Five years have passed since Young Justice debuted on Cartoon Network, a show that left a brief, but lasting impression on fans of DC Comics. Created by Greg Weisman, who still thinks the series is viable enough to return for another season if fans can get their act together, Young Justice features the sidekicks of the DC heroes graduating to a league of their own as they fend off threats even the Justice League can’t handle solo.
Renowned for its complex characters, superb animation, and downright experimental storytelling (even in a mass marketed, toy-driven kids’ series), some episodes of Young Justice hold up by themselves without much context. Putting aside the epic finales and two parters, these select episodes can knock the wind out of viewers anytime.
“Welcome to Happy Harbor” (Season 1)
After the two-part premiere, “Welcome to Happy Harbor” reestablishes the sharp personalities of the group as they struggle to mesh as a team. Meghan, aka Martian Girl, is too invasive with her psychic powers while Superboy is still unable to process emotions properly. The team is forced to work together when a new enemy, the Red Tornado, threatens to end them before they even begin.
“Failsafe” (Season 1)
Superheroes tend to have the most awesome “dream” episodes, and that is no more apparent than in “Failsafe.” After members of the Justice League are taken down, one by one, their younger comrades are forced to step up as the Justice League while Earth crumbles during an invasion. You can predict the “twist” ending towards the last few minutes, but the explosive beginning with the immediate destruction of Superman and others is nothing short of awesome — and terrifying.
“Homefront” (Season 1)
The Red Tornado’s siblings invade the team’s headquarters at Mount Justice, leaving only Robin and Artemis — the only members without superpowers — to save the day. You can feel Artemis break down with only one single arrow left against a trio of superpowered cyborgs, but “Homefront” proves that it takes more than superpowers to be a superhero.
“Misplaced” (Season 1)
Talk about a generational divide. Sorcerers divide Earth, taking its adults and leaving the children behind. Billy Batson, the 10-year-old who can become the superhero Shazam, is the unlikely bridge between two worlds. “Misplaced” is a good old fashioned fun concept episode that stretches the show’s premise to a wider scale.
“Cold Hearted” (Season 1)
On his birthday, Wally West, aka Kid Flash, almost gets his wish: He’s put on an important Justice League mission, but he’s a glorified delivery boy. During a freak blizzard caused by super-villains, Wally has to run 3000 miles across the country to deliver a heart to a little girl in need of surgery. Wally learns that no duty is too small for any superhero in a character-driven, high-stakes episode.
“Auld Acquaintances” (Season 1)
The Season 1 finale comes with a modest amount of storyline baggage but all the action you expect, living up to the idea that these are sidekicks to the world’s greatest heroes. You see the match ups of a lifetime: Superboy versus Superman, Batman versus Robin, and a tag-team showdown between Artemis, Kid Flash, and Aqualad against Green Arrow, The Flash, and Aquaman, all in a story that threatens the existence of the Justice League for good. It ends on an eerie final note that sets up the blockbuster Season 2.
“Bloodlines” (Season 2)
Season 2 adopts a heavier serial format with references to continuing arcs and storylines, but the trifecta of “Bloodlines,” “Depths” and “Satisfaction” in Season 2 can be enjoyed without all that bothersome context.
“Bloodlines” is a tribute to DC’s speed runners when Bart Allen, The Flash of the future, arrives in the present day in a time machine. His motives are unclear, but he’s needed to save the day against a nuclear villain, Neutron, and teams up with Barry Allen, Wally West, and even Jay Garrick, the first Flash in his helmeted glory. The visual feast of four Flashes from four generations is total pandering for longtime fans, but a quick primer on all the Flashes for newbies. Even better, the episode’s twist ending is the kind that punches you right in the gut.
“Depths” (Season 2)
Artemis is called back into action by Nightwing on a mission to stop Black Manta from thwarting an Earth-Mars communications satellite, a gesture to begin intergalactic diplomacy. But a former member, Kaldur, a.k.a. Aqualad, leads the charge and what follows is a heartbreaking skirmish of friends-turned-enemies, with one major casualty. Or so everyone thinks.
“Satisfaction” (Season 2)
While “Satisfaction” does capitalize on the build-up that Roy Harper, a.k.a. Red Arrow was actually a clone to the real Roy Harper, its stirring beginning is enough of a refresher course to prepare for the real Roy’s comeback tour of revenge, leading an attack on none other than Lex Luthor, all by himself. Just because Red Arrow is a clone doesn’t mean his emotions aren’t real.