This Young Justice: Outsiders review contains spoilers.
Young Justice Season 13 Episode 19
I’m conflicted about “Elder Wisdom.”
On the one hand, it’s a perfectly fine episode of Young Justice on its own and as a part of the overall narrative of the third season. It’s got good action and a fun running gag (Impulse yelling “I’M FINE” from off camera). It gives a surprising amount of character development to people who feel like peripheral characters like Wonder Girl, El Dorado or Jay Garrick. But it’s trying to do something with its plot that worries the hell out of me.
The episode starts with UN Secretary General Lex Luthor giving a press conference at a climate change conference being held (naturally) at a Lexcorp hotel in Bwunda. He’s there with Troia and Tempest, and they’re almost immediately attacked by disguised supervillains. The Outsiders show up to beat them back, but Lex gets General Mbarra (the leader of Bwunda) to sign off on inviting the League to stop the attackers, and this ends up being a public relations ding on the Outsiders, whose entire schtick now is social media PR. The kids suspect Luthor was behind the attack, that it was a false flag, but can’t prove it. They eventually head off to Belfast to take a case that local officials are ignoring – Ivo’s monkeys are apparently stealing from a small store. There they discover an Ivo drone and his monkeys, and a batch of Luthor’s spider bots, save the girl, and get more popular online, and Luthor gets dragged by G. Gordon Godfrey on live television. But a bunch of this was a feint.
The League set the entire Ireland op up. Oracle found where Luthor had some spider bots stashed and used compromised Ivo toys to draw attention to it. The Irish dad was Batman in disguise, and his daughter is Miss Martian. And Luthor, Batman says, knows this was a setup. So the only group not in the loop here is Beast Boy’s team. The other flag here is after Godfrey finishes dragging Luthor on TV, he brings Lex back into his dressing room and orders him to co-opt the Outsiders instead of attacking them.
The show is clearly setting the Outsiders up to be burned by the League and start to drift towards Lex. It’s a good move, and they’re in the process of earning it when the switch eventually hits. But here’s my concern with the show.
The problem with drawing so many parallels to the world’s current situation is that you start to draw in some that are less favorable to you. They’re trying VERY hard to make Lex=Trump happen – he’s hosting the climate conference at his own private resort, he calls the Outsiders SAD once, and the League is literally using fake news against the Light. This all makes sense. You can even read Lex’s vendetta against Superman as a personalized, logical extension of the US’s current policy towards refugees.
The problem is, misinformation and distrust of the media and social institutions cuts both ways. In the real world, misinformation was deployed with a clear goal, but not always with a clear narrative. Russia didn’t go out there and dump millions of dollars into a “Vote Trump” Facebook ad campaign. They dumped a few thousand dollars into promoting a rally in Clearwater for Trump, and a few thousand more into pushing out Hillary’s “superpredator” speech, and a couple hours of staff time into pushing every fifth voter in Milwaukee to affidavit ballots, and a few thousand into “the DNC killed Seth Rich”, and a few thousand into “vaccines give you autism.” The goal was to sow chaos and distrust in the institutions that have held up society for the last 60 years, wait for them to collapse, and then step in to fill the void.
Chaos and distrust don’t actually cut both ways, though. The heroes are fighting on the side of order and stability as much as they’re fighting for what’s right, and using the weapons of the enemy – staging news stories, manipulating social media, and keeping everyone in the dark about it, even the people helping you – is absolutely going to burn the heroes in the end. I think what I’m most worried about at this point is that they pull another heist-movie-“this was part of my plan the whole time” twist. If they do that, it’ll just feel like a cop out.
The reason I’m not especially concerned about the show is that I suspect the writers know all this. When it falls apart, it’s going to be ugly and a lot of it will have been earned by the League. My biggest concern is that when it falls apart, it falls apart the right way, and not in a contrived, lazy, plot-first way. Based on what we’ve seen from Young Justice throughout, that’s not a big one.
OUTSIDER TRADING TIPS
– Bwunda is a fictional country in southern Africa initially introduced in Birds of Prey. The kids haven’t ever been there before in the show, but in the Young Justice comic, the Ultra Humanite and the Brain had a lab there where they ran experiments on apes, turning them super smart. That lab was eventually called Gorilla City. This show is awesome.
– Lia, the mind controlled Irish girl attacking Lex and Tempest (Garth’s post-Aqualad name) captured by the team? That’s Looker, a vampire supermodel from the comics Outsiders. She was initially introduced in 1985 without the vampirism, but got caught in a vampire attack on Markovia later in the series.
– The Godfrey Show’s tags under Luthor are pretty funny in how monosyllabic they are. The show really isn’t wasting any time trying to paint the bad guys as morons.
– Jay’s reference to “…what we had in the 1950s” in his tweet at Luthor is almost certainly a reference to The Golden Age, James Robinson and Paul Smith’s elseworlds comic that brought the JSA into the 1950s and had them dealing with Joe McCarthy’s red baiting and the House Unamerican Activities Committee (and ended up being the launching pad for Robinson’s later seminal JSA run). In the main pre-crisis DC continuity, the JSA disbanded rather than unmask before HUAC.
– Batman’s Irish costumed identity here is Matches Malone. In the comics, Matches is a mobster who accidentally kills himself running from Batman, and Batman now periodically goes undercover as Matches to get more information on the underworld.