I just watched the series finale for Young Justice today, and I have to say it ended like it began- with a resounding thud!
I found the very first episode of this series clunky and a little dull, and this finale was pretty much the same- it was supposed to be cool and epic, but instead it came across as rushed and kinda forced. The cool finale was really Episode 2×19- The Summit, and this episode was just 20 minutes of housecleaning that felt like a really forced attempt to bring together all the plotlines this awkward and uneven season had been scattering about.
Season One started so-so, but got better fast and ended strong, Season Two started oddly, got better, and worse, and then really cool for a few episodes before finally it came to its natural but awkward conclusion.
I keep using the word “awkward” because I don’t think there’s a better word to describe this season of the show. Too many new characters, and not enough time to focus on the old characters or the new, so the whole thing just turned into a mess at times. In fact, the only time the show really worked was when it reverted back to the Season One cast and focussed on what they were doing. Most of the new cast, with the exceptions of Blue Beetle (who they were pushing really really hard during the second half) and Impulse were pretty much cyphers, and then on top of that they added another team of young heroes to an already overstuffed season- just because.
I don’t know if they were driven by the toy makers to pack the show with action figures, or just couldn’t wait to expand the team and decided they wanted to get as many cool characters in there as possible. Either way, they messed up what had been a solidly good alternate take on the DC Universe with great continuity and some really good character development in the first season. These characters really felt alive and unique, and the whole story felt more organic than forced. (With a few exceptions, like this week’s finale.)
When it first started, I worried that the show would fail the logic test because each week the characters would be in situations where the “real” heroes should be dropping in to help them but didn’t because the plot called for it. With a single exception (the one with the Injustice League from Season One), the writers did a great job of avoiding that trap, and these never felt like “sidekicks” but actual young heroes in training. The senior heroes did show up, but didn’t overshadow the team except when it made sense for them to, and they felt like mentors instead of guardians.
Actually, the show Young Justice most reminded me of was Naruto, and I’m positive that Naruto was indeed a huge influence on the production end of the show. Robin even does Naruto’s signature clone-jutsu move during one of the episodes near the end of Season One (with a little help from Zatana). The whole feeling of the show, with the young heroes going out on missions assigned them by the senior heroes, who were still there and active in the background, really made me think of Naruto, and if they’re going to borrow, then I think they picked the perfect show to borrow from.
The problem is that while they borrowed Naruto’s style and some of its story structure, they forgot one important element- a central character. No matter how scattered or epic Naruto became, it was always still about Naruto growing and developing as a Ninja, and even if that show wandered off to follow side-characters doing things it was still anchored around him. Even in Season One, Young Justice had a problem with focus, and I always found the team a little bit dull because of it. It kind’ve worked when they concentrated on the personal problems each of them had, but they never really got deeply enough into any of them for my tastes and those problems were all resolved in the Season One finale.
Then, when they hit Season Two, that whole problem exploded like a grenade. Suddenly we were overwhelmed by characters and events, and a show which could be a little unfocused became a mess of people we didn’t know or care about. The action was good, the storylines usually interesting, and the animation high quality, but the show’s heart was missing. What depth it had before now gone under a tide of events not really related to any one character.
Just like the show’s finale.
Yesterday, I thought it was a shame this show got cancelled due to low ratings (among key demographics) and poor toy sales. Today, I’m okay with it ending. It was a fun show that I enjoyed while it was around and might re watch someday (well, Season One), but its time is done.
Thanks to the writers and producers of the show, it was fun while it lasted!