With Young Justice: Outsiders, the third season of the Young Justice animated series, premiering on Friday, January 4, 2019 on DC Universe, now is a great time to get caught back up with the first two seasons. However, holiday and end-of-year commitments may make it hard to binge nearly 17 hours of content over 46 episodes. Not to worry! We’ve got you covered with a list of the eight best, most “must watch” worthy episodes from each of the first two seasons, starting with today’s deep-dive on season one.
My criteria for selecting the top episodes are simple. First, does the episode serve the characters, either by introducing a character, providing us a deeper look at the character’s motivations, or by changing the character in some manner? Second, does the episode serve to advance one of the primary story threads running through the season? If an episode answers both of those questions, then it makes the short list of what I feel are the top episodes of the season.
In the first season of Young Justice, the primary story threads are:
- The team dealing with living and operating in the shadow of the Justice League
- Superboy’s relationship with his genetic parents, Superman and Lex Luthor
- Red Arrow’s hunt for the mole on the team
Episode 1: “Independence Day”
On July 4th, four cold powered villains attack at the same time in different locations, only to be stopped by members of the Justice League and their young sidekicks. The sidekicks are all excited because “today’s the day” that the sidekicks are allowed to visit the Hall of Justice. The sidekicks are discouraged that they are only shown the public facade and not where the Justice League actually conducts business. Tired of being seen as sidekicks, Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad respond to a fire at Cadmus in order to prove their mettle.
Inside Cadmus, the proto-team discovers some strange goings on, including Project Kr, a clone of Superman. The trio are in too deep — literally — to contact the Justice League for help and decide to release the clone. Under Cadmus’s control, Superboy attacks and knocks out the Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad.
This episode and the next, which serves as the second part of what originally aired on Cartoon Network as the two-part series premiere, set up the entire series as well as introduce the characters and major plot points for the season. If you’re going to get caught up, the best place to start is at the beginning.
Episode 2: “Fireworks”
The second half of the series premiere sees the young heroes, with the freed Superboy alongside, strategize and fight their way from beneath Cadmus. Upon reaching the surface, the group is met by the Justice League. Superman is rocked by the revelation that he has a clone. Though disappointed that Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash hacked the Justice League’s systems and ventured out on their own, the group is resolute that they did exactly what they have been trained to do.
The Justice League agrees to allow the youngsters to operate out of their former base, provided that the team follows the Justice League’s orders. While under the tutelage of Red Tornado and Black Canary, the team will conduct covert missions while leaving the high-profile cases to the League. Miss Martian is added to the team’s roster.
At this point, all the primary characters and storylines for the first season have been introduced. Speedy is angry and looking to prove himself worthy of joining the Justice League, even if that means doing so on his own. The rift between Superman and Superboy is readily apparent to all. The team, while operating under Justice League purview, has the confidence of youth that they can come together and handle any threat that comes their way.
Episode 7: “Denial”
When Kent Nelson, the former Doctor Fate, disappears, Red Tornado send a team consisting of Superboy, Aqualad, Miss Martian, Kid Flash, and the team’s newest member, Artemis, to check on the Tower of Fate. Wally is skeptical. He doesn’t believe in magic, but goes along with it in order to impress Artemis, who calls Wally out when his disbelief endangers the team.
This episode does a few things for me. First, it introduces the severely underutilized character of Doctor Fate. I love the character and how he stands for doing what’s right in spite of losing a piece of oneself in the process. Second, the episode sidelines Robin — who is on a mission with Batman — forcing the rest of the team to step up without Robin acting as leader. Third, the episode drives home the concept of faith. Even though Wally remains skeptical about magic at episode’s end, his faith in himself and those around him is stronger than it was before.
Episode 14: “Revelation”
When giant, genetically altered plants begin attacking cities, the Justice League moves to neutralize them, charging the young team with infiltrating the newly outed Injustice League’s control room and stopping the attacks at their core. I know, why would the Justice League send a group of kids in to deal with a collection of some of the worst earthbound supervillains in the DC universe? In spite of the dubious logic, the episode is strong for its action, use of different characters, and Aqualad’s potential sacrifice in order to save the day. That revelation the episode title refers to? The Injustice League is just a patsy for the real villains pulling the strings.
Episode 20: “Coldhearted”
I swear, I’m really not a Wally West mark. Barry Allen is”my” Flash. That said, this episode featuring Kid Flash is another high point of season one. While it doesn’t do much to drive the larger story arcs– though there is some movement on the mystery of the cold weather villains — this episode is a fantastic character study. Instead of getting to spend his birthday fighting alongside the Justice League, Kid Flash is given a simple delivery job. Essentially adapting a The Flash volume 2 issue #1, the episode shows real growth for the character as he winds up with a better birthday than he could have imagined.
Episode 24: “Performance”
The team is undercover with the Haly International Traveling Circus, searching for thieves stealing weapon technology from across Europe. Robin, sick with the flu that is going around the circus, confronts his pre-hero past and relationships. Superboy chooses the quick and easy path that Lex Luthor offered him. Speedy, searching for the mole on the team, can’t find anyone on the team working for the bad guys. While appearing to be a one-off episode, it’s a perfect set up to the two-part season finale that follows, bringing all the character and story elements to a head.
Episode 25: “Usual Suspects”
The team watched on TV as Justice League inducts new members, including Speedy, who forged his own path instead of joining the team of sidekicks. Rather than sit around the headquarters and wait to greet the newest members of the Justice League, the team heads off to handle unfinished business with the Injustice League. Though victorious, the team’s mole is revealed as not one but three different team members, though they’re not as compromised as they let on.
This is the episode where the team comes together, laying bare all their secrets and gels as one. Improbable though it was that the team would be sent to take down the Injustice League earlier in the season, their victory here over the group of villains known as the Light feels earned when each member lets go of his or her fear of having his or her secrets discovered and they just work together.
Meanwhile, aboard the Watchtower, the real mole is revealed to be Speedy — no wonder he couldn’t find the mole in the previous episode! — who has been an unwitting accomplice to the Light and has brought the Justice League under the Light’s control.
Episode 26: “Auld Acquaintance”
The season one finale wraps up the major story arcs while simultaneously setting up season two. Speedy outs himself as both the unwitting mole and a clone of the original Roy Harper to the team. The team defeats the mind controlled Justice League, freeing them from Vandal Savage’s control, but not before six of the most prominent Justice League members were sent on a mission for Savage. With the Justice League restored, Superman compliments Superboy for the first time, finally acknowledging the clone as family. The season opened with one holiday and closed on another, bringing the season full-circle.
The above eight episodes give viewers a good feel for season one in an easily bingeable, three hour chunk. Do you agree with these selections? Is there a different episode in your top eight episodes of Young Justice season one? Let us know in the comments below, and join us back here tomorrow for a look at the top eight episodes of Young Justice season two.
Catch Young Justice: Outsiders when it premieres on Friday, January 4 on DC Universe.