Our Justice League is a happy family. Mostly. Sometimes Superman and Batman disagree, and Flash has a somewhat different philosophy than, say, Green Lantern or Hawkgirl. Occasionally Diana suffers from culture clash between her isolated upbringing and the world at large. But mostly, the pursuit of the greater good puts things in perspective. Mostly. So what happens when good intentions aren’t enough?
This episode has a pair of conflicts occurring simultaneously: League versus Society, and League versus League. Villains teaming up isn’t a new concept – Shade mentions this early in the episode. But this time they are organized, and motivated. Grodd bringing the villains together for a shared objective driven by individual motivations is solid leadership, honestly.
On the other side, our heroes are not faring as well. It’s true that they are being monitored and manipulated, but their disagreements come from familiar places. There are differences of opinion, and things come to a head when the Society wins and leaves to prove a point. It’s a little disappointing to see the league disband after one bad loss, but it is a natural progression of their arguments.
This is what makes the episode work, I think. The League/Society conflict needs little explanation beyond Grodd’s summary of his team’s individual goals, but the League’s infighting is entirely realistic. These are not new concerns.
I think this episode doesn’t have the depth of some, but it’s still well-assembled. Grodd is the key to all of this: giving his team real motivation along with cohesion, and encouraging the dissent between the heroes that already exists. All of these things give a real sense that the Justice League might have met their match; while we expect the heroes to win, things do not look good.
It’s eminently believable that separated, each hero would be no match for Grodd’s team. Still, seeing them captured is a solid surprise, even if the resolution that sets up the final conflict is inevitable. And the internal conflict is addressed at the end, however briefly.
But there’s a lot to like here. This is a solid villain team, as diverse as our heroes, and with legitimate motivation. I love the contrast in their personalities: arrogant Grodd, vengeful Sinestro, murderous Killer Frost. I’m especially fond of Giganta; a formidable giantess, but vulnerable for being kind of delicate. A land of contrasts, etc. They are formidable individually and combined, and they comprise a legitimate threat to the heroes.
There are some good fights. Outside of Sinestro, the villains mostly have different power sets than the heroes. Seeing Flash fight Sinestro, or Shayera against Killer Frost, have questions of skill and style. And John has some good moments here: utilizing the spy camera to find the villains, tricking Sinestro and Killer Frost with a decoy. I’m also happy anytime J’onn gets to be the hero, too.
So this episode may have modest ambitions, but it’s still solid at the very least. I consider it one of the lesser episodes of the season, but that says more about how high the standard is than anything. This would still be the best episode of Super Friends ever written, and it’s pretty good in its own right.
- The voice casting for the Society is an all-star lineup:
- Powers Boothe returns as Grodd. Cy Tolliver himself is a perfect choice for a JL villain leader.
- Jennifer Hale does double duty as Giganta and Killer Frost. I love both these characters, honestly.
- Ron Perlman voices Clayface (he also voices Orion in other episodes).
- Ted Levine voices Sinestro.
- I’m happy anytime Flash gets to do more than wisecrack, so the middle part of this episode is good fun. Seeing Flash play Batman is great, especially him actually dropping the skeptical thug from Shade’s gang.
- I don’t know what’s worse, Clayface becoming fireworks, or Grodd suffering the Flick of Doom.
- Shade flirting with Giganta is creepy but also adorable. Two things?
- In order:
- Killer Frost
Some hard choices near the top here.
- I would have loved to see the Society defeated but still escape, only to return with another plan down the road. I mean, Grodd did organize the Villans Union later on, but things were very different then.
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