Young Justice: “The Hunt”
A-

Young Justice: “The Hunt”

A prison break, heist, political thriller, and superhero drama all rolled into one, “The Hunt” is the kind of episode that makes Young Justice’s cancellation all the more heartbreaking. The writers of this series have thrown so many balls in the air this season, and as the show races to its finale, it’s beginning to look like everything is going to be juggled smoothly. Like I hoped for at the end of last week’s recap, this week’s episode follows Nightwing and M’Gann as they work to free their captive teammates. While they don’t team up with Lex Luthor’s metateens, the superpowered runaways play a large part in the episode, partnering up with an incredibly badass Arsenal. Luthor also wants the young heroes freed, but as is usually the case, he has a sinister ulterior motive.

I firmly believe that Young Justice: Invasion will go down as one of the strongest seasons ever of a superhero cartoon, largely due to it’s roller coaster pacing. A considerable amount happens off-screen, giving each new episode a boost of momentum as characters are pushed into new positions before the story begins. We don’t see Nightwing tell M’Gann about Jaime’s betrayal or Lex Luthor training his new teen heroes because there just isn’t time for that, and having those moments off-screen keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. The writers have crafted an epic narrative for these characters, but as the plot expands, it remains focused on real human emotions. That’s not an easy thing to do, and the balance of character and story is this series’ best attribute. While the size of this show’s cast has expanded considerably, key emotional moments still tend to be centralized on the season 1 cast; the rest of the heroes are basically fan-pleasing set dressing, except for Blue Beetle. 

The Reach had a good thing going until Mongul showed up with his giant war planet, and after revealing the fleet of ships it had hidden under the sea, the alien menace is forced to account for their deception on G. Gordon Godfrey’s television show. It’s nice to see that this show’s resident pundit doesn’t discriminate when it comes to maliciously attacking anyone who lies to him and the rest of the planet. Godfrey has been a welcome addition to this show, giving radical voice to the public’s opinions on superheroes, aliens, and every other fantastic thing that shows up on Earth. Godfrey represents the human element, which is ironic considering he’s one of Jack Kirby’s New Gods in the comics. With only three episodes left, I doubt we’ll be seeing Darkseid and Orion enter the fray, but it would have made sense for this show’s third season to move in that direction.

There’s a time for guilt and there’s a time for action, and Nightwing and M’Gann have the two confused right now. M’Gann blames herself for not scanning Green Beetle’s mind thoroughly and allowing the Scarab to feed her false information, but Nightwing argues that if he hadn’t kept Kaldur’s undercover mission a secret from M’Gann, she wouldn’t have been afraid to use her powers. They’re both right, but there are more pressing issues at hand. M’Gann has been one of the lead characters of this season, dealing with the increasing ferocity of her powers and the subsequent guilt that comes from going to far, so it’s fitting that she would be the one to realize that this shame spiral is crippling them both. They’ve both made mistakes, but it’s time to get over themselves and start thinking about the team.

The storyline of Lex Luthor and his teen heroes has moved so quickly that it’s almost rushed, but by the end of the episode, the pacing makes sense. After a night of smoothly coordinated destruction of Reach billboards and supply trucks, the four are given a Father Box by Luthor and asked to rescue the captured heroes of Young Justice, a mission that Virgil sees as repaying the team for initially saving them from the Reach. Everyone agrees and they teleport right into the center of the action, fighting off the Reach’s guards while Arsenal watches in the distance. Arsenal and his awesome bionic arm steal the show this episode, sneaking through War World, taking down Reach soldiers, and ultimately teaming up with the metateens to accomplish his mission.

With the Justice League guarding the control room where the Reach can use their newly acquired Crystal Key, the aliens send their big muscle Black Beetle to clear the way. He never makes it to the Justice League, instead running into Luthor’s group, who he quickly takes down before Arsenal shows up to even the playing field. After rescuing Eduardo by shooting Black Beetle’s jet pack, Arsenal tells the team that their best hope is to confuse their opponent until they have a better option. Arsenal makes a risky choice when he releases Mongul from his containment pod, but it’s a smart decision that gives them enough time to free the rest of the team while Mongul and Black Beetle duke it out.

With War World in chaos, Lex Luthor takes the opportunity to retrieve the Crystal Key while Reach forces are fighting the heroes, sending in Deathstroke to take care of any remaining guards. This episode is packed, but an appearance from Deathstroke is always welcome. After rescuing the team, Arsenal runs off to retrieve the key, but he’s already too late. Things only get worse for Arsenal when Karen confronts him about opening the airlock to save himself from Blue Beetle at the expense of his teammate’s lives. After saying thank you for saving his friends, Nightwing kicks Arsenal off the team, but Luthor’s group quickly snaps him up.

When they boom tube back to their base and Arsenal sees that Luthor is behind their actions, he tells his new partners about how their boss was responsible for putting him on ice for eight years and that he played them to get the Crystal Key. Lex doesn’t have a suitable response and Asami blows up their laptop and Father Box, cutting off ties from their old employer. The reason this storyline has moved so fast is because these characters are always on the run. They ran away from home, they ran away from the Reach, they ran away from S.T.A.R. Labs, and now they’re running from the Light. With the team saved and the Reach exposed, the board has been set for this show’s grand finale, and it’s going to be a bittersweet goodbye if the last three episodes are as good as “The Hunt.”

Stray observations:

  • This week’s DC Nation: It’s an animal-based double-header with an “Animal Man” rerun and the return of the hilarious DC Nation Farm League. It’s an all-Batmongoose adventure featuring the Croaker, Moo-Face, and the brilliant Cat Cat, with lots of silly narration and jabs at the Dark Knight’s attitude. Quotes: “Alright, I’m a little afraid of hawks.” “I am Bat Mongoose! Cue lightning!” “I looked it up! Wombats eat roots!”
  • The Young Justice comic ended this week with a sweet story about the start of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s relationship. I wish there was more time for this show to explore that.
  • Poor Reach Ambassador doesn’t get a name.
  • Seeing Eduardo teleport around makes me want to see an X-Men series done by this creative team using the line-up from Giant Size X-Men.
  • “Now you’re just being petty.”
  • “Hello!”
  • “Now you gone done woke up the big man!”
  • “So this is our guilt-off?”
  • “That’s just what we do.”
  • “Deathstroke’s more of a bishop, really.”

More TV Club