Episode 20 Review
Young Justice: Phantoms
The fifth arc of Young Justice: Phantoms nears its conclusion but very little progress has been made at the summit at Supertown. It also doesn't help when Bear barges in to catch up with the Earthers or Metron suddenly booms into the room and tells them the galaxy is at stake. Dru-Zod takes Conner Kent under his arm and has to make a crucial choice. Luckily, someone else makes much needed break through. Episode 20 "Forbidden Secrets of Civilizations Past" stacks the deck against Rocket with just about everyone else making progress in their personal arcs.
Rocket unwittingly gives an incognito Ma'alefa'ak a lead on Metron's Infinity Vault. He, Lor-Zod, and Mantis takes the Time Sphere two days into the past to the Ruction Cell incident. While invisible, Ma'alefa'ak sticks a tracer on the Ruction Cell then they wait for events to unfold. Once Metron is given the cell, Lor-Zod activates Darkseid's Kaizer-Thrall for the first time. It locks onto the tracer signal and teleports them to the Mobius Dimension but not without knocking them for a loop. To make things more complicated, the Infinity Vault is a rather... infinite collection. Mantis grips it might even take weeks for them to search everything. Lor-Zod is undaunted. He is surprised to find a certain item that looks like an eyeball and holds onto it. They soon realize Metron has a baby Sun Eater patrolling the vault as a security measure. They take refuge in the Time Sphere then resume their search. After a day of searching and three more encounters with the Sun Eater, there is another Metron sighting. Lor-Zod readies himself and grabs Metron after his encounter with Razer then subjects him to the Kaizer-Thrall. Ma'alefa'ak is unable to read Metron's mind but he suddenly relents and agrees to take them to the Phantom Zone Projector. It is a ruse and Metron exposes Lor-Zod to Kryptonite then summons the Sun Eater then leaves the dimension. Mantis manages to will himself to take the Kaizer, Lor, and Ma'alefa'ak back to the Time Sphere. He takes them to about a day prior and finds the Projector by himself.
Talks at the summit shifts to the New Gods' prior request of the Justice League to turn over Cyborg and Halo for their own protection. Rocket repeats that is a nonstarter. Vykin tries to explain the danger Halo poses as the embodiment of a portion of Darkseid's Anti-Life Equation but Rocket repeats they will be safeguarded by their family, the family that loves them. In a surprising move, Orion withdraws the request. Bear interrupts the proceedings to greet Rocket and Forager much to Orion's annoyance. He then offers his condolences for Superboy, as does Vykin. Tomar-Re also joins in and reveals Krypton was in his assigned space sector and he was friends with Jor-El and Zor-El of the House of El, and being unable to stop Krypton's destruction was his single greatest regret. Bear brings up Forager's courtship with Forager and Rocket is surprised to hear he's contemplating between returning to Earth or staying on New Genesis. Vykin and Flash put in their two cents then things digress into Flash mentioning he's 102 only to learn Bear is a couple decades over 16,000 Earth years old. Then the kicker is Kilowog's ring inadvertently reveals he's using the bathroom as they talk. Orion has had just about enough. Metron arrives and implores them to follow him if they want the entire galaxy to survive.
Garfield Logan shows up for his annual mental health check-in at Dinah Lance's office in Star City confident that M'gann's intervention gave him the reality check he needed and he is ready to rejoin the Outsiders. Dinah moves ahead with asking him the mandatory questions: how his sleeping is, quitting Space Trek, how his relationships are, and handling Conner's death. On the surface, Garfield claims everything is all good. Dinah starts challenging Garfield and offers to call Perdita but he panics and says he'd prefer to call her in private because their make-up calls get pretty hot. She then asks him about the sleeping pills but he claims he doesn't need them anymore so she asks him he doesn't mind taking a drug test as formality. She asks him if he's really ready to rejoin the Outsiders. He claims he's managing the symptoms but she presses on asking if he's managing them for the short term or long term. He doesn't see the difference. She points out short term solutions post pone dealing with the real issues. He can only say rejoining the Outsiders is his long term solution. She questions the logic of his replies and asks him if he really wants to go back, finally getting some truths: Garfield is just rejoining so someone else doesn't take the team away from him, the team he created. Dinah soon realizes it isn't just about Conner's death but all the losses Garfield has experienced in his life and he illogically thinks they were all his fault and he needed to be better. Dinah gives him the hard truth that even if you do everything right, bad things still sometimes happen and even heroes can be powerless to stop it. Garfield doesn't want to accept it at first and believes he should've have stopped it all somehow. She again asks him how he could have. He finally breaks down and admits he needs help. Dinah reassures him that admitting that is a real start.
Dru-Zod leads Conner Kent to his base while reminding him what the Phantom Zone is. He notes there are worst things than the Devourers in the Zone and stresses safety in numbers. Five other Kryptonians reveal their presence and kneel to Zod. Dru-Zod introduces Conner to his life mate Ursa and she deduces by the similar burn marks that he and Phantom Girl are connected then speculates if she entered the Phantom Zone unconscious, she will never wake in it. Her words sparks a flood of memories for Conner. Zod and co. demonstrate the power of sheer willpower helps them survive. Conner remembers the trip on Mars. Dru-Zod gives him a chance to join them or continue on in the Zone. Conner kneels to Dru-Zod.
The recurring theme of accepting the truth in things and seeking makes some big strides with episode 20. I think the three words the whole Young Justice fandom has been waiting for FINALLY gets uttered by Garfield, "I need help." Yes. Thank you, Dinah, you are a saint! However, on the more horrifying flip side is Conner accepting help from Dru-Zod. Lor-Zod invokes the Kaizer-Thrall to help him get to his objective, the Phantom Zone Projector, but it turns out the one he discounted, Mantis, was the real trump card. Metron, of all people, urgently seeks help from everyone at the summit to stop Lor-Zod before it's too late for the galaxy.
Aside from Garfield's admission, another "Finally!" moment is seeing Lor-Zod get some of what's coming to him, attacked by the Sun Eater then tricked by Metron and exposed to Kryptonite. Lor-Zod's impulsive choice to try and free his people 1000 years early in the 21st century is underscored this episode by the harsh truths: there's plenty of Kryptonite around and many other weaknesses of his people and a whole ton of experienced, powerful, and organized adult and teenage heroes willing to stand up to eight evil Kryptonians.
As much as keeping track of all these timestamps has become a double edged sword for Greg Weisman, hat tip to him for taking it to another level in this episode with the use of the Time Sphere. With time travel in play, a lot of storylines in the past three episodes are woven even tighter. Not to mention using it as a way to answer some lingering questions like why it seemed like Ma'alefa'ak was both in the Mountain Hive and on Apokolips at the same time or reveal the name of the place Metron took Cyborg, Halo, and Lian in last season's "Overwhelmed" – the Mobius Dimension.
And of course, there is the crazy amount of references and callbacks bringing a lot of things to a head. Just alone in the session with Dinah, whew. M'gaan's failed intervention in "Emergency Dive," quitting Space Trek in "Og Htrof Dna Reuqnoc!", breaking up with Perdita in "Kaerb Ym Traeh!", starting sleeping pills in "Odnu!", creating the Outsiders in "First Impression," Brion's turn in "Nevermore," Wally's death in "Endgame," the death of Rita Farr, and Queen Bee murdering Marie Logan in "Players". Another interesting test of fan knowledge is the flashes Conner is getting: Invasion era Cave with Beast Boy, the family gathering in Smallville, the group photo in "Usual Supects," and Conner proposing to M'gaan in "Princes All." Then there was Vykin and Orion bringing up the developments from last season with Cyborg and Halo and reiterating their importance in the ongoing conflict with Darkseid and his search for the solution to the Anti-Life Equation. Hmm, can't be good if that's being brought up. And sure, why not, another reference to Hal Jordan. Half-expecting him to randomly show up soon. The most direct nod to the comics was Tomar-Re admitting it was his greatest regret that he couldn't save Krypton on to be followed by Bear and Flash reflecting on their loves Dreamer and Joan Garrick respectively.
The big juicy Legion of Super-Heroes references were the Sun Eater and Lor-Zod finding, of all things, the Emerald Eye of Ekron, fabled Green Lantern artifact and weapon of Legion big bad, Emerald Empress. And we saw them last episode, but in dialogue and end credits, we learn who makes up Dru-Zod's motley crew of Kryptonian baddies: Ursa, Faora, Vor-Kil, Jax-Ur, Non, Kru-El. Ursa and Non, of course, staple allies of Zod and best known as the trio in Superman II. Jax-Ur, an evil scientist in the comics and for the animation fans, one of the Kryptonian bad guys in Superman: The Animated Series. Vor-Kil is a bit of a deep dive into late 60s Superman comics. Basically an evil martial artist from Krypton. Kru-El is also a deep dive into 60s Action Comics. Basically Superman's evil cousin but also another evil scientist. A nice little piece of trivia was Dinah still having her flower shop, the Sherwood Florist, straight out of the comics though there it was in Seattle. Last but not least, with a Greg Weisman-penned script, it's no surprise he included a reciting of Romeo and Juliet as he is a fan of Shakespeare. In this case, it's during the end credits with Forager reciting his own take of Act II, Scene II in Capulet's orchard.
"Forbidden Secrets of Civilizations Past!" also has the honor of containing this season's weird song. Last season, it was the Doom Patrol theme song. In Invasion, it was the Reach commercial. The Hello, Megan! theme song in season one. But this season, it's a creepy as hell chant sang by Dru-Zod's followers. And to boot, we finally learn what Denise Boutte sings as she once hinted in an interview prior to this episode. As the voice of Faora, she leads the Zod chant. Count on it being a total earwig and getting stuck in our heads for a good week.
You can just feel Young Justice: Phantoms is rounding the corner towards what is looking to be a shocking season finale. The element of time travel adds another zany layer to the structure of Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti's storytelling. The flailing summit is getting a much needed trust exercise in the form of our three hero groups being recruited to face this season's main threat, Lor-Zod, Garfield finally admitting he needs help and making a real first step towards healing, Conner makes a choice – gut wrenching for us – to throw in with Dru-Zod completely unaware of the implications and consequences. Lor-Zod's team succeeds in finding the Phantom Zone Projector and we could be one step closer to the 21st century having another player to vie against the Light and Apokolips for control of the galaxy with our heroes caught in the middle feeling the aster. The history and phantoms of the series rears itself front and center for Garfield and Conner for different reasons and series ramps up for another thrilling season finale as everyone's paths begin to converge towards an explosive stand off.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5