Young Justice turned it up a notch last night in classic prison story that is sure to stand out as a highlight of season one. “Terrors” is a cool episode because all of the villains who have ice powers conspire to get transferred to the same penitentiary. Killer Frost, Captain Cold are sent there immediately and Victor Fries AKA Mister Freeze is able to get a transfer from Arkham Asylum after convincing them he is sane. Waiting for them is Icicle, another major freeze player already has an established cred and power amongst the inmates at Belle Reve. All of the cold villains converging in the same spot raises Batman’s alarm and wants to know why. Icicle Jr., is the last to be taken to Belle Reve will be reunited with his father, and this is where Batman saw this is as an opportunity to infiltrate.
After Martian Manhunter and Superman make short work of the Terror Twins, Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover as the Twins and share the ride to Belle Reve with Icicle Jr. Now Belle Reve doesn’t mess around when it comes to the meta-powered. Each inmate is outfitted with a custom neck brace that disables each individual’s meta-powers and since Connor and M’Gann are undercover, their braces are only designed to nullify their super strength. This allows them to speak to each other telepathically after they’ve been separated to the men’s and women’s areas of Belle Reve, waiting for the inmates to make their move.
Warden Amanda Waller runs a tight ship with psychiatrist Professor Hugo Strange who is second in command. Criminals often get the reputation of being dumb, but only when they are stopped, caught, or fail in their mission. They had a good plan drawn up in “Terrors” in what seemed to be a fool proof plan because they had people on the inside bring in technology, they had big time players like Fries who commanded all attention, and smaller role players who made sure the plan was executed professionally. Had Superboy and Miss Martian not been undercover, this would have been an easy breakout. But then again, the breakout was never the main goal, was it?
I’m a big fan of the prison setting and in the orange jump suits and I recommend Tom Fontana’s Oz and the vastly underrated DC comic series Hard Time by the late Steve Gerber and Brian Hurtt as other terrific prison fiction. To see Young Justice pull it off this well was enjoyable. It’s a clever way of getting characters we know on a pure visual level in a different way. Sometimes costumes take the center stage in super hero stories, but they can often be crutches too where it becomes their character. Get that man or woman out of that costume and you really see what makes them tick.
As far as our heroes go, Superboy and Miss Martian proved their worth in this undercover job. You expect Miss Martian to be able to go undercover, but Superboy? That was cool. More importantly Connor felt strongly enough about M’Gann to motivate him to think clearly and act fast to save her. For someone who’s put up the emotional wall for most of season one, he finally let it down for M’Gann, so much so that the kiss at the end–as funny as it was to see it from Icicle Jr.’s perspective–felt very genuine and very real. Please read our story from Comic-Con with Danica McKellar about that kiss. The growth in these two characters has been well performed and while romance isn’t always welcomed in superhero cartoons, when it’s done right like it is here, the stakes rise to another level.
In a maximum security prison like Belle Reve, characters with tougher and smarter minds tend to prevail over those who rely solely on their powers or their get up to do their talking for them. There are always shifts of power at play, varying relationships between the corrupt guards and inmates that dictate control. By the end of this episode, Icicle was always the man in charge inside the prison walls and Fries was merely a tool. Outside, it might have been the other way around. Prison has a way of equaling the playing field.
One inmate I particularly found peculiar was E. Nigma AKA The Riddler. He’s neither the caricature from the movies or video games, nor is he the completely serious and deadpan cerebral version I admire in Batman: The Animated Series. As it’s revealed, he was still crafty enough to slip away in all the commotion and will surely come back into the picture at a later date.
For now Belle Reve remains unsettled even though the breakout was unsuccessful. Waller is out as warden and Strange has been promoted, a move calculated and executed by The Light and strengthened by Strange’s agreement with Icicle Sr. Belle Reve is another strategic victory for the dark and ominous council that has escaped the knowledge of the Justice League. The jailbreak was merely a distraction for a much more elaborate scheme on the horizon.
Catch new episodes of Young Justice on the Cartoon Network Friday nights at 6:30PM ET.