Picking up where “Artemis Through the Looking-Glass” left off, the latest episode of Young Justice: Phantoms is a noticeable change in the direction of pacing. That change in pace is immediately established within the opening seconds as we don’t start with Artemis group going to save Orphan. Instead we start with Miss Martian unleashing her rage over Superboy’s death on her brother and other Red Martians conspiring over their next move. This opening made “The Lady, or the Tigress?” feel like it was going to be a different episode then the one we’ve been getting this season.
While not a major complaint there has been a noticeable shift in storytelling during the first six episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms. There has been a deeper focus on telling longer story arcs that focus on a set group of characters rather than being episodic with an alternating cast as we’ve had in the past three seasons. While it has certainly opened up for a deeper exploration of Miss Martian, Superboy, Beast Boy, and Artemis’ characters in their respective arcs it has left a lot of characters out of the picture that fans have grown to love.
That is where “The Lady, or the Tigress?” really stands out this season. While the focus is certainly on Artemis mission to save Orphan, aka Cassandra Wu-San/Cassandra Cain, there is a greater involvement of other characters in Young Justice. Miss Martian’s opening scene as she unleashes her rage on her brother and the Red Martians is an example of that. This opening and the follow-up with Martian Manhunter talking with Hawkgirl about the mystery behind the kryptonite used in the bomb that Superboy stopped was all great development. It furthered what is currently a secondary plot point in a much more effective way than the slideshow that we got when Artemis got the news back Young Justice: Phantoms fifth episode, “Inhospitable.”
And it wasn’t just Miss Martian that got a focus in this episode. “The Lady, or the Tigress?” finally filled in some of the gaps in the history of Young Justice with what happened to Barbara Gordon as she went from Batgirl to being Oracle. The flashback effectively served as an update to Barbara’s origin as Oracle. And personally it was much more effective than how the character was treated in the Killing Joke. Because rather than just being a pawn in the war between Batman and Joker we see that Barbara as Batgirl put herself in harms way to ensure Cassandra Wu-San did not go deeper into the path of darkness her mother, Lady Shiva, was taking her down.
This story decision made the fact that Barbara was so desperate to save Cassandra even more meaningful. There is a sister-bond between Barbara and Cassandra just like Dick Grayson and Tim Drake share. It all goes beyond simply being in the Batman Family. Which added to the stakes of what goes on throughout “The Lady, or the Tigress?” as this really was a family matter not just for Artemis and Cheshire.
These developments for other cast members improved the story of this arc being built around Artemis. Artemis continued to show her own growth as she carefully went about her rescue mission while staying aware of the fact that either Onyx or Cassandra Savage could betray her at any moment. There are subtle things that point to that throughout the episode that I very much appreciate. It made the traitor reveal that much more effective so that the cliffhanger we get at the end of “The Lady, or the Tigress?” was arguably the best, only beaten by what happened to Superboy at the end of the “Involuntary” episode.
Along side the heroes story in this episode it was great to see how the villains side of things are being developed. There is no complacency when it comes to how the villains operate. We see that with how in this universe Lady Shiva and the League of Shadows do not hesitate to use the modern technology of the Young Justice Universe. This plays in well into how on the villains side of things thanks to them being united under The Light organization the type of developments we get at the end of this episode are all part of the natural progression of this universe.
The one thing in this episode that did not work as well as the writers intended was the literature quoting inner monologue that they gave to Artemis. Stephanie Lemelin certainly did her best to make the inner monologue work in context of the story being told. But just something about it all felt off that it ended up disrupting the flow of this episode rather than enhancing it.
Overall, “The Lady, or the Tigress?” is one of the strongest episodes to date for as Young Justice: Phantoms is still early on in its season’s life. Artemis is certainly the star of the episode as she pushes the narrative forward with the mission she leads to save Cassandra Wu-San. But in the process we see a lot of great storytelling the develops other characters arcs and history like Barbara Gordon and Miss Martian throughout this episode. Hopefully the pacing of this episode is what we see more of in future episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms.
EPISODE RATING: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
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