EPISODE REVIEW: Young Justice: “Welcome to Happy Harbor” (Episode 3)

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Following a visually impressive and very well directed premier/pilot/two-parter dealie, we finally get on ot the series. How will it hold up? I found the premier to be immediately gripping, but to my surprise I found it didn’t hold up to even two viewings, story-wise, even though the visuals were sumptuous and the animation was easily on par with WB’s straight-to-DVD movies. So where to from here? I’m very eager to find out.

PLAY BY PLAY

We start off with Speedy fighting some super villain who seems annoyed that the sidekick came after him, not Green Arrow himself. Young Justice crashes the party, and invites Speedy to Join, but he says they’re just a joke, that they’re being given a playhouse so they can be kept under watchful eye, and calls them all ‘pathetic.’ That’s right, Speedy’s secret identity is…Paul from Pokemon.

Back at the new HQ in Justice Mountain in Happy Harbor, New England, Miss Martian, Superboy, Kid Flash, Robin, and Aqualad are mostly sitting around bored, when their instructor, Red Tornado shows up. He doesn’t have really anything for them to do, so they mill about uncomfortably, and Miss Martian makes several egregious faux passes because she’s an alien. Robin and Kid Flash hit on her mercilessly, however. Superboy is furious with her, but he’s kind of new, too, so his own anger becomes a faux pass, too. Aqualad gives him some advice, but Superboy basically ignores him.

Someone calling himself “Mister Twister” attacks Happy Harbor, so the team goes to fight him. He’s condescending, and pretty effective - surprisingly so - at taking them all down. They conclude - based on an assumption from Miss Martian - that he’s just Red Tornado in disguise, trying to train them. This irritates/amuses Twister, who proceeds to wail the heck out of them. Then Miss Martian saves the day, and a new enemy is revealed.

And Superboy learns to say “I’m sorry.”

So it was a pretty good day, after all.

OBSERVATIONS

It was interesting to me that YJ was less of a team in this episode than they were in the pilot. I suppose that’s to be expected. The purpose of a pilot is to show the basic concept, and Robbie, KF, and Aqualad actually do have oodles of natural chemistry. This episode takes a step back from that, and dilutes it a bit by showing us the difficulty they’re having with Miss Martian and Superboy around. This makes sense: Aqualad, KF and Rob have a history. They’ve known each other for years professionally, and it’s strongly implied that KF and Rob hang out socially as well. Both are somewhat more formal with Aqualad. The new people are new not only to the others, but they’re effectively new *people* as well: Superboy is only like 17 weeks old, and Miss Martian is new enough to not understand basic things like “Don’t project your thoughts into another person’s mind,” and “Don’t leave cookies unattended in the oven.” It’s also interesting to me that the ‘domestic alien’ - Aqualad - is the one who has the most insight into their conditions. He’s from earth, of course, but he’s not strictly speaking human. He’s Atlantean, an amphibious hominid.

What I like about this is that there's a sense that the pilot was really just prolog, the *real* story starts here.

Happy Harbor is one of the few DC Universe cities to have a reasonably specific, reasonably-fixed location: It’s in Rhode Island.

In this continuity, the original home of the Justice League was in Justice Mountain. We’re told its location was “Compromised,” and so they moved it to the Hall of Justice in Washington, DC. We’re told in no uncertain terms that the Hall is basically a front for the *Real* Justice League HQ, the Watchtower space station, which no one outside of the league appears to know about.

What makes this interesting is that in the pilot, Flash says “We have these big targets on our chests for a reason, you know.” The implication is that the heroes provide a big, flamboyant lightning rod for villainy, which distracts them from civilians, or maybe simply keeps them occupied while some other force moves in and cleans ’em up. By extension, the DC Hall would appear to be another of these big targets, specifically chosen to distract the bad guys. We’re also told that Young Justice is for covert missions. Since when are Superheroes covert, really? They’re pro wrestlers, not spies. What’s the deal?

I suspect we got a tiny clue of that tonight: we’re told the location of the League base in Justice Mountain was “Compromised” and the tone implies it was a very bad thing on every level. Who did it? Why? How? The impression I’m getting three episodes into this series - and it’s just charmingly paranoid - is that the Supers have really been screwed over in some huge fashion, and as a result they’re rather paranoid and not taking any chances. This is pretty intriguing, if true, but my hunch is I’m right. We’re three episodes and two stories into the series, and we’ve seen a lot of instances of wheels within wheels:
- A coordinated attack from four ice-themed super villains.
- Cadmus covertly doing cadmusy things of a sort that pretty clearly are only of use *against* superheroes
- A new group using robots to track down Red Tornado.
Not to mention the “Compromising” in past.

Paranoid superheroes! How cool is that? Cooler still in that they’ve probably got a good reason for it.

The thing I’m really digging about this show thus far - beyond the sumptuous visuals, good voice acting, and great direction, of course - is that it feels very thought out, but it doesn’t feel like home. This is *A* DC Universe, not *THE* DC Universe. Most of the same characters we know are here in some capacity, but they don’t all have the same backstory. We’re heard rumors off the air that supers have only existed in this world for about five years, so there’s a vibrancy to this that you don’t get in stories where these kinds of folks have been hanging around since the Great Depression. Its cool and it’s vital, and it reflects the “Young” aspect in the show’s title. I like it.

Robin has displayed his trademark for this show: a new, and infectious penchant for back-conjugating adjectives. “Underwhelmed” and “Overwhelmed” last week became just “Whelmed.” This week. “Disgruntled” becomes “Gruntled,” and the super villain ends up using it by the end.

Speedy has gone solo, but he's not really broadcasting the fact, and he's obviously intended to be a recurring factor in the show. In what capacity? Some have speculated that he's a traitor or a villain-in-training. I don't think so. My suspicion is that if the League represents conformity and community, then Speedy represents the other extreme: nonconformity and individualism. If that's the case, then Young Justice itself represents an attempt to find a middle path between the extremes. I think it's pretty apparent that's what the show is already all about.

Speedy's replacement hasn't been introduced yet, but she's in the opening credits.

Bottom line: This ep is a step up from the pilot, and the pilot didn't suck, even if it didn't bear up to repeated viewings. I've got a lot of eager anticipation for this show.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yeah, I think so. I think so. There’s an element of distrust and disquiet here that captures the zeitgeist of snobby conservatives like me who use words like “Zeitgeist.” There’s an element that paranoia might be justified, which is pretty popular among a lot of our people right now. Also, politics aside, it’s just cool.

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