Probably the weakest episode of the season so far, “Beneath” splits itself into two stories as previous episodes have done, but in this case, neither story really feels like it goes anywhere. On top of that, the attempt to connect the two is pretty weak and strains credibility. This doesn’t make for a bad episode, though. It’s just a weaker showing than other episodes of this season, which still makes for an entertaining viewer.
One of our two stories surprisingly takes place in the civilian life of Jaime Reyes, the current Blue Beetle. I don’t think we’ve ever seen such focus on a character outside of their costume before. Jaime only briefly fully armors up in this episode, and that’s really not a bad thing. I think this episode shows why Jaime Reyes has been such an enduring character since his debut in comics six years ago. He’s just a fun character. Take this normal kid, pair him up with a homicidal and badgering A.I., and you’ve got a winning combination. This episode really spotlights that dynamic as Jaime tries to investigate where one of his friends disappeared to.
And speaking of Jaime’s friend, this is not a guest appearance I was ever expecting to see. Can DC actually use him? I guess so. I’m not clear on the present state of the legal rights involved here, but I know DC has skirted around it in the past, very loosely basely Manitou Raven off him in comics and more blatantly basing Long Shadow off him in Justice League Unlimited. If it’s not obvious, I’m talking about Apache Chief from the old Hanna Barbera Super Friends cartoon. He appears here in the form of Jaime’s friend Ty (Tai? Tigh?), a kid who suffers a pretty crap home life due to his mother’s probably abusive boyfriend. When he disappears, it’s assumed he has just run away again, but Jaime believes different. The audience knows different.
That is the problem with this story. We know this kid didn’t disappear under his own free will, and we know the mother’s boyfriend isn’t involved. We know this from the very start. But all this episode has Jaime do is investigate if the boyfriend had anything to do with it, ending with him realizing that isn’t the case. That’s it. This story doesn’t really go anywhere. It ends at basically the same point where it began, with the friend gone and Jaime not knowing where to look. That doesn’t make for a very strong episode.
The other half doesn’t improve it much, but it does provide a bit of action. The all-female Alpha Team head into Bialya to investigate any connection Queen Bee has to the alien conspiracy on Earth. Despite also featuring Miss Martian, Bumblebee and Batgirl, this half of the episode is really about developing Wonder Girl. She’s cast as the least experienced among them and feeling she has something to prove. To this episode’s credit, it doesn’t go the generic route with that story. Usually, you will have this overeager character do something painfully stupid at the first opportunity, mess things up, feel bad and redeem herself in the end. It has become an annoying cliche that this episode thankfully avoids. When the opportunity comes for Wonder Girl to do something impulsive and stupid, she actually makes a smart move. Sure, she later messes up, but it’s a forgivable mistake that is balanced out from her initially doing the right thing. This makes it a stronger character arc for Wonder Girl.
The actual plot of what Alpha Team gets up to is rather weak, though. It turns out to be another dead end in regard to finding out where the alien bomb came from, much as last episode’s investigation of Intergang was. Instead, Alpha Team discovers that Queen Bee is abducting young runaways, allegedly for the mysterious aliens. As soon as we see this, we know this ties directly into Jaime’s missing friend. Unfortunately, the episode saves that for a last minute reveal as if it isn’t something blatantly obvious from the start. Like the Blue Beetle half of the episode, this leaves you with the feeling that nothing really went anywhere. Yes, they save some kids, but what that means as far as the story goes is very minimal.
Usually when the plot of an episode is lacking, the show makes up for it by giving us some good character development or reveals. That just isn’t the case this time around. Wonder Girl’s little arc is good, but it’s somewhat insubstantial too. We don’t really learn anything new about her, even though this is the most we’ve gotten to see of her so far. As for Blue Beetle, we’ve probably seen more of him than any other character in this season. He’s obviously a current favorite of the showrunners. But that just means we’ve already learned quite a bit about him, and this episode adds very little to that. The introduction of Apache Chief, Longshadow or whatever we should call him doesn’t have much to it either. He’s likely being saved for a later episode.
Even the action is less than what we normally get from this show. Blue Beetle’s half doesn’t really provide any, and Alpha Team’s honestly doesn’t turn out to be as action-packed as it coudl be. It is entertaining to see Wonder Girl throw down on Mammoth and Devastation, but most of the team’s mission is stealth and even some psychic combat. That doesn’t make for the more exciting stuff.
“Beneath” is a lot of set up and filler but not much substance for an episode to stand on its own. Time would have been better spent showing us more of this show’s version of Apache Chief rather than having Blue Beetle investigate a lead that is never a mystery for the viewers. Similarly, it’s fun seeing the ladies of Alpha Team in action, but a better payoff would have been preferable to another dead end on the alien conspiracy investigation. All that said, both halves of the episode do provide several entertaining moments that overall make it a fun watch. It just all comes to a rather unsatisfying end.