All the build up over the last 20 episodes has led to the final stretch of episodes for the season. The start to the payoff certainly started with episode 21 of Young Justice: Outsiders, “Unknown Factors,” as business picked up significantly. It does not completely excuse some of the more questionable character beats over the course of this season. But with how strongly paced “Unknown Factors” was from top to bottom we get an even clearer picture of what the endgame is for the Young Justice: Outsiders season.
One thing that has been lacking from the last few episodes was a major threat from one of the Light or Apokalips. While the Outsiders team have dealt with some tough challenges we haven’t truly seen them struggle intensingly. The danger level has all been at a point where the young heroes can still overcome what they are facing.
That changed with “Unknown Factors” as we see how Nightwing and Black Lightning not being prepared for for Gretchen Goode true persona being Granny Goodness. Nightwing and Black Lightning failing to such a degree really put into question if they have been taken out for a long period of time. Seeing how they were placed in another dimension by Granny Goodness there was great concern for their safety.
Have that concern for Nightwing and Black Lightning elevated the tension for the entire episode. It was a reminder that for how long all of these heroes have been working together to fight powerful villains they’ve never faced anything like the high ranking members of Darkseid’s forces. The world of the New Gods and Apokolips is still on a whole other level in this version of the DC Universe.
And even though Nightwing and Black Lightning were saved by the end of the episode it did not mean everything was okay. We see that as Nightwing, one of the few non-metahumans, suffering severe damage from the dimension Granny Goodness, while Black Lightning barely recovered by the end of the episode, created the concern for what will happen next. Especially with the Justice League, Outsiders and Batman’s secret society now being made aware of Granny Goodness there is a baseline set for how big of a threat they are facing.
This main plot point also worked to give proper development for Aquaman and Wyynde relationship. This was a development that happened completely off-screen until we saw them kiss at the end of the last episode. Now with “Unknown Factors” the show is able to establish the strong relationship that Kaldur and Wyynde share as they team-up to save Nightwing and Black Lightning. It was also great to see they the animators gave Wyynde a new green costume when on the field to avoid further confusing viewers since he looked like an older Tempest in last week’s appearance.
The team-up was very much something that Kaldur in particular needed. Because up to this point his time as Aquaman has been very wooden. Everything from the way he has talked and done has been disconnected from the rest of the world as Kaldur has gotten deeply involved with Batman’s secret society. Now with this relationship with Wyynde we get to see Kaldur open himself up to someone on a personal level. It also helped in developing Wyynde as someone who can call Kaldur out and break through the Aquaman barrier.
Further elevating this spotlight on the crisis Darkseid’s forces are finally being shown to be to the heroes was Cyborg and Halo’s involvement. Now that Victor Stone has finally overcome the problems he has had with his transformation into Cyborg the show’s staff can dig further into him as a person. We see that as he shows much more personality in his interaction with father, who he assures he is comfortable now, and Beast Boy.
The friendship between Cyborg and Beast Boy building in particular was great to see. No matter what media it is Cyborg and Beast Boy’s chemistry between them as best friends just can’t be avoided. These two bring out a certain energy level to each other as we even see Beast Boy morph back into his light-hearted personality while training with Cyborg.
Adding this personality to Cyborg made how the character ended up being the key to saving Nightwing and Black Lightning from the effects of the Mother Box standout more. Now we are seeing how his connection to the Mother Box tech will play a key role in the future. Tying that how his character is finally developing will make him a stronger character. Especially since we are seeing Cyborg finally developing the skills and weapons we are used to seeing him wield.
Now as for Halo, we already knew that she was a massively important character since she has had the most development in Young Justice: Outsiders. Now we finally learn why that is as the process that resurrected Gabrielle Daou and transformed her into Halo made her the key to the Anti-Life Equation. That was a major drop the mic moment for Halo’s character that further elevates her into the status of one of the most important characters of this season.
This development for Halo also goes to explain why Darkseid would team-up with the Light. This was something that was brought up in earlier episodes as Darkseid was highly interested in the meta-humans on Earth. Now with Halo being shown as a link to the Anti-Life Equation it pays off Darkseid assigning Granny Goodness to be on Earth for such a long time.
One of the interesting plot points from this is how it will affect the uneasy alliance between Apokolips and The Light. Because while Darkseid discovered something important it does not seem that he is sharing his full plans with The Light. To The Light’s credit it seems they know this as we discover that Ultra-Humanite is the secret contact Helga Jace has been in communication with. This discovery creates a lot of questions for what The Light is planning on their own. At the same time, how will this latest secret we know as viewers end up turning out for our heroes.
With how great “Unknown Factors” was it made the sub-plot with Malcolm Duncan and Karen Beecher standout as out of place. It has been such a long time since we saw Bumblebee and Mal get any sort of screen time on the show. This has been a major problem with this season as the show staff just can’t help creating a sub-plot with characters that have had all their development happen off-screen. Because while Bumblebee and Mal are great characters their screen time felt disconnected from the rest of the episode. The screen time would’ve been better used to continue the development of Terra, Forager, Miss Martian, Artemis, Superboy or any of the other dozens of character spotlighted this season.
At the end of the day “Unknown Factors” is one of the best episodes of the Young Justice: Outsiders season. This was a tightly focused episode that advanced several character arcs simultaneously. In the process everything is brought together to create excitement for the remaining episodes as we head towards endgame with Darkseid’s search for the Anti-Life Equation reaches its peak.
Episode Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
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