In this feature I take a look at one episode that marks a high point in a television series. It’s not necessarily the absolute best a series has to offer (that’s always debatable), but it’s an episode that remains lodged in memory long after I first watched it.
Young Justice is about a team of young superheroes (don’t call them sidekicks) that work together to keep the world safe from local and galactic threats alike. The show features awesome powerhouse characters like Miss Martian and Blue Beetle, but one of its standout episodes is all about new team member Artemis. Artemis is an archer lacking super powers, and alongside Batman’s protégé Robin, she’s forced to save her superpowered friends from certain doom.
“Homefront” begins innocently enough. Artemis is attending her first day of school at Gotham Academy, and Dick Grayson (Robin) sneaks a photo with her, taking advantage of the fact she doesn’t know his secret identity. The two costumed heroes meet up once more before using a telephone booth to portal into their hideout, the cave. They are immediately attacked by fireballs and flash floods, and the action doesn’t stop for the remainder of the episode.
There are a few reasons “Homefront” is so good. Like I mentioned before, Artemis and Robin are lacking any extraordinary powers, yet they must save their super powered friends. While Artemis believes defeat is imminent, the younger Robin teaches her that every problem has a solution, no matter how difficult it may be. Their enemies are elemental and mysterious, creating deadly mystery. Anyone can imagine how awful burning alive or drowning would be, and both of those options are on the table here. Our first look at one of the antagonists is a haunting silhouette living in an inferno, a far cry from a zany villain in a colorful costume. There are horror/thriller movie moments galore in “Homefront.” Though this is ostensibly a kids show, the threat of death feels very real (the machines and their countdown cannot be reasoned with), so the heroes have no room for error. After Robin is captured, Artemis hides and curls into a fetal position. She knows she can’t win. But she decides to risk her own life to save others, and her perfect backflip arrow shot secures victory against the machines.
“Homefront” reminds me of Uncanny X-Men #143, the issue in which an outmatched Kitty Pryde cleverly destroys a powerful demon that’s stalking her in the X-Mansion. Everyone loves an underdog, and with Artemis there’s added complexity. She lacks the tutelage of Batman, but she gains valuable lessons from the more seasoned (albeit younger) Robin. Artemis is also keeping important secrets from her teammates, and it’s been difficult to build trust because of that. Regardless, Artemis gets traught and saves her new family. That’s about as heroic as it gets.
Other Best Eps candidates: “Failsafe,” “Auld Acquaintance,” “Before the Dawn”