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“Alienated” takes some dark turns with a couple of the show’s characters as it dives back into the season’s ongoing plot of an alien invasion of Earth. Answers to a few big questions are given, and as always, we get some pretty cool action.
Now that is known the Kroloteans have infilfrated Earth, the Young Justice team and the Justice League are going on the offensive to track the aliens down and get answers. The episode’s opening features exactly that as Bumblebee and Blue Beetle chase down one of the disguised Kroloteans. It’s a fun little scene that even has the bonus of a surprise guest appearance from an obscure but loved Superman character.
The real meat of this episode addresses the fate of Aqualad, who has been noticeably absent since the show jumped ahead five years. That absence is explained in a surprising and dark way. Of all the first season’s cast members, he was probably the least likely to go bad, so that is why it makes this revelation so compelling. Aqualad was arguably the heart of the team. This is a dramatic change for the character, but not one that goes unexplained. It’s not much of a stretch to believe that the loss of someone close to him and learning the truth about his father could put him on a dark path.
I do have to question how the Black Manta reveal works with those in the audience who are not comic fans, though. Those of us who do follow comics have known for awhile that Black Manta is Aqualad’s true father. Now, I may be misremembering, but I don’t think that fact was ever revealed in the show until now. Black Manta only appeared in one episode other than this early in the first season. So to some viewers, this is the episode where they learn Black Manta is Aqualad’s father. That’s not a great way for the show to go about it. Having not yet established that truth, it seems like this dark swerve for the Aqualad would come completely out of left field for the non-comic fans in the audience. We really should have gotten some indication about this in the first season. Or maybe we did, and I totally don’t remember it.
Aqualad isn’t the only character to have dimmed over the course of the past five years. This episode further establishes Miss Martian’s dangerous change in attitude. Last episode, we witnessed her rather ruthlessly pulling information out of the mind of a Krolotean general, leaving the alien a drooling mess. Well, she does it again in this episode without the slightest hesitation. It’s actually an odd scene, because yet again, only Superboy really reacts to her doing it. Both Batman and Martian Manhunter are also present, but neither react as though she has done anything questionable. You would think Martian Manhunter especially would have something to say about that, considering when this happens he is in the process of trying to extract information from the Krolotean without causing what Miss Martian so casually causes. Two possibilities come to mind on this. Either this is just the result of the writers overlooking some things, or this is an indication that Miss Martian is messing with more than just the heads of some Kroloteans. Either way, this is much different from the M’gann we knew in the first season.
Thankfully, we also get the answer to the missing 16 hours mystery that last episode left us hanging about. I was a little afraid this would be something the show dragged out. Instead, it gets right to the answers. It turns out to be something underwhelmingly simple, though. I guess that means it’s an even better thing the show didn’t drag this out. Still, the explanation does the job well enough as far as the plot is concerned. The consequences of it effectively sideline most of the big names of the Justice League, which works for this show because it allows the younger characters to occupy the center stage. There won’t be any need for the show to explain why the Justice League can’t handle certain situations for awhile.
The main action of this episode seems to make a point of showing off the sidekicks fighting alongside their mentors. It makes for a lot of cool double team action, but it also leaves me with the suspicion that we won’t see it happen again for awhile. This is, after all, the same episode that sets up those mentors to be sidelined as they go deal with the consequences of what they did in those 16 hours. I’m not sure I expect them to come back at all.
Even though there is quite a bit of darkness here, there are plenty of moments to put a smile on your face as well. The funniest moment for me is the shapeshifting gag with Miss Martian and Martian Manhunter when the team returns to the bioship. Superman gets a really strong moment that, while it does end on a downer, really captures everything great about the character.
On top of everything else, this episode brings the Light back into the story. I can’t say this is any kind of surprise. The first season’s finale made it pretty clear that we were nowhere near done with the more PC-named Injustice League. I said before that I felt the season finale should have resulted in the defeat of this group, but maybe the show writers will prove me wrong. But at this moment, the Light’s involvement in the alien invasion seems a little unnecessary.
“Alienated” is another great episode of the new season. It has a stronger focus on the ongoing plot than the previous episode, but it manages to do that without sacrificing attention being paid to the characters.