"Young Justice: Welcome to Happy Harbor" Hits the Ground Walking
There’s a lot you can learn about a show from its second episode, even things the pilot episode can’t tell you. The pilot establishes a new world for the show’s characters, while the second episode shows what the characters do in their new world. By settling into something of a status quo, the second episode often gives the viewer a better idea of what to expect from future episodes. From watching “Welcome to Happy Harbor”, the second (or third depending on how you look at it) episode of Young Justice, I can tell two things about the show. One, it can do subtle character moments; and two, this show works hard building towards a payoff even if individual episodes aren’t large in scope.
Some aspects from the pilot actually carry into the series, which I wasn’t expecting—most notably, the time and location captions. It’s a nice touch. Also, I was wondering if the show’s color palette would lighten up. The first episode was dark because it mostly takes place in an underground lab, but even though this episode takes place outside on a sunny day, we don’t get the typical bright, flashy superhero colors. In the context of this show, I think it works to ground the series and the characters. The biggest disappointment for me is with the show’s opening theme. The shots of the characters and a glimpse of what happens in the current episode is fine, but I’m not a fan of the song. It’s sort of young, hip, and modern, but it’s too short and isn’t catchy.
While Miss Martian made a brief appearance at the end of the pilot, this episode is her first big spotlight. Superhero shows always run the risk of carrying sexist undertones, probably because of the comics they’re inspired by. The Miss Martian we’re introduced to walks a thin line. She’s definitely a sympathetic character who wants to fit in with her new friends and be seen as a competent hero, which makes for a good character. However, being the only female on the team so far means she gets sucked into some of the typical female character plots, like romantic entanglement with the male characters. At one point in the episode, she tries to bake the team cookies, which is harder to take seriously after the way the Justice League episode “Legends” used that to satirize the outdated roles female heroes had in the Golden Age. Miss Martian is hardly a terrible character, but she’s going to have to try harder to be a progressive heroine.
In this episode, the team fights a mysterious new villain on the home front. Although it has a good, solid plot (and it’s a nice touch seeing them go into battle without having time to change into their costumes), the character interactions are the real draw. We learn a bit more about how the younger heroes aren’t quite up to the power levels of their mentors, and that while Kid Flash is open with his secret identity, Batman doesn’t allow Robin to let the others know his. Other real names are revealed: Aqualad tells them he’s also known as Kaldur’ahm and Miss Martian’s real name is M’gann M’orzz. Superboy is still only known as Superboy. The team’s overall mission is better defined, and the episode starts to show why Red Tornado is the best Leaguer to serve as the team’s adviser. There’s also more world building, as we see what Speedy is up to and why the Justice League abandoned Mount Justice. All these little details show how much thought was put into the show and that there are many interesting stories to tell.
Although I enjoyed the episode, it’s tough to call it a great one, even though I think the series is shaping up to be something special. The episode itself advances the characters, has good action, and hints at future plotlines, but I still think the viewers will get a greater appreciation of the series once we get that payoff. The earlier episodes will be more fun to watch after we know how the relationship between the cast develops and what exactly their enemies are up to. This show is for more patient viewers than, say Teen Titans, which had season arcs but worked well with standalone episodes. What this episode is telling me is that if I stick around, I won’t be disappointed, because things will just get better.
Young Justice “Welcome to Happy Harbor” airs tonight, January 21, 2011, at 7:00 PM (Eastern).