One of the things that Justice League does especially well is to maintain its continuity. The episodes here are connected though not serialized; each one largely stands alone, but with respect to those previous. So when a storyline references previous episodes, it seems more consistent than mandatory.
Throughout season 2, there are two recurring plotlines: Shayera’s vague past, and her developing relationship with John Stewart. The latter simmers until it steams in “Wild Cards”, whereas the former is hinted at here and there, but remains unexplained. It comes as no surprise that the conflict between the two defines the season finale, though the route is as unexpected as a hawk-woman’s previously unmentioned fiancée.
On DVDs, and (I believe) on Cartoon Network at the time, “Starcrossed” was billed as a full length movie. Most movies don’t come with commercial breaks written in, but it does have a different feel than the weekly episodes. For one, there is actual CGI, the finest 2003 basic cable has to offer. (It’s not awful, honestly.) And when not-Hawkman Hro Talak appears, the light flows around him like an angel.
The entire episode takes place under the backdrop of a longstanding war, and there is deception all around. A little casual detective work is all it takes to bring the local conflict to the forefront, revealing the Thanagarian army’s true intent. It’s hard to say which betrayal is worse, the Justice League’s weaknesses used against them, or John being misled about everything. (Okay, the former, but they’re both lousy.) Shayera’s explanation of military oath rings true (“you’re a soldier, you understand”), but it makes her no less a turncoat.
So this is where the first act ends, the Earth in peril, our heroes fallen. But the bitter setup gives way to some very enjoyable action. The JL jailbreak is good fun, and seeing our heroes go in disguise is common sense but no less great for it. (Diana and Bruce making out is pure fanservice, and Batman spoiling everyone’s secret identity may be the best single moment of all.)
When we finally get to the Batcave, it’s easy to share Flash’s sense of wonder at the whole thing. There is a dinosaur there, and a giant penny, after all. And then, Shayera returns.
There’s some good development of the Hawks here, too, which is welcome. Making them understandable but not sympathetic feels like the right balance. Hro Talak is a good antagonist for the league and John in particular, duty-bound, almost noble, misled by personal tragedy. Cragger, his lieutenant, is far less likeable, but his envy of Hro’s affection for Shayera is eminently realistic.
The third act here is pure action, a spectacle that brings the season to its climax. We have some legitimate great moments here: Diana throwing a fighter into the Thanagarian flagship, Batman moving the damn Watchtower out of orbit to use as a meteor. The entire conflict comes to a head with the John/Shayera/Hro fight, with Diana thrashing the army left and right just off-screen. (Note: I’d be disappointed if Diana didn’t bitterly resent Shayera.) Personally, I like how this all plays out, with John losing his ring and taking a beating but ultimately coming through. And Hro ordering his soldiers to stand down at the end is a good character moment; he has good qualities, however desperate and misguided he might be.
Our last scenes in Wayne Manor are bittersweet, to say the least. Alfred is the very picture of grace with his kind words to Shayera, though the league is understandably conflicted. When Shayera flies off into the sunset, it feels like we’ve been through something, that the Justice League will persist but hardly be the same. And so ends one of my personal favorite seasons of television, impending disaster averted but not entirely resolved on a personal level, our heroes weary but resolute.
“Starcrossed” feels like a fitting finale for the original Justice League, a conflict on a scale worthy of Earth’s greatest heroes. I think Shayera’s turn is somewhat abrupt, but her inner conflict is believable. The battles between the Thanagarians and the heroes are good stuff, a last chance to show off a little. It’s not perfect, but the good moments definitely make it worthwhile. So your opinions might vary, but overall I think this is a great story, one worthy of the episodes that precede it.
- How would you vote? I think the vote goes like this: Flash and J’onn yes, Diana and Bats no. John excuses himself, Superman probably votes yes. Personally I’m more inclined to vote no.
- This is Alfred’s final appearance, and he’s a delight here. I love him standing up to Cragger, even if it’s hopeless. “Mind the glass, sir”, after the mansion has been trashed, is solid butlery. And again, his words at the end are perfect.
- I love everything about the JL going undercover as civilians.
- This might be the strongest outing for Flash, who gets successful jokes here, good uses of his powers, and doesn’t fall down once.
- Batman’s disguise to sneak aboard the Thanagarian flagship is Alfred from the 1960’s Batman TV show:
- My plan is to write a summary article for the season as a whole maybe next week sometime. Some hard decisions there, but overall I’ve been very happy to revisit this show.