The Cat and the Canary | Episode 14 (66)
Aired: February 5th, 2005
Heroes: Black Canary, Wildcat, Green Arrow and J'onn Jonzz
Villains: Sportsmaster, Roulette, Bloodsport, Electrocutioner, Evil Star, Tracer, Gork, Hellgrammite and Atomic Skull
Objects: Justice League Communication Link, Black Canary's Motorcycle, Trick Arrows, and Stunner
Places: Justice League Unlimited Watchtower
Story By: Stan Berkowitz
Teleplay By: Robert Goodman
Directed By: Joaquim dos Santos
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
My anticipation for this episode certainly ramped up after the rave advance review from Jay "Maxie Zeus" Allman, and even with that behind me, I still was admirably thrilled with the results of this episode. The Once and Future Thing left a lot of confused questions, so it's quite nice to follow that up with an episode that can only be described as "airtight". Forget just airtight - this baby is practically laminated. It's the kind of strong, simple storytelling that always seems both classical and fresh. Do we need to know anything about Wildcat, Black Canary, or even Green Arrow outside of this episode? How about needing to know about any previous clashes, minor or major, between society and the League? Also unnecessary. The fact that we DO know more about some or all of these things only makes this episode all the sweeter.
One of the great things about this episode is, of course, its wonderful portrayal of characters bristling with friction between them, and much credit is due to the voice acting. The whole series has always had strong voices, but it seems especially standout here, with the conflicts between the characters being so much stronger and requiring much more excellence from the actors. Kin Shriner is not new to us as Green Arrow, but this was a perfect example of why he's so good for the character. Arrow's such a shamelessly human hero, with a sense of pigheadedness and lust, both of which Kin is adept at exhibiting, and yet, there's also this inherent sense of morality coming from him, almost as stubborn as his flaws. Virginia Madsen (getting Oscar attention for her work in Sideways these days) takes what could have been a fairly two-dimensional villainess and lends her believable greed along with legitimate mental and physical seduction. Morena Baccarin takes Black Canary into a rather serious headspace; despite her undeniable hotness (and she knows it), she's actually pretty no-nonsense in anything she does, be it fighting or flirting. And Dennis Farina has just the right touch for Wildcat, showing the bitterness of age without the trappings of stereotype, a still-in-his-prime man who's past his prime.
The implications of the series-wide subplot still begin to surface here, bubbling with the potential of a clash between humanity and those that humanity may unjustiably fear. Certainly the idea of Wildcat being this hero amongst this underground fighting ring for being a normal human is rather telling (it is made clear that he is the "star attraction"). Green Arrow's presence, once again, begs relation back to the question of whether the League knew what it was doing when it opened its doors so wide; Wildcat was not just out of control, but out of their control. On the other hand, the fact that Arrow now defends the League with presumably no real qualms belies a sense of change in Ollie's opinion of the place. The very existence of a place like Wildcat's fight club implies that there's a greater undercurrent of discontent with "supers" (to use an Incredibles term) than even the small sparks in Wake the Dead could not identify wholly. The problem is starting to come into greater relief in JLU; later episodes are likely to contain better clarifications.
Essentially, it's the character conflict that's the best thing about this episode, in both fighting and dramatic senses. D.R. Movie is fast becoming the TMS of JLU, and their episodes are virtually always visual treats. No doubt that there will be few complaints about how well they drew the characters (and that's all we'll say about that). Their animation highlights already excellently staged and conceived fights, which vary in this episode alone from fast-paced fun to serious brawls where each punch can be felt viscerally. Even better, of course, is the strength of character convictions, where everybody stands firm in their beliefs without faltering until they feel themselves crossing a line. It's what makes great plot conflict. Wildcat refuses to quit. Canary refuses to let him continue. Arrow refuses to let Canary risk herself. As great as the Canary/Wildcat battle might have been, Arrow was the smart one in the end. Wildcat, if beaten by Canary, might have justified it somehow by his insecurity against superpowered folk, of which Canary officially belongs. He has no such excuse with Arrow.