Before the Dawn
- Recap: The episode begins with Jaime on his skateboard talking to his mum on his mobile, saying that he's going to be taking a shortcut across a parking lot to get back home quickly. The parking lot of Kord Industries... which promptly explodes sending burning debris everywhere. Some sets Jaime's shirt on fire, which he quickly takes off, only to discover an odd blue beetle thing lying on the ground, having been thrown out of the building by the explosion. It starts moving, crawls onto his back, embeds itself in his spine and forces a transformation into his superhero costume...
This turns out to be a nightmare, a nightmare based on how he got his superpowers, mind you, and Jaime wakes up panicking within the tube he was stuffed in the previous episode. He tries to escape, but Khadji Da tells him that it's deactivated all their combat systems, and is also kind of annoyed that Jaime "let" himself get captured. We are then finally treated to a close up look of who exactly the Partners of the Light are, and it's... the Reach. Huh, well it was kind of obvious in hindsight, I guess. The Reach are the dudes who created the blue scarab as a means of conquering planets, for those of you who don't know.
One of the Reach scientists, the female one, says with irritation that the scarab's memory is corrupted and it only have useful information stretching back eight months, to when it attached itself to Jaime, his current host. The blue one, who turns out to be an ambassador, tells her to just reboot the scarab to its original function, but when she refuses on the basis of she wents to know why it malfunctioned, the huge guy who was hanging out with Sportsmaster back in the elemental robot episode reveals himself to be Black Beetle, who then says that the only reason why the scientist isn't reactivating Khadji is that she just enjoys playing with her test subjects too much. She grins and admits that that is true as well, which causes Jaime to look more than a touch alarmed at this...
It's a little while later, and Aqualad is being shown around the Reach's ship, which is parked in the Pacific Ocean. The Ambassador tells AL that they're the Reach, and that they are using the ship to study the Metagene, which he describes as "the genetic marker which enables the human body to save catastrophic dangers to itself by generating extranormal powers as a means to survive". He introduces Al to the Scientist, who thanks him for providing several of their tast subjects. She explains that they're trying to activate potential superpowers in the test subjects by exposing them to external stimulous (ie electric shocks and pointy things), oone of which is Lagoon Boy. AL points out that Lagoon Boy already has superpowers, and the scientist points out that actually his powers come from training and sorcery, so he's actually an average Atlantean and thus has potential to be MORE, yes? In the next room, AL is shown the room with human with active metagenes, where they see how they deal with different levels of stress. And by humans with active metagenes, she means Impulse and Beast Boy, and by stress, she means lots and lots of electrocution! The Scientist explains that they're doing this to see if the abilities they have could be extracted or duplicated, which AL concludes as meaning that they wish to weaponise the Metagene.
Over in Star City, where AL's "best operative" is overseeing another shipment of test subjects, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Bumblebee are sneaking up to the dock where said shipment is, in plainclothes. They sneak into the holding pen where a random bunch of teenagers are being kept, where they tell them that they're there to help. One girl... who happens to be STEPHANIE FREAKIN' BROWN asks them why they should believe them, but instantly trusts Tim when she see's Bumblebee is with him. Hee, well, that's one down, one to go. ^^ The captured teenagers are stuffed into their pods and are transported onto their submarine, while Nightwing, Wondergirl and Miss Martian follow the sub back to the Reach's base. Cassie asks Nightwing how he seems to know all of this information, like where the abductees would be kept etc. But he puts it down to wishful thinking and intelligence that Aquaman gathered. Probably best not to lie when M'gann is right behind him, but whatev's.
Back in the base, the Scientist is talking to Black Beetle, while Jaime eavesdrops. The Scientist expresses annoyance that Jaime's scarab isn't working as an advance operative for their invasion as it seems to refuse to follow their directives. Black Beetle tells her to just reboot it, which the Scientist admits looks like it'll be the option they'd have to take, though that would mean it would have to be installed in another subject and the process of removing it would kill Reyes. The Black Beetle says that won't be an issue as they already have plenty of testsubjects here to graft Khadji onto, to Jaime's alarm. Outside the base, Nightwing observes that the Reach's craft has the same design sensibility as the bombs that destroyed the island at the beginning of the season as well as Mount Justice. Wonder Girl sense that it also kind of reminds her of Blue Beetle's armour which troubles Dick, but they aren't able to dwell on that, as Miss Martian is now up to infiltrate the underwater base. Interestingly, the pressure seems to make her shrink a bit once she gets outside, nice touch.
Once she's inside, Babs and Tim begin transmitting information to the rest of the Team, warning them that they've seen AL wandering about. M'gann finds Bart and Gar, while Babs reports on where the rest of the team, plus over hostages are from their place. Steph's there too, and looking more than a little panicky. Babs says that they're unsupervised at the moment, but that escape could trigger some alarms, and asks whether they should wait. Dick tells them no, and to escape before they need to be rescued as well. And they do so, yay! Unfortunately Impulse being Impulse he instantly runs off to find Blue Beetle, thus instantly tipping off the Reach to the jailbreak despite M'gann's warnings. SIGH. Artemis/Tigress gets knocked out by one of AL's guards, who turns out to be Conner in one of their mechsuits, making him even more superstrong than normal. Bumblebee arrives with the rest of kidnapped folk, including Lagoon Boy and Steph (yay) and they're packed into the Bioship to get them quickly out of harm's way.
Babs and Tim begin making surprisingly short work of the Light's troops, and AL has the misfortune of running into AL as he's wandering down a hallway. Unsurprisingly, she unleashes her telepathic wrath on him, and he collapses in pain. Meanwhile, the abductees escape is stopped by the appearance of Black Beetle, who locks the exit, preventing them from getting away and Tigress from getting in there to help them. Wonder Girl tells him that they have him outnumbered, and if he surrenders they'll go easy on him, which causes the villain to start laughing evilly, which Bumblebee admits is NOT a good sign. While this is going on, Bart rescues Jaime, while M'gan is mindcrushing AL, forcing him to experience all of his memories of their time together on the Team together in the past. This process however, also reveals to M'gann Nightwing's decision and the fact that Artemis is infact STILL ALIVE. Unfortunately, she only realises this after she'd destroyed AL's brain. Oops. As she is on the floor in grief over what she's done and shock over what just happened, Artemis shows up, with M'gann using her powers to confirm she's her friend.
Artemis drags AL away, as Beast Boy "scares" Artemis way as she gets him away to get medical attention. BB then tries to snap M'gann out of her shock, saying that the others need their help now too. And indeed they do, as the fight is going more than a little badly, with the Team getting easily smacked about by Black Beetle, who appears to be a guy with 100% mastery of his suit's abilities. Interestingly enough the one abductee that appears to be locked in with the heroes looks like Virgil, aka Static Shock... HM. Virg attempts to blast Black Beetle with one of Reach's rifles, but is knocked out by Shimmer, who gets an approving nod from Black Beetle, and is then bundled by both Wonder Girl and Superboy at the same time.
The next scene appears to be a flashback to the future!... Or more accurately Bart's past, where a group of scavengers are digging through the remains of Mount Justice while black ash still seems to be falling from the skies despite being several decades in the future. This in fact turns out to be what Bart is telling Jaime, that at some point in the future the Reach manage to get him on their side and he becomes one of the worst villains in history. Despite Jaime's protestations that he'd never go evil, Bart explains that's one of the reasons he actually back back in time, to prevent Jaime from betraying the human race and starting the Reach Apocalyse. Back at the fight, things have gone from bad to worse, with Wondergirl and Batgirl being the only two still standing. Beast Boy gets a kind of dazed M'gan to go through the door, but Black Beetle changes its density, which makes her get stuck and then pass out. He then beats Cassie against the door as well until she falls unconscious.
As Babs knocks out Shimmer and Black Beetle begins to advance on her though, Impulse and Jaime show up (freeing M'gann in the process). Jaime opens the door, telling Impulse, Babs and BB to get the others to safety while he distracts his counterpart. Khadji tells Jaime that since he's still weak from being experimented on, he should put him in charge as he'd be able to run the weaponry and stuff at full capacity, and Jaime gives him permission. And the battle instantly goes badly for Black Beetle as he decides to use knives while Khadji uses guns, HA! They fight some more, and Shimmer accidentally burns a whole in the wall with the powers the Reach's experiments gave her. This predictably makes the place begin to fill with water and weaken the overall structure of the ship itself. Back with the heroes everyone but Jaime is on the base, and Impulse is knocked out by some water attempting to go back for him. Babs reluctantly says that they have to leave if they're going to save the abductees, despite the protests from the others. Luckily, the blast from one of his attacks on Black Beetle throws Jaime out of the hole Shimmer made, which the bad guy then closes to his annoyance.
The Reach's ship fires at the heroes as they make their escape, and Lagoon Boy manages to gran Jaime and drag him to the bioship before he drowns/is squashed by the pressure (yay, LB is useful for once). Shortly after this, Nightwing sends all of his information to the Justice League, and tells them to inform the world about the Reach, making their secret invasion very very public. Unfortunately, as Aquaman points out, it seems that the Reach actually announced themselves to the United Nations some hours ago, declaring that they where here to open good public relations with Earth and help them out. This approach even gets approval from G. Gordon Godfrey, who praises the Reach as being aliens who "actually manage to do things RIGHT." He then says that this is how aliens should appear to the public, not sneaking in the back like "some Leaguers we know". Aquaman does admit that although they've gone public before they could warn the public, at least they know exactly where they are now.
The episode closes off in the Mariana Trench, where the dozens of Reach ships lie in wait, or the order to attack...
- Review: Well despite the problems with the Cartoon Network, this was definitely an episode that had a lot going for it. Increased stakes, cool cameos (woo, Steph appeared in media outside of comics for once!), great action, the pay off from multiple storylines (M'gann's mindwiping and AL's double agent routine for example) AND another appearance of the Great Tim Curry.
Even on a technical side there was a lot of impressive stuff, with both music and animation being top-notch in this episode, particularly in the fight scenes against the Black Beetle in the end. So hats off to the creators in that regard.
Bart allowing his mask to slip a little to reveal to Jaime the reason why he actually came to the past was a nice moment, though I'm not sure how Jaime was meant to bulk-up so much to be Future!Jaime. Maybe the evil Blue Beetle is another human Khadji is implanted in? As I've said, Steph's appearance was cool, and oddly gave a quick glance at the character despite not actually getting that much to do (and oddly more in character than a certain webseries, if we take this to be prior to her time as the Spoiler).
The merging of M'gann's abuse of her telepathic powers and the AL doubleagent subplot was interesting to see, if telegraphed in advance somewhat. The fact that she realises just what she did instead of righting it off was definitely a good move on the part of the writers, and hopefully means we'll see her being a bit less... er.... antiheroish with her mindpowers in the future.
In all a good, impressive episode that opens up a lot of story opportunities in the future, both in terms of the main plot and in terms of characters to use in the future (Steph and Virgil specifically).