The first half of Young Justice: Phantoms season was very uneven. There were many great plot and character developments that got viewers invested. But choices to reduce the cast members that were given a focus each episode along with questionable animation choices kept the first half of Young Justice’s fourth season from being a home run. Now with that said, Young Justice: Phantoms returned for its second half of the season with not one but three new episodes premiering on HBOMax. How did these first three episodes turn out? Let’s take a look.
Starting out the first new episode of Young Justice: Phantoms, “Nautical Twilight,” with a flashback to Kaldur and Dick Grayson talking not long after the funeral and ceremonies honoring Conner Kent was a strong way to start for multiple reasons. From an animation standpoint we see that this opening is fully animated rather than using the slideshow animation that was so prevalent in the first half of the season. Especially with how we do see these scenes framed to happen around the time Artemis and her team are on their mission you understand the animation is going to be handled differently. Which is exactly what we see happen for all three episodes “Natural Twilight,” “Ebb Tide,” and “Emergency Dive.”
The other major statement made is how the mental health of our heroes will continue to be a major spotlight. Now having become adults who are seen at the same level as their mentors Kaldur and Dick Grayson both understand that they don’t have time to come to terms with Conner. For Kaldur, specifically, we dive more into how he has been going non-stop even when Tula and Wally died. Dick recognizing he worked with Kaldur for his undercover mission after Tula died and left the Team for a period for Kaldur to lead after Wally’s death. Dick trying to get Kaldur to take time for himself shows the growth Nightwing has gone through while also showing how Kaldur continues to feel he needs to carry the weight of the world, especially now that he is Aquaman and a leader within the Justice League.
This framing was well used for this story arc centered around Kaldur’s latest Aquaman mission working by Arthur Curry’s side during a major political event in Atlantis. The show staff were able to used Kaldur’s current state to position him in a way where while he is certainly the star of this new arc he isn’t dominating the story. Instead Kaldur is able to play support for all of his friends and family in Atlantis that we never got more than one episode in the previous three seasons. This expansion of Kaldur’s character makes him a much more compelling character as the weight he carries as Aquaman is given even better framing. Kaldur’s relationship with his adopted parents in particular shows how he does fully see them as his parents and won’t be goaded into his blood heritage to define him. It all works to strengthen his current position as Aquaman to be more than just being a superhero.
Making Kaldur’s arc in this three episodes even stronger was how much Young Justice: Phantoms’ staff focus in on the current state of Atlantis and its history. As someone that only has a bit of knowledge about Aquaman’s character it was very cool to see so many different characters from this part of the DC Universe not only get screen time but actual dialogue. When Young Justice its at its best it makes a compelling argument for having the viewer seek out more material to learn about characters and worlds it is exploring in each episode. That is exactly what the first three episodes, “Natural Twilight,” “Ebb Tide,” and “Emergency Dive,” do for Atlantis as I want to learn more about the politics of Atlantis and the deep seas.
Connecting the major plot surrounding the return of Ocean Master to the overarching plot with The Light was well done. There were so many intriguing elements to what Ocean Master was doing and how his capture led to Arthur Curry discovering that his brother was cloned all super fascinating. The Light has always been about having multi-layered plots that are extremely complex. That appears to be the case here, which is further driven home with the mystery around the first ruler of Atlantis.
As well done as all the developments in Atlantis are what took “Natural Twilight,” “Ebb Tide,” and “Emergency Dive” all to become the strongest episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms was the other plotlines in these three episodes. A major complaint with the first half of the season was that we only got one storyline and cast of characters that were focused on. These three episodes immediately fix that as we see each episode deal with a different storyline that stands on their own rather than be reliant on what is going on in Atlantis. Even if it may not be the case, going this route with the storytelling made the amount of characters being showcased feel like it was double that of any episode in the first half of the season.
The Beast Boy plotline in particular was all appropriately handled. A major complaint with Beast Boy’s arc is how everyone seemed to be avoiding him rather than help him through the clear depression he was going through. Bringing Miss Martian immediately into Beast Boy story to be the big sister that Beast Boy needed was all well-handled. Even though she is still grieving Conner’s death Miss Martian showed incredible strength when she fully recognized that her brother, Beast Boy, was not doing well.
I have to commend the show’s staff for the way they handled the way Miss Martian tried to help Beast Boy. Every line of dialogue and action Miss Martian takes is from a place of caring but never trying to push things so Beast Boy doesn’t get further away from everyone. She was careful about her words so Beast Boy wouldn’t just walk away from the intervention she put together. Even if it wasn’t successful because of how Beast Boy threw everything back at everyone’s face an important part of this story is that he didn’t walk out until he heard everyone talk.
The big stand out in this entire intervention scene was Robotman. The voice acting on Young Justice has always been great but Khary Payton really knocked it out of the park with his performance. You could really feel how emotional Robotman was with his talk about what happened to the Doom Patrol and how Beast Boy helped him keep going even when he wanted to just die. It was a powerful character moment that we don’t need to see what happened because everything Robotman said gives you a clear picture of that period in the history of Young Justice’s DC Universe.
The overarching plotline that was introduced at the end of “Kaerb Ym Traeh!” with Conner Kent seemingly in purgatory was interestingly handled. With Conner’s plot we see that in whatever purgatory-like dimension he is in Phantom Girl is also there with him. Which all ties back into the fact that the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy are in the present. We learn in these episodes that the reason Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, and Phantom Girl were in the present was to protect Superboy so he could play the key role he is meant to play 10 years into the future. They don’t go into details with Superman about what their entire mission is but the details we get emphasized how important Conner’s sub-plot will be for the rest of the season.
The story I was surprised to get was more character development for Halo. Halo’s character arc had many ups and downs in the Outsiders season. Because of that Halo’s wasn’t a character I was fully invested in the previous season. “Nautical Twilight” changed all that as having Halo dive into her heritage opened the character up to much greater development than she got in Outsiders. Throughout her story Halo went from being a plot device to a fully fleshed out person with her own story to be told in and out of her superhero life.
Overall, Young Justice: Phantoms returned with the three best episodes of the entire season thus far. Every single character and plotline that was developed grabbed your attention as the viewer. Once you are done with the third episode to the start of the second half of Young Justice: Phantoms you want more from every story that you saw developed. Its an excellent way to start the return of Young Justice: Phantoms.
Episode Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10