There’s a bonus feature on the third disc of the JL season 2 DVDs, “Justice League Declassified”, where Bruce Timm and the other creative staff talk about the differences between season 1 and season 2. One of the first things Timm mentions is raising the stakes, giving a sense that anything could happen in a given episode. That they wanted to push the envelope more than at the beginning.
“The Terror Beyond” opens like any other night, with the military trying to take down Solomon Grundy, and largely being thrashed. But just as they seize an advantage, Grundy is rescued by none other than Aquaman on a giant sea dragon. Things are going to get weird.
If I have a complaint about this episode, it’s that the first half is largely dependent on one set of heroes being headstrong, and another set being obtuse. A failure to communicate isn’t the best plot device, honestly. But there is enough mystery in the different scenes to suggest something else going on.
We get hints and pieces of it. Seeing Arthur/Grundy/Fate together is strange enough on the surface. The team of Superman/Diana/Shayera is unusual, too, but they honestly have a very good dynamic together. The consistent element is Shayera’s skepticism: questioning the motivations of Atlantis, and questioning Diana’s belief in her gods.
The meeting of the two groups leads to some decent fights, an even battle between Diana and Arthur, and Grundy against Superman. (Arthur leaping at Superman, who only sighs, is a good bit of levity.)
The conflict between Shayera and Fate is the main event, though. Magic versus anti-magic, and Shayera recognizing Fate’s runes as Thanagarian is a hint at convergence, that there is a common element in the explanation. But what happens at the midpoint is something else entirely.
I appreciate moral ambiguity and mystery as much as the next cat. But sometimes you just need to have your definitely-not-the-Defenders team up with the Justice League to fight totally-not-C’thulu. This great monster is what brings our two teams together, Fate and Shayera both recognizing Icthultu(?).
There are some physical struggles here, our heroes facing off against some genuine eldritch horrors, with some inspired designs. But underneath all of this is the question of faith, and the contrast of Shayera rejecting her people’s god, while Grundy clings to the idea of his own soul. This culminates in our mismatched pair going inside Icthultu for the final battle. They do succeed, though not without a price.
Shayera comforting Grundy in his last moments is legitimately poignant. It’s bittersweet and completely earned, a bit of grace borne from the incredible chaos. Opening the episode with Solomon Grundy smashing tanks, and bringing it around to this, is a real accomplishment.
When anything can happen, sometimes it means our heroes facing off with a Lovecraftian horror, which is my kind of crazy. But sometimes it means an albino rage-monster finding peace by discovering faith, which is no less fantastic.
- This is where ranking the episodes begins to be very difficult, and I think it only gets worse. Maybe I’ll try to do it at the end, but I don’t know.
- I barely mentioned the animation, but the Old Ones are genuinely bizarre. Plus, the animation for some of Fate’s spells is very good, and the effect of him appearing from the ankh is well done. Forgive me for the extra screenshots, but this episode is a visual feast.
- It took some restraint to keep the review length relatively short here. I could easily write an essay about how the concept of faith is handled here, but that does a disservice to all of those fantastic monsters.
- Voice casting in this one:
- Solomon Grundy is somehow voiced by Mark Hamill, yes, him.
- Ichthultu is voiced by Rob Zombie, sure.
- Some good Shayera quips in this one, but the best one is “you ever get chafed, straddling that fence all the time?”
- Born on a Monday.