Monday, March 25, 2013

On Young Justice and Playing the Game

I polished off the last of Young Justice recently, and was happily impressed. Once it found its feet, the show had a strong arc, and improved immensely post-timeskip.

Finishing the second part of season two, I couldn't avoid the debate over the series not being renewed, and, having deliberately avoided any interviews or anything over at Greg Weisman's personal site, Ask Greg, I didn't know what to expect.

Fortunately, the ending wrapped up what it promised to, just with an opener for a new storyline tacked on to the very end. Could have been worse; could have been a lot worse. Many television series and films end with the "Or IS it?" moment, and I walked away satisfied.

But leading up to this finale, I saw many people on the Internet who blamed any theoretical failure to achieve closure on Greg Weisman. Weisman was trying too hard, they said. He shouldn't have come up with in-depth plans for his series, because they always get cancelled after two seasons. Television is fickle—can't he just dial it back? Make something smaller so it doesn't suffer when the axe falls?

Which is a terrible way to look at things. It's basically asking artists to hold back and not put effort into anything because—oops!—things might get cancelled. Asking artists to do this, especially on the basis of what-ifs, is asking everyone to be content with never pushing their boundaries, never planning for the future of their stories.


Being cancelled/not renewed isn't the fault of Greg Weisman trying to "do too much", especially since whatever plans he had would have had no impact on what actually made it to air. Young Justice was a perfectly good series that had some bad luck, and asking for less effort wouldn't have changed that luck.

The problem with Young Justice disappearing is more about the principle than the loss of a definitive conclusion. As I said above, I'm fine with the ending we got. The problem is that it means dramatic, serialized animation keeps losing. I love many other current cartoons, but YJ was in a special category that needs more love.


  1. You know what this is? Strive for mediocrity, settle for adequacy. Which is what most neck beards on the internet do. They don't try to reach for anything in their lives, they just settle; they don't ask the girl out, then hate women for not magically falling in love with them.

    They are lazy half-assers who hate anyone who doesn't half ass.

  2. I have great admiration for Greg Weisman's work, but I can't say that Young Justice was one of his best accomplishments. The first season gave us solid single episodic adventures, good character development amongst the original team, and cleverly teased us with hints of a grand conspiracy hanging over the big picture. For an opening chapter in the series, it was brilliant. But it demanded a satisfying payoff in the future.

    Season 2, in my opinion, was a disappointment with less than satisfying single episodes, haphazard character development of new characters, and the continued tease of an even grander conspiracy hanging over the series. The A-List Justice League members were conveniently written out of the series early in the season for the simple sake of writing them out to heighten the stakes for the YJ. But while newer heroes were constantly crammed down our throats, we really couldn't get to know them all that well.

    And in the end, that long teased Grand Conspiracy didn't really seem to be that grand that all. The Reach was surprisingly incompetent and the Light was broken up by the heroes within a few minutes of the penultimate episode. All that really remained were whatever plans Lex Luthor and Darkseid harbored. Were all the major DC villains really close bedfellows as they appeared to be sharing the same agendas as members of the Light? We'll never know because for all Weisman's focus on trying to showcase so many heroes into the episodes, he never really bothered to give us any interesting villains. The Joker had no bite. Luthor's brilliance never got a chance shine. And Darkseid never got a chance to flex his muscle.

    Young Justice was a good show. Weisman's ambition to make it something grand was admirable. But it never really amounted to anything truly special and will probably go the way of The Batman and be quickly forgotten to history. In my opinion, that's a shame.