Justice League Unlimited: Season 1, Episodes 3-4

“Hawk and Dove”, “Fearful Symmetry”

“Hawk and Dove”

Once again, we dive into a plot featuring a few brand new characters – peace-loving liberal Dove and his angry, conservative brother Hawk – as they join Wonder Woman in thwarting a massive civil war in the fictional South American country of Casnia.  There, it seems, two paramilitary forces are warring, and tearing the country apart in the process.  Despite the League being unwilling to stop a giant rampaging monster just two episodes back because it was a military matter in a foreign country, J’onn sends Wonder Woman in, along with Hawk and Dove, to stop this war, a war that’s been made all the worse with the inclusion of Ares.  Even better, one of their potential solutions involves kidnapping a pair of military leaders and forcing them to negotiate.

Extraordinarily shoddy plotting aside – I would have loved to have been in the Watchtower when J’onn decided that the best team they could assemble to force a civil war to a standstill involved Hawk and Dove – the episode further serves to expand the JLU universe at least a little bit, introducing not only Hawk and Dove, but also Ares and Hephaestus.  There’s some fun universe building in the background, but, like with “Initiation”, it’s built around an extremely mundane episode.  Lacking any heavy hitters save Wonder Woman, there aren’t even any particularly good throw-down fights.

The episode has its share of clumsy moments.  Wonder Woman’s mood change is awful sudden, going from a reasonable, powerful, measured character for most of the time we’ve known her into a violent blowhard, here.  It makes the point of the episode well, but it does so at the expense of coherent storytelling.  Similarly, the episode’s constant desire to remind us that Ares is a god, and also EEEEEEVIL, gets distracting.  He spends much of the episode in disguise, but in case we forget, he always changes back to his evil armor at the end of his scenes, even when he’s standing in plain sight.

The episode has at least some charm, however – the makers of JLU had gotten quite good at keeping things reasonably enjoyable, despite frequent plotting issues.  With the surprising exception of Wonder Woman, the episode is well-characterized, particularly Hawk.  “Let go of me! He’s weak, he’ll get himself killed!” Hawk yelled near the end, willing to fight Wonder Woman and the Annihilator to protect his little brother.  It’s a surprisingly sweet moment in an extraordinarily mediocre episode.

Quotes & Notes

“The Annihilator – heartless, indestructible, and ready to feed on mankind’s misery and rage!”  – Hephaestus, I demand a ‘moo hoo ha ha’ mad scientist laugh after a line like that, dammit.

“You know how little money we have.”

“We can worry about that later.”

“… you’re joking, right?” – This Casnian military man certainly doesn’t lack common sense, even arguing with the God of War.

“Just because I disagree with you doesn’t make me unpatriotic!”

“No, you being a bleeding heart punk makes you unpatriotic.”

“Actually, I gotta agree with him on that.” – Dove, bar thug, Hawk, in a MASSIVE DISPLAY OF SUBTLETY

“Pre-emptive strike!” – Oh, Hawk, your conservative humor is so clever.

“Both of you, scram.” – Dove, who is the least-threatening superhuman EVER CONCEIVED OF here.

“There’s no one inside that thing! How do you fight that?”

“You hit it ’til it breaks.” – Hawk & Wonder Woman.  I’m sorry, Hawk, but that’s a pretty standard answer.

“I didn’t give you the Annihilator so you could run them out of town, I gave you the Annihilator so you could annihilate them!” – Ares, the master of stating the obvious.

“Where ever there’s prejudice, ignorance, inequality… I’ll be there.” – Ares really loves the obvious.

Grade: D+

“Fearful Symmetry”

When I checked Wikipedia on what episodes were coming next, it told me that “Kids’ Stuff” and “Hawk and Dove” would be next.  I remember that being the order I saw the episodes in, as well, and I remember being disappointed – “Hawk and Dove” and “Initiation” were both disappointing episodes, while “For the Man Who Has Everything” and “Kids’ Stuff” were both charming… and completely focused on the original cast.  So imagine my surprise when I popped in my DVDs and found “Fearful Symmetry” to be listed as the fourth episode.

I think putting it earlier in the season was a good move, however.  “Hawk and Dove” and “Initiation” both made good on the show’s vastly expanded cast, yes, but they did so in extraordinarily boring ways, featuring pretty mundane characters having extremely simplistic adventures.  Fans of Justice League couldn’t have been thrilled to have C-list characters in C-list stories, while people just tuning in for the first time were treated to people they’ve never heard of doing nothing all that special.  “Fearful Symmetry,” on the other hand, takes its B/C-list cast and works wonders with them.  It also introduces us, finally, to the Question, and as anyone who has seen the whole series knows, any Question-centric episode is bound to be brilliant.

Supergirl, it seems, has been having nightmares.  She’s been chasing down normal people in Metropolis and, well, straight-up murdering them.  The dreams are vivid enough to frighten her, so she goes to Martian Manhunter.  Put on inactive duty, she turns to Green Arrow and, reluctantly, the Question, to find out exactly what’s been going on with her.  And so begins what is, to us, a pretty simple, well-constructed adventure, and what is to the Question only a small piece of a vast conspiracy.

Watching it again, I was surprised at just how much of the show’s plot for the first two seasons of the show kicks off here, and I’d be curious to know how much of that was planned ahead of time, and how much was a response to the popularity of the Question.  The episode introduces us the violent Supergirl clone, Galatea.  It introduces us to Emil Hamilton, a character from Superman: The Animated Series, and his betrayal.  And it introduces us to the Question, who will become quite possibly the League’s most important member over the next two seasons.

One thing that stood out, particularly when compared to “Hawk and Dove”, is the sheer amount of common sense involved.  Kara is having suspicious dreams, so she goes to a telepath, a move that pays off when he recognizes a key figure in her dream.   The Question doesn’t just rush into NuvoGen, but first investigates the reporter who breaks the story.  He brings them to Hamilton AND to Hardcastle, all by using pretty basic logic, all couched in enough conspiracy talk to make it sound absolutely nuts.

There are a few downsides, of course.  Hamilton’s excuse – that Kara’s mind is coping with her surgery – is actually extraordinarily clever, but all his work is essentially immediately negated when a group of low-rent thugs tries to attack them right outside STAR Labs for no discernible reason.  Similarly, she Question’s ability to talk down Galatea based on a supposed unwillingness to kill made little sense.  But still, where the previous episode had a few decent character moments, this one is jam packed with them, and for just about everyone involved.  It’s fast-paced, funny, has a couple great fight scenes, and does a lot of work to set up what’s to come without being pushy about it.  All-in-all, the first genuinely great episode of the new series.

Quotes & Notes

Oh, Ollie… keep telling 16 year old girls ALL ABOUT your sexy Black Canary dreams, please. It’s not creepy at all.

“Not conspiracies – conspiracy. SINGULAR.” – The Question

“Global warming. military upheavals in the third world. Actors elected to public office.”

“The spread of coffee bars. Germs outpacing antibiotics. And boy bands? Come on! Who would gain from all this?”

“Who indeed?” – Supergirl, GA, and the Question

“Do you go through my trash?”

“Please.  I go through everyone’s trash.” – Supergirl & the Question, in the best exchange of the series.

Grade: A

– Cal Cleary

Justice League Unlimited S1, E1-2

Coming Up June 21st: Justice League Unlimited, Season 1, Ep. 5-6 (“Kids’ Stuff”, “This Little Piggy”)

2 thoughts on “Justice League Unlimited: Season 1, Episodes 3-4

  1. Pingback: Justice League Unlimited: Season 1, Episodes 5-6 « read/RANT!

  2. Pingback: Justice League Unlimited: Season 1, Episodes 7-8 « read/RANT!

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