Justice League (Season 1, Ep 17): Fury Part 2

Hi! Welcome to my episode-by-episode recap of, and reaction to Justice League. There will be no spoilers beyond the current episode. As is my custom with recaps, I will give you a short summary recap followed by a long and unnecessarily helpfully detailed version. My reaction will follow at the end if you just want to scroll past all of the recap.

If you want to see my prior Justice League episode reviews, click HERE:

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Batman and Martian Manhunter succumb to Aresia’s pathogen leaving Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl as the only Justice League members left who can stop her. They begin by locating her. They succeed through the assistance of Star Sapphire. She takes them to Aresia feigning opposition to Aresia’s plan only to betray them once they arrive. Diana and Hawkgirl also discover that Aresia is holding Queen Hippolyta captive to prevent Wonder Woman’s interference.

Aresia loads her team, Queen Hippolyta, and a bomb designed to disperse her pathogen, onto a military bomber jet. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl chase down the jet, disable it, and rescue the Queen, Aresia will not give up easily, though, and she stays on the jet despite its descent into the ocean. Diana, Hawkgirl, and Hippolyta watch from a Justice League jet some distance away as Aresia’s bomber explodes – presumably killing her inside of it. After she dies, the women find Aresia’s notes, engineer an antidote for the male members of the Justice League, and then distribute the antidote widely to those effected.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

As the episode starts, we see more chaos in the city. Men are collapsing due to the spread of Aresia’s pandemic. We see Aresia, Star Sapphire, and Tsukuri looking on from a nearby rooftop. Star Sapphire asks Aresia why she is doing this, and why the virus only targets men. The Amazon replies that man’s world is filled with greed, deception, and cruelty. She says she plans to change all of that.

Star Sapphire: You can’t be serious.
Aresia: Can’t I?

Batman rescues a boy from a burning building. Hawkgirl is with him and says she will take the infected boy to a hospital. As she flies away, we see that Batman’s vision is becoming blurred. A moment later Wonder Woman arrives to tell him that he was right about a renegade Amazon. He tells her that he knows. As she is telling him that she just could not believe one of her sisters could do such a thing, a bus with an ailing male drive plows into the sidewalk next to them.

Wonder Woman is diverted from the bus to catch an enormous satellite dish before it falls onto a couple leisurely walking down the street. Batman uses his grapple gun to catch up with the buss, break out its back window, and then intentionally crash it to stop it from plowing into a group of female firefighters. As the bus comes to a stop, he sets down the driver before beginning to faint. Wonder Woman catches him.

Sometime later, on the Watchtower, J’onn is watching over Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman. He tells Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl that the cause seems to be an allergen and not a virus. He says that he has not been able to isolate it, yet, but he states that every puzzle must have a solution.

Hawkgirl: So where do we start?
Wonder Woman: That’s easy. We find Aresia.

As Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl fly to look for Aresia, Diana tells Hawkgirl that even when Aresia was a child, she sensed a bitterness in her. She says that she never really felt as though Aresia was one of them. Hawkgirl contradicts her and says that Aresia fits in quite well.

Hawkgirl: Aresia is just taking your precious Amazon code to its logical extension.
Wonder Woman: We don’t teach hatred.
Hawkgirl: Except when it comes to men.

Their flight then proceeds in silence.

Elsewhere, Aresia and Tsukuri break into a military hangar. Aresia states inside that the bomber is perfect. Queen Hippolyta walks in behind her and asks her if the bomber is perfect for more betrayal and more destruction.

Aresia: [bows] Your Highness! You of all people should understand why I am doing this.

The Queen tells her that she has violated sacred Amazonian law. Aresia smiles and says that she is sorry the Queen sees it that way. Tsukuri attacks and quickly subdues Hippolyta. Aresia then tells her Queen that she has come too far to turn back now.

Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl ask a group of female firefighters if they need any help. The women tell them that they have the fire contained and that they have just sent the last of the victims to Gotham General. Hawkgirl says that their work is impressive and Wonder Woman replies that it almost reminds her of home.

Hawkgirl: Who wants to live in a world without men?
Wonder Woman: They can’t possibly be that essential to your life.
Hawkgirl: Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it Princess.

Wonder Woman stares at her consideringly before they fly off together to find Aresia.

We find a helicopter medivac team of women flying toward a hospital through thick smoke. The smoke clear just a moment before they crash their chopper into some power lines. As the fall to the ground, they suddenly stop falling.

Wonder Woman: I’ve got you, sisters.

As she lowers their helicopter to the ground, a live electrical wire swings around and hits her in the back, causing the helicopter to crash the rest of the way to the skyscraper roof below them. Hawkgirl and then Wonder Woman frantically pull the women from inside the helicopter because an electrical wire has set fire to the fuel leaking from helicopter. The two heroes get the women out just before an explosion. The helicopter flies from the skyscraper roof to the ground below. The two female Justice Leaguers fly down to catch it before it hits pedestrians below. However, Star Sapphire beats them there. The pink-dressed evil-doer saves the gathered crowd below. She catches the helicopter and returns it carefully back to the roof of the building above.

Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl follow her to the roof. Star Sapphire tells them that she is not here to fight, she is here to warn them about Aresia. They asks where she is and she tells them that Aresia and Tsukuri are at the air base. She also tells them that it may already be too late to save the men in the world. The three of them go to the air base together.

Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman rush to attack Aresia and Tsukuri but the fight is quickly stopped by a giant wall of energy from Star Sapphire. The pink wearing villain apologizes for her deception just before Aresia tells them that she had Star Sapphire bring them to the air base to ask them to join her.

Wonder Woman tells her sister that man’s world may not be perfect but she will not destroy it. Aresia says that’s a pity. The three baddies attack the two Justice Leaguers. Star Sapphire attacks Wonder Woman while Tsukuri fights Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl wins the fight by electrocuting the sword willing Tsukui, with her mace, but a moment later Aresia knocks her out with a blow to the head from behind. Wonder Woman is fighting Star Sapphire one-on-one. Diana wins the fight by throwing Star Sapphire into a wall so hard that it renders her unconscious. However, just as she wins, Aresia attacks her from behind. As Diana recovers on the ground, Aresia tells her that her effort was valiant but then she guarantees that she will not stop their plans. To prove her guarantee, Tsukuri brings out a tied up Hippolyta at the point of a sword.

Aresia warns both of them not to move. She says that she does not want to hurt Hippolyta but promises that she will. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl charge forward, anyway. They are both struck down from behind by a now recovered Star Sapphire. They both wake up from their attack as Tsukuri flies the bomber out of the hangar. As they watch the jet fly away, Hawkgirl shows Wonder Woman that she has found a vial of the allergen. She speculates that it may be the key to coming up with an antidote. Wonder Woman tells Hawkgirl to take it to J’onn while she deals with Aresia.

Hawkgirl: Do you think you can catch that thing? [meaning the jet]
Wonder Woman: It’s fast but so am I.

On the bomber, we learn that Aresia’s plan is to fire missiles filled with her poison into the upper atmosphere. She says that the winds will carry it far enough to kill all of the men on earth. We also see Hippolyta struggling with chains.

Hawkgirl sends J’onn a video message to tell him that she has a vial of the allergen. When she sees him, though, she sees that he is now also infected. J’onn speculates that it was on Superman’s costume… then he collapses.

Aboard the bomber, Wonder Woman has caught up and is attacking them from the outside. The bomber begins to lose altitude. Aresia sends Star Sapphire outside to see what is happening. Aresia says she is going to reconfigure the launch codes to fire from a lower altitude. Sapphire sees Wonder Woman and tells her that she better hurry. Sapphire than flies out to confront Diana.

Wonder Woman fends her off, but only just, when suddenly someone else begins firing at Sapphire – Hawkgirl. Aresia is prepared for this and the bomber fires back at Hawkgirl’s jet. Wonder Woman uses this distraction to further disable the bomber. She rips an engine from it and throws it at Star Sapphire, sending both engine and woman into the ocean below them.

Hawkgirl puts the Justice League jet on auto-pilot and flies out using her own wings to assist Wonder Woman. They enter the bomber together. Tsukuri attacks them but is rapidly knocked out.

Aresia: You fools! Don’t you see! We’re not you’re enemy, it’s the men! They must be destroyed!

Hippolyta enters the cockpit area, having freed herself from her chains, and she tells Aresia that she is wrong. She further tells her that without men she would not be here.

FLASHBACK!

Hippolyta tells her that when she was a small girl, after her ship sank, she lost consciousness as she drifted on her makeshift raft. She tells Aresia that she would have drowned had the ship’s captain, a man, not found her and pulled her to safety. Hippolyta tells Aresia that the man struggled to keep her alive until he brought her to the shores of Themyscira. She says that the effort was too much for the man’s heart and he died just as he set her down on the beach.

Hippolyta: His final resting place is a simple unmarked grave. He was the only man ever buried on Themyscira.
Aresia: Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?
Hippolyta: I didn’t think it was important. I didn’t think he was important.

Aresia concludes that everything Hippolyta ever preached was a lie. Then she steels her back and says the acts of one man cannot redeem the sins of mankind. Aresia says that they all must pay.

Hippolyta reaches to stop her from pushing a launch button. Aresia casually throws her Queen through the broken plane window. Aresia presses a button. Hawkgirl dives out of the window and catches the Queen just before she hits the water. Wonder Woman and Aresia fight inside. Hawkgirl sets the Queen on her Justice League jet and returns to the fight. As Wonder Woman and Aresia duke it out. Hawkgirl smashes her mace into the missile launch bays rendering them inoperable. Aresia yells at Tsukuri to shur the missiles off. Her hench-woman shouts at her that she likes her, but not that much, and then she takes a jet pack and jumps out of the bomber.

Aresia knocks Diana from the jet as she tries to pull it out of a nose dive. Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, and Hippolyta watch from the Justice League jet as Aresia’s bomber explodes with the Amazon still inside.

Hippolyta: Poor Aresia. May the gods grant her peace at last.

Sometime later, Wonder Woman asks a healthy Batman how he is feeling. He tells her he feels better and says that it is a good thing she was able to recover Aresia’s notes form her hideout. Wonder Woman agrees and says that without those notes they may never have found the antidote. We see Superman and Green Lantern distributing the antidote on the Watchtower video screen.

Wonder Woman: [staring at Batman] If only Aresia could have seen the noble qualities of you men.
Flash: [entering room with a mouth full of food] I definitely could have taught that bad babe a few things about guys. Too bad we never met. [burps loudly]
Wonder Woman: Maybe it’s just as well.

REACTION:

This was a tricky episode for the writers, I think. They wanted to tell a story about the danger of a generalized gender-based hatred. In a 2020 parlance, you might refer to this episode as a story about toxic feminism. They also wanted to avoid telling that story at the expense of supporting positive feminism. I think the results were somewhat mixed.

The easy task in this episode is to paint Aresia as being wrong. Killing all men is bad.

The other somewhat easy task is to paint the women handling the chaos in the city as good / competent / heroic. This should have been easy, anyway. I actually think they overdid their unbelievable competence. The writers clearly wanted a “we handled all of this on our own” moment, from the women firefighters, to subtly say “we support non-murderous feminism.” But I think they made the stakes too large for that moment to feel earned. Literally half the population is dying, cars are crashing all around them, half the city is on fire, hospitals are over-flowing, and everything is.. smooth sailing? It’s corny and borders on patronizing. That whole scene also has the problem of feeling as though it plays into Aresia’s narrative. Things without men are going fine – arguably better. I think the better line to walk would have been “doing our jobs well but we’re overrun.”

The hardest task for the writers in this episode is to argue against Hawkgirl’s point.

Hawkgirl: Aresia is just taking your precious Amazon code to its logical extension.
Wonder Woman: We don’t teach hatred.
Hawkgirl: Except when it comes to men.

And also this:

Hawkgirl: Who wants to live in a world without men?
Wonder Woman: They can’t possibly be that essential to your life.
Hawkgirl: Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it Princess.

The task is too hard, actually. Perhaps that’s the point. Hawkgirl is more or less right about the Amazons. The Queen of the Amazons herself, Wonder Woman’s own mother, admits near the conclusion of the episode that she did not think the man who died to save Aresia’s life mattered enough to ever mention his existence. Obviously that omission mattered to Aresia. Did that perspective rub off on her superhero daughter? It clearly did. Look at the quoted section just above. As men are dropping all around them, with no cure in sight, after months of working with the very best men alive in the Justice League, Wonder Woman is still openly questioning whether men are even *essential.*

We are presented with shame and hopefully some growth for a thousands-of-years-old Hippolyta near the end of the episode. Wonder Woman also laments near the episode’s end that her sister did not get a chance to see the nobility in men. But I feel as though in a show about the Justice League, Wonder Woman – as opposed to or in addition to her mother – should have had a more personal confrontation with her own internal prejudices. She just kind of skipped over the lesson part or took it vicariously through her mom, instead. To the credit of both of them, they were consistent in opposing whatever the term is for a gender-based massacre. Unlike Hippolyta, though, Diana never had a moment of living out the essentialness of men. She just said at the end of the episode that some men are noble. [Almost as though they feel apologetic for this admission, the writers give us the Flash burping simultaneously.]

How are we supposed to feel about Wonder Woman’s homeland at the end of this episode? I think we’re supposed to view them as *backwards* in many respects. That’s fine if that’s the goal but I am not sure that it was. Assuming for the sake of argument that this was the goal, then it is more important that Wonder Woman personally have the growth moment than it is to see her mother have it.

Some plot questions/gripes:

How did Hippolyta find Aresia? She just shows up at the air plane hangar and confronts her. I have no idea how she got to the hangar, either. Did she fly? They ride horses… and jets in Themyscira?

Is Hippolyta not magically imbued with Amazon strength? Why not? She is fierce but relatively feeble whenever she is in an episode.

How did Hippolyta learn the story of the man who died saving Aresia? He literally dropped dead on the beach without talking to her.

This episode failed to answer the mystery of how Aresia developed a weapon that effects men of all species types (Kryptonians, Martians, and humans) using a bunch of old books. In fact, all we learned in this episode is that the weapon was an allergen.

The story also just conveniently jumped over explaining how all the men on earth were saved by hand-waving away the dangerous pathogen with “we found her notes.” I guess the antidote instructions must have been pretty straight-forward because neither Hawkgirl nor Wonder Woman have been depicted as scientists thus far on the show.

How mad is the U.S. government over the theft, attempted use of, and then the destruction of its military property? Probably big mad, right? Can Bruce Wayne smooth that over with a check? Did WayneTech most likely build the bomber in the first place?

Wonder Woman’s romantic interest in Batman is hinted at once more. The Dark Knight changing her view on men is strangely enjoyable. That’s probably the best part of this episode, actually.

All in all, this is probably the worst story arc of Season 1 thus far. I like the potential for a rogue Amazon story. I like the potential for exploring the Amazonian perspective on gender. I just didn’t feel this story was well-executed.

3 thoughts on “Justice League (Season 1, Ep 17): Fury Part 2

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