After weeks of setting up various different plotlines, “Depths” starts to reveal the big picture with a story that spotlights the old crew. With so many pieces on the board this season, it’s nice to have an episode that takes a break from adding a new character or location and focuses on what’s already there. This week, we get further insight into the Wally/Artemis and Conner/M’gann relationship, and learn the secret truth behind Aqualad’s switch to the dark side. It’s another strong episode in what is shaping up to be one of the best seasons of any animated superhero series, continuing Young Justice’s organic evolution into something bigger and better than before.
When Nightwing asks Artemis to help the team guard a space shuttle launch, Wally tries his hardest to get her to stay behind. Unfortunately, he had that whole Impulse debacle a few weeks ago where he threw on the old yellow-and-red costume, so Artemis refuses to listen. Wally is mad that Nightwing would even ask her to help when he knows that they’re trying to get out of the superhero game, but she assures Wally by saying those famous last words: “What could go wrong?” Cut to Nightwing unsuccessfully trying to resuscitate an unconscious Artemis, declaring her dead before the cold open has even finished.
Artemis’ death is clearly a fake-out solely by having it come so early, but it’s an intense way to start the episode. The stakes have not dropped once this season, and it’s remarkable how much more engaging these stories are compared to last year. The plotting has become so sharp, with each episode offering a great mix of character drama and large-scale plot developments, and “Depths” is this season’s best example. The five-year gap has pushed the first generation of the team out of adolescence and into early adulthood, and their personal issues reflect that shift. Wally and Artemis are trying to leave a dangerous life behind while fighting the constant urge to fall back into old habits; Conner is struggling with feelings for someone whose lack of restraint scares him; Kaldur is caught between the life his father wants for him and what he wants for himself.
The shuttle launch is intended to establish communications between Earth and Mars with the intention of creating an alliance, and Nightwing assembles a team consisting of Artemis, M’gann, La’gaan, Conner, and himself to defend the shuttle from any potential attacks. Nightwing finally gets a chance to cut lose on the battlefield this week, showing off moves that suggest director Tim Divar has been playing Arkham City recently. He makes a great partner for Artemis, who is just happy to be back in costume and beating up bad guys. She loves experiencing the thrill of combat, and admits that’s probably what Wally was afraid of when she took the mission.
Tensions are high between Connor, M’gann, and La’gaan before the mission even starts, and when La’gaan is stuck doing underwater reconnaissance, the exes have a chance to work through their personal drama in the Bio-Ship. We finally get the story of Conner and M’gann’s break-up, which will sound awfully familiar to fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Conner became angry with M’gann’s abuse of her psychic powers, and when she tried to use her powers to get rid of his negative feelings, he broke off their relationship. It’s the Willow/Tara breakup, replacing magic powers with psychic ones, complete with turning something they used to love into the thing that pulls them apart. Conner loved the psychic bond M’gann shared with him, and she turned it against him.
In the midst of being pissed off that his girlfriend is flying around with her hunky ex, La’gaan discovers Black Manta and his squad setting up an underwater missile launcher. He decides to take them on alone after being patronized by Conner, and is ultimately taken out by Black Manta, who reveals himself to be Kaldur. With Kaldur’s introduction, we now have all the main characters from last season in one episode, and it’s fascinating how the dynamics have changed in the last two months of stories. As Kaldur has missiles launched at the shuttle, he sends a ground force to take out Nightwing and Artemis. He’s gotten stronger since going bad, showing some Korra-esque waterbending as he creates a liquid serpent to drown his old teammates. After Artemis shoots a rocket arrow that destroys Kaldur’s last missile, he impales her on a sharp blade of water, escaping as Nightwing begins the resuscitation from the start of the episode.
The space shuttle ends up exploding anyway, because Black Manta planted a bomb on it weeks ago. It was a final test for Kaldur, to see if he would take credit for something he didn’t do, and Kaldur passes with an extra gold star for killing his old teammate. For a second, I really thought Artemis was dead. When M’gann and Conner can’t do anything to save her and we see all the Young Justice kids sitting around in street clothes looking sad, I was fooled. Of course, it’s a fake-out, an elaborate ruse set up by Nightwing, Wally, Artemis, and Kaldur to help Aqualad further infiltrate his father’s organization. Kaldur was easily the most honorable character of last season, and it’s fantastic to learn that the hero lives on.
Young Justice was always intended to be a covert team, and Nightwing has really taken things to the next level by establishing an inner circle in deep cover. Are Wally and Artemis in a similar position as Kaldur, playing the roles of students until they’re needed in the fight? As Conner and M’gann’s story reveals, secrets can be just as destructive as a supervillain attack, and the actions of these four can have serious repercussions. What happens when an increasingly Dark Phoenixy M’gann finds out that they lied to her about the death of her best friend? The episode ends with Wally saying, “It only gets more dangerous from here,” and I have the feeling he’s going to be proven very right.
- This week’s DC Nation shorts: Atom’s pulpy adventure continues while a New Teen Titans short finds Robin and Cyborg arguing over the TV, then deciding to use a piece of duct tape to put a dividing line through everything. Warner Bros. has just announced that the chibi Teen Titans will return in a new 30-minute series next year, and the DC Nation shorts have left me clamoring for Teen Titans’ adorable humor.
- Looks like we’ll have to wait at least another week before we get more of Impulse or real-Speedy, although Nightwing does mention both of them at the start of episode.
- How do you think the public is going to feel when they find out that the Justice League has been off-planet in the middle of an invasion, and that they’ve been lied to by a bunch of sidekicks? G. Gordon Godfrey is going to have a field day with that one.
- Mermaid M’gann might be my favorite of all her transformations. So pretty.
- “They’re not victims, they’re bad guys!” I can’t wait to see just how out-of-control M’gann gets by the end of this season.
- “You can’t divide tape with tape! You created a paradox!”