‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 13-14: ‘Alpha Male’ / ‘Revelation’
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, Young Justice gets weird as we get stories about the Brotherhood of Evil, Mr. Tawky Tawny, and maybe the weirdest lineup for the Injustice League ever. "Alpha Male" was written by Thomas Pugsley, directed by Jay Oliva, and originally aired on October 7, 2011. "Revelation" was written by Kevin Hopps, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on October 14, 2011.
Elle Collins: In “Alpha Male,” Mount Justice is still being put back together after Red Tornado and his siblings tore it up, and the Team (especially Superboy) is mad at Aqualad for not telling them he suspected there was a mole in their midst. Superboy is also being way too overprotective of Miss Martian. Batman assigns Captain Marvel as the temporary fill in supervisor, since Red Tornado’s missing, and then sends the team to India, where the big-game-hunting jerk of a Gotham City mayor was attacked by a gorilla who used human weapons.
In India, they have to fight a bunch of animals who are being controlled with inhibitor collars and have been mutated with Kobra Venom. The aforementioned gorilla turns out to be Monsieur Mallah of course, and he captures Captain Marvel and takes him back to his life partner the Brain. Just as the Brain is about to cut open Marvel’s head to have a look at the Wisdom of Solomon, the Team arrives to save the day.
Superboy befriends a wolf, and Captain Marvel befriends a Tiger. Aqualad learns a lesson about leadership, and Superboy learns a lesson about letting his girlfriend take care of herself. Then everybody heads home, and the last scene reveals what many viewers already knew: that Captain Marvel, who the Team take for an adult trying unsuccessfully to seem cool, is actually younger than any of them.
Chris Sims: Elle, I think we got a gift from Young Justice this Christmas, and that gift was the single most ridiculously bonkers episode of a DC animated show I have ever seen — and I only say "animated" because theres' a live-action show right now where Black Canary's sister uses a time machine to go back to the 17th century and hook up with the Queen of France.
Elle: I remember promising in a previous discussion that we would get an episode with Mallah and the Brain, and what an episode it is. First of all, I love that it starts with a character that made me think "Is that Congo Bill?" and then turns out to be corrupt Gotham mayor Hamilton Hill instead. Which we know because he refers to himself by his full name.
Chris: That's just one of the many weird DC Universe elements that this episode throws together. It's like they dropped Who's Who in a blender and just pulled out a fistful of stuff to write a story about. "Hamilton Hill is involved in a plot with… (rustle rustle) Monsieur Mallah and the Brain, whose evil experiments wind up creating… (rustle rustle) Mr. Tawky Tawny."
Elle: I'm a little disappointed Tawny isn't actually wearing a green plaid sport coat by the end of this episode, but I'm glad he's here. I'm also glad they somehow got Rob Lowe to voice Captain Marvel, which is a weird fun choice.
Chris: Oh, definitely. I've been harsh on Young Justice's voice casting for a while, but when they nail it, they nail it, and Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger as Captain Marvel is amazing. And he's a really great character to throw in here, too — if "The Team" is supposed to be a junior Justice League that's actually running covert missions, he makes way more sense as a connector between those two teams than Red Tornado does. Red Tornado, like Alexandra Cabot in the Josie and the Pussycats movie, is literally just there because he was in the comic.
Elle: I love the looks all the teenagers give each other when Captain Marvel talks about how rad it's going to be when they all hang. Turns out there's not much discernible difference between an adult trying to seem down with the teens and a younger kid doing the same thing.
Chris: And believe it or not, I really loved that. For all that this episode felt like DC Universe Magnetic Poetry in cartoon form — heck, maybe even because of that, you know how I love stories that make goofball connections between corners of the DCU — I thought it was a hoot. All the kids are just grumping around at each other and meanwhile here's Captain Marvel fighting the Brotherhood of Evil after almost getting his brain scooped out!
Elle: This is a great interpretation of the Brain too. His French accent is just as over the top as it should be, but when Captain Marvel is immobilized on the table and all these disembodied robot parts are moving individually around him, it's actually pretty menacing. And of course you can't really go wrong with Monsieur Mallah — he's a gorilla in a beret with an arsenal.
Chris: The Brain's accent is delightful — it's orbiting around sub-Gambit levels of random French — but I do think it's a little bit of a missed opportunity to not give Mallah a speaking part. He just growls a lot, and we're going to get the same thing with the Ultra Humanite in the next episode, too.
Elle: I think you can go either way with Mallah (unlike Ultra Humanite, who makes no sense if he doesn't talk). There are definitely comics where Mallah stays silent like he does here. But for sure, not having two ridiculous French accents instead of just one is a bit of a loss.
Chris: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. That's the philosophy I've lived by for my entire creative career.
Elle: That explains a lot about your career, and your preference for Batman: The Brave and the Bold when it comes to animated adaptations.
Chris: So now that we've gotten through the fun stuff, let's talk about Why These Kids Are Grumpy This Week. This time, they almost have a good reason, in that Aqualad never told them there was a mole on the team, even though he knew it all along. But, y'know, that's kind of the thing about moles.
Elle: And which member of the team should be the most upset that Aqualad doesn't seem to trust them? The one who's secretly from a whole family of supervillains? The one who hasn't even told anyone what species of Martian she really is? Or the one who everyone knows was literally created as a weapon to be used against the Justice League?
Chris: Maybe the one whose dad has files on how to take all of his teammates down, you know, just in case? Now that we’re writing it out, the only one he could probably tell is Kid Flash, and I wouldn't trust this Kid Flash with my drink order.
Elle: Yeah, I'd trust any of the rest of them over Kid Flash.
Chris: It's one of the reasons that Batman brings in Captain Marvel, and while I know they saved the Billy Batson reveal for the end of the show, I do like to think that there's a scene right before this episode starts where Batman just shrugs and goes, "I don't know, Billy, you're a kid, you talk to them" and leaves before Billy can explain that he's actually, like, ten.
Elle: I can totally see that. And the thing about Captain Marvel, which is related to his age but not totally dependent on it, is his absolutely sincerity about who he is and why he's there. The lesson of Captain Marvel, ultimately, is always be a hero. Stop whining and save the day.
Chris: And maybe make a cool tiger friend in the process!
Elle: You can name him Mr. Tawny!
Chris: Before we move on, can we talk about how this show does My Least Favorite Superhero Story Thing?
Elle: I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you're going to say.
Chris: Go for it.
Elle: When Kid Flash suggests that Superboy name his new wolf friend Krypto, and Superboy and the wolf both react like it's the dumbest thing they've ever heard?
Chris: That's a bingo!
Elle: It is the worst. At least there's a reference to the name being taken, implying that the real Krypto exists, but it doesn't make up for it.
Chris: That's what makes it such a weird joke. If Krypto The Super-Dog already exists, then why would they suggest that name for Superboy's new bio-enhanced wolf pal? It's just there as this weird drive-by "Krypto is stupid" reference.
Elle: Pretty much. Totally unnecessary.
Chris: That brings us to our next episode, Revelation! So you know how there's been a shadowy cabal behind the villains that have been giving our team so much trouble over the past 14 episodes? Well, we finally find out who it is, and it's definitely not the Injustice Gang, but they're the ones doing crimes this week, so that's who we're going to be talking about. And it is maybe the most busted-ass version of the Injustice Gang ever.
We have, in ascending order of effective supervillainy, sorcerous bad guy Wotan, sub-Toyman Superman foe The Atomic Skull, Nazi scientist gorilla the Ultra-Humanite, aristocratic carnival ride Count Vertigo, DC's inexplicable favorite character Black Adam, solid choice Poison Ivy, and the Joker, who has clearly been designed to look like What If David Tennant's Doctor Who Was a Juggalo,
They're holding the UN hostage for ten billion dollars with a plant monster that comes right out of Super Sentai, but the Team and the Justice League of Cameo Characters teams up to stop them, and Aqualad is briefly taken over by Doctor Fate. Then, we find out that this was all a ruse to cover the tracks of the real bad guys: Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, Ocean Master, Ra's al-Ghul, Queen Bee, and Klarion the Witch Boy. And that team is also super weird!
Elle: So to start with, we can agree that this Joker is just terrible, right? Just the worst Joker. And it's not even Brent Spiner's fault, although that's not a casting choice that makes any sense at all.
Chris: Does this make Brent Spiner the Mark Hamill of Star Trek?
Elle: I guess? Although I'd much rather see LeVar Burton's Joker, to be quite honest.
Chris: Spiner's voice isn't bad, but it's not great, either, and it suffers from being in exactly the same kind of shadow that anyone who's not Kevin Conroy is under when they try to do Batman. But my hangup is less about the voice and more about the design, which is genuinely hilarious. It's so David Tennant! It's exactly David Tennant!
Elle: It is 100% David Tennant. This Joker is tied with the Netflix version of Purple Man for which supervillain looks the most like David Tennant. We talk about this show's love of DC continuity deep dives, but that's just a part of a larger truth about Young Justice, and Tennant Joker shows how it's not always a good thing: This show was made by huge, huge nerds.
Chris: You're not kidding: Spiner is only one of four Star Trek actors who do voices on this show. Four! If we don’t get Two-Takes Frakes in Season 3, we riot.
Elle: On the subject of weird voice casting, I have to take a moment to single out Alyssa Milano as Poison Ivy. I like Alyssa Milano, and I like Poison Ivy, and I get how that seemed like a fun idea, but it does not work. Her voice sounds weirdly innocent, and lacks any hint of the mean streak that Ivy needs. If you want a witch from the '90s as Poison Ivy, get Fairuza Balk next time.
Chris: I kind of love how superhero nonsense their plan is here. They use Ivy's plants and Wotan's magic to make a giant succulent that farts Joker Toxin at everybody, which is also controlled like a puppet by the Joker, while Black Adam and Ultra Humanite run interference against the superheroes and Vertigo and the Atomic Skull presumably run out to get lunch for everybody
Elle: It takes a lot to be the loser of this team, and Atomic Skull sure gets the job done. They said his name early on, and I still definitely thought, "Who is that guy?" at least three times. He doesn't even have a skull face in this, he just looks kind of dried out.
Chris: He looks like someone's Gears of War OC.
Elle: At least we learn that this Injustice League is basically a gang of patsies, so the fact that they're weird losers makes sense. Of course no villain would dare use the Joker like that in comics, because he'd hunt you down. But with this Joker, I don't feel like there's much to worry about.
Chris: I hope the next time we see the Joker, he looks like Matt Smith. And then… Actually, Peter Capaldi would make a pretty great Joker, wouldn’t he?
Elle: I cast Capaldi as the Scarecrow in my column once (way more comics-accurate than Cillian Murphy), but he could totally do the Joker too.
Chris: But yeah, I do really love that the Injustice Gang fake-out — or the Injustice League as they're called on the show — has just enough heavy hitters to make it plausible while still being a pretty obvious collection of second-stringers. It makes the reveal of the actual bad guys who are hanging out in their HQ, which has been apparently been designed specifically so that they can step out of dramatic shadows one-by-one, work really well. It almost makes you forget that they're an almost equally ridiculous bunch.
Elle: Vandal Savage and Lex Luthor make sense, and Queen Bee at least rules a country. But Klarion the Witch Boy... how do you even work with a Lord of Chaos in the form of a petulant child? And why would you want to?
Chris: I kept expecting Ocean Master to start talking about how he’s happy just to be there, but it seems like he was smart enough to shut up and not remind them that they probably meant to call Black Manta.
Elle: This Ocean Master does have a big advantage that most versions of that character don't have, which is that Aquaman doesn't know who he is. In most continuities, Aquaman figures out that his brother is evil at least by the first time he puts on a costume, but here we know he has no idea, because Orm was dining with the royal family of Atlantis just a few episodes ago. So he probably has the other villains convinced he'll rule Atlantis any day now. But don't get me wrong, he's still Ocean Master. Pardon the Aqua-fan tangent.
Chris: Huh! You learn something new about Aquaman every day, if you have a very specific job and a lack of knowledge about Aquaman.
Elle: Something we haven't discussed about this episode is that it brings back Doctor Fate, just to remind us he still wants a host. And because who else is going to fight Wotan?
Chris: That felt completely unnecessary to me. I really did like all the cameos of the Justice League fighting the bad guys all across the world and seeing people like Plastic Man and Blue Devil in action, because the show tends to do well with reminders that this is taking place in a full-on superhero universe, and the League is off doing stuff while The Team is on their missions, but Fate felt like just cramming too much in.
Elle: It was a weird fit for this episode. I do get the impression that they just wanted to make sure Fate popped up at least one more time before they actually follow up on that subplot. I agree that it was great seeing all the random heroes around the world. Even Icon put in an appearance.
I kept thinking it was weird that Swamp Thing never showed up. Bunch of villains holed up in the Louisiana swamp, corrupting plant life to their evil ends? You'd think he'd have something to say about that.
Chris: Maybe he was off on the Blue World in this episode.
Elle: There's also a Guy Gardner appearance that's a substantial enough redesign that I had a "who's that GL?" moment.
Chris: Sun's out, hard-light constructs of guns out.