‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 17-18: ‘Disordered’ / ‘Secrets’
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, try the Boom Tube --- if you dare! And also Secret shows up, I guess. "Disordered" was written by Andrew R. Robinson, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on November 11, 2011. "Secrets" was written by Peter David, directed by Jay Oliva, and originally aired on November 18, 2011.
Chris Sims: While the rest of the team undergoes psychological evaluations to deal with the trauma they experienced in our last episode, which are held by Black Canary for some unexplained reason, Superboy heads off on a solo adventure that is <Jean Ralphio Voice>Jack Kirby as hellllllll</Jean Ralphio Voice>.
It turns out that the sphere, which he has been calling “Sphere” because Cadmus didn’t bother to program him with any concept of imagination, is actually a Super Cycle from New Genesis! When Superboy takes it out for a spin, he runs across the Young Gods of Super-Town who have been sent to recover it: The Forever People!
After explaining that they're "New Gods" to Superboy, the Forever People team up with him to track down a group of baddies who have been using Apokoliptian technology for petty crimes, including Kirby’s ”Ugly" Manheim and, weirdly enough, Whisper A'Daire, a character from the Greg Rucka/Rick Burchett run on Detective Comics that's about as far from Kirby as you can get.
More importantly, they also run across Desaad, the chief torturer of Apokolips, who has orchestrated this entire convoluted situation in order to lure the Forever People into action so that he can take over their gestalt form, the Infinity-Man. Fortunately, Superboy is there to take over until Desaad's hold on him is broken, and when they head back to New Genesis, they let him keep the Super-Cycle as a gift.
Elle Collins: Let me get something off my chest before we get to all the more exciting parts of this episode: What exactly are Black Canary's qualifications as a therapist? Isn't she a florist?
Chris: Well, florist and (given this show's on-again/off-again tendency to mimic the structure of the pre-Flashpoint DCU) presumable founding Justice Leaguer, but yeah. Surely there is someone more qualified to help these kids deal with a tough time, right? Or has the superhero genre's tendency to cast psychologists as evil manipulators left her as the best possible option?
Elle: I've never thought about it before, but the DC Universe doesn't really have a Doc Samson, do they? They just have a lot of Hugo Stranges and Doctors Psycho. I guess Canary's assassin training probably gives her a degree of psychological insight, so she'll have to do.
Chris: I mean, the obvious answer here is Leslie Thompkins, right? And look, I like Black Canary a lot and I think she's been one of the better adult heroes on the show, but having her show up here really feels like a decision made because they already had the design and actress for her.
Elle: I agree. It's clearly Canary because Red Tornado, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Zatara would all be terrible at it. A robot, a guy who believes feelings should be bottled up, a literal child, and a dude who'd probably just tell you "Leef retteb," respectively.
Chris: Aside from that, though, I actually really liked those scenes and how they moved each character's plot forward. Robin — he's Dick Grayson, right? — realizing that he didn't actually want to grow up and be just like Batman was really solid, and I really liked Miss Martian setting up the White Martian reveal by laying it on with a trowel was pretty enjoyable, too. I imagine viewers who didn't come to the show after stories like "New World Order" did a lot of "hello, Megan"-style head-slaps to themselves in retrospect.
Elle: It all works pretty well. I also like the scene with Artemis talking about how she doesn't want to tell her teammates about her whole family being supervillains and assassins, and also setting up her (shudder) attraction to Wally.
Chris: There's a lot of good stuff in these. Even Aqualad being a sad sack about The Burden Of Being In Charge Of Teens comes off well. But that's just the seasoning on the meat of the episode. They're from a place that men have sought but never found — we've seen their like before — in different ages — in different guise — but never like this — yet, always like this — when man's civilization faces destruction… The Forever People!
Elle: The Forever People are so great! And as a team of teen heroes, they're a perfect choice to guest star on this show. Serifan as an obsessive fanboy is a perfect choice, and Big Bear's Hercules-esque line readings are great too. The whole thing's a lot of fun.
Chris: I'll admit that The Forever People has always been my least favorite Fourth World title — even if it had some of the best single issues and turned out to be the most relevant to our modern lives today — but you're right. They fit in perfectly here. I do want to take a minute to quibble over the names, though. I
think we can all agree that "Vikyn the Black" was a pretty unnecessary epithet, and I think you could make a similar argument for Beautiful Dreamer's original codename putting her looks ahead of her personality and powers, but I think you lose a little bit of that Kirby magic that comes with stuff like "Big Bear" and "Mark Moonrider."
Elle: I agree, although it doesn't bother me that much. Although it would be harder to do the "Call me Wolf! Okay you have a Wolf already, Bear's even better!" joke if there was an adjective in his name too. And of course Moonrider doesn't even have any lines here, so he gets the short end of the stick all around.
Chris: I genuinely loved the rest of the plot, though. One of my favorite Fourth World tropes is when gangsters have access technology that's literally being given to them by evil gods, and they decide to, you know, dig a big hole and rob a bank.
Elle: Totally, that's what's great about Bruno "Ugly" Mannheim (who I never want to call by less than all three of his names) --- Darkseid keeps giving him stuff, and he just has the smallest ideas in the world about what to do with it.
Chris: And the fact that it's all a wheels-within-wheels plan to take over Infinity-Man, and that that problem is solved in turn by the Supercycle becoming a Galactus hat and Superboy driving his new friends around like a Megazord? Look, I know I have very specific tastes, but that is 100% what I want from my Detective Comics Comics Brand Entertainment.
Elle: As I watched Superboy steering a giant mech version of Infinity Man with the handlebars from his motorcycle, I definitely thought you would probably be into this episode. Making Infinity Man into a big robot guy is a choice that I think totally works in general. It makes at least as much sense as him being a regular-sized superhero who's also made out of five teens.
Chris: Unsurprisingly, I'm fully on board with treating the Forever People and the Infinity Man like a Super Sentai team.
This is legitimately my favorite episode of the show so far. It does a nice job of advancing the plot — even when that advancement is cleaning up after a disappointment like "Failsafe" — and it balances out the Extremely Serious Stuff with big, bold superheroic adventure. I mean, it'd be nice if this show ever bothered to take place in the daytime or a well-lit area, but for now, it'll work.
Elle: Not only is this a great episode, it's great while spotlighting Superboy, who has not been one of my favorites for most of the series so far. It's also a total tease. Who's behind this Apokaliptian plot? Desaad! So do we think Desaad is acting all on his own, or could he perhaps be working for some unnamed employer?
Chris: I think there might be another side to this story. Another… darker… side.
Elle: Also props to the design team for looking at comics Desaad and saying, "You know, we could make this guy a lot grosser."
Chris: Speaking of looks, I just wish that we had '90s Karl Kesel/Tom Grummett Superboy dealing with all this stuff instead of sullen black t-shirt Connor Kent. But like I said, I can deal with it.
Elle: Hey, at least that costume's about to turn up on the show, even if Connor's not the one wearing it.
That’s because “Secrets” is a Halloween episode. Although it starts with a museum theft. Specifically, the Sword of Beowulf is missing, and it turns out the guy who stole it, a real tool named Harm who talks about himself in the third person, is hiding in the shadows hoping to learn the incantation that activates the sword’s magic, which of course the curator totally says out loud.
Meanwhile at the Cave, everybody’s getting their Halloween costumes on, to go to the Halloween dance at Happy Harbor High. Megan’s a corpse bride, and she’s wrapping Superboy in mummy bandages. Kid Flash is Teen Wolf, and he thinks the dance is a date between him and Megan, who he somehow hasn’t figured out is dating Superboy.
Artemis, who’s dressed as a vampire, hasn’t figured it out either, but Zatanna, who arrives in on-the-nose witch attire, immediately does, and that upsets Artemis, who’s clearly still into Superboy. So the two of them decide to blow off the dance and have a night out in Manhattan, which puts them right in Harm’s way.
At the Halloween Dance, Marvin is using the internet and the PA system to convince everyone Martians are invading as a prank. Superboy figures out what he’s up to, and they decide to get back at him. When he’s the only other student outside, Megan appears in the form of a gigantic Marvin the Martian that roars like Godzilla and seems to kill Wally and Conner, scaring Marvin the Human so badly that he runs inside and confesses the whole thing.
Over in New York, Harm is hunting Artemis and Zatanna, but they keep getting guidance from a mysterious young girl who only says the word “Secret.” Harm captures the duo, but Secret helps them escape, and then it turns out she’s Harm’s little sister, who he killed because she was the only thing he loved, and he wanted to be free of emotion. It’s dark, dark stuff, but Harm’s still a tool.
Chris: And with that, we have gone from the dizzying highs to the terrifying lows of Young Justice. I did not like this episode one bit, Elle. Not one bit.
Elle: We've discussed before that neither of us read the original Young Justice comic. I knew enough about it peripherally to know that Harm and Secret are characters from it, but certainly not enough to know if they're faithfully adapted. I just know that Harm is ridiculous, and going from "Who is this clown?" to the revelation that he murdered his baby sister, who now walks the Earth as a ghost, is a bit much, to put it lightly.
Chris: I seem to remember Secret having a bit more personality (and a bit more vocabulary) in the few issues I read of the comic, but considering this episode was written by Peter David, who wrote the entirety of Young Justice and co-created the characters with Todd Nauck, I'm going to guess they're at least pretty close. That kind of dark origin seems like something he'd go for.
Elle: She can only say "secret" because the last thing she saw was a neon sign of that word across the street! What? Also the broken neon sign is for "Abel's House of Secrets." And while I often enjoy how overstuffed this series is with DC Comics in-jokes and Easter eggs, I don't think it works as well when you make something silly like that into a plot element.
Chris: This is going to sound really hypocritical coming from me, but David's tendency to let puns and too-clever jokes get in the way of storytelling is one of the things that turned me off of his writing in comics, and its' in abundance here. Like you said, we get to see Mal Duncan in the '90s Superboy costume, which would play a lot better as a background gag than by the show dragging it into the spotlight when Superboy asks him, "Who are you supposed to be?"
Elle: You're not wrong. And Superboy's visibly wearing his S-shield under the mummy wrappings, so he's not in a great position to ask anyone to justify their costume. Whereas Karen Beecher is dressed as a bumblebee, but nobody says anything about it, so it works.
Chris: She does have a weird Power Girl window in her bumblebee costume, though.
And hey, check it out: That's a very accurate costume of Conan O'Brien's Flaming C there in the background too.
Elle: The silly joke-as-plot-element in this episode that really works for me is Megan turning into Marvin the Martian from the Looney Tunes to frighten Marvin. And honestly, that mostly works because Marvin the Martian opens his mouth and an actual Godzilla roar comes out. That's just the right amount of ridiculousness to win me over.
Chris: Yeah, that was genuinely fantastic, although I was rooting for Superboy to just beat the living heck out of Marvin (the student) for being an annoying jerk and ruining everyone's good time party by pretending to be the Department of Homeland Security. Which, incidentally, is foiled when Superboy sees him with his infrared vision, something that's come up in both of these episodes. Did I miss some reason that he doesn't have x-ray vision, other than the kind-of-sloppy plot point in "Disordered" about Apokoliptian heat-masking technology?
Elle: If you missed it, I missed it too. I can't be bothered to keep up with Conner's superpowers. But I thought pranking Marvin back rather than just intimidating or punching him actually showed some maturity on Conner's part. Maybe even some social skills.
Chris: True, but you have to admit that he was being a real jerk, especially towards Megan. But then, I suppose he's only the second-biggest jerk in this particular episode. Harm is terrible in literally every way.
Elle: Just the worst. Which is a shame, because I liked Zatanna and Artemis hanging out. If they'd had a cool villain, it could have been a cool episode.
Chris: We've been through this before with Amazo, but if you're planning on giving your villain an "interesting" quirk in how they speak, may I suggest not doing that? At all? Especially if it's literally just going to be an endless string of puns?
Elle: The only reason I remember that Harm is from the comics is that I remember someone somewhere complaining that David had clearly only named him that so that he could use the line "Stay out of Harm's way." Which yeah, don't do that. Maybe just don't create Harm.
Okay, you literally can't even talk about this guy without punning. Just the worst.
Chris: Who would've expected this from the man who thought up Fite & Maad, agents of APES.
The one thing that he does that I actually thought was really interesting as a byproduct of his third-person speaking was referring to everyone — particularly Artemis and Zatanna — as "it." It's actually a nice touch that speaks to how he's consciously dehumanizing everyone around him to make it easier to become "pure evil." Basic, but nice.
Elle: I mean, yeah, but on the other hand it just made me think of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, who literally did the same thing with his victim.
Chris: Good artists borrow, Elle. Great artists steal. I made that up myself.
Elle: You're a great artist, Chris. Like, Peter David level.
Chris: How dare you.