“Terrors” is a sharper and more ambitious Young Justice episode than, well, almost all of its predecessors, actually. It tries to focus on Miss Martian and Superboy’s relationship to the point where the whole episode culminates in a kiss. “Terrors” also has a lot of the troubled teen superhero cartoon’s usual problems, too. By which I mean: a fundamental lack of understanding of its characters and several lapses in internal logic that directly undermine and garble the episode’s meaning. The aforementioned kiss, for instance, doesn’t really mean anything because there was no real tension or even a substantial build-up leading to it. In other words, if “Terrors” is any indication, the show’s creators have got the right idea about how to make Young Justice more than just a mediocre time-suck—they just don’t know how to do it.
Episode writer Greg Weisman stumbles a number of times in “Terrors,” most notably in the terrible dialogue he saddles Icicle Sr. with during the episode’s second half (the exclamation, “The greatest jail break in history,” is particularly awful). But there are some things that he gets right. In “Terrors,” he sets up a specific power dynamic. He doesn’t really explore it very well, but nonetheless, he sets it up! Miss Martian and Superboy are charged with impersonating the Terror Twins, super-villain teens who are respectively telepathic and super-strong. They must infiltrate Belle Reve, a maximum-security prison for super-criminals and figure out how prisoners are able to constantly break out. This mission forces Superboy to realize why he’s attracted to Miss Martian: She understands him.
We learn that’s what Superboy thinks after Icicle Jr., the fledgling baddie that Superboy (as Tommy Terror) cozies up with while inside Belle Reve, confesses that he instinctively feels Tuppence Terror (ie: Miss Martian in disguise) “gets” him. To Icicle Jr., Tuppence is that elusive, “Someone that sees the psycho that you are and likes you anyway.” Replace “psycho” with “hero” or whatever, and you get why Superboy likes Miss Martian. This is a major breakthrough for Superboy’s character because thus far, he’s almost exclusively been a one-dimensional hothead. He’s moped around and acted gruff and entitled with his fellow teammates way too many times to count. So it’s great to see Superboy finally come out of his shell here and realize that, like Icicle Jr., he feels a deep(ish) connection with someone.
Why that is, though, is a mystery. Miss Martian is the only other alien on the team, so it makes sense that both she and Superboy form a bond. But that’s just a fan-wanky assumption based on implicit information that’s never sussed out in “Terrors.” No, the real problem is that Weisman allows himself the perfect opportunity to make Miss Martian and Superboy really bond, and he blows it. One of the most crucial scenes in “Terrors” requires the two heroes, disguised though they are as stubborn villains, to talk about themselves. Dr. Hugo Strange, whom Batman fans will remember from such memorable comic book stories as Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy’s “Prey,” sits the Terror Twins down and asks them to talk about what makes them tick. True to the character’s form, Strange is a patronizing pseudo-intellectual that can only think in terms of daddy issues and mommy issues. Miss Martian senses this and tells Strange that Tommy suffers from daddy issues. This leads Superboy into a rant about how he wants to be just like his father.
On the one hand, it’s plain to see that Superboy is really talking about how he resents being stuck in Superman’s shadow. This is a pretty basic set-up and one that doesn’t require much of a follow-through on Weisman’s part to work. But he doesn’t follow through. At all. The fact that Miss Martian effectively betrays Superboy’s trust and brings up his daddy issues in the first place is never addressed after that scene. This should be an issue, considering that she’s a telepath and she just put him on the spot in front of a scheming, slimy villain like Hugo Strange. It doesn’t matter that Strange doesn’t know who Superboy is in this instance. What matters is that Superboy should feel angry or ashamed or even weirdly happy that Miss Martian forced him to unburden himself like that. He doesn’t, though, and that’s where “Terrors” really falls apart.
The rest of the things that stink in “Terrors” aren’t nearly as dependent on Weisman’s bad writing as even I’d like you to believe. The cruddy voice-acting that has plagued the show since its first episode is still prevalent, especially when it comes to whomever’s voicing Batman. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but if that’s still Bruce Greenwood speaking as Batman, I honestly couldn’t tell based on his performance—and I don’t mean that as a complement.
But really, I blame Weisman most of all for making “Terrors” a little bit better than most Young Justice episodes but mostly just as bad as the rest of them. How else to explain the way that Miss Martian and Superboy’s kiss seems to come out of nowhere while also being the logical resolution of the episode’s tension? Superboy’s conversation with Icicle Jr. makes that smooch a required release of tension. But man, that ending only provides a cheaply satisfying resolution to a relatively promising emotional arc.