Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2015 Day 15: Young Justice "Coldhearted"

Young Justice
“Coldhearted,” Season 1, Episode 20, 2012

Matt Says:

I knew I had to include an episode of Young Justice in my list for this year, as it is up there with JLU as one of the best superhero team animated series ever. But picking a single episode was tricky, as it is a very serialized show, one where I have a hard time picking a single episode that stands above the rest, especially when you get to the ambitious second season. This isn't the only show on this list where I ran into that problem, two more coming up had a similar issue, and one of those is another show produced by Greg Weisman. But thinking about what images stuck in my head, I was struck with Kid Flash running through the snow on a mission of life and death, and so I decided to go with "Coldhearted."

I'm a big fan of Wally West; I grew up in the 90s, and that makes Wally my Flash. He was the Flash in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and neither of the episodes I picked for those shows had a lot of Wally, so that's another reason to choose this episode; It's a great spotlight for the character, who is still in his Kid Flash identity at this point, still Barry Allen's sidekick.

Wally's sixteenth birthday starts out perfect: big breakfast with his parents, snow day from school, surprise party from his superhero friends at Mount Justice, and when it turns out coast-to-coast snow is man made, a team up between the Justice League and the Team (what the young heroes are called as a group). But Wally's excitement is quashed pretty quickly: while the other young heroes are off to fight the flying ice fortresses, he has been given a mission to run a transplant heart from Boston to Seattle to save a little girl's life. This isn't the exciting adventure he was hoping for, and he's disappointed.

As Wally runs the heart, he begins to realize how important it is, even as he's distracted by cute doctors, food, and Vandal Savage, who's waiting along the route to get revenge on Flash, who he assumed would be running the heart. Wally fights Savage, only to realize that it's not important, that it's not his mission. Wally arrives in Seattle to find that the girl has died... or that's what he's told by a man who tries to steal the heart. The girl is Queen Perdita of Vlatava, and her uncle, the supervillain Count Vertigo, is trying to wait out the clock and let her die so he can inherit the throne. It's up to Wally to make one last ditch effort to retrieve the heart and save the girl.

What's great about the story is that not only is it an exciting and well told superhero story, interspersed with scenes of the other heroes fighting the flying ice fortresses on top of Wally's adventure, but it's a great coming of age story. In the end, Wally realizes the import of his mission, not just because he saved a country from being taken over by a supervillain, but because he saved a little girl's life. Those strong character beats are one of the highlights of Young Justice, and this episode is a perfect example of them.

Fun fact: this episode serves as a sort of sequel to a Green Arrow short that was originally released with the DC Direct-to-DVD movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which introduced Queen Perdita and featured Green Arrow having to save her from one of Vertigo's earlier attempts on her life. In that short, written by Young Justice producer Greg Weisman, Green Arrow was voiced by Neal McDonough, better known as Dum-Dum Dugan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and currently plaguing Green Arrow as Damien Darkh on Arrow.

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