Episode 14 to 16 Review
Young Justice: Phantoms
New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms have surfaced and the second half of the season begins with prophecies, mysteries, and intrigue adding to record unrest in Atlantis. Kaldur'ahm once again hoists the weight of problems from many fronts, but will it finally break him? It's not much different across the surface as others also come to the help of others or seek it. Instead of one new episode to begin the back 13 episodes of Phantoms, fans are being treated to 3 episodes being streamed at once. Which plays with the idea there's 3 plots going on at once in each episode! By the end, you still won't know what twists await in the conclusion of Phantoms's fourth arc.
"Nautical Twilight" takes a few steps back to the night Artemis Crock found out about the death of Conner Kent then shifts to Kaldur'ahm's point of view. Dick Grayson tries to have a heart-to-heart with him and convince him it's the right time to take some time off. However, Kaldur'ahm is true to himself and denies anything is wrong and is off to prepare for his next task, a meeting of all of Atlantis's city-states in Poseidonis on April 20. Tensions are high as city-states are in contention with each other over increasingly limited resources and Poseidonis has become the poster child of the haves in the "haves and have-nots." It turns out wealth and opportunity are abundant in the capital but not so much in the other city-states. However, a new crisis threatens to quash talks. Ocean-Master has somehow returned. If you remember season one's "Downtime" and/or read the tie-in comics, specifically Issue #14 and #15, the representatives will all look familiar. All former classmates of Kaldur'ahm at the Conservatory of Sorcery, now important political or military figures from their home city-states: Lord Ronal of Crastinus in the Arctic Ocean, Prime Minister Topo of Lemuria in the North Pacific, Emissary Coral of Neptunos in the South Pacific, King Nanaue Sha'ark of Nanauve and the Southern Ocean, General Lori Lemaris of Tritonis in the Indian Ocean, and First Citizen Calvin Durham of Shayeris in the North Atlantic. King Orin and Queen Mera are joined by the cabinet, Garth, Vulko Ondine, and Kaldur'ahm. While Artur and La'gaan play outside with Sha'lain'a and Delphis watching them and guards Wyynde and Rodunn standing watch. Did I mention it's a big who's who of Atlantis? However, a representative from Xebel is missing and some take it as a direct snub. Orin urges Mera to ask her father to send someone soon. Yes, sticking to canon, Mera is from Xebel and the daughter of the current king. Then there's the reveal that La'gaan is a soon-to-be-father with Coral. Ocean-Master crashes the summit and wrecks havoc but a stranger saves the day and quickly departs as he arrives.
If Ocean-Master's return wasn't enough, the second plot focuses on the ghostly Conner Kent stranded in the dimension that Zatanna briefly glimpsed. Conner realizes he's not alone but his new buddy is unconscious, but unlike us, he has no idea it's Phantom Girl. Conner figures out if he thinks someone or something is solid, so it is. Conner soon notices a heat trail in infrared and decides to follow it.
Last but not least, Violet Harper seeks out Madia Daou in Happy Harbor. Turns out Secretary-General Troia helped get her and Samad's visas approved and they've relocated to the US. To Madia's surprise, Violet has come seeking to figure out what Islam means to her. Madia informs her customs like the hijab means many things to many people then reveals to her, it means a comforting remainder of her faith and to be good and be the best person she can. In addition to figuring out her ideology, it's also revealed Violet's also been working on her powers and she heals a minor burn for Madia. Madia counsels Violet on what God is and isn't then shares her belief Violet is on the good path. Violet later confides in Harper about their decision to identify as non-binary.
"Ebb Tide" skips a few weeks forward to May 14 and both Kaldur'ahm and La'gaan haven't made any headway in finding Ocean-Master and unrest is growing in Xebel thanks to King Nereus. Orin is still bothered by Ocean-Master's random attack versus his tried and true M.O. of being so methodical or why he waited so long to attack after he escaped prison. Things turn to reconstruction efforts in Poseidonis as a statement that Ocean-Master didn't win and the whole issue of perception. Orin's former proteges point our it doesn't matter the funds for it came from Poseidonis's general fund and not the Atlantean treasury. To the people it looks like once again, the wealthiest city matters over the rest. Orin bemoans how the people complained he wasn't focused on Atlantis when he was Aquaman but not that he's just the king... heavy is the head indeed. Another issue of perception is brought up by Mera, the stranger with the power to defeat Ocean-Master and how it closely fulfills the first step of the Prophecy of the One True King. Orin is rightly skeptical as it's so conveniently timed. This time around, it's parents Sha'lain'a and Calvin who voice their concerns to Kaldur'ahm but he asserts he is fine. Yet another crisis emerges in the form of Child's pillar of fire, synching this episode within the Zatanna arc. To everyone's shock, Ocean-Master and the stranger come to Mera's aid is stopping the red death from overtaking the ocean. Then of course, Ocean-Master tries to finish off Mera but the stranger and Orin defeats him. Everyone's in for another shocker when the stranger reveals himself to be Arion.
Conner gets angry about his lack of progress and soon discovers the source of the heat trail to be a living monster. To make matter worse, it slashes Conner's back and leaves a gaping wound. He forgets to thinks it's solid but after landing a hit, he's nailed by its tail and watches in horror as it lands on top of Phantom Girl. He continues his attack but takes counter attack after counter attack. He soon sees Phantom Girl is unhurt and realizes the monster is attracted to his anger. He centers himself by remembering when he fixed a motorcycle in the garage with Megan, Wolf, and Sphere. The monster departs. Conner wonders what to do next
Clark Kent heads to Bibbo's Diner in the morning but two teenagers, Saturn Girl and Chamelon Boy, approach him incognito and address him as Superman to his shock. They need his help. Superman flies to them above the Daily Planet, maintaining the decorum of Clark and Superman not being the same person. Saturn Girl plays along and they explain they are from the future and have been attempting to prevent Superboy's death as it as disrupted the time stream and turned the future into a galactic disaster. They admit they were stranded on Mars but got to Earth thanks to Bio Ship. They cryptically ask him to take Superboy's place and be in Happy Harbor in exactly 10 years. Superman is summoned to Agra by Black Lightning, another keystone to anchor point to the Zatanna arc. To Chamelon's chagrin, the time stream is not reset but Saturn Girl contends they might be so far out of their timeline, they change doesn't affect them. The next night, they approach Bart Allen. Meanwhile, up on Warworld, Vandal makes preparations for a very important project.
"Emergency Dive" shifts a month to June 1. Testing done on Arion is inconclusive but do confirm relation to Vandal and Cassandra Savage and Mera feels his magic is a much older strain than any they ever encountered before. Blubber brings up Arion's crown in jest but he asserts it's long buried under Xebel in ancient ruins that past excavations have barely touched on. Arion has gotten a large following of Atlanteans but he would rather run away. Orin tasks Kaldur'ahm with a covert operation to Xebel to locate the crown to either prove or disprove the prophecy once and for all. Wyynde is not happy Kaldur'ahm hasn't taken a break after Ocean-Master's capture like he promised. He and La'gaan are on Kaldur's covert team. Delphis is interested but he turns down her offer to join simply because she hasn't had the training. Orin visits Orm in prison and tricks Orm in to revealing he isn't the real deal. He orders Blubber to test DNA samples. Chian offers to sneak Arion out of his quarters undetected. The team makes it to Xebel's Grave of Legends amid riots and starts excavating an entrance. Orin heads to the seedy Ninth Tride district and finds Danuuth. Delphis had followed the team and makes an distraction with her ability then Kaldur realizes she's joining the operation. They outrace a cave-in and it's apparent there's no turning back. Blubber informs Mera and Orin that Ocean-Master is a clone. Orin's skepticism is validated and Mera wonders what the Light could be up to.
Conner Kent is starting to go a tad looney and is imagining his loved ones to support his seemingly endless journey. First, M'gaan then Wally West. However, his Superman is violently disrupted by a visage of Match, who snaps Superman's neck. Conner finds himself "in" Match's body then faints from the shock...
Forager informs Megan what's been going on with Garfield Logan and she tries to jilt him out of his depression. She tries to get him to see he's past his breaking point. However, Garfield insists he knows what he's doing and will survive Conner's death like he did with his mother, the Doom Patrol, Tula, Jason Todd, Ted Kord, and Wally West. Megan regroups and stages an intervention with the help of Cassie Sandsmark, Virgil Hawkins, Jaime Reyes, and Robotman. He easily dismisses their words but does state he doesn't want to be needed anymore. Megan plays her ace, a mandatory mental health check with Black Canary. Meanwhile, Forager gives the commencement speech at the Happy Harbor High graduation ceremony.
Suffice to say, a LOT of things go down in these 3 episodes. While on one hand, binging three episodes in a row was a welcome respite after the 3 month wait between new episodes. On the other hand, Young Justice is best digested on a one episode per week basis and in addition it's a lot more fun speculating week to week. And this 3 episode launch cuts down the season run by 2 weeks. I'm sure HBO Max has metrics and their analysis to back this streaming pattern that they do not just for Young Justice but the majority of their titles, but it just felt like the stakes and tension of this arc were bludgeoned by having three episodes all at once. I know you're not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'd trade 2 episodes for an early season renewal instead.
So as they say beggars can't be choosers so to the story at hand. Against the backdrop of civil unrest and subterfuge in Atlantis, Kaldur's personal sub-plot is all too familiar and parallel's Beast Boy's. Rather than taking the advice of his family and friends, Kaldur'ahm shoulders the many responsibilities of Atlantis, the Justice League, and mourning Conner all at once. Violet seeks out help in continuing her own journey and has a talk with Gabrielle's mother Madia about Islam. She makes some progress and caps it by declaring she is non-binary. A big milestone before graduation from high school. Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy take a big risk and seeks out Superman's help to repair the time stream by getting him to promise to take Superboy's place at an important event that will happen in 10 years then seek out the current Kid Flash. Lastly, Beast Boy continues to refuse help from his family and friends but thanks to red tape, there's one more "obstacle" in his so-called full proof self-medicating, Black Canary.
Now Atlantis. Playing up the contrast of an open minded culture exhibited by the ubiquity of sexual orientations like La'gaan's polygamous marriage, is suffering from scarce resources, economic disparities, and military tension. It's intriguing, although not 1:1, Weisman and Vietti has again brought to light a DC civilization where there's trouble beneath the surface, literally and figuratively. The first arc of this season brought Mars and its plight to our attention, worse than anything M'gaan hinted at previously in the series. In light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, it's a jarring coincidence that city-states like Nanauve have invaded and annexed territories of others. It seems like the perfect time for a clone of Ocean-Master to take advantage of to steal the throne. Now is this clone some fail safe that Orm left behind in case he was executed which totally happened or is this another machination of the Light? Both of whom, have or had access to Cadmus and its cloning tech. And what a weird feeling that the audience knows the real Orm is long dead, but people like Orm have no clue. Vandal's new project did sound like it was alluding to the three in the Prophecy of the One True King. Vandal did just make waves with the Lords of Chaos and Order. Atlantis is in chaos. The prophecy is said to restore order. And Arion, Vandal's grandson happens to pop up. One big fishy coincidence if you ask me. On one hand, could it be Vandal using a Glamour Charm to pose as Arion to sow restlessness and trick the heroes into recovering Arion's crown so he can steal it and continue his new role with Order and Chaos? One the other hand, Vandal shouldn't be able to duplicate that old magic and he was off communing with Order and Chaos at the time. Couldn't be Wotan or Klarion, surely someone like Mera could tell the different between order and chaos magic. Or are we in for a twist nobody saw coming, like this was all a scheme of Ryus Nereus? Or simply, it is Arion.
Obviously, the big surprise of this arc is Conner. I was convinced that tease at the end of episode 13 was all we were getting for awhile but here we are with Conner in a state between life and death in a limbo dimension that reeks of the Phantom Zone. It seems like a slam dunk that Phantom Girl tried to use her ability to spare Superboy at the last second but the gene bomb explosion did something and they both got shunted to the Phantom Zone which comics fans knows has had ties to Phantom Girl's powers. To complicate matters, we know from the Mars arc that Phantom Girl hadn't exactly mastered her powers just yet. In addition the monster aptly named Devourer seems a lot like an Earth-16 take on Aethyr, the only living being that exists in the Phantom Zone in the comics. While I am a little on the fence of being "tricked" and it turns out we didn't see the totality of what happened in "Involuntary," on the bright side, we have an out and Superboy wasn't killed off after all. Fingers crossed either Phantom Girl wakes up or the Phantom Zone Projector comes into play. Not sure if that 'seance' seen in the mid-season trailer will do any good. Doesn't sound like Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy have much hope left and are willing to risk using Bart to rebuild his time machine from Invasion to get back home. Unless the time stream is finally reset, and either they blink out or the cavalry arrives in the form of more Legionnaires in search of their missing comrades. But let's hope Conner doesn't run into other phantoms or totally lose his marbles waiting for his rescue. However, there's still the greater issue. Why did the Saboteur try to assassinate Superboy to prevent whatever he does on May 14, 2030 in Happy Harbor just to reshape the 31st century into a galactic disaster?
The third part of each episode being a rotation of everyone else came off as unwieldy at times. Yes, it ties into Kaldur's arc about shouldering it all and thus, it's not random sub-plots being thrown into the pot. And yes, I love that season four is focusing on the original members of the Team and these sub-plots are for other originals, Leaguers, season 2 additions, season 3 additions, etc. so they don't lost in the shuffle. Give the fans more bang for their buck, show us the fully rounded universe, keep the character arcs of new characters like Violet and Forager moving forward instead of on pause, check in on the Legionaries, keep this Beast Boy sub-plot going to wherever it's going. Still, it feels like too much is going on from too many directions especially with big cast of characters in Atlantis and all the different storylines converging on each other. It gets overloaded, can't it just be loaded?
Young Justice is back and not holding any punches. The second half of season four features a long awaited return to and focus on Atlantis and expands on its lore and cast of characters as well as a strong focus on Kaldur'ahm while also juggling the ongoing arcs of the Conner Kent, the Legion of Superheroes, Violet Harper, and Garfield Logan. All this amid sociopolitical strife, prophecy, old grudges, and ancient history on a collision course that could upend Atlantis and lead to chaos across the planet.
Rating: 4 out of 5