, a couple of super-strong d-listers. Through a pretty thrilling bit of deception and danger, they're able to foil the plot despite some shifty intervention from Belle Reve's resident psychologist, Hugo Strange, and also take the next step in their romance, heating it up from slow-burn longing to full-on making out in front of the arch-criminals.
Elle Collins: This is a great episode, right? The setting and premise make it genuinely tense, and it asks more of Superboy than most previous stories have, and it has one of the most memorable line readings in the whole series: "Dude! That's your sister!"
Chris: Elle, are you ready for a Christmas miracle?
Elle: This episode has Icicles and Frost, so a Christmas miracle seems appropriate.
Chris: I actually kind of… loved this?
Elle: That's awesome! It's a strong episode, so I'm not too surprised that it won you over. But I am curious if there were specific moments or things that made it click for you.
Chris: To be honest, this one is pretty much the one that's primed for me to be into it. You — and the readers probably — know that I'm a huge fan of Suicide Squad specifically and jailbreak stories in general, and throwing one of Batman's oldest enemies into the mix was certainly a good place to start.
More than that, though, this is the first episode where everything seems to make sense. One of the biggest problems I've had with the series from the start is this idea that the Justice League would send their kids on black ops missions, and even though the series tries to write around that — the Santa Prisca mission was originally supposed to be simple recon before it all went bad, for instance — it's never quite done it as satisfyingly as it does here. There's a good reason for Superboy and Megan to be the ones who go undercover, since they're new enough that the supervillains won't know who they are yet.
Elle: Totally. And the Terror Twins are custom made for their disguises --- literally, in that they're rare characters created for this show. Megan can do whatever she needs to, but Superboy's never going to be great at undercover work, so he really needs a super-strong not-too-bright young dude to fill in as. I'm only sorry that Superboy's hair isn't blond with dark roots for the next ten episodes after this.
Chris: I like the Terror Twins a lot as villains. It’s clear from the start that they’re just the worst people, and having them dress in straight up Neo-Nazi outfits without ever actually mentioning it is a nice touch, too.
Elle: Yeah, the skinhead outfits are not subtle. Unless you're a child, in which case I'm guessing they'd be pretty subtle. But in this prison, the top of the food chain is the ice-villains. Which is a fun touch.
Chris: It's not flawless, of course — there's a moment where the show forgets that Mr. Freeze and Captain Cold do not actually have ice powers, for instance — but it tells a really compelling story, and the hierarchy of Belle Reve is definitely part of that. Plus the gag of everyone just hating the Riddler is fantastic. That dude would be insufferable to be locked up with.
Elle: I love that everyone makes fun of the Riddler, but when everything calms down at the end he's the only one who's successfully escaped, and nobody even knows how.
Chris: I've always loved the idea of the Riddler as the guy who's almost as smart as Batman, which means that Batman always outsmarts him, but to anyone else, he's this weirdo genius that you can't even understand.
Elle: I also love how Icicle and Icicle Jr. are used here. It makes sense that the lifer who rules a supervillain prison would be a Golden Age villain, and being that guy's legacy-villain son isn't going to be loads of fun.
Chris: Yeah, this is another one of those really nice examples of YJ using an established DC Universe as its backdrop. It's nice bit of macro continuity that goes with the specific continuity of following up on the plot from the pilot — it's just unfortunate that this episode originally aired almost a year after we saw the ice villains captured the first time, I imagine.
Elle: True, but in the age of streaming that hasn't really been a problem since 2011. Now time between episodes passes at whatever speed you want it to.
The thing about setting an episode in a supervillain prison is that there are more villains in minor roles than even I can keep up with. There was even a moment when I thought they'd made Poison Ivy into a muscular strongwoman, before I realized the redhead with the vine motif is actually Wonder Woman villain Devastation.
Chris: On the subject of time passing, I'm tempted to say that even ten episodes is a little too long to follow up on this plot, but at the same time, I think we can both agree that the best stuff here is the Superboy/Megan romance, right? And that comes right at the best time.
Elle: Very much so. That wouldn't have worked any earlier than this. Or in any less extreme of a situation, to be honest.
Chris: There's so much to like about how it plays out, too. I loved seeing Megan use the Terror Twins’ prison therapy session with Hugo Strange as an opportunity to talk about Superboy's actual father issues.
Elle: That was great, and all the better for Hugo Strange's presence. I guess it's a good thing Strange didn't have any files on the Terrors' actual family dynamics... unless they are actually that similar. You never know.
Chris: Honestly, the only thing that could've made this episode better is if we'd gotten to see Hugo Strange take his shirt off and reveal himself to be just ridiculously ripped like he is in the comics.
Elle: The next episode, “Homefront,” opens with a flashback in which a young Artemis is watching her older sister pack to run away. Her sister has an Alice in Wonderland poster with the Cheshire Cat on it, in case you haven’t already guessed that her sister is Cheshire.
I’m not actually sure exactly when the viewer is supposed to put that together, but honestly Artemis having an older sister with black hair is enough, and that she has the poster and later compares herself to the Cheshire Cat makes it impossible to miss.
Then in the present, Artemis goes to her first day at Gotham Academy, where she meets Bette Kane and is annoyed by Dick Grayson. She doesn’t encounter Barbara Gordon, but we the viewers do. Meanwhile, at Mount Justice, Superboy and Miss Martian still haven’t stopped kissing, but they’re trying to be lowkey about it. And Aqualad is expressing his concerns about a mole on the team to Red Tornado.
Later, Robin and Artemis arrive to find the cave under attack by unseen enemies. Once again there’s a fakeout that someone’s Red Tornado, but this time it turns out the attackers are two similar-looking androids with powers over different elements, Red Torpedo and Red Inferno.
After they’ve captured everyone else, Artemis plans to escape, but then she ends up in Kid Flash’s room and sees her sister’s Cheshire mask, and realizes that the Team is her family now, and she won’t run out on them like her sister did on her. So she brings down the androids, but then Red Tornado returns, and when he touches one of his “siblings,” he attacks the kids and leaves with the other two Red Robots. So maybe we know now who the mole was?
Chris: Correct me if I'm wrong, Elle, but aren't Red Inferno and Red Torpedo a couple of Brad Meltzer creations, or am I thinking of someone else?
Elle: Oh god, are they? I never read any Meltzer Justice League, so I wouldn't know. Red Torpedo was a legit golden age character, although he wasn't a robot then (to be fair, neither was Red Tornado at the time). But this whole "Red Tornado family" plotline does seem Meltzer-esque, now that you mention it.
Chris: I'm not sure if they showed up in his JLA run or not, but there was something pretty similar in there. And, I mean, look, an attempt to get someone — anyone — to care about Red Tornado is far from the worst of Meltzer's sins, but it's never going to happen. Even Brave and the Bold couldn't make Red Tornado interesting to me, and they even put him in a Christmas episode. Worst of the series.
Elle: I think Red Tornado is perfect for his official role on this show. He's basically the most hands-off chaperone imaginable --- a red mannequin that says "I-AM-SUPERVISING-YOU-TEENS" while letting you do whatever you want. But then they build a running subplot around him, and that kind of ruins the appeal.
Chris: Yeah, this is like the third episode that we've dealt with a conflict that is either Red Tornado or Red Tornado-adjacent. That's a full 25%, and that's way too much. This Gotham Academy stuff, on the other hand… Now that's an idea with some legs to it.
Elle: I think last week when we were talking about Karen Beecher, I said that eventually everyone puts on a costume. I'd like to amend that now, because I'm pretty sure that Bette Kane never does. And while that's sad for all the Flamebird fans, I get the impression Bette's pretty satisfied with student council and whatnot.
Chris: And I'm guessing there's no Olive or Maps, either?
Elle: Well, they didn't exist yet, and it would be pretty bananas to find out this show created them. But maybe in the new season?
Chris: I love Dick Grayson recognizing Artemis — which isn't much of a World's Greatest Detective feat since "Artemis" is her actual first name that she's going by at school — and then snapping a selfie with her and telling her, "We'll laugh about this one day" while she has no idea what's going on. It's pretty amazing.
Elle: That's a great touch, and I also love that Barbara Gordon is the quiet girl watching all this happen from the sidelines.
Chris: Unfortunately — and look, y'all knew this was coming — the rest of their interactions in the episode don't do that much for me. On paper, I should love "Homefront" every bit as much as I loved "Terrors," because it's basically Die Hard with deathtraps starring teen superheroes. And yet, something feels off and I'm not sure what. Maybe I'm just being… too harsh?
Elle: Honestly, I don't love the way this episode is constructed. I like the school stuff and the Artemis flashbacks, but there's so much effort put into keeping the attack on the cave mysterious that I think it makes the story less engaging than it ought to be. And regardless of what you think of Red Tornado, his brother and sister are just not interesting villains.
Chris: I think that might be it, actually. There are lots of distinct pieces that are done really well, like the school stuff and the Die Hard riff — and it is Die Hard, right down to crawling through the vents — but I think I would've preferred seeing each of them separately, drawn out into something bigger. A day at Gotham Academy, or a siege on the cave. And, you know, it would help if they involved literally any other antagonists. Where's Sportsmaster when you need him?
Elle: We don't see Sportsmaster in this episode, but we get a pretty strong sense of what a terrible dad he was, particularly when Mom was in prison. Artemis and Jade's Mom was the Tigress, by the way. I don't think they've said that yet, but now that we know she's also a criminal it doesn't seem like a big spoiler.
Chris: I think part of my problem with this episode is that for something that's nominally a spotlight for Artemis, it feels really scattered. All the stuff that's there is good — the slow reveal of the Cheshire connection, the moment in Kid Flash's trophy room, the stuff with Robin investigating her — but it doesn't quite work, does it?
"Terrors" was great partially because it had such a narrow focus, two characters in one bottled-up situation. "Homefront" takes a similar tactic, but everyone else is there, the villains are part of this other plot, and it doesn't stick the landing.
Elle: It's easy to imagine a Robin/Artemis spotlight episode that's tightly focused and works a lot better than this one. But even within the context of a lesser episode, I still enjoy getting to know Artemis better.
Chris: Agreed. In the ranking of YJ spotlight episodes, this one's way ahead of Aqualad's by a long shot. It does raise a question about just how lenient Gotham Academy is about their attendance requirements. And, for that matter, who signed the doctor's note at Happy Harbor High so that the two new students could spend a week in grown-up super-jail.
Elle: I always assume Bruce Wayne's just quietly throwing cash at everybody all the time.