As Young Justice: Outsiders’ multiple teams of heroes have worked both publicly and covertly in their ongoing efforts to stop the Light and the forces of Apokolips from trafficking metahumans, the series has repeatedly forced its characters to question the moral implications of what they’re doing. Though all of the heroes are trying to do the right thing, Batman, Aquaman, and Nightwing have had no issue lying to their teammates in order to get them to go along with a larger plan they believe to be the key to their success.
Their assumptions have been right so far, as they’ve made a number of crucial wins in their war for justice, but it’s all been contingent upon their being able to keep secrets from those closest to them.
This week’s episode “Antisocial Pathologies” was a sort of stress test for the heroic house of cards certain Justice Leaguers built. After spending most of the season being very apprehensive about his further involvement with the League, Black Lightning finally came to understand just how much Batman Inc. has been carefully orchestrating events in order to push other heroes into action while making those heroes believe they were doing it of their own volition.
With Nightwing still severely wounded from his time in Gretchen Goode’s X-Pit, Dr. Helga Jace mentions to Black Lightning how unfortunate it is that it’s taken such a horrific thing to bring so many of the Justice Leaguers back together. Seeing the Outsiders, some of the former Young Justice members, and the entire Bat-Family together makes everything click into place for Jefferson, and he suddenly realizes that Batman’s resignation from the Justice League was all subterfuge—and every mission he subsequently joined Nightwing on was actually at Batman’s behest.
The mission to infiltrate Goode’s residence that ended up with Black Lightning and Nightwing trapped in the X-Pit? Batman’s idea. Granted, Oracle played a role in Aquaman and Wynnde’s mission to save Black Lightning and Nightwing, but the fact of the matter is that the Bat-Family’s willingness to keep their allies in the dark about their intentions is what led to their being put in danger in the first place. But Jefferson also understands that the deception’s somewhat larger than what the Bat-Family’s done to him personally, as Aquaman’s also done things to boost the Outsiders’ profile, effectively turning them into a public-facing team that seemed to exist independent of the League, when in reality that’s never been the case.
Though Black Lightning’s had his concerns about the League for the entire season, you’ve been able to gradually see how he has always been committed to the larger (good) cause in spite of his personal feelings about Batman. He’s developed a genuine care for Dr. Jace, the Markovian siblings, and the rest of the Outsiders, and you get the sense that his desire to keep them safe in particular is a large part of why he’s gotten in as deep as he has. With everything out in the open, everyone has to try to make sense of where they stand in relation to one another because as close as they’ve all become, it’s all been under somewhat false pretenses.
It’s this sort of emotional manipulation that Slade Wilson always made a point of trying to prepare Princess Terra to be able to see through during the time he spent mentoring her and teaching her to become a skilled spy and fighter. But as the “family” drama’s unfolding before the teenage girl’s eyes, she herself ends up being deceived by Dr. Jace, who kidnaps her.
Much in the same way that Batman’s been lying about his intentions, Jace has also been keeping important secrets from the people who trust her. Jace’s fondness for the Markovian siblings has always been rather odd, but “Antisocial Pathologies” reveals the true depths of her sick obsession with them. By chipping the Markovians with devices that make them highly suggestible, Jace is able to lure them away from the Outsiders’ HQ along with Halo, who believes that Jace has good news to share with her. For the past few episodes, Halo’s been living under the assumption that her regenerative healing powers were gradually fading in the buildup to her life coming to an end, something Jace swore she could prevent with a bit more research into her unique genetic makeup.
As Jace loads the Markovians into her car, she tells Halo that an associate of hers has finally figured out how to solve the problem, but what we come to learn is that Jace’s associate is Gretchen Goode. Jace made a deal with the villain and has no real intentions of helping Halo.
Because the spirit of a Mother Box is the source of Halo’s various powers, she’s of particular interest to Goode, who has been working for Darkseid to figure out a means of harnessing the Anti-Life Equation as a weapon. As Goode demonstrates for Jace, Terra, Geo-Force, and Ultra Humanite how placing Halo in the X-Pits turns her into a mindless drone capable of commanding the Anti-Life Equation, the old woman suddenly turns on Jace, pushing her into the X-Pit as well.
Reasoning that she needs to test Halo’s abilities to compel people to tell the truth, Goode uses the Anti-Life Equation to force Jace to reveal how she’s been manipulating the Markovians from the very beginning. More than that, though, she explains how she orchestrated the various experiments that turned Terra and Brion into metahumans as a means of transforming them into her “children.” Unable to hide her delusions, Jace also details how she lied to Halo about her powers fading after she realized the girl wasn’t truly a metahuman created by her work, making her an abomination in Jace’s eyes. All of Halo and Brion’s emotional turmoil is a direct result of Jace’s machinations to keep them apart, and there’s nothing he can do to exact his revenge.
But unlike Brion, who’s never really had any proper training to prepare him for mind control, Terra has—and the episode’s series of flashbacks to her time with Deathstroke reveal their true significance as Terra rips off Jace’s devices from her and her brother’s necks. As messed up as everything Goode revealed about herself is, the Markov family’s most chiefly concerned with trying to get their friend back and to put as much distance between them as the lunatic doctor who’s been fucking with their lives for the past few months. With Halo still under Goode’s control, though, the villains are all able to escape, and the Markovians return to Outsiders HQ to drop the other shoe for everyone else.
The way Young Justice: Outsiders reimagines different pieces of DC’s comics lore into familiar, yet fundamentally different forms has been one of the more interesting things about the series. Black Lightning and Helga Jace aren’t characters one would have immediately thought of as becoming romantically entangled as they did this season, but it worked as a means of involving him in a larger story involving Markovia in a way that runs parallel to some of the more recent plots on the CW’s live-action Black Lightning series. There, Jace was immediately introduced in a more straightforwardly villainous guise in line with her original comics counterpart, but her fascination with metahuman genetics makes it easy to see the narrative DNA she shares with Outsiders’ Jace.
Learning that Jace’s seduction of him was also part of her deception pushes Black Lightning over the edge, reaffirming his initial belief that he should have just left the entire world of superheroes behind and focused on living his own life. There was always more than a good chance that Young Justice: Outsiders’ villains would be able to strike a devastating blow against the heroes, meaning that it was going to be important that the League have a plan in place to ensure that they could rely on one another if and when things got tough.
But because Batman and his followers have decided to play four-dimensional chess with people’s lives without their knowledge, that crucial aspect of their dynamic’s been put in some serious danger.
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