Justice Returns1 of 12
DC's animated series Young Justice is on its way back to the screen after a years-long hiatus - but fans will have to wait just a little longer for the show's return, as it was just rescheduled for 2019.
But before that, to whet your appetite and get you back in the mood for all things Young Justice, we're counting down the best episodes of the series so far.
Welcome To Happy Harbor (Season 1, Episode 3)2 of 12
There’s something to be said about these early episodes, as they throw a multitude of characters at you all at once – and then keep going for several episodes. It can be daunting, especially if this is your first foray with DC animated shows.
Luckily, director Jay Oliva (who has a few other DC animated features on his resume) compresses a lot of this information into one fell swoop and makes it all that much more accessible because this episode dives into some serious deep cuts.
Aside from the fact that this has T. O. Morrow, “Welcome to Happy Harbor” establishes the team with their individual personalities loud and clear. Superboy is the stoic, cold hero suffering from imposter syndrome; while Robin is still looking for something to prove his place; and Miss Martian, the newest member of the team, is too invasive with her telepathy, which adds a certain aura of distrust.
Although only three episodes in at this point, “Welcome to Happy Harbor” expertly layers the bricks with that distrust that would hurt the team in the long run.
Coldhearted (Season 1, Episode 20)3 of 12
Kid Flash was highlighted early on as the comedic relief of the team, but this episode acts as a great character analysis of Wally West.
Assigned on a mission for his birthday by Batman, Kid Flash must race against heavy snowstorms and the likes of Vandal Savage to deliver a heart to a dying young woman. Originally being bummed out by the task, Kid Flash grows up in front of our eyes as he realizes he’s literally giving somebody else the gift of life instead, which is something better to celebrate instead of his own birthday.
True, “Bloodlines” in season two might have explored the Flash legacy as a whole and how Wally fits into this all of this, but this episode had Kid Flash at his very best.
Happy New Year (Season 2, Episode 1)4 of 12
New season, new year. Literally.
Flash-forward five years into the future, and we get caught up with how the team has changed and evolved since the events of the first season’s finale: Robin has become Nightwing, M’gann is in a relationship with newcomer Lagoon Boy, there’s a new Robin...and we get an appearance by the Main Man himself, Lobo.
Much like how Justice League Unlimited opened the floodgates to include C and D-listers onto the show, this episode made sure to let you know anybody was fair game now. It put the key in the ignition about the who they could actually trust as it was revealed that Lobo was after an alien who was disguised as the United Nations’ Secretary-General. This prompts pundit G. Gordon Godfrey (voiced by Tim Curry) to take aim with an anti-alien stance that echoes all too similarly to today’s political climate.
Revelations (Season 1, Episode 14)5 of 12
One of Young Justice’s strengths was telling a story that encompassed a multitude of episodes, but didn’t weigh down each episode with heavy continuity. So, when it was finally revealed that every mission the team had been on was actually interconnected, it made for one of the best episodes of the series.
The Injustice League (which consisted of the Joker, Poison Ivy, Count Vertigo, Black Adam, Ultra-Humanite, and Atomic Skull) had banded together to take down the Justice League using plant creatures fueled by super science and sorcery. While the League takes down the creatures, Batman officially deputizes the young team as the black ops branch of the Justice League and assigns them with taking down the Injustice League.
It’s also interesting to note, that this is the first time the Injustice League are referred to as such, as other incarnations could be represented as the Injustice Society/Gang.
While the JL and the team celebrate their victory over the evil crew, it’s revealed that they’re nothing but the “fall guy” for a more malicious cabal called the Light.
Drop Zone (Season 1, Episode 4)6 of 12
This episode highlights the team’s first official mission as Batman assigns them to investigate the rising in circulation of the drug Venom in Santa Prisca, Mexico. Without a proper leader, Robin tries his best to assume the role, but quickly finds out that just being Batman’s protégé isn’t enough for the gig.
Upon arrival, the team is caught between the Cult of Kobra and Bane’s factions over the production of Venom, with Sportsmaster making a cameo as a hired gun (er, bat?) for Kobra. After a successful takedown of Kobra and company, the team learns that Bane’s original Venom formula has been modified with Blockbuster’s muscle serum to create ‘Kobra Venom.’
This is the first hint of something nefarious going on in the criminal underworld with more possible alignments ready to be revealed.
Also, with Robin no longer seeking leadership of the team, Aqualad assumes the role of field leader.
Secrets (Season 1, Episode 18)7 of 12
Having a young Zatanna thrown in really sets this show apart from the concurrent Teen Titans show. On Halloween, Zee and Artemis try to have a fun girls’ night out after discovering Superboy and Miss Martian are an official item. On the flipside, Miss Martian, Superboy, and Kid Flash (in their alter egos) enjoy Halloween shenanigans at Conner and M’gann’s school. So, while you have a nice balancing act here, Zee and Artemis’ angle gets very dark, very quickly.
The two are followed by Harm, a powerful psychopath that wields the mysterious sword of Beowulf. They later encounter a ghostly girl who just says the word “secret” as she leads Zee and Artemis in helping to take down the new foe.
It then comes to light that Harm killed the young girl, who was also his sister, to purge himself of love and emotions. Secret, Zatanna, and Artemis are finally able to defeat Harm, but the last revelation is the gut-puncher: they come across a neon sign that flashes “secret” and the two come to the conclusion that it was the last thing the young girl saw before she died at the hands of her brother.
Young Justice might have been considered a kids show, but wasn’t afraid to let you know it could handle more mature content like this and separated it from other DC teen superhero cartoons.
Endgame (Season 2, Episode 20)8 of 12
The then-series finale had a lot going into it, and while it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of payoff, the tense and drama is intense. The alien Council of Rimbor judges the Justice League guilty of their crimes while they were under the influence of Starro, but Superboy and Miss Martian essentially bribe the council to sway their vote.
However, the strength of this episode was the loss of an original member and the emotional impact it leaves. There are 20 Reach vortex bombs across the globe, tampering with Earth’s magnetic field, causing all sorts of havoc. While Flash and Impulse are able to diffuse them, when another one is discovered in Antarctica and it’s too late to stop, Wally makes the ultimate sacrifice and is disintegrated.
Much like how Wally had assumed the Flash mantle after Barry made a similar sacrifice, Bart takes up the mantle of Kid Flash in honor of his heroic friend.
Summit (Season 2, Episode 19)9 of 12
The interesting thing about this episode is that it feels so much more like a finale then the previous installment on this list. The whole Reach vs. the Light plot was resolved when Aqualad revealed the latter’s great manipulations and brought everyone’s secrets out and open. Both villainous teams realize they’ve been infiltrated by Artemis and Aqualad, who reveal they’ve been working with their team the whole time.
This episode also has Young Justice’s best fight scenes to date. Aqualad standing up to Vandal Savage was picture-perfect; “Still you refer to us as children,” he says before Lagoon Boy, Beast Boy, and Blue Beetle reveal themselves as hidden operatives and start taking out goons left and right. It’s choreographed so well, that you might find find yourself cheering all the way through it.
There’s also a great moment between Aqualad and his father, Black Manta, about his betrayal and Aqualad lets him know where he stands.
Some villains manage to get away with the help of Klarion’s magic, so it left things open for their eventual return, and here’s hoping we see more of them with the upcoming third season.
Auld Acquaintance (Season 1, Episode 26)10 of 12
This episode kicks off many of the plot elements that would become the main focus of season 2, primarily Justice League being held accountable for their actions under the manipulation of Starro technology. The team discovers that the League has been brainwashed as Red Arrow tries to use Starro on them, but is eventually taken down. We discover that Vandal Savage is controlling the League along with Klarion the Witch Boy, but after the young team starts removing Starro from the Justice League, the two villains escape.
The thing here is that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, John Stewart, and Hawkwoman can’t account for 16 hours of what happened while they were under the influence of brainwashing as they were not in the Watchtower.
The episode legitimizes Savage as a threat to the team and leaves off with quite the cliffhanger that has repercussions that are felt for years to come.
Misplaced (Season 1, Episode 19)11 of 12
At first glance this seems like a random filler episode as it doesn’t touch on any of the overreaching arc, but what it does is showcase the kind of lives these young heroes actually have and the sacrifices that have to be made.
It begins as Klarion unites himself with other dark wizards of the world such as Wotan and (deep cut here) Blackbriar Thorn, to make two realities: one where the planet has missing children, the other with missing adults. As a walking Venn Diagram of both worlds, this episode highlights the creative nature of writer Greg Weisman as a very cool use of Captain Marvel comes into play here.
While it had its moments of fun as the League discovered that one of their own is a 10-year-old boy, it was weighed down as they lost one of their own to the nature of magic. Zatanna’s father, Zatara, an original member of the Justice League has to take the mantle of Dr. Fate to bring order and balance to both realms. It adds some depth to Zatanna’s character which hasn’t been explored much in the world of animation.
It’s beautiful and witty storytelling that acted as a great solo episode fans could dive into to get a proper feel of the show’s themes.
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