Justice League: The Animated Series – Part 4: Season 2-Bigger, Better, More Daring

on March 27, 2015

Dwayne McDuffie was adamant about wanting to write about people, not just characters in suits with powers. There is such a human element to the characters in the second season of Justice League that they seem like a strong, believable family. This isn’t to disparage the first season. Actually, it’s all a completely natural progression. The characters were more aloof and formal in the first season. There was more of a ‘by the numbers’ approach to the show, which was reflected in the characters’ interactions. Now that some time has passed and we’ve seen them on many adventures together, their bonds have grown stronger. As such, the developers explore the relationships of the characters now that the basics have been laid out for viewers.

Though the League is one big family, it is split into smaller groups, which makes things all the more fascinating and realistic.

Batman and Superman are real friends who have true admiration for one another, despite coming from totally different places in life and having differing opinions, viewpoints, and methods. It’s not often something that’s said, but it’s easy to tell that both of them feel it and it’s something that’s understood between them. There’s something somewhat professional and ceremonial about the relationship between Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. They seem to have real class and grace (as does Martian Manhunter), which is interestingly contrasted by the three other members.

Green Lantern and the two redheads –The Flash and Hawkgirl– have their own kind of bond that’s much more casual, laid back, and less elegant. This has a lot to do with Green Lantern and The Flash being more like ‘everymen’ than Batman and Superman. GL comes from a humble upbringing in the Detroit ghetto, and despite his cosmic powers, he’s still more or less a man. The Flash is really open and easy going, and is so comfortable with the people he protects that he often stops to talk to them on the street. Hawkgirl is the tomboyish girl next door type that plays with boys, gets dirty, and openly belches, which contrasts greatly with Wonder Woman’s formal princess angle. There is a point when Hawkgirl expresses her annoyance with Wonder Woman, calling her stuck up, and the two eventually do come to dislike each other. There is even a hint of jealousy Hawkgirl has of Wonder Woman, which is further explored in Justice League Unlimited. Wonder Woman is taller, her breasts are larger, and her figure is overall more pronounced with curves and ample endowment in certain places.

Hawkgirl isn’t as powerful as Wonder Woman, and she even frequently messes up, due to her tendency to bash things without really considering everything, which sometimes puts her at odds with Green Lantern, who views himself as an authorized peace keeper and the others as well meaning amateurs. As seen in “War World,” Hawkgirl eventually blew up at Lantern when she got tired of him condemning her, calling him self-righteous and a slew of other insults. Hawkgirl is irritable and sometimes irrational, and Green Lantern is judgmental and pretty rational, which provides plenty of fuel for fascinating interpersonal drama, which season two takes full advantage of.

Green Lantern also frequently rebukes The Flash, but it’s like water off a duck’s back to Wally West, who’s not nearly as short-tempered as Hawkgirl. Sometimes it seems like he pals around with John to intentionally annoy him, but after becoming familiar with each other’s idiosyncrasies, the two end up being very close friends with a grudging buddy relationship.

For all the hardened, practical, sometimes chafing, but usually reasonable, dependable, and grounded man Green Lantern is, he continues to carry a subtle sadness and anxiety within him. Season two touches more upon his fear of losing his humanity and those dear to him, and he continues to find comfort in Hawkgirl. Though they bicker frequently, it’s easy to tell that they care deeply about each other, and their profound bond is strongest of all in the Justice League.

Another characteristic that makes them such an engaging duo is they’re rather juvenile, in a charming way. Hawkgirl is like a third grade girl, knowing how she feels about Green Lantern, but never telling him or admitting to it. She sets the tone and the pace of their relationship, and Green Lantern is sometimes left wondering what the heck is going on. Lantern, being rather straightforward and blunt, even asks her about it, point blank. Of course, Hawkgirl claims she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That is, until things reach their highest points in the twilight episodes of season two. That their relationship serves as the climax of the season, and the series, speaks to how much Justice League is shaped by it. That’s amazing, considering Green Lantern and Hawkgirl were initially the two controversial choices among the character roster, and that neither of them had particularly large profiles in the comic books when compared to Batman or Superman.

And speaking of twilight, the season opener is a Fourth World epic, titled “Twilight.”

The more emotional element to the characters and overall greater maturity of the show is apparent from the get-go through the rivalry and drama between Superman and Batman, and the seething hatred Superman has for Darkseid, a villain he faced in his own animated series.

The staff of the animation team met for an entire day to discuss what they could do better. They basically upped everything. They admit to pulling their punches on the first season, but on season two they really go all out, and even they were surprised by some of the things that were approved, such as the ferocity of the fights and some of the sexual innuendos.

“Twilight” is the first episode to touch on Hawkgirl’s past in a meaningful way, as she confides in the sagely Martian Manhunter about her homesickness, which is great foreshadowing for things to come. Speaking of foreshadowing, this episode serves as a milestone for the narrative of the DC Animated Universe, as many threads in Justice League’s sequel, Justice League Unlimited, have their origin here. Moreover, this episode picks up from threads that began in Superman: The Animated Series, which goes to show just how brilliantly cohesive Bruce Timm’s animated universe is. “Twilight” even revisits musical themes from the S:TAS episode “Legacy,” which shows great continuity. Michael Ironside returns as the voice of Darkseid, as does Corey Burton for Braniac. Both deliver characteristic grand performances. They will likely never be topped for those roles. Burton’s cold monotone drone is perfect for the Kryptonian super computer, and Ironside fittingly gives Darkseid a calm yet authoritative and assured disposition.

Even though “Twilight” doesn’t feature John Stewart, it is the episode that really caught my attention and made it so I had to keep tuning in to Justice League. I had already seen Superman: The Animated Series, so I greatly appreciated the wonderful continuousness “Twilight” had with it. What really pushes everything over the top, however, is the incredibly hard hitting battle between Superman and Darkseid. It’s superbly staged, with every single blow and maneuver carrying tons of impact. Fans complained about Superman being a weakling and punching bag in season one, so Timm and co. set out to show off the force of the Man of Steel in season two’s very first episode, and they don’t let up for the rest of the season. Superman also improves in the character design department, with the unnecessary lines on his face being removed, and voice actor George Newburn falls into the role more comfortably. Season two of Justice League is an all-around grand showing for DC’s flagship hero. Actually, it’s a great showing for all the heroes, many of whom are better interpreted here than they’ve ever been in any other medium.

“Twilight” remains one of the big highlights of the entire series, but the show manages to get better and better at this point. “Tabula Rasa” continues the hard hitting action, intelligent storytelling, and remarkable relationship building among the Leaguers. They’re starting to seem more like a family, and the stories are getting more personal. Even so, one of the most gripping characters on the show isn’t even in the League, and that is Lex Luthor!

Lex Luthor is one of the best characters from the series. In the episode “Tabula Rasa,” he manipulates the powerful android AMAZO into doing his bidding.

He is still suffering from his Kryptonite poisoning, but he never gives up his ambitions of destroying Superman and the Justice League. The last time we saw him was in the beginning of the episode “Legends,” when he used a giant robot to try and destroy the League. Now, garbed in his battle armor, he’s on the run and being pursued by Superman and Hawkgirl. Unable to defeat them both, he distracts them by blasting a luxury liner and causing it to sink. The two heroes must break off their attack in order to save the people on the yacht.

Lex’s relationship with Mercy Graves –his chauffeur sidekick of sorts from Superman: The Animated Series— is revisited and told very well. It turns out that during this time that Lex has been imprisoned or a fugitive, he left the running of Lexcorp to Mercy. She’s now a proud and successful business woman who has come up a long way from being Lex’s driver. With nowhere else to go, the ill Lex Luthor shows up in his old office looking for help from Mercy. Mercy first turns an apathetic ear to the genius, but decides to cooperate when Lex gets enough of a burst of strength to physically threaten her. He’s looking for one of his doctors, Professor Ivo. In an attempt to save money, Mercy fired him, which enrages Lex, since he was one of their best scientists. Mercy tells Lex that he’s probably at his home, and Lex takes off to go see the scientist.

Superman is very concerned about Lex getting away. He has the entire Justice League out looking for him, and he asks the Martian Manhunter to do a psychic sweep of the whole city to find the villain. Martian Manhunter agrees, even though he’s never tried doing anything that large.

Lex breaks into Ivo’s house when the Professor doesn’t answer the door. He finds Ivo dead in his own home, and figures he died from smoking. Interestingly, Lex isn’t very surprised when he finds a massive gray robot in Ivo’s home, and that’s one of the things that make Lex so great. He casually says, “What are you waiting for? It’s not like I won’t be dead soon enough anyway.” I really can’t say enough complimentary things about Clancy Brown’s delivery. He is one of the best voice actors of the entire DC Animated Universe, and an absolute perfect fit for Lex.

Martian Manhunter attempts his psychic sweep, and he’s surprised by the selfish thoughts going on in the humans’ minds. The sheer volume of them overwhelms him. We get a great shot when he tries to find solace at a chapel, but it’s not enough. He flies out of the city altogether.

While Lex is at Ivo’s house, he works on repairing his battle suit. The android asks Lex when the Professor will return. Lex plainly tells the thing that Ivo will never be back, and the android asks if Lex will take care of him instead. Not wanting to be left alone, the android decides to help Lex.

The android, known as Amazo, is amazingly voiced by Robert Picardo. Voice director Andrea Romano casts these characters perfectly. The amount of talent in this show is mind boggling. It is really an example of when everything is so on the ball that it’s hard to imagine it being better.

Amazo is another example of the show doing a much better interpretation than the comics. The design of the character in the comics is absolutely ridiculous. Justice League gives him a very simple and plain appearance, but it’s fitting. Amazo begins as a blank slate, and his design suits that.

Lex sends his android helper out to go steal fuel for his power suit. The gray giant attacks a plant to procure the item, and easily defeats the security guards there and retrieves a fuel canister. On his way out, Hawkgirl, who is on patrol looking for Luthor, spots the crime taking place, and engages Amazo. Interestingly, upon looking at Hawkgirl, he gets wings and mace like her. Hawkgirl gets a few good shots in, but is ultimately defeated. The gray machine takes the stolen fuel back to Lex, who notices the wings and the mace. While the android was away, Lex looked over the Amazo blueprints he found in Ivo’s house. He learned all about the built in duplication system native to the android.

Lex tells Amazo a story about himself and the Justice League. He says he built a great empire, and the League took it all away from him. He wants to regain control of his empire and hand it down to a son he never had. Amazo is convinced the Justice League is very bad, thus he agrees to defeat them for Lex.

Meanwhile, Superman and Batman meet with Mercy Graves to try to get information about Lex’s whereabouts. She tells them she’s a different person than she was when she palled around with Lex, and that she’ll tell them if she discovers anything. She lies to them about not being contacted by Luthor. The two heroes leave, but are very suspicious of her.

Martian Manhunter hides deep in the woods, trying to get away from the tumult of thoughts in his head. Superman contacts him via commlink and J’onn yells at him, wanting to be left alone.

Back in the city, Hawkgirl meets with Wonder Woman and The Flash, and she tells them about her encounter with the android. Just as she’s doing that, they see him rampaging through the city, so they spring into action. Amazo quickly gets Wonder Woman’s powers, and gives her a hard time, and that is when…

Green Lantern John Stewart shows up, making his season two debut!

He blasts the android while it’s occupied with Wonder Woman, but Amazo manages to quickly replicates his powers. It’s not long before the android gets Flash’s speed.

Mercy calls Ivo’s house, and as Lex is going to answer, he has an attack and can’t reach the phone. Batman and Superman have tapped her calls, and they follow the call to Ivo’s home. Before Batman and Superman can follow up on their new lead, Green Lantern calls to let them know about the android attack. Despite the League having a hard time battling the thing, GL tells Batman and Superman to stay put for fear of the android getting their powers, too.

Superman doesn’t listen however, and quickly goes to the scene of the battle. He obscures the creature’s vision so it can’t duplicate his abilities, and gets in some powerful hits… but it doesn’t work in the end. The android gets Superman’s powers, too. Composer Lolita Ritmanis has a great theme that plays whenever the android copies powers, which gives the moment a strong sense of worry and intensity.

Superman fights back against the android, and the two have an epic showdown in the city. Batman intervenes, and the android notes that the Dark Knight doesn’t have any powers to copy. Batman reveals a chunk of Kryptonite that weakens the android. He deduced that the android inherits both strengths and weaknesses. This is a great moment because it shows the significance of the Kryptonite Batman has been carrying around since the “Injustice for All” episode. Weakened by the Kryptonite, Amazo retreats.

The battles continue to pick up the pace on Justice League. They’re hard hitting, fast, and really get the blood pumping. Superman really brings the power whenever he gets involved now.

Mercy stops by to visit Lex at Ivo’s mansion to let him know that Batman and Superman are on his tail. Lex begins packing immediately and Mercy helps him relocate. Meanwhile, the League searches for the android. Green Lantern, Superman, and The Flash look for Luthor at Ivo’s house, while Hawkgirl and Batman search for the android. Wonder Woman is concerned about Martian Manhunter and goes looking for him.

The Martian is having a crisis of conscience and is hiding in the woods to get away from the petty thoughts of humans. He asks what he’s fighting for and who he’s fighting for. This adds some welcome depth to his character. Of all the characters on the show, he is one of the characters explored the least, but when the production team does go into him, it’s usually pretty deep.

Luthor booby trapped Ivo’s mansion, so when the heroes arrive, they’re greeted with an explosion. It’s ultimately a minor hindrance, and they put out the subsequent fire and salvage some of Ivo’s papers, which may serve as clues. The android is hiding in the distance. He knows Luthor left the house and doesn’t know where to find him. It turns out Luthor moved to an old warehouse with lead shielding to protect him from Superman’s X-ray vision.

Lex and Mercy are a good team, and it’s great to hear Lisa Edelstein reprising her role as Lex’s driver/accomplice/girlfriend. Lex believes the reason Mercy is doing him so many favors is because she needs him, but she has a lot of apprehension toward him. Luthor tells her of his new ally, who happens to be flying through the city looking for him. The android looks legitimately scared and lost when he can’t find his new protector. Lex yells at Mercy when the lights in the warehouse go out, and the android hears it with his new super hearing. He follows the sound to the warehouse hide-away and is instantly sexually attracted to Mercy, which is something he picked up from The Flash.

The android begins questioning Lex and showing frustration at him for leaving the mansion without notice. He asks why Lex wants him to destroy the League, and Lex replies because he’s telling him to. The android says, “That’s not good enough anymore,” to Lex’s surprise.

Back in the woods, the Martian is touched when he sees a group of people looking relentlessly for a lost child. He senses their selflessness and concern for someone they do not know. He starts to see and appreciate another side of the humans. Meanwhile, GL, Superman, and The Flash discover Ivo’s body at the mansion, as well as the plans for the Amazo android. It becomes apparent that Luthor, Ivo, and the android are connected. The plans reveal that the duplication process will allow Amazo to evolve.

Lex continues to manipulate the android, and Mercy sees right through it. The android decides to destroy the League for Lex out of love and pity for him. When Amazo leaves to find the League, Mercy warns Lex about taking advantage of such a powerful being. Lex points out that if the android gets mad at him, he will use a kill switch that activates a bomb that Ivo installed at the base of Amazo’s brain. Lex feels totally assured of the situation.

In the woods, Martian Manhunter discovers the lost child and delivers her to her parents. Wonder Woman finds him and gives him a reassuring hug. The Martian’s resolve to protect humanity returns as he sees that people, though not perfect, are worth fighting for.

The League finds Amazo, and they all head over to engage him, but Batman tells Superman to hang back because he’s planning on using the Kryptonite again. Batman brandishes the the glowing rock, and it works for a short time, but the android has evolved, adapted, and developed immunity to it. He smacks Batman aside and the others attack. Superman is quickly taken out when the android hits him with the Kryptonite. The Leaguers put up a fight, but the android proves too powerful. When Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter arrive, she tells the Martian to stay back for fear of the foe getting his powers, too.

Lex Luthor arrives with his battle suit repaired. He and Amazo double team the League and defeat them. Martian Manhunter reveals himself, and tells the android that they are not his enemy. The android receives his powers, too, and immediately uses them to read Lex’s mind. As such, he discovers that Lex lied to him. Lex wastes no time in pulling out the kill switch and uses it to destroy the android. Much to his surprise, Amazo survives and regrows his blown off head. Lex tries to escape, but the android uses Green Lantern’s power to grab him and destroy his armor, leaving Luthor near naked and begging for mercy.

The android spares Luthor, believing him and the Justice League to be small and meaningless. He says none of them have anything more to offer him. He literally becomes golden, glows brightly, and takes off for the stars. No one knows where he’s going, but they’re all worried about what may happen if he chooses to return.

Lex is apprehended again, and he uses his one phone call to beseech Mercy for help. She hangs up on him mid conversation, signaling that she’s finally pushing Lex out of her life. It’s an excellent, quite personal ending.

An especially interesting aspect of this episode is that the League is faced with the first enemy they actually cannot defeat. This is also one of Lex’s best showings in the DC Animated Universe, but he continues to rock season two later on. At this point, the show has it all; great personal storylines, hard hitting action, the best concepts the DC Universe has to offer, the best voice talent in the business, a great dynamic between all members of the Justice League, and a burgeoning romance between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl that’s never played too strong, but always lingering in the background. What’s cool about that is it’s easy to get excited by any little crumb the producers give you and begin looking for clues.

“Only a Dream” is one of my personal favorite episodes. The first part of the story follows an ordinary man serving a prison sentence. Similar to part one of “Metamorphosis,” it is recalling of Batman: The Animated Series in that it is a quieter, more personal story largely devoid of the bombastic world ending stakes that are commonplace in this show. These moments are nice for Justice League. Being more introverted, they allow for deeper insight into the characters.

The ordinary man, John Dee, carries a serious vendetta against the Justice League, and when he gains the power to affect their dreams, things get dangerous. Of course, that means things get exciting for viewers, because this allows us to see the Leaguers’ greatest fears when Dee traps the heroes in their own nightmares.

Many of the superheroes’ fears have to do with isolation, but not all in the exact same ways. That’s understandable, since their powers set them apart from humanity. It’s interesting to note that the heroes are more relaxed with each other now. While the show retains all the sophistication and grandeur of the first season, things are a little less formal with the characters and they become more three dimensional and familial.

The episode opens up with John Dee having a dream in which he destroys the Justice League, and many other villains congratulate him on the feat. He feels really good about himself just as he wakes up to his cold, dim reality in prison. He fell asleep while waiting to undergo an experiment.

The staff at the prison has a lot of faith in John Dee. He’s depicted as a model prisoner and they truly believe he has a bright future. John Dee’s turn for the experiment comes up and he sits in the chair and undergoes the procedure. He’s a bit dismayed to discover he doesn’t feel any different when it’s over. After a brief test, he finds that it does give him ESP for a limited amount of time. John is excited to continue experimenting with the machine, but the doctor there points out that he hasn’t charted the side effects and they must be careful.

Afterward, John learns that his parole report came in and that it doesn’t look good. He later takes a visit from his wife and tries to reassure her that he’s on to something new. She’s likely upset that he’s not being paroled and tired of excuses and tells him that she’s found someone new, which deeply hurts him.

Later on, there is a mass prison break, and Dee jumps right into action to take advantage of the situation. While the other prisoners are causing chaos in their attempt to escape, he goes into the room with the doctor and the ESP machine. The doctor trusts Dee because of his good behavior, and while the doctor’s back is turned, John Dee knocks him out and goes over to the machine, turning its setting to a very high intensity. He freaks out as he undergoes the strenuous procedure of gaining advanced ESP.

Meanwhile on the Watchtower, The Flash is waving his hand in front of the Martian’s face while he’s in a trance. Batman alerts them to the prison break. It turns out Martian Manhunter was taking a nap.

The warden and one of the guards find Dr. Bill Brooks unconscious and John Dee sitting in a catatonic state in the chair of the ESP machine. Elsewhere, Maggie Sawyer and her squad from the Special Crimes Unit have pinned down the super villains Volcana and Firefly in a warehouse, who also escaped. The Special Crimes Unit has trouble containing Volcana. The situation looks grim until Green Lantern shows up to save Sawyer. He battles Volcana, and Batman takes on Firefly. Both heroes use their cleverness to defeat the foes. Green Lantern seals them in a container, and Volcana burns up all the oxygen inside of it with her fire blasts, causing her to faint. Justice League deserves more bonus points for having Volcana’s voice actress from Superman: The Animated Series, Peri Gilpin.

After the two of the super criminals are back in custody, the warden gets a notice that Dee is missing. Batman and Green Lantern accompany him, and find many of the prisoners in the infirmary in a bizarre, lethargic state, mumbling incomprehensibly and barely conscious. Far away from the fighting, Dee’s wife Penny welcomes her new mate back home while John Dee secretly watches from atop a hill.

Batman is very suspicious of the situation at the prison. Superman calls Green Lantern and asks for assistance in getting the other super criminals under submission. Green Lantern says they’ll be there, but Batman decides to stay at the prison, believing that Dee may have caused the condition of the other prisoners. Green Lantern is incredulous that Dee is a serious threat, but Batman isn’t convinced. Back at the home of Dee’s wife and the man she’s with –-Rick– John Dee appears in the house and confronts Penny while she’s getting a glass of water. She tries to wake Rick up, but he won’t budge. John Dee decides to give himself a new medieval styled costume as he takes on the name Doctor Destiny. It turns out he’s talking to Penny in her dream and he begins torturing her there. In reality, Rick tries to wake Penny up as she thrashes and screams, but he can’t break her out of the strange state she’s in. In the hills above the home, John Dee smiles.

At a refinery, Hawkgirl battles Luminous, a villain from Superman: TAS. He tricks her and uses his power to entrap her in a closed space constructed of hard light. Hawkgirl begins to breathe heavily and gets extremely uncomfortable as the space shrinks around her. It turns out she’s claustrophobic, which adds an interesting layer to her character. Before she totally has a breakdown, Superman saves her.

Grundy and Copperhead are attempting to escape the special crimes unit but are drawn into a confrontation with them. Grundy proves to be too powerful for them until they bring out gas, which drives him off. He and Copperhead encounter the Martian Manhunter, who battles Grundy while Copperhead slithers away. The Flash runs into Luminous, who creates multiples of himself to battle The Scarlet Speedster in a scene that showcases superb animation.

Hawkgirl and Superman appear to help The Flash. Superman uses his X-ray vision to find the real Luminous and Hawkgirl knocks him out. Copperhead jumps on Hawkgirl and demands that she help him escape by flying him out of the area, while Superman has gone off to help the Martian battle Grundy.

Hawkgirl flies high into the air and Copperhead threatens to give her a poisonous bite if she doesn’t comply. Hawkgirl brings out that if he does that, he’ll fall forty stories. Green Lantern arrives to help, and Copperhead loses his resolve and is defeated. Grundy falls against the double team of Superman and Martian Manhunter.

With all the super criminals are captured again, the Justice League calls it a night. They’re all tired from their battles.

Meanwhile, Penny is still seriously freaking out. She’s been brought to a hospital but the doctors can’t do much but sedate her. When the doctors leave, Batman and Martian Manhunter sneak into her room, and Batman asks the Martian to go into her mind. Martian Manhunter discovers the truth. Her husband, John Dee, is now calling himself Doctor Destiny, and he is the cause of Penny’s malady. Martian Manhunter also learns that John Dee wants the Justice League, too.

All the League members sans Batman and Martian Manhunter fall asleep, while John Dee chuckles, preparing to torment them with their worst nightmares.

Doctor Destiny plagues the dreams of the World’s Greatest Heroes.

As mentioned, going into the minds of the Justice League allows for deeper exploration into their characters. We learn more about them as people and what makes them tick. Hawkgirl is still somewhat of a mystery, so all that’s brought out is she’s claustrophobic. Yet, that doesn’t lessen the frightening impact of her nightmare. The Flash is afraid of going so fast that he literally leaves everyone else behind. As we learn in later episodes when the show becomes Justice League Unlimited, this can actually happen, and it is likely the reason The Flash doesn’t use the full potential of his powers. Superman is afraid of getting so much power that he can no longer control it and becomes a threat to those he loves. Green Lantern’s dream is really interesting. He’s afraid that his time in deep space has caused him to lose touch with his humanity, and that humans are just as alien to him as the beings he’s encountered across space.

The Flash’s dream begins with him showing a bunch of kids a video of him beating up Grundy. I congratulate the show on certain points of consistency with the characters. Other episodes show that Flash loves to brag about his battles with Solomon Grundy (“The Brave and the Bold”) and that he loves being with children (“Comfort and Joy”). The children suddenly grow fangs and try to eat him. He runs away so fast that everything around him freezes in time.

Doctor Destiny appears to him and is the only one not affected. He tells the Flash that he went too fast and he’ll never be able to slow down again. Flash understands he’s having a dream and tries to wake up, but can’t. Doctor Destiny tells him he’s stuck in high gear and will be all alone forever. Doctor Destiny leaves The Flash to his friendless fate. Back in Penny’s hospital room, Batman and the Martian warn the other Leaguers not to go to sleep via comm-link, but it’s too late.

Superman’s dream is one of the most fascinating. Clark Kent is on a date with Lois, and she’s suspicious about all the things he’s always hiding. He accidentally blasts her with heat vision, which is pretty horrific.

In Green Lantern’s dream, he’s walking the streets of his neighborhood, but all the people there are afraid of him. Doctor Destiny appears and tells the Lantern that he’s not one of them anymore. John Stewart soon realizes he can’t read any of the writing or understand the language of the people. He puts together that it’s all Doctor Destiny’s doing, but the looming figure tells Lantern that he’s the one who has changed.

Martian Manhunter and Batman gather up the comatose Green Lantern and Superman to take them back to the Watchtower for medical attention. As the other Leaguers suffer from their endless slumber, Batman goes hunting for the physical John Dee.

Back in the Watchtower, Hawkgirl tries to rouse the Flash. Martian Manhunter appears and she tells him what happened. The Martian turns into Doctor Destiny and clamps her wings together with a bracer. He creates a lever and drops her through a trap door. After a long fall, she lands in a grave and Doctor Destiny seals it and buries her alive. This is torturous for her, especially due to her claustrophobia.

Martian Manhunter is listening to the news while attempting to help the sleeping Leaguers. He hears a report saying that John Dee’s wife, Penny, died in her sleep. Batman is investigating at her house when the Martian contacts him to tell him that he’ll need to go into the Leaguers’ minds to save them or they will surely suffer the same fate as Penny.

In Superman’s dream, Metropolis is wrecked. The Man of Steel, who has become an enlarged freak, calls out for help in the Daily Planet news room, and Jimmy Olsen is the only one who answers his call. Superman is ecstatic to see his pal, but when he hugs Jimmy, the embrace kills the young photographer. Superman is horrified, but Martian Manhunter appears in the dream to help him. Superman doesn’t believe there can be any help for him, and he flies from Metropolis to Smallville. This segment is actually somewhat touching. It’s interesting to see Superman so scared and vulnerable, and the scene of him and J’onn flying to Smallville is beautiful, heightened further by the sweeping music theme.

In the Kent barn, Superman hides, scrunched up in his spaceship. The Martian follows, offering to help, but Superman keeps rejecting. The Martian says he can take the suffering away, and Superman eventually believes in him, allowing Martian Manhunter to restore Superman to a more stable state. He still can’t wake up, but he has more control over his condition in his dream.

While in the Batmobile, Batman finds out from its computer that John Dee was a low level Lexcorp guard who was imprisoned for guarding smuggled weapons at a warehouse. Batman starts nodding off at the wheel and sees images of Doctor Destiny, which cause him to get in a minor crash. Batman struggles to stay awake, because he knows Dee will have him the minute he dozes off. He rushes off toward the harbor warehouse where Dee was apprehended.

Back in Lantern’s dream, the Central Power Battery of Oa has appeared in the streets of his Detroit neighborhood, and he stands before it, unsure of himself. Doctor Destiny encourages him to walk in the Battery, telling him that he is the Lantern, and the Lantern is him. This scene symbolizes John Stewart’s inner doubts. He is afraid that Green Lantern is all he is. He fears he has no life outside of his duty, and he can’t even connect with what it means to be a human anymore. Unlike Superman who has maintained a life outside being a superhero, being Green Lantern is all John Stewart has. Doctor Destiny wants John Stewart to give into his doubts.

Just as John is about to give up and walk into the Battery, Martian Manhunter appears to offer words of encouragement, telling the Emerald Crusader that there is more to him than being Green Lantern, that John Stewart is the primary component, and that he’s not a slave to his ring, but its master. Doctor Destiny attacks the Martian, but Superman comes to his friend’s aid. Even so, Doctor Destiny is stronger there than them, and he overcomes them. Green Lantern runs into the battery and Doctor Destiny laughs in triumph.

To the nightmare lord’s surprise, Green Lantern gains mastery over the power instead of giving into it, and he defeats Doctor Destiny, but the villain escapes.

Batman races toward the harbor warehouse where John Dee is hiding, but he keeps nearly falling asleep. To combat the oncoming slumber, Batman goes into a coffee shop and places an order for a triple. Batman in a coffee shop with regular people looking at him is really funny to see, as is seeing him punch out the window of the Batmobile and listen to a silly and hyper rendition of “Frère Jacques” on the radio in an effort to stay awake.

Martian Manhunter and his growing party arrive in The Flash’s nightmare to help the Scarlet Speedster, but they get frozen in time like the rest of Central City. Meanwhile, Hawkgirl is in critical condition, and the heroes can’t do anything to help her. The sense of urgency is really building. If the heroes don’t reach Hawkgirl’s subconscious soon, or if Batman doesn’t stop the physical John Dee, Hawkgirl will die.

Before being frozen, Martian Manhunter told The Flash to look within himself. The Flash does so, and suddenly the people, including the heroes, aren’t frozen anymore. In frustration, Doctor Destiny appears as a giant and attacks. Meanwhile, Batman arrives at the warehouse, and Doctor Destiny uses his telepathy to explain to the hero that the closer he is to someone, the stronger his telepathy is against them. He will be able to go into Batman’s mind even if he’s wide awake. Batman keeps humming that annoying “Frère Jacques” rendition in his head as a means of keeping Doctor Destiny out of his mind.

Back in The Flash’s dream, Martian Manhunter grows to a large size to battle Doctor Destiny. With the help of the other Leaguers they beat the telepath but he retreats once again. With The Flash saved, Lantern asks about Hawkgirl. They hear her crying out from a door with a barrier over it. Martian Manhunter says he can’t get to her, that there is a barricade around her mind. Green Lantern blasts it heavily, but to no avail.

In the real world, Doctor Destiny creates illusions to slow down Batman. He says he’s okay with letting the Dark Knight go, because he doesn’t have powers. Doctor Destiny doesn’t have a problem with him. His issues are the super powered members of the Justice League, because regular people are like insects to them. They step on people, ruin their lives, and they don’t even notice it.

John Dee appears to battle Batman in the flesh and tries to inject him with sedative to force him asleep. In the struggle, Dee winds up injecting himself and loses his control over Hawkgirl. She wakes up in the Watchtower to be greeted by the League, and with the day’s work done Batman falls asleep in a chair. In the infirmary of the prison, a very weary John Dee hums “Frère Jacques.”

“Only a Dream,” is a true classic, and another top episode for me. It shows us the life of one of the mooks the League typically forgets about the minute they’re taken down. This episode is a great reminder that those faceless thugs have stories to tell, too. We see what actually happens to them when they’re defeated, and it’s life crushing stuff. As such, it’s understandable that it’s not just the super criminals who bear strong grudges against the League. It’s also cool that one of the regular joe hoodlums almost defeated the Justice League.

This episode gives us another break from the frequent world threatening calamities of season one. Doctor Destiny had no desire to destroy or conquer the world. He just wanted to kill people that messed up his life. These smaller scale stories often allow more exploration of the characters, and it’s the wonderfully human characters and their dynamics that really push this show well over the top.

However! The global threats pick right back up in “Maid of Honor,” but the character development continues right along with them.

This episode features the formal Wonder Woman relaxing and having fun with a spirited young girl. It’s chic and has a great soundtrack. Vandal Savage and his excellent voice actor, Phil Morris, make a much welcome return as Savage’s origin is revealed.

It turns out he was a caveman from 25,000 years in the past who slept near a meteor that crashed in ancient times. He was drawn to its warmth, but it gave him much more than that… immortality! This explains why he looks the same in the current time as he did during World War II, and how he survived the crash seen in “The Savage Time.” Vandal Savage literally cannot die by any means, and believes he is destined to rule the world. In “Maid of Honor” he plays political games to amass power and then takes command of a weapon of mass destruction.

Dwayne McDuffie writes this episode and further humanizes the characters. He shows there is more to Wonder Woman than the stalwart superheroine. She is a girl who likes to have fun, too. She and her new friend, Princess Audrey of Kaznia, have a night on the town in Paris. We’re treated to a spectacular soundtrack as Audrey and Diana bond. The theme that plays when they’re atop the Eiffel Tower is especially beautiful. The episode wonderfully balances the party girls’ fun with the high stakes crises that is bread and butter for the Justice League. It also shows the sort of style and appeal that characters like Batman and Wonder Woman have that Hawkgirl, Flash, and Green Lantern don’t. Their world is typically more ritzy, formal, and elegant. Batman certainly don’t come across as everymen like The Flash and Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman is refined and polished where Hawkgirl is anything but. There’s nothing wrong with that, though! In fact, it plays up the interesting dynamic between all the different characters.

We’re treated to more Brave and the Bold Green Lantern and Flash camaraderie, which is always nice, and this episode is pretty much a Batman/Wonder Woman shipper’s dream. In the season one episode “The Brave and the Bold” Wonder Woman kissed Batman on the cheek, which spawned a myriad of “shippers” for the pair. While their relationship isn’t as official as Hawkgirl and Green Lantern’s, Justice League plays with the idea hear and there. Speaking of the HG/GL ship, we’re now brought to…

Hearts and Minds.”

For those familiar with this episode, it’s probably not going to come as a huge surprise that “Hearts and Minds” ranks as one of my top favorite episodes of Justice League. Green Lantern John Stewart has arguably never shown brighter than he does in this episode.

“Hearts and Minds” mixes personal battles, religion, politics, intense space battles, diverse aliens, relationship dynamics, romance, comedy, empires, and rag tag resistance teams, to form a Space Opera for the ages that is the VERY BEST depiction the Green Lantern concept has had on screen.

This episode serves as a landmark for Green Lantern’s flourishing romance with Hawkgirl, and is a good example of how mature this cartoon has become. I’m not talking about “mature” in a lewd or crass sense (even if sexual innuendos are liberally used), but in a realistic and sophisticated one. The issues the episode touches upon, from the parallels with religious extremists in the Middle East, to the sexual tension between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, are both surprising for a children’s cartoon, and very gracefully and intelligently handled. Justice League surpasses just being a good kids’ cartoon and becomes great television anyone can easily enjoy.

Katma Tui, John Stewart’s old trainer, makes an incredibly strong showing in “Hearts and Minds.” Her appearance fleshes John’s character out considerably.

Green Lantern continues to be fleshed out as the show explores more of his life. We revisit his neighborhood and even see his apartment, learn about his favorite movie, and meet his landlady. These features are important because they help humanize the character. Unlike the Super Friends, these larger than life heroes aren’t interchangeable cardboard cutouts with different powers. They seem like fully realized people, with their own motivations, passions, pasts, dislikes, flaws, and idiosyncrasies. Character development through environments can be very effective. John’s apartment tells us a lot about him, and it’s easy to see the people making this show have made John Stewart their own, and they love deepening his character with their own sensibilities.

This episode has some of the strongest voice actors of the series, and Kevin Conroy and Clancy Brown aren’t even present. Dennis Haysbert’s distinct baritone rumble as Kilowog is excellent, and Phil LaMarr’s John Stewart continues to be a highlight of not only Justice League, but the entire DC Animated Universe. It’s actually a triumph of those two that newcomer Keith David as the intergalactic mad prophet/despot Despero doesn’t totally steal the show, because he is immensely incredible! His voice is smooth, deep, deadly serious, but oddly calming. When Despero is performing a ritual to bestow the powers of the Flame of Py’tar upon his soldiers, the dynamics David employs are breath taking. He starts off soft and soothing, and then booms powerfully as he yells, “GO! The conquest begins now! Emblazon my word and will across the cosmos!”

One of the biggest treats of “Hearts and Minds” is guest star Katma Tui, John Stewart’s classic love interest from Green Lantern comic books. This episode was my first introduction to the character, and I’ve been a huge fan of her ever since. Bruce Timm and his team reinvent her, much in the way they did Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. Like with those two examples, they have an exceptionally entertaining take on the character. There is a clear Asian influence to Katma’s design, which works in tandem with her accent from voice actress Kim Mai Guest. These are nice touches that make her especially memorable, since we don’t often see heroes with those characteristics in Justice League.

Katma is just as critical as John, if not more so, and Kim Mai Guest has the gravitas to back up Katma’s determined, self-assured, and fierce nature. She makes it totally believable that Kat is the one in charge, even when John Stewart is on the scene. She comes across as a total hero with a ton of credibility the minute she’s first on screen.

“Hearts and Minds” has the same League line-up as “Legends” and very similar dynamics. Green Lantern is the protagonist and hero, Hawkgirl is his confidante and love interest, The Flash is the silly and awesome friend who teams with Kilowog to offer comic relief, and the sagely Martian Manhunter’s psychic powers help in figuring out the big mystery behind the whole ordeal. It works really well, and it is so, so refreshing seeing a person of color showcased so well as the leading hero in this sci-fi adventure that has nothing to do with his race.

One thing that helps get John over so well as a leading hero is how he is portrayed as a strong leader and central figure with this particular quartet of heroes. Without Batman or Superman present, Green Lantern gets to shine brightly as a leader without certain people in the audience being cantankerous about it. The showrunners build up Green Lantern’s legitimacy so much, and so well, that GL eventually does lead with Batman and Superman around, and since viewers are already used to seeing him in that role, it’s a very natural thing that’s easy to accept.

We’re treated to a very active and vicious space battle as the opener. Katma Tui commands three other Green Lanterns as they desperately battle a fleet of starships. This scene really shows how powerful GLs are, but it’s clear the odds are against them.

It’s so interesting how much better this is than the direct to DVD movie Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, which contains similar ideas, such as a group of Green Lanterns battling a fleet. Where that movie is lifeless, if competent in some areas, “Hearts and Minds” is a total classic that succeeds in every area. The opening of “Hearts and Minds” alone is better than anything to be seen in any of those direct to DVD Green Lantern movies. It’s got impressively staged action, high stakes, and wonderful voice acting, and it’s not just from Kim Mai Guest and Dennis Haysbert. Galius Zed gets a voice actor change, but it works out in the character’s favor. Rene Auberjonois of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 fame speaks for the Lantern, and helps in making Galius a character to be taken more seriously.

The Green Lanterns retreat into a cave for momentary refuge, but they’re quickly pursued by Despero’s Special Forces. Like Green Lanterns, these soldiers can survive in space without the aid of a ship or protective suit. They are illuminated by glowing blue flames and are a much bigger problem for the Lanterns than the vessels they faced previously. The Lanterns’ emerald beams don’t seem to have much effect against them. In desperation, two of the Lanterns –Galius and Arrkus– go against Katma’s commands and wind up getting killed because of it. Katma sends Kilowog away to warn the Guardians of the Universe while she covers his escape, despite his protests. Katma lets out a huge torrent of energy that pushes her enemies back momentarily, but they resume their assault. Kilowog gets away, but sees a massive explosion in the cave and fears the worst for Katma. The intro paints a dire scene, with two Green Lanterns dead -–both characters previously seen on the show– and Katma’s fate uncertain.

At the Watchtower, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are working on maintenance and having a silly bickering match. The Flash takes note of this and says they sound like an old married couple, which flusters Hawkgirl. Part of the weird charm of the Hawkgirl and Green Lantern relationship is that they argue and somehow find solace in their frustration with each other. That little moment between the two of them is broken as an alarm goes off, and they discover there’s an incoming being headed toward Earth. It crashes in the desert and Green Lantern goes to check it out. He’s worried when he discovers it’s a wounded Kilowog. Kilowog tells his fellow Lantern that someone got Katma. Without waiting to hear more, John tells the other Leaguers to take care of Kilowog and then immediately rockets into space.

Martian Manhunter is able to heal Kilowog aboard the Watchtower. Kilowog tells them of the Legion of the Third Eye, a cult from the planet Kalanor that’s been invading planets. A contingent of Green Lanterns was dispatched to capture their leader Despero and stop their advance, but they were sorely defeated. Flash asks about this Katma Tui he heard Kilowog mention, and Kilowog tells them that she was the Green Lantern who trained John. Hawkgirl notes that they must have been close, and Kilowog says they were very close.

Across space, John Stewart finds the wreckage of a Green Lantern cruiser and follows Katma’s ring beacon to an alien planet with a culture recalling of Middle Eastern sensibilities. There, he sees a man running for his life from some guards who are after him for having books. It turns out Despero’s law forbids the people to read. John Stewart stops the guards from hurting the man, and asks him for information in return. The man runs away frightened and asking forgiveness from Despero. John causes a scene as onlookers have gathered with worried looks on their faces. Green Lantern reprimands himself for getting all the unwanted attention.

Back at the Watchtower, Martian Manhunter notes he can’t call John on the comm-link. Kilowog isn’t surprised, seeing as Kalanor is on the fringe of the galaxy. Hawkgirl doesn’t want John to face Despero alone, thus Kilowog offers to take the League to Kalanor using his ring. However, the Oan device needs a recharge. He asks the others if they know where John keeps his power battery, but they’re clueless.

On Kalanor, John has acquired some local clothes to blend in better and continues to track Katma’s trail. When the trace leads him to a dwelling, a man named Radocko challenges him about entering Katma’s quarters, but John says he’s there on business from Despero, causing Radocko to back off. Inside Katma’s quarters, John finds her ring, but Despero’s guards sneak up on him from behind and incapacitate him.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, The Flash and Kilowog go into John’s apartment in search of his Lantern battery. While Kilowog sweeps the place with his ring, The Flash raids John’s refrigerator. There’s a moment of comedy between Kilowog and The Flash when the Scarlet Speedster introduces the alien to John’s berry ice cream. The Flash also gets a kick out of John’s movie collection, noting Old Yeller in particular. John’s landlady enters the apartment, wondering what they’re doing in her building and why Kilowog is wearing John Stewart’s clothes. She attacks them with a broom. While The Flash is keeping her busy, Kilowog finds John’s battery hidden in a pocket dimension, and the two heroes hastily escape. This scene is great, because The Flash and Kilowog are fun to watch together, and it tells us a lot about John Stewart as a character.

Light years away, Green Lantern is taken to an impressive audience hall filled with Kalanor’s people. Atop a raised dais stands Despero, ruler of Kalanor. Despero points out he’s getting tired of Green Lanterns coming to try to stop his operation, but excuses them, because they’re only following their masters’ orders. He says the Guardians of the Universe would be wise to get out of his way. A new order is rising. He tells Green Lantern of his origin.

The story flashes back while Despero narrates. His people cast him out because of his deformity; a third eye in the middle of his forehead. While wandering in the desert, he was set upon by a gang of highway men. As they were about to kill him, the ground suddenly opened up and a blue-ish purple flame shot out and destroyed the thieves. Despero was spared and the flame spoke to him in a voice only he could hear, which told him of a time Kalanor would become paradisaic, unlike the barren conditions it currently has. Despero went back to civilization and they began to follow him when he used his third eye to show them visions of this new system.

Back in the present, Green Lantern isn’t impressed; even when Despero has a massive door opened which shows him the fabled Flame of Py’tar. Despero seeks to beat Lantern into seeing things his way, and the two have a battle of wills when Despero sets his psionic powers against Green Lantern’s power ring. Lantern is defeated, and Despero commands one of his priestesses to throw him into the Flame of Py’tar. Green Lantern is surprised to see that the priestess is Katma Tui. She tosses him in, and John goes down yelling.

Suddenly, we’re taken to dingy quarters where two Kalanoran men are operating machinery which teleports Green Lantern into the room with them. The older man introduces himself as Shifflet, and John remembers Radocko from their encounter outside Katma’s quarters. They are resistance members. Green Lantern says he should have guessed that one, and Shifflet says wherever there is oppression, there will be resistance. They saved John using a matter transporter. It turns out Katma is there with them, and she greets John by punching him in the face and knocking him down. It is immediately apparent that Katma is an aggressive and tough woman, which is especially interesting as she’s wearing a very revealing outfit reminiscent of Princess Leia’s slave attire from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Katma chides John on simply being there. She explains that she’s undercover, hence the outfit and why she appeared to be working for Despero. She’s been gathering intelligence ever since she arrived on the Kalanor.

Katma knows Despero is planning a huge campaign, but she doesn’t know when it begins. She is also mad at John for almost blowing her cover. She roughly tells him to call ahead next time. Katma is reminiscent of John Stewart, being a consummate professional and critical of others who fail to meet her standards or make amateur mistakes. She begins to soften up, though, and her sentimental side comes through when she takes in being in John Stewart’s presence again. She talks a bit about old times before getting hard on him again and ordering him to stay with the resistance and coordinate with them while she continues to go undercover. She loosens up again as she and John share a passionate kiss. Considering Hawkgirl and Katma Tui, it becomes clear that John has a ‘type.’ He’s drawn to extraterrestrial women with tough attitudes. The producers seem to have fun with this, as John was shown to have an interest in alien women as far back as “War World” when he was shown picking up a pin-up calendar that displayed a nude alien girl.

Despero has gathered his men, and while praying to the flame of Py’tar, he infuses them with its energy, empowering them. Keith David totally owns this scene as Despero commands them to go into the cosmos and conquer in the name of spreading his will. His special soldiers fly off toward the heavens to expand their Lord’s dominion across space.

Back in the resistance hideout, Katma tells the rebels about the army Despero has amassed. Shifflet brings out that Despero can subjugate people using only his mind, allowing him to take in new recruits with each world he conquers. Communications with Oa are jammed, so they can’t call upon the Green Lantern Corps for backup. Just as John offers to go to Oa himself, Despero’s shock troops break in the rebel hideout and a battle ensues. John tries to help, but discovers his ring isn’t working for him. Under heavy fire, Katma orders the insurgents to regroup at a secondary rebel site. As the rebels attempt to escape, they become surrounded. Suddenly, Kilowog and the other League members come to the rescue and Despero’s soldiers are defeated. Hawkgirl notes that Green Lantern is fighting with a gun instead of his ring, and he offers to explain the situation later.

At the secondary hideout, Shiflet shows Martian Manhunter ancient runes in the catacombs that the resistance is using as their base. Martian Manhunter is able to decipher them. The markings tell of a time in which Kalanor had a more thriving ecosystem compared to the desert it currently is. Radocko is frustrated with the defeat they suffered at the previous hideout, and believes the cause may be lost.

In another chamber, John and Katma discuss why John can’t use his ring anymore. Apparently, Despero broke John’s will. His defeat at the hands of the tyrant rattled him, and now he feels like a piece of him is missing. Unlike “The Savage Time,” there isn’t a problem with the ring, but the man wielding it. Once again, John must prove his mettle, but instead of proving himself a hero without the ring, now he must prove himself worthy of it.

Katma offers to train John again, but the prospect of going through that doesn’t seem appealing to him. Katma makes a remark about emerald impotence, which The Flash, who is walking by, makes a joke about. John agrees to undergo Katma’s training while Hawkgirl watches from the shadows.

John has difficulty making basic shapes with his ring. He wants to take a break after a rigorous session, but Katma pushes him to continue. She gets very domineering and judgmental, and the two get into a heated argument. John tells her he’s not a kid anymore and leaves to get some air.

Outside, Hawkgirl and John have a heart to heart. John is frustrated because Katma still sees the raw recruit she trained years ago when she looks at John. Hawkgirl tells him that people tend to cling to images of people from when they knew them best, while not taking into consideration that they change as time goes on. Instead of chewing John out the way Katma did, Hawkgirl encourages John to keep trying by letting him know she has faith in him. She even gives him a full blown slap on the butt as she tells him to “get back in there.”

Meanwhile, Martian Manhunter is strategizing with the rebels about finding and exploiting Despero’s weakness. He believes the religious tyrant is channeling a great deal of power, and has a similar energy supply and distribution system to the Lanterns’ batteries and rings. They deduce that the flame of Py’tar is the source of Despero’s might, and Kilowog comes up with the idea of using a carbon bomb to wipe out the flame. He says he can build one. This is cool, because Kilowog actually is a very intelligent scientist in The Green Lantern Corps comics.

Across the stars, Despero’s soldiers are breaking apart a fleet and subjugating a world, while Despero and his aid, Grisblack, are in the chamber of the Flame of Py’tar, as Radocko comes to them to rat out the other rebels. He says he only wants to be part of the winning side and gives up the location of the secondary base. Despero, knowing even a small voice of decent can rouse many, sends his forces out to finally snuff out the resistance. In his mind, his word is absolute and must be accepted by all.

Green Lantern is preparing for the mission, gearing up with loads of weapons. Hawkgirl and Katma have a bit of poisonous words between them. Katma says that John has given up on himself, and he won’t be able to patrol his Space Sector anymore. Hawkgirl hasn’t lost faith in John, though. She goes to him and compassionately tells him that she’s always known there is more to him than his fancy ring, which John appreciates hearing. The two don’t have much time to bond in this scene, though, because Despero’s soldiers break in and attack. Fortunately for the heroes, Kilowog is just finishing the carbon bomb. Katma uses her ring to cut Kilowog and the bomb off from the rest of the catacombs to prevent the enemy from reaching them. Martian and Flash are with him, and together they escape. The other rebels don’t fare so well, and Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Katma are captured.

John, Hawkgirl, and Katma are taken to a cavernous area of Despero’s palace and held in stasis fields. Despero enters and is surprised at how Green Lantern survived being thrown into the Flame of Py’tar, but he plans to put the three of them in his army. Despero uses a force blast to violently bring Katma under his mental submission.

Despero then goes over to the bound Hawkgirl and begins fondling her. This sets Green Lantern off, but Despero continues and says that he won’t put Hawkgirl in the army; he’ll keep her as one of his personal attendants. We know what that really means, and so does John. Hawkgirl’s agonized screams as Despero attemps to convert her, and the thought of her being Despero’s concubine causes Green Lantern to find the will he needs to stop her suffering. John suddenly summons his power ring to his finger, breaks free of his restraints, and blasts Despero with emerald energy.

Green Lantern and Despero engage in a desperate, explosive battle, which pits the emerald energy of Oa against the purple Flame of Py’tar. Laser blasts are going everywhere, and though John doesn’t make any constructs, the amount of energy involved and how it’s employed makes for a very exciting battle. It goes back and forth, with the two combatants employing torrents of energy mixed with old fashioned fisticuffs. This time, Green Lantern is putting up a much better fight against the tyrant.

Meanwhile, Flash, Kilowog and the Martian make it to the chamber of the Flame of Py’tar while being pursued by Despero’s soldiers. Just as Kilowog arms the bomb and prepares to throw it in the flame, the Martian stops him.

Martian Manhunter suddenly realizes that the Flame of Py’tar is a living being and is in pain. It seeks to make contact. Surprisingly, the Martian jumps into the flame while Despero’s forces make it into the room after having been sealed out. The Martian Manhunter rises from the Flame. Infusing the telepath with its energy, the Flame speaks through him.

He identifies himself as the Py’Tar, the living soul of the planet. He says that the Py’tar is not a source of hatred, but a beacon of hope, and reveals that Despero has misused its power for his own petty ends. Long ago, Kalanor was a paradise, and it can be again, but the people must reject Despero. As they prostrate themselves and give up on Despero’s guidance, the tyrant loses his power, and vines grow from the ground and wrap around him as Green Lantern watches in surprise. The vines take him under, but Despero seems to go willingly as he finally understands the true nature of the Py’tar. The animation of the vines wrapping around Despero is very impressive, and an optimistic music theme plays while loads of vegetation begins to sprout and the planet becomes covered in greenery and Despero’s Py’tar infused soldiers across space turn into trees, putting an end to their offensive.

Shifflit believes it’s a miracle, but Martian Manhunter explains that it’s just the normal force of the planet reasserting itself after centuries of entrapment. Despero is dead, and the planet is now at peace. Katma invites John to help in rebuilding Kalanor, but John turns the offer down, saying that duty calls him to guard his Space Sector. John seals the Leaguers in an emerald bubble and they take off back to Earth.

Green Lantern’s battle with Despero is one of the highlights of the entire series.

On the journey home, Martian Manhunter goes into deep meditation, and The Flash takes a nap, leaving Hawkgirl and Green Lantern free to talk. Hawkgirl says to John that Katma is quite a woman, and John agrees, adding in that she’s a good teacher, too. He goes on to say that some things can’t be taught, that they’re only learned through experience. Hawkgirl asks what he means specifically, and Green Lantern says, “Clarity.” This is another vague Hawkgirl and Green Lantern ending, similar to that of “Metamorphosis,” but I believe John means that he knows who he truly cares about now, and it is Hawkgirl. He’s now probably seriously thinking about exploring a romantic relationship with her. Hawkgirl knows John Stewart in the here and now and knew what he needed to get better.

This episode makes me wish we got a Green Lantern Animated Series that explored the times John and Kat spent together while they were out in space, much more than the abysmal CG offering we got with Hal Jordan. A whole series could have been based off of this episode.

The battle Green Lantern has with Despero is one of the best battles of the whole show. It’s truly surprising how much this PoC character shines in this series. He’s allowed to be the hero. He’s allowed to have the epic battle with the antagonist. He’s allowed to have a beautiful love interest. And it’s not like this is an all-Black affair. It’s not like he’s only allowed to be the hero among other Black people, or he’s only allowed to have a Black love interest. What I love about John Stewart’s showing here is that he’s treated like a top-class White superhero, but he just happens to be Black. No one’s holding him back, no one’s screwing up his portrayal, and no one’s doing halfhearted work. John Stewart is really allowed to be all he can be, and it’s amazing.

This episode is a milestone in the relationship between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. By now, it’s obvious something is seriously going on, and that the duo is just not fully acting on it. It’s astonishing that a western children’s cartoon is going into this territory. Bruce Timm set out to bust through the boundaries in this season, and he’s definitely doing it!

As good as things are now, they continue to get better, which is hard to believe. Season two keeps firing on all cylinders, going above and beyond expectations, and pushing this show into extraordinary levels of quality. Let’s see how the challenges ramp up for the League, and where Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s burgeoning romance is headed…
Continue to Part 5: More Than Just a Kids’ Show