‘Young Justice’ Episode Guide: Season 1, Episodes 19-20: ‘Misplaced’ / ‘Coldhearted’
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, we get one of the best high concepts on the series so far, and a pretty interesting spin on a classic comic book story. "Misplaced" was written by Greg Weisman, directed by Michael Chang, and originally aired on March 3, 2012. "Coldhearted" was written by Jon Weisman, directed by Victor Cook, and originally aired on March 10, 2012.
Chris Sims: Our first episode today, "Misplaced," is also the only episode of the show other than the pilot that I've actually seen before we started doing Teenage 'Kicks! It has a genuinely amazing high concept, too: When a cadre of mystical villains get together for a sinister ritual, every adult in the world vanishes — including the grown-up members of the Justice League!
With the team left as the only heroes in a world full of kids, they scramble to try to figure out what happened and how to fix it, a problem that seems way beyond their skills.
There's a catch, though: The adults didn't actually vanish, they just split into another dimension where, from their perspective, the children are the ones who went missing. And here's the truly brilliant part: The only person who can figure it out is Captain Marvel, who can magically transform from a kid to an adult and back again.
With Billy Batson Shazaming his way between dimensions, the kids are able to coordinate with the Justice League and take the battle to the bad guys, but since Zatanna's still working on her spells, they're a little short on mystical might. Thus: Chekhov's Trophy Shelf. Wally hands off the Helmet of Nabu, and Zatanna is possessed by Doctor Fate, gaining the magic to defeat Klarion the Witch Boy's crew of evil sorcerers.
The thing is, Fate doesn't want to give up such a powerful vessel, so to get his daughter back, Zatara offers himself up to be Fate's new host instead.
Elle: First of all, this is a really great idea for a Captain Marvel story, but as far as I know, nothing like it has been done with him before.
Chris: I know, right?! It's such a good concept that works beautifully for the character, and I've never seen it before this episode either. As much as I hated the pilot (and as much as I've had a pretty rough time with the rest of Season 1 so far), this is the episode that made me really curious about going back and watching the whole thing.
Elle: Even Klarion the Witch Boy's voice can't ruin this episode, although it tries. But hey, Blackbriar Thorn is there, so that's fun. He's like an evil wizard and a tree at the same time.
Chris: If I knew you could be an evil wizard and a tree, my inability to decide between them wouldn’t have forced me into picking my distant third career choice: writer.
Elle: I think it's great, and totally believable, how when the two worlds split, the teens collect the smaller children pretty quickly and keep things from getting too bad, and meanwhile the adults are literally rioting in the streets because their kids are missing.
Chris: I really like those stakes, too, because it lets us see how dark things are in the Children of Men dimension, but doesn't get into the really dark stuff that you'd find if, say, every doctor in a pediatric hospital vanished all at once. It balances out this really engaging threat and shows just enough of it to get you thinking about the broader implications, but it's still a superhero adventure focused on a kid who can summon magic lightning to turn into Superman.
Elle: Totally. In the name of that story, I'm even willing to buy into the young pilot who turns 18 at midnight.
Chris: That's such a great, goofy comic book thing, though, isn't it? This hard dividing line between Kid and Grown-Up.
Elle: Totally. But how it works for Captain Marvel, and also Klarion for that matter, implies that to some degree the spell also works on whether you look like an adult or a kid. But I'm trying too hard to find logic, which is clearly the basis for neither good writing nor chaos magic.
Chris: I will say, there are a lot of parts of this episode that I'm conflicted about. On the one hand, I feel like it stops being really fun when it stops being about Captain Marvel, but on the other hand, this isn't his show, it's Young Justice, and it demands that we follow the overarching plot that we get with stuff like Dr. Fate.
Elle: Everything becomes dreadfully serious whenever the Helm of Nabu comes out, for sure. But at least this is the culmination of that arc, and gives us Zatanna as a permanent addition to the team, even if it's under less than happy circumstances for her.
Chris: Along those same lines, I'm pretty evenly split between wishing we had a few more recognizable Captain Marvel villains involved, and also kind of loving that the Light seems to be dividing up their membership based on vague themes. Between this and the next episode, it's like they had a meeting at LexCorp's corporate retreat and just went, "Okay, ice people over here, magic people over here, half-animals down by the snack bar..."
Elle: Well, when you're trying to split the world in two or blanket a continent in snow, you're going to need more than one of each power set on your side. The Light's just efficient like that. For an organization that employs multiple gorillas, they seem to have things pretty together.
Chris: We've talked about the premise, but I think this episode also has a lot of smaller character moments going for it. Connor interacting with kids was an unexpected delight, and that moment where Billy finally decides to transform — something he's worried about, because he doesn't know what's going to happen if he becomes an adult — and about how Captain Marvel might have the courage of Achilles, but he has the courage of Billy Batson? That is good, good stuff.
Elle: Conner coming in the door with like four babies hanging off him is such a great image. And all the Billy Batson stuff is great. I also love when he introduces himself to the Team, and they all just stare down at him. They have to realize it makes Captain Marvel make a lot more sense, though.
Chris: This episode definitely treats Billy as smarter and more resourceful than we've seen in previous episodes that characterized him as a big ol' dope, which is a nice change. What did you think about the climax, though? As much as I enjoyed Dr. Fate being part of the world of Young Justice last time we saw him, he wasn't something that I was particularly expecting to come back — or hoping for, to be honest.
Elle: I didn't quite buy that Zatanna needed to put the helmet on, although the image of a teenage female Dr. Fate with long black hair streaming out of the helmet is a memorable one. And I don't like that Zatara can't just not put the helmet on. But I get that when you're a magic guy, breaking your promises to other magic guys probably has unforeseen consequences.
I do like how that moment mirrors Zatara's death in the comics, back in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing when the Darkness starts to consume Zatanna, and he forces it to take him instead.
Chris: One of the things that struck me about this episode was that, given how fresh and exciting it was for me, I expected it to be written by someone that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s actually Greg Weisman, and when I went back to check, I found that he's the writer on "Terrors" (another episode that I liked a lot), but also wrote "Independence Day" and "Humanity," which I didn't enjoy at all. It makes me wonder if this is a sign that the show is finally starting to settle into something that I'll like a lot more than the earlier ones.
Elle: I certainly feel like the average quality is getting better. Lately it seems like you at least like every other episode, which is an improvement over almost no episodes.
Chris: Young Justice: It's Better Than Nothing™!
Elle: It's Wally West's birthday, and the weather's terrible. His party at the Cave is interrupted by Batman revealing that the snowstorms are caused by five flying Ice Fortresses of unknown origin (spoilers: it's supervillains).
Most of the team is assigned to help the League fight the Ice Fortresses, but Kid Flash, to his disappointment, is given the task of picking up a donor heart in Boston and running it across the country in time for a transplant in Seattle, because no other transportation, even the League's teleportation system, can overcome the weather.
Kid Flash picks up the heart without incident, but along the road to Seattle he runs into Vandal Savage. He starts to fight with him, but then realizes it's not worth the time he's losing, and runs off. But Savage checks his watch, and it's clear that slowing Wally down was his entire goal.
He arrives in Seattle and gives the heart to a guy dressed like a doctor, who tells him that the transplant patient has already died. Wally's heartbroken, until he meets the real doctor and realizes he's been lied to. He chases the guy he gave the heart to, and runs right into Count Vertigo. Apparently the heart is meant for his niece, Queen Perdita of Vlatava. If she dies, he becomes king. Wally manages to beat him just in time and gets the heart to the doctors, but he collapses, and the news goes out that the young queen died in surgery.
Wally wakes up in the hospital to find Count Vertigo, who's come just to gloat. Being an old-school supervillain, he reveals his entire plot to manipulate the queen's death as his friends control the weather. But then Queen Perdita is revealed behind a curtain, alive and conscious. The news of her death was just a trick to draw out Vertigo. She revokes his diplomatic immunity, and he goes to prison. Meanwhile the other heroes have defeated the ice machines, so everything's good.
Chris: We mentioned never seeing that kind of Captain Marvel plot before, but this episode lifts its premise pretty directly from Mike Baron and Butch Guice's Flash #1, right down to having Vandal Savage show up for a fistfight in the snow. That's not a complaint, though — that's a pretty good premise to lift if you're going to do a spotlight episode.
Elle: For sure. I grew up on Wally West Flash comics, so no matter how many other heroes he's fought before or since, Vandal Savage will always be a Wally West villain to me. And I like seeing him in that capacity here.
Chris: They work really well together here, even if this premise makes way more sense as an issue of Flash than when he's hanging out with a team that includes someone who could just say "Ekat siht traeh ot Elttaes!" and be done with it.
Elle: Zatanna on this show does keep saying that it's not enough to know the words, you have to practice every spell. Which is a reasonably good way of limiting her total omnipotence.
Chris: Much as I like the premise, I have a complaint — and it's not really a complaint about Young Justice, because I actually feel the same way about Justice League Unlimited, and even the live-action Flash show, and I'm wondering if you feel the same way: Super-speed, as a general rule, does not look good in animation.
Elle: I agree. I guess it's because you shouldn't really be able to see nearly as much as you're seeing, but they have to put something on the screen.
Chris: It's a power that works perfectly in comics, because when you're dealing with a medium that's composed of static images, there are a ton of tricks to give one thing the illusion of motion that just by default looks faster than everything else on the page. In a medium with motion, however, it always looks a little off, especially when it's a long sequence of running. Young Justice actually does a really great job incorporating speed into the fights, but I've never been keen on the rest of it. Which sucks, because I really do love the Flash.
Elle: Obviously there are still going to be some problems with this version of Wally going forward, but this is the first episode that feels like Wally West to me. He's cocky and gets whiney when he feels underappreciated (which is all the easier to forgive when he's a teen) but he really is a good guy, and he tries really hard.
Chris: For real, this episode goes as hard as it can to make you feel bad for him. I mean, it's his birthday, and the first thing that happens to him is he finally finds out the girl he's crushing on is dating Superboy, and then gets left off the big fun mission with all the other Arctic Camo action figures.
Elle: And by the time he thinks he's let the patient die because of Vandal Savage's distraction, your heart kind of breaks for him. Even though deep down you know something else has to be up, because this is a superhero cartoon and not a medical drama.
Chris: There's a moment early in the episode where Wally's mad about not being brought on the mission, and he asks who the heart is for, and Batman gives him a very curt "does that matter?" and you see Wally just sink down and tell him that of course it doesn't, which is a great bit of characterization. He wants to do the fun thing (punch Captain Cold), but he knows that saving a life is saving a life, and that's why they do it. It's really nice.
Elle: It kind of bugs me, if I let myself think about it, that they say it doesn't matter who the heart's for, and then it turns out to be for a foreign head of state whose death would empower a supervillain. I'd like to believe that the League would arrange this kind of thing for any person whose life needed saving, but this turns out not to be just any person.
Chris: That's the premise of the Baron/Guice story, I believe; that it's just an average person. But again, we're seeing things being built to support that overarching narrative, which is a good enough way to go about it. And like you said, it still has a solid emotional payoff. The way Wally's heart sinks when he's told the patient died waiting, and he can't believe it because he worked so hard to make it under the deadline, is really solid.
Elle: It's a good dramatic beat. And the final payoff is great too, in which you see how happy he is to have saved a little girl's life, with the fact that he also saved a whole country as just a bonus.
Chris: The only thing that's goofy about it is that they went all in with the Lethal Weapon 2 "Diiiiiplomatic immunity!" resolution. I 100% expected Queen Perdita to growl out, "It's just been revoked," and she comes pretty close.
Elle: I'm just going to come clean here and admit that I've never seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies, so I don't get that reference. But I liked that they let the tiny queen herself be like, "You tried to kill me. You go to prison now."
Chris: You should watch it. Darlene Love’s in it!
Next: Beast Boy, Queen Bee, and a visit to Qurac.