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“Auld Acquaintance” picked up right where “Usual Suspects” had left off with the Justice League under the mind-controlled thrall of the Light. That set up exactly the kind of conflict these teen-centric series always have to do eventually, pitting the adult heroes against the young heroes. And you know, that was exactly the kind of story worth ending the season on.
Last episode ended with the reveal that Red Arrow had been the mole all along. The subject of the mole was a subplot that ran through most of the season. There were moments where it was dragged out a bit and overplayed, but the final pull of the trigger exposing Red Arrow as the mole was a good one. It was a little predictable to have the one most determined to find the mole actually be the mole, but Red Arrow was nonetheless the best choice for the role.
The episode began with Red Arrow on the run from the team he had just betrayed, but in a fun twist, it was now the Justice League under mind control while he had shaken his own off. Meanwhile, the Justice League moved to put the Young Justice team under the same control as them, and it was only the quick thinking of Red Tornado that complicated those plans. I like the approach the writers went with here. Rather than go the quick and easy route of making the team away of what was going on, they went with this more complicated two-pronged approach that built off some of the show’s continuity involving Red Tornado’s other android body and Red Arrow’s friendship with Aqualad.
As usual, the characters were where the episode was at its strongest. You had that moment early on where Aqualad confronted Red Arrow over what was happening, but that was far from the only good character moment in an episode where the sidekicks had to go up against their mentors. One of the better ones saw Zatanna trying to deal with Dr. Fate, an ancient sorcerer who possesses her father’s body. Also, there finally came a development on Superboy’s longstanding estrangement from Superman. This was all in addition to the lip-locking happening in the episode’s final moments on New Years Eve.
But really, this was Red Arrow’s episode. For all the character moments, the most substantial revolved around Red Arrow and the true reasons for his betrayal. I can tell you right now. Those reasons were not what anyone was probably expecting. When a mind-controlled Batman told the story to the Young Justice team, I assumed it was some fabrication to throw the kids off and turn them against Red Arrow. So I was pretty shocked when the episode never discredited the tale. This development took the character in a dramatically different direction than his comic counterpart, which I can understand. It wasn’t like the show could really do the same thing with Roy Harper. At around this age, Roy had become a heroine addict in comics. While this show does do some dark and mature material, I doubt that’s material it will ever want to get into. Still, this was one hell of a different direction to take the character. I’m real interested in seeing how it plays out next season, and I suspect we’ll be seeing a very different Rise of Arsenal happen.
Action is generally something this series does well. That held true as ever here. It was impressive, because this episode got into the tricky territory of having mentors fight proteges. Obviously, the proteges needed to win, but the show couldn’t believably have them defeat the Justice League. That hierarchy needs to be maintained. Fortunately, the episode navigated that well. The anti-Starro countermeasure the kids had meant they didn’t need to actually defeat any member of the Justice League so much as fight their mentors to a point where they could use it. This gave a lot of cool fight scenes, culminating in the big one with Robin and Superboy versus Batman and Superman.
I really enjoyed this episode, but it did leave something to be desired as a finale. We got resolutions for some ongoing subplots like Superboy’s strained relationship with Superman and the attraction between Kid Flash and Artemis, but there wasn’t really a resolution for the season’s main ongoing story with the Light. Usually when a season ends, you expect the conflict with that season’s Big Bad to end as well. We don’t get that here. The team does get a victory against the Light, and its existence is exposed. But for all intents and purposes, their conflict is going to continue. Nothing about the main story of the season really felt like it concluded.
Aside from that, my criticism with this episode is the countermeasure that team came up with for the Starro-based mind control. I don’t have a problem with what it is or where they got it from. It was more about how quickly they got it. We didn’t see them go and come up with it. They suddenly just had it and began using it. This solution came too quickly and easily. Okay, this is only a half-hour episode series. It’s understandable that some corners need to be cut due to time limitations. But we saw the Light come up with this Starro-based technology over the course of several episodes. Then, the heroes came up with a way to counteract it over a commercial break. These two things do not mesh well. This was easily the weakest part of the episode, but thankfully, the quality of the rest of it made this pretty forgivable.
“Auld Acquaintance” was a hell of an episode even if it didn’t quite pack enough punch for a season finale. It gave us the classic hero versus sidekick fights and resolutions to most of the season’s long-standing subplots. This was all done well enough that I can forgive the episode for giving the kids some quick and easy solutions to dealing with the brainwashed Justice League. If you’re going to commit some storytelling crimes, make that worth it. I would say this episode did more than that.
And the best thing about this season finale?
It came a mere week before the next season’s premiere.