As we say goodbye to Young Justice, let’s remember how great this past season has been and how well it juggled a huge number of characters and storylines. Remember the journey, because the destination is a bit of a disappointment. After a season of meticulously paced, multi-layered storytelling, “Endgame” is a generic finale that plays like a video game. It starts with a few boss battles, then turns into a scavenger hunt before the final level, where a heroic sacrifice is rushed through in a last ditch effort to give the story some added emotional weight. It all ends with a cliffhanger that will have viewers cursing Cartoon Network for cancelling this series, setting up a third season that will never come to fruition.
“Endgame” begins on Rimbor, where the Justice League has just been found guilty of crimes committed under Vandal Savage’s control. Superboy, M’Gann, and Adam Strange appear with recorded evidence of the Light’s plot using the League, but the aliens are unwilling to give up their superpowered prisoners. Superboy and M’Gann tell the jury that they are giving them the opportunity to show that that they can rule with justice, and by appealing to their integrity, they are able to get their adult colleagues freed. The Justice League material is a necessary plot thread that needs to be tied up, but its one of the less interesting storylines this season, and diverts attention from the characters we’ve become invested in.
Superboy and M’Gann do get the chance to talk about their relationship, and when she asks him about the time he’s spending with Wendy, he tells her that he’s just a buffer to help set up Wendy and Marvin. Their old flame isn’t entirely rekindled, but M’Gann makes forward steps by apologizing for ruining what they had by going all Dark Phoenix. The episode could use more of these kinds of character moments rather than pushing a crisis at the last minute, but that’s also because this is the last time we’ll see these heroes. If there was going to be a season 3, it might be easier to excuse the hurried pacing of this episode, which aggressively sets up a future for these characters that will never unfold.
While the League is getting its name cleared, the rest of Young Justice is dealing with the Reach back on Earth, attacking Black Beetle before he can destroy the planet. Aqualad leads Blue Beetle and Green Beetle into battle, but Black Beetle has the power to destroy scarabs and removes B’Aars O’Ohm from the fight. When he tries the same trick on Jaime, the power of his bond with his scarab conveniently overrides Black Beetle and deactivates the enemy instead. The main villain is taken out early in the episode, but not before he puts the Reach endgame into motion, setting off devices around the world that create catastrophic natural disasters. Like last week’s episode, there’s a lot of time spent on exposition about the Reach’s plan, time that could have been used showing this show’s huge assemblage of heroes in action.
The combined might of 40 (!) heroes isn’t enough to stop an environmental apocalypse, but with the help of Lex Luthor, Young Justice, the Justice League, Arsenal and the Runaways are able to save the world at the expense of one of their own. There’s an amazing group shot that shows off the impressive numbers of the massive superhero team, but the following action sequences don’t deliver on the promise of that image. If you have 40 characters, you should find a way to have them all show off in battle. This episode had the opportunity to go out on a bang, but it races through all the good fight sequences so it can get to the episode’s climax. There are a few highlights, including a team-up between Black Lightning and Virgil Hawkins that leads to the Leaguer offering to mentor the young hero, but everything happens so fast that the weight of the conflict isn’t entirely felt.
DC Comics fans know that a crisis means a dead Flash, and “Endgame” puts the scarlet speedsters in a position where the only way to save the Earth is to sacrifice one of their lives. The only way to stop the Reach’s final weapon is for the Flash and Impulse to run counter to the chrysalis and absorb its kinetic energy; when they can’t run fast enough, Kid Flash joins in, offering the last bit of speed to contain the energy. Unfortunately, the energy needs to go somewhere, and it all converges on the slowest of the three, wiping Wally from existence. Poor Wally West. He gets erased from the comics, and now he’s killed off after spending almost the entire season in the background. It’s a development that leaves a lasting effect on the team after the invasion, but it feels like a cheap move to kill off a character who hasn’t been a major player this season.
The episode ends by setting up future storylines, including the addition of Virgil to the team as Static, Nightwing taking a leave of absence (replaced by Batgirl), and Artemis and Impulse donning new identities as Tigress and Kid Flash. Wally’s death has brought Robin and Wonder Girl together as a couple and it looks like Conner and M’Gann are rekindling their romance, closing the series with a new team dynamic that will never be explored. Season 3 would have been one hell of a ride, with Lex Luthor taking General Tseng’s seat in the United Nation while Vandal Savage forges an alliance with Darkseid on Apokolips. It’s a shame Young Justice got canned right before it had the chance to dive into the Kirby-style superheroics, because that would have been fantastic with this show’s animation style and writing team. Any chance this show could be retooled as a massive Justice League + Young Justice series that just picks up where “Endgame” leaves off? How about a Young Justice movie? Get that Kickstarter going because I’m in denial and don’t want this lackluster episode to be the end.
- This week in DC Nation: It’s a rerun of Aardman’s claymation Batman and the latest installment of the DC Farm League, which includes an awesome cameo by an insect Cyborg. I’d love to see a regular half-hour program of just DC Nation shorts done in the style of the current Mad cartoon.
- What’s your favorite Young Justice moment? Mine is probably when the team infiltrates War World, which was probably the best use of this show’s expanded cast. Just so badass.
- A commercial for Teen Titans Go! aired this morning, and while I’m sure it’s going to be a fun, if juvenile, series, I can’t help but feel some anger that we’re losing Young Justice for this.
- “There will always be a world to save.”
- “Wow. Thanks so much.” This season could have used more Black Canary.