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:
Hawkgirl and Lantern explore the history of their new reality and come to the conclusion that all of it is an illusion. They confront the Justice Guild with this accusation and when the Guild asks who might be behind it, Manhunter tells them to ask Ray Thompson (Neil Patrick Harris.) Manhunter then forces Ray to reveal his true appearance to the shock of everyone present.
Ray distracts the Justice Guild by psychically conjuring a monster for them to fight. While they do this, he fights the Justice League. Green Guardsman sees Ray fighting – and beating – the Justice League. He and the others decide to take him on, too, even if it means that they destroy their own false reality and their existence in it. Ray is unable to defeat his heroes when they attack him and the psychic strain is so much that he collapses, the Justice Guild vanishes, and the illusion ends. We learn after that the other people in the town have been real but held captive by Ray as he acts out his psychic fantasy. Lantern remembers that Tom Turbine mentioned an inter-dimensional gateway and looks to see if there ever was a real one in the ruins of the Justice Guild mansion. He finds it, powers it with his ring, and the Justice League members return to their own earth.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Hawkgirl returns to meet with the Justice League. She tells them that she saw the graves of the Justice Guild members. Green Lantern says that he does not know who that is, while pointing at the Green Guardsman, but she says the real Green Guardsman is gone. She says that the rest of them are gone, too.
Green Lantern: No! I don’t believe it! [flies away]
Martian Manhunter: He seems to be taking this quite personally.
Back in the bad guy cave, Sportsman, Sir Swami, and Music Master are pointing out that each of them succeeded in their theft challenge. Just as they decide that this must leave Dr. Blizzard out in the cold, the cold-powered bad guy rides in on a giant block of ice with both Flash and Black Siren trapped inside. He says that capturing those two should mean that he is the winner of their nefarious contest. The other three bad guys agree and congratulate him. Flash and Black Siren’s heads are not inside the block of ice so they can still talk.
Flash: What are you gonna do now, Doc, turn us into snow cones?
The Justice Guild is waiting around for word from Flash and Black Siren. They suddenly receive a phone call that The Injustice Guild is robbing the Seaboard City Mint and that they are escaping by blimp. The Streak says only they would commit such a heinous act and on a Sunday no less. The Justice Guild puts their hands together and chants “let Justice Prevail!” before running out to stop them.
Hawkgirl returns to the cemetery and finds Green Lantern there grieving beside the tombstone of Scott Mason, the Green Guardsman. She’s tells John that she is sorry. He tells her that she was right and that all of them are gone. She asks who those people are back at the mansion. He tells her that he does not know, while staring at his Justice Guild ring, but he says he intends to get some answers.
A few moments later, Lantern and Hawkgirl stop an ice cream truck driver as he covers his route. He asks what he can do for them and Lantern replies that he wants to know what he can tell them about the graves on the hill. The driver says he has to get back to his route and that he cannot keep his customers waiting. Lantern seeing absolutely nobody out on the street asks him what customers he means. He grabs the driver and asks him when is the last time he actually sold ice cream. The drive pleads with him.
Driver: Please, no more questions, he might hear you.
Driver: I can’t say any more.
The drive speeds away and Hawkgirl notes that their situation is growing curiouser and curiouser.
The Justice Guild and Martian Manhunter catch up to the Injustice Guild by finding their getaway blimp up in the sky. Green Guardsman reveals a harpoon made from his green ring power and says that he will let the air out of their balloon. Tom Turbine stops him, though, pointing out that Flash and Black Siren are tired to the side of the balloon.
Ray Thompson: Holy hostages!
The Justice Guild and Martian Manhunter fly up to attack the blimp. Music Master knocks J’onn out of the fight with his accordion weapon. The Streak saves him from a fall to the pavement. Sportsman hits a golf ball from the blimp and it explodes in front of Tom Turbine. Green Guardsman saves him. Sir Swami uses magic to creates a living TV antennae. It then ties up Green Guardsman and Tom Turbine. Cat Man says that it seems as though it’s up to him. He detaches Ray Thompson’s sidecar and then rides his motorcycle into an adjacent building. While on the bike, he takes the elevator to the top floor. From there, he launches it off the building and toward the blimp. The bike crashes but Cat Man lands safely on the blimp. He then breaks through a widow and tells the bad guys not to bother welcoming him aboard.
Elsewhere, Lantern and Hawkgirl go to the library. Lantern says he wants to catch up on the history of this place. They go inside and find the building abandoned. Lantern pulls books form the shelves but they are all blanks. Hawkgirl suggests checking the newspaper archives in the basement. They open the door for the archives and find it bricked shut. Hawkgirl says that she has had enough and breaks the wall down with her mace.
Inside, they find a decimated subway station. Lantern says that there must have been an earthquake or something. Hawkgirl says no, that the damage is from a battle. John finds an old newspaper on the ground. The headline from The Seaboard Times says “Peace Talks Break Down – War Near.” Lantern points out that the date on the article is from forty years ago. He says that the date is also the same day as the last Justice Guild comic.
On board the blimp, Cat Man is successfully fighting against the Injustice Guild. Below, the Streak frees the Guardsman and Tom Turbine. Tied to the side of the blimp, Black Siren tells Flash that they will never get free. He uses the lightning bolt decorations from his costume, next to his temples, to pop a hole in the blimp to which they are tied.
Flash: Decorative and functional.
The blimp lurches and begins a slow descent. Sir Swami falls out but is caught by Martian Manhunter. The deflating blimp has created wiggle room for Flash and Black Siren. She falls out of her restraints. Flash with an arm free catches her. Tom Turbine flies up to meet them and asks if they need a lift. He then flies them both away from the blimp. Cat Man forcibly evacuates the bad guys form inside of the blimp where Green Guardsman catches them and takes them away.
We see Ray Thompson cheer as the bad guys are cuffed and put inside a police car. Flash observes to Martin Manhunter that the two cops taking the bad guys away seem to be the only cops in the entire town.
Back at The Justice Guild mansion, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl confront the Justice Guild as they return. Holding a newspaper, he says that the real Justice Guild died in battle forty years ago. Ray Thompson says that this must be a hoax. Before Lantern can explain further, the Justice Guild gets a call that a monster is tearing up main street. As the JGA tries to leave, Green Lantern blocks their path. He tells them that nothing in their world makes sense and he points out library books with blank pages, ice cream trucks that do not stop, and Hawkgirl adds dangers that spring up whenever anyone gets too close to the truth.
Green Guardsman asks what truth and Lantern replies that the truth is that the world around them is an illusion, a living memory of a civilization destroyed forty years ago.
Tom Turbine: If what you say is true, who or what is creating this illusion?
Martian Manhunter: I suggest you ask Ray.
Martian Mahunter puts his hands on Ray and says that he is the source. Ray’s appearance suddenly changes. He is now a small humanoid with an oversized head and giant eyes with red pupils. As everyone gasps, Ray points at J’onn and tells him that he ruined everything. Ray blasts Martian Manhunter with a psychic blast, knocking him out. A moment later, a giant monster rips off the roof of the Justice Guild Mansion. Streak gives the order for the Justice Guild to attack it. Lantern commands the Justice League to ignore the monster and he reminds them that it is an illusion. He points at Ray standing the corner – his true appearance still revealed – and says that he is the real menace.
Lantern: It’s over, Ray.
Ray: It’s been over before. I changed that.
The Justice League attacks Ray but he repels them. He tells them that this is his world and that he decides who wins and who loses. He then proceeds to unleash a beating on the Justice League. From above, while fighting the monster, Green Guardsman sees this and tells the other Justice Guild members that the Justice League needs their help.
Tom Turbine: Wait. If what they said is true, defeating Ray could destroy this reality and everything in it.
Black Siren: Including us.
[Lantern groans in agony]
The Streak: We died once to save this earth. And we can do it again.
The Streak punches Ray in the face knocking him to the ground. Ray tells them that they can’t and that he made them but the Justice Guild chants “Let Justice Prevail” and continues on. Tom Turbine hits him with a marble pillar. As Ray makes it vanish, Streaks tries to disorient him by putting him inside a speed tornado. Ray uses a psychic blast to knock Streak off of his feet. However, as he does this, Guardsman attacks him. Ray begins to moan in pain. Streak returns to the fight, punches at Ray with super-speed. Tom Turbine blasts him also. Ray shrieks and the world around them begins to reveal its true self.
The landscape is a barren wasteland. Lantern looks up to see the Justice Guild standing over Ray’s body on the ground. The Streak salutes him as they vanish.
As the Justice League now stares at Ray, Hawkgirl asks how he got like that. Martian Manhunter tells her that the radioactive fallout from the nuclear war mutated his DNA, giving him the psychic ability to mold this world to his choosing.
Hawkgirl: So he chose to recreate it with the heroes he worshipped as a child.
Flash: Who can blame him?
Just then, an ice cream truck driver approaches as do the other people they have met from the town.
Lantern: You’re all real?
Driver: It’s like waking up from a dream.
Lantern apologizes for destroying their world but the driver corrects him and says that they did that. Lantern says that the world around them is a nightmare and he again corrects him saying that being stuck inside an ice cream truck for forty years is a nightmare.
Flash asks what now and how they are supposed to get home. Lantern says that he has an idea. They go to the ruined Justice Guild Mansion. Lantern reminds them of the inter-dimensional gateway that Tom Turbine told them that he was working on. They then find the real life version. Flash asks what good that will do as Tom Turbine was never able to power it. Lantern suggests that he might be able to power it. He blasts his ring at it and turns it on. The Justice League runs through it to an unknown other side.
On the Watchtower, we see that the Justice League made it home safely. Flash is telling Batman and Superman about the Justice Guild, the heroes with bad puns, and the Justice Guild’s decoder rings.
Flash: Still, Black Siren was a hottie.
Hawkgirl fids Green Lantern alone on the Watchtower. She asks if he is okay. He tells her that it is stupid that he feels the way that he does and he says that they were not even real. Hawkgirl grabs him by the arm.
Hawkgirl: They gave their lives for us. That’s real enough for me.
end of episode caption:
this story is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Gardner F. Fox.
Gardner Francis Cooper Fox (May 20, 1911 – December 24, 1986) was an American writer known best for creating numerous comic book characters for DC Comics. Comic book historians estimate that he wrote more than 4,000 comics stories, including 1,500 for DC Comics. Fox was also a science fiction author and wrote many novels and short stories.
Fox is known as the co-creator of DC Comics heroes Barbara Gordon, the original Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Zatanna and the original Sandman, and was the writer who first teamed several of those and other heroes as the Justice Society of America, and later recreated the team as the Justice League of America. Fox introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics in the 1961 story “Flash of Two Worlds!”
If one is going to tell a story with a nod to the Justice Society of America, and introduce the multi-verse, then this dedication to the guy who helped to create those concepts makes a lot of sense.
As for the story…
♫Who’s been messing up everything
It’s been Ray Thompson all along!♫
Twenty years before WandaVision, Justice League gave us a two-part episode that hits many of the same plot elements. (Generic spoilers for WandaVision in addition to this episode below.)
- Super-powerful psychic
- Forcing unwitting and living people to act out a psychic fantasy
- Unexpected outside element bringing the truth to light
- Strains of psychic limitation not addressing all parts of the fantasy in full until they come up (i.e. where are the kids”)
- Psychic fantasy born out of grief
- Psychic but autonomous creation turns against psychic creator.
The only thing missing form this parallel is Tom Turbine comforting a pre-mutation Ray Thompson about some war atrocities he undoubtedly lived through:
“What is grief if not love persevering?”
I guess my main question from this episode is whether Ray actually died. If he is merely unconscious, then will he not simply re-enslave the people of Seaboard City once he wakes up? Or did the people of the city, um, make sure he was dead once the Justice League left? (That’s a dark thought.) Ultimately, Ray ends up a pretty tragic figure regardless. He was so scarred by losing the world of his childhood that he brought it back to life. Then his own creation turned on him.
My other thought centers on the Justice Guild world itself… did life exist beyond the city limits? Had people been trying to reach them from the outside but were repelled by Ray Thompson’s psychic powers? (Those questions seem obvious but were also elements of WandaVision which explored this same idea in greater depth.)
Overall I enjoyed the story. The comparison to WandaVision which followed twenty years later is intended as a compliment. It was well executed and a lot of the goofiness of part one found an explanation in the big reveal of Part 2. We are even left with Martian Manhunter’s hypothesis about Justice Guild comics being true. (Their creators on Lantern’s version of earth had some kind of psychic link to the real Justice Guild’s earth – and the link was broken when the real Justice Guild died.)
One bigger picture story arc took a step forward in this episode… Hawkgirl and Green Lantern have moved from always squabbling to… an end of episode comfort snuggle? Watch out, Batman and Wonder Woman. There’s another love connection on the Watchtower catching up with your own.
If you decide to find Justice League on HBOMax for a re-watch, this two parter is worth viewing.