The Green Lantern Corps are a mainstay of the DC universe. They’re a simple concept: light rings, willpower, good…most of the time, anyway. Those rings are formidable in the right hands. Even the toned-down DCAU versions still stand up against heavily armed space cruisers. So when a cult of flaming weirdos takes out a few of them, there’s an understanding that something pretty bad is happening. And indeed, there are a couple of on-screen deaths, Lanterns we barely know.
“Hearts and Minds”, on its surface, is more standard Justice League fare: a faraway planet, a powerful enemy we recognize, some old friends. Just beneath that, though, is John Stewart and a homecoming of sorts.
Despero here is a natural enemy for a Green Lantern: fanatical, powerful, interested in cosmic tyranny. He also checks many boxes on your standard list of cult leader requirements:
- Requires fanatical devotion
- Dissent is harshly punished
- Smooth talker
- Keeps a small harem under a functional guise (“priestesses”)
- Has at least one Classic Jesus-style robe
There’s some subtext here, but it’s so close to the surface as to be visible. John may have his will broken, but there was never anything physically wrong with him – his conflict is as much internal as with Despero.
But there is Despero, and his imminent plans for conquest. Thankfully, there is a resistance – there’s always a resistance – and one familiar face in Katma Tui. She’s fine as a piece of John’s history and a reflection of his psyche here, though it’s kind of a shame we don’t see more of her. She’s pretty good at her job, understanding basic subterfuge and wielding her ring very effectively.
The more I think about it, the more I keep confusing this episode with Teen Wolf. This is sort of a sports movie / homecoming for John, right down to Shayera’s pep talk with a slap on the butt. The episode does come full circle, with John rediscovering his will by remembering his reason to fight.
Oh, and I guess there is the rest of the league, too. Flash and Kilowog are kind of a fun team, even if the comedy here is mostly perfunctory. And J’onn is more of a plot device than anything.
This isn’t a bad episode, I guess, but it’s not as fun as “Maid of Honor”, much less as compelling as the others. The best episodes push the boundaries a little, have conflicts with real stakes, and give us the best versions of these characters. “Hearts and Minds” doesn’t paint a bad picture, but I feel like I can still see the numbers underneath. There’s some decent conflict and it’s always fun to see the other Green Lanterns, and the final John/Despero fight isn’t terrible. John really needs a natural enemy, even if Despero wasn’t the the type to reappear.
I really like John Stewart as a character. He’s maybe my favorite Green Lantern, and the DCAU is the main reason why. I just wish I liked this episode as much as I liked John as a character. But it does end with our old married couple having a nice moment as the league goes home, serving as a first step to where this season will end up.
- Voice casting in this one:
- Despero is voiced by Keith David, known for many things.
- Kilowog is voiced by Dennis Haysbert.
- Galius Zed, one of the GLs lost in the opening scene, is voiced by Rene Aberjonois, who you know as Odo from Deep Space Nine.
- Katma Tui is voiced by Kim Mai Guest, who has done voice work for a lot of video games I haven’t played.
- John/Kyle over Hal/Guy, any day. I like Jessica Cruz. This has been Catgun Has Opinions on Green Lanterns.
- Katma is kind of a stock character, but I don’t dislike her. The way she walks into the resistance hideout, still wearing her cult priestess garb, is basically Lana from Archer, though.
- Ranking the episodes so far, in order. If I was giving grades, “Hearts and Minds” would get a B/B-, “Maid of Honor” probably a B+, and everything else is a solid A.
- Only A Dream
- Tabula Rasa
- Maid of Honor
- Hearts and Minds