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Young Justice: Outsiders Episodes 1- 3 Review – ‘Princes All/Royal We/Eminent Threat’

January 4, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Young Justice: Outsiders - Princes All
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Young Justice: Outsiders Episodes 1- 3 Review – ‘Princes All/Royal We/Eminent Threat’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Friday’s premiere of Young Justice: Outsiders.]

The DC Universe streaming service launched its original programming slate with Titans, but Young Justice: Outsiders was the series that really had people interested. To be fair to both shows, this isn’t shocking. While Titans more than proved itself in its first season, it didn’t have a legion of passionate fans already on board. Young Justice did. The first two seasons of the animated series were deservedly beloved by fans young and old. It featured a complex, engaging exploration of the younger members of the DC Universe. The show took big risks, and they generally paid off for fans. And the series’ early cancellation by Cartoon Network only fueled demand for more.

The arrival of Outsiders shows that showrunners Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti haven’t lost a step. The first three episodes that premiered today on DC Universe fit perfectly against the previous seasons, both narratively and thematically. And much like the 2005 Doctor Who revival, it works equally well for longtime fans looking to follow the characters that they love, or for new viewers who just want to jump right in.

Young Justice: Outsiders Beta Squad

After recapping the final moments of season two, Invasion, Outsiders kicks off with a time jump much like Invasion did. It’s a necessary move to allow for a fresh start, though the recap is a nice bridge to acknowledge Wally West’s death and the status quo change that brought. It also lets Weisman and Vietti do what Young Justice does best: advance its characters. This series separates itself from the superhero pack by letting its characters grow and mature. Outsiders starts off well in that regard.

We see this growth in both overt ways, such as Kaldur becoming Aquaman, and more nuanced ones. Relationships have changed, as have power dynamics. M’gann leads the team now, and Kaldur co-leads the Justice League with Wonder Woman. The League is under siege again, this time by the Lex Luthor-led UN. That lets the show do a major status quo shake-up right off the bat when, after a tragedy during a mission on Rann, Batman quits the League and brings several heroes — including all of his proteges — with him.

This act very quickly sets up one of the big conflicts of the season. Young Justice’s format has been to find ways to take explain why the Justice League aren’t just handling these problems. Season one saw the League overseeing the team’s training. Invasion put the older team under siege from accusations of wrongdoing. Splitting the Justice League over the UN’s oppressive mandates creates a conflict that catches our protagonists between the League and Batman, Inc. That’s the kind of possible hero-on-hero conflict I’m on board with.

 Young Justice: Outsiders Brion Helga

But that’s more of a long game seasonal plan. Before we get there, we have a matter of the immediate storyline to get through. Young Justice has never shied away from tackling serious thematic content. Season two had a lot to say about media perceptions and corruption underneath all the espionage, double agents, betrayal and alien soft drinks. But Young Justice: Outsiders ramps that up a bit early on with its metahuman trafficking story, which it handles with an ever-deft touch.

This isn’t entirely new ground, of course. After all, Invasion touched on human trafficking, though the focus was more on the smaller group of kids than the problem as a whole. It takes center stage here, as Nightwing puts together a team that leads him to the fraught nation of Markovia. DC fans will be very familiar with that nation, and its missing Princess Tara (better known as Terra in Teen Titans lore).

For now, Tara is a plot thread to be presumably picked up on later. Instead, the focus is on Brion and his origin story. After his parents die, the younger brother to the Crown Prince finds himself possessed of the need to activate his metahuman gene to help his country. This story intersects with the main arc as Nightwing, Tigress, Superboy, and Black Lightning try to put a stop to the trafficking. Of course, a supervillain is involved — in this case, Count Vertigo has designs on Markovia and has enlisted Bedlam’s aid. This is all very geopolitical, what with the UN and the Justice League schism. But admirably, the show never loses track of its personal arcs amidst the high-level international stakes.

Young Justice: Outsiders Tigress

The first three episodes constitute a strong opening story arc for a variety of reasons. Notably, it gives the show the chance to do what it does better than any other DC property: find a balance between dark material and comic book lightness. Outsiders has ramped up the on-screen darkness, with death looming over everything. Wally’s death still weighs heavily on everyone, particularly (of course) Artemis. And Black Lightning’s character arc over the death of a young metahuman in the opening episode reinforces that theme. It adroitly lends a deeply personal touch to high concept-stakes and themes.

“Princes All,” “Royal We,” and “Eminent Threat” also do something that the second season didn’t do quite as well: juggle its hefty ensemble cast. Zeroing in on the small covert team means that there’s less whiplash trying to follow multiple characters. I’m sad that we’re not seeing more of M’gann, Kaldur or Beast Boy, for example. But narrowing down to Dick, Artemis, Connor and Jefferson means that the addition of Brio and Halo — the latter sure to become an immediate fan favorite — feels less crowded. There’s plenty of time to get to the other members of the team, and I have no doubt that will be the case going forward. For now, the focus is on storyline first, and it delivers.

With the first arc mostly out of the way, there’s still a lot to come. The opening credits make it clear that season two’s Apokolips tease will pay off, while means a serious escalation from here. With the Justice League split, the stage is set for Darkseid and I’m looking forward to his arrival.

Young Justice: Outsiders Halo

Some Final Thoughts:

• Welcome to our coverage of Young Justice: Outsiders! I’m looking forward to delving into something a little less gritty than Titans. Thus far, it’s a fun ride.

• While it’s not needed in order to be caught up on the show, DC Universe has a two-issue Young Justice: Outsiders comic. It focuses on M’Gann and Connor, and is well worth reading.

• I’m happy to see the sliminess of G. Gordon Godfrey back, and James Arnold Taylor is doing a fine job. That said, I already miss Tim Curry’s work in the role.

• I like the little, mostly inconsequential scenes that run over the credits. They aren’t must-watch, but they add a little flavor and I appreciate that.

• It appears as if Barbara is now Oracle. Though the episodes aren’t explicit about it, we don’t see Batgirl and Alyson Stoner is Oracle’s voice. I’m curious if that played out the same as the comics, and if they’ll be able to devote any time to it.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Young Justice: Outsiders gets off to a strong start, serving well as both a continuation of the story fans love and a jumping-on point for new viewers. While I hope to see more of the rest of the cast in successive episodes, the trio of "Princes All," "Royal We" and "Eminent Threat" make it clear that we're in for a season with every chance to live up to its predecessors' high bar.