Episode 8 Review
Young Justice: Phantoms
Tigress is given a free pass from Lady Shiva if she abandons Onyx, Cheshire, and Orphan on Santa Prisca, however, she's not the only one who will be making some hard choices. Meanwhile, the Kent family teaches young Jonny Kent an important lesson about death and mourning. In "I Know Why The Caged Cat Sings," characters are forced to face the truth about their identity and make a decision that will take their lives in a crucial direction while Superman stills tries to come to terms with the death of Conner Kent.
Granted the beginning of the episode started off a bit slow and didactic with the exposition and evil mustache twirling about the League of Shadow's scheme, think of it as the ascent to the top of the roller coaster because the main story goes into overdrive once Tigress is done stalling for Oracle and the lights go out. "Don't die, don't die, don't die" has got to flash through your head in this fight sequence and when Lady Shiva wounds Tigress, who didn't freak out?! That Greg Weisman. But with the pitch and tempo, here's comes the twist. Paying off last season's "Triptych" and the look of shock when she saw him in Green Arrow's vault, Shade betrays the League to pay off his debt to Cheshire and resigns. Then the explosion of Lady Shiva's fanaticism really drives up the intensity factor since we've only seen her in a calm and collected state. Then that's matched by Orphan's rage when Barbara's life is threatened and we see the tipping point of her arc. After the hype over the past few episodes, we see that Orphan really is superior to her mother and deals her a fairly near fatal strike but ultimately spares her life.
The pacing continues to pump on all cylinders and if the title wasn't clear enough, it becomes clear the real focus of the episode is Cheshire and her coming-of-age. Cheshire feels like she made the sacrifice to abandon yet protect her family to be the only one in the cage of Sportsmaster's legacy then again when she left Will and Lian so she wouldn't drag them down into her cage and all the danger and peril that comes with it. The latter resurfaces while the girls lick their wounds in Key West in another emotional gut punch of a scene. The horror Cheshire feels when she sees Lian present her homemade Cheshire mask is almost palpable. At wit's end, she again tries to prod Sensei into killing her but Tigress intervenes. Then in another emotionally charged moment, Cheshire admits the truth that's been a shadow looming over her from day one, she is too much like her father and thinks only distance will keep Lian from following in her footsteps. Onyx has an all too similar story. In an unexpected turn, Sensei and Ra's al Ghul pledge to help rehabilitate them from their League training
Clark, Lois, Jonny, and Wolf pay a visit to Ma and Pa Kent in Smallville. But the typical idyllic setting is shattered when little Jonny asks when Uncle Conner is going to arrive. As we all had to go through at a young age, Jonny is told about the permanence of physical death but reminded that memories of those we love will keep them alive in our minds and hearts. While a touching sentiment, in a gut wrenching scene, Clark can't hold it in anymore once he's alone with Lois. He's clearly still affected by Conner's death like Beast Boy and Miss Martian and blaming himself for not getting to Mars sooner and regrets not accepting him as family right away. Lois consoles him as best as we could but to see one of the "adult heroes" crack is a rarity in this series so far and really demonstrates the gravity of what the conclusion of this season's first arc really had on one of the monoliths of the franchise. A sense of hope washes over the grief and regret with one final shot of a happy and content Jonny riding around on Wolf.
"I Know Why the Caged Cat Sings" ends on note of veiled optimism and renewal despite the persistent dual threat of the Light and the League of Shadows. The pain of broken families and trauma that looms over the many characters we know and love are healed by the creation and growth of new families seen this week with the bond between new and old, Jonny Kent and Wolf, the bond of two spiritual sisters, Barbara and Cassandra, the bond of those seeking rehabilitation and life on Infinity Island, and Artemis returning home in Star City. Cheshire, while not reunited with Lian and Will, does make a step in the right direction in that openly admitting she is her father and choosing to fix herself and remove the burdens she's saddled herself with before re-accepting responsibility and joining her family again. Tigress' unwavering belief in her sister was well placed and this week's title references, never give up on hope in the face of trauma, grief, and sacrifice.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5