The Return | Episode 7 (59)
Aired: September 18, 2004
Heroes: The Green Lantern Corps (Kyle Rayner, Tomar-Re, Larvox, Kilowog, Katma Tui, Arisia, Cyc, Spol, Chaselon, Stel, Salakk, Palaqua and Hirunan), Green Lantern, J'onn Jonzz, Captain Atom, Fire, Supergirl, Starman, Rocket Red, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, Ice, STRIPE, Dr. Light, Orion, Flash, Steel, Superman, Atom, Dr. Fate and Shayera Hol
Supporting: Guardians of the Universe, AMAZO, Sroya Bashir, and Inza
Villains: Lex Luthor
Objects: Power Ring, Containment Vest, Kryptonite, Superman's Space Suit II, Javelin, Mother Box, Justice League Communication Link, Lasso of Truth, Nano Disassembler Gun, Ankh, and Helmet of Fate
Places: Justice League Unlimited Watchtower, Oa, Metropolis, LexCorp Facility, and Dr. Fate's Tower
Story By: Stan Berkowitz
Teleplay By: J M DeMatteis
Directed By: Joaquim Dos Santos
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
You've got to admire the chutzpah of the folks at TimmCo, who work up all this advance buzz for the massive amount of heroes and action that The Return is intended to deliver, while keeping the little nugget of information to themselves about how all that action is based around said heroes taking it constantly on the chins. We're talking about a series meant to be centered on this expansive group of superheroes, and yet, they are used in this particular episode as nothing more than an illustration of the situation of Amazo himself. That's moxie. I'm surprised it hasn't pissed more fans off. Not that I'm angry, mind you; in fact, it strikes me as a testament to the abilities of TimmCo that they can mercilessly pummel their many protagonists in the process of deepening two of their show's antagonists.
The relationship between The Return and Tabula Rasa is paralleled by a much earlier Timm excursion into the world of android technology: Heart of Steel and His Silicon Soul. In both cases, the initial two-parter comes to a specific conclusion about its robotic lead(s), and the subsequent one-parter comes back to challenge and tweak the claim. In Amazo's case, we left him at Tabula Rasa's end with the distinct impression that his "evolution" was a journey beyond our understanding. That Amazo had siphoned all he needed from and about humanity and had gone on to greater and more unknown things - to "where gods belong." The Return dismisses that concept before it is over. It is obvious that Amazo has amassed a level of power beyond conceivably any other being in the known universe, as repeatedly shown by his terribly one-sided brawls with the League. But what we discover is that the further Amazo has gone with this brand of evolution, the more he is less and less complete as a soul. The sign here is that the final choice of Tabula Rasa was the wrong one - that Amazo left Earth far, far too early. The android is more malevolent and dangerous (at least, potentially) in this episode than he ever was before, because he never even started any evolution of his morals, his ideals, or even something as seemingly banal as likes or dislikes. What's Amazo's favorite soft drink? Silly, maybe, but if he could answer it, his development would head in a whole new direction.
Of course, it is sort of amusing that the one to teach Amazo all of this would be Lex Luthor, a man defined entirely by his sociopathic condescension towards anybody and everybody. Luthor is not a good man. The Return does not try and paint him as a good man. He is still wholly secretive, ill-tempered, and uninterested in anyone's welfare beyond his own. Listen to his philosophical dialogue with Amazo again, for with just a few extra terms thrown in here and there, you get the entire basis of his own self-justification for being such a unrepentant ass. And so, Lex Luthor does essentially save the world by accident, by utilizing an argument that in his hands has caused countless people pain and suffering. But it works, because it is actually what Amazo needs to hear. Luthor may be a jerk, but he is one who is immutably bound to goals and motives that stem from very basic human urges. Indeed, it is worth noting how Lex does more good for Amazo by being who he really is as opposed to pretending to be something more. In Tabula Rasa, his lies of nobility come to no fruition with Amazo once Amazo can see past them, and thusly Lex sent him off on his fruitless journey of the cosmos because he shattered Amazo's belief in decency. Here, Amazo returns to confront Lex, to punish him for the dishonesty that crushed the goodness in Amazo before. And that's when Lex's openness about his beliefs and the truth of "purpose" rectifies his previous crime. He cannot restore Amazo's happiness to him, but he can challenge the android to seek it for himself.
And that's why I like the presence of Dr. Fate in this episode, because while he doesn't bring closure to Amazo's search, he does bring closure to Amazo's problem. Dr. Fate, as his DCAU history has shown, has always had trouble with the question of good and evil, and the place man has in the moral tapestry of the universe. The episode is careful to place the sub-conflict of seeing the good in Amazo in the right hands, with Fate being aware of the unfortunate extremes that can occur in the pursuit of truth, while the Green Lantern Corps (a team of beings almost "royally decreed" as good and worthy) see only the image of Amazo's actions and judge him accordingly. Amazo's solution to the situation of Oa is startlingly abrupt, but it also seems like something Fate would do, which is why the two are so appropriate to end up together in the end. Amazo, at least, is now in a place where his questions are best fit to be encouraged and answered.