Justice League (Season 1, Ep 20): A Knight of Shadows Part 1

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:

In a flashback to the days of King Arthur, we see the fall of Camelot. Jason Blood betrays the castle defenses to allow sorceress Morgaine le Fey inside. As a punishment for this act, Merlin binds his soul to that of a demon named Etrigan. Merlin is able to hide the Philosopher’s Stone from Morgaine Le Fey. Jason Blood – bound to the demon – is cursed to remain alive and bound until she is stopped for good.

In the present, Morgaine le Fey is still looking for the Stone with her evil son Mordred so that she can use the stone to bring back Camelot and make her son its King. She crosses paths with Batman after attacking an Arthurian scholar. Investigating this, Batman runs into Jason Blood – who he has known for some time. The two of them along with the Justice League work to prevent her from obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone. They track down the stone at the home of Harv Hickman, the DC universe version of Hugh Hefner. However, as the episode ends, Batman is injured by le Fey and J’onn has been attacked by her telepathically to long for his lost Martian home.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

A Medieval castle is being stormed. Catapults are hurling fiery exploding objects at its walls. A well dressed blonde haired boy, outside the castle walls, asks his mother, on a horse beside him, when he will get his kingdom. The mother – wearing some type of amulet around her neck – tells him that he will receive it soon. The amulet glows as she says this.

Inside the castle, a group of men are defending a wooden gate. It is barred but a battering ram is crashing into it from the other side. A helmeted soldier approaches the men to tell them that the King needs them at the other guard tower. One of the men protests about the gate but the newcomer, sword in hand, say she will stay and guard it. However, as soon as they are gone, he unbars the gate and lets the enemy inside. The mother we saw outside comes inside. The betraying soldier addresses her.

Soldier: Morgaine, my love, your beauty has possessed me. I have longed to hold you, to feel you in my arms again.

As they are set to kiss, she does something to him. He falls to the floor with something marking his face. He asks her why and she says that it is for love – for the love of her son, Camelot’s new ruler. As the soldier lies on the ground, the soldiers who left just moments ago return and shout that they are betrayed. As they shout “for Arthur!” and “for Camelot!” the picture focuses on the betraying soldier who lies on the ground. The scene around him turns to red as a voice intones.

Voice: Art thou satisfied, villain?

The soldier looks up and sees the speaker, a man with long white hair and a white beard. He says that by base treachery, Camelot will fall this day. The soldier tells Merlin that he could not understand as he is not a man and has never known the sweetness of a woman’s kiss. Merlin tells the man, Jason Blood, that it was a viper’s kiss. Merlin tells him that he is cursed until the day that this monstrous deed is atoned.

Merlin: To mark thy shame, I hereby bind thy soul to a creature of the pit.

As Jason Blood writhes, his face changes to look like the face of a demon.

Elsewhere, a man is being wheeled on an ambulance gurney. He sits up to tell a medic that a stone of vast power is nearby. As he lies back down, the other medic says that the poor old codger must be delirious. UP above them, we see Batman’s cape move on the rooftop.

He sneaks inside the building where the old man had been. He finds an open book and says “the philosopher’s stone” aloud. After he says this, another man enters the room – Jason Blood.

Blood: According to legend, it was a gem on the hilt of Excalibur.

He goes on to say that the gem was the true source of the sword’s power. Batman knows Jason Blood already and greets him. Batman says that he assumes Jason is not here to browse. Jason says that he is a friend of the owner.

Batman: You mean that old man?
Jason: He’s thirty-two years old. He’s also an expert in Arthurian lore.

Batman asks Jason what this is all about. He replies that this is about Morgaine le Fey. He explains that when Camelot fell, Merlin was able to hide the Philosopher’s Stone from her. He says that she is trying to track it down again. Batman asks why she wants the gem and Blood tells him that with it she can resurrect Camelot and place her son Mordred on the throne.

Batman: Okay. How close is she to finding this Philosopher’s Stone?
Jason: Too close.

Elsewhere, in a Medieval castle, a security guard strolls down a hallway, straightening a shield placed on a suit of armor display. Abruptly, Mordred appears in front of him in a hallway with a sword. He attacks multiple empty suits of armor, destroying them.

Guard: Young man, what are you doing here?
Morgaine le Fey: [entering] What boys do, of course.

She shows up wearing a scary mask with a gem stone adorning a breastplate.

The guard, apparently not realizing his danger, tells her that the castle is closed and that the boy has just damaged a priceless artifact. In turn, she grabs him by the head, lifts him off the ground, and as a golden nimbus surrounds both of them, she says that everything has a price if you are willing to pay.

As Mordred watches his mother approvingly, the guard falls to the ground, greatly aged. Morgaine looks at her hands. They look almost inhuman with fingernails in long pointed claws. She tells her son that they need to get to the matter at hand. They walk to another room in the castle She points out Merlin’s Ark and names it the repository of the Philosopher’s Stone. She opens the ark but the stone is not there.

Morgaine: Curse your soul, Merlin. Even in death you taunt me.

Mordred points out that the stone on his mother’s breastplate is glowing. She looks down and asks whether Jason Blood ever gives up. She then tells her son that they must prepare a special welcome for him.

Sometime later, Jason Blood and Batman enter the castle together. Blood puts his hand inside the arm. His hand glows. He tells Batman that Morgaine has been here but that she does not have the stone yet. Batman asks him how he can be sure. Just then, as if in answer, swords begin flying free from the castle walls where they had hung as decoration. They have a golden glow. They fly toward Batman and Jason. Batman pushes the other man out of the way and they both narrowly avert being skewered.

Batman calls for Jason to go to the door. As he fights off the once more moving swords with a sword in his own hands, Jason pulls at the door handles and reports that the doors are sealed shut. Just then, the suits of armor begin to come to life and attack Batman with sword in hand. Jason tells him that there are too many. As Batman fights them, Jason speaks loudly.

Jason Blood: Gone, gone, the form of man. Rise the demon, Etrigan.

Jason’s form changes to that of a muscular red-eyed demon. In his demon form, he attacks the suits of armor with fire from his hands. Batman greets Etrigan. He apparently knows the deman half of his friend Jason, too.

Etrigan: That witch will pay for this. I’ll feast on her cold heart.
Batman: If the stone is as powerful as you say, we’re going to need help.

Sometime later, outside on the castle grounds, other members of the Justice League speak with Etrigan. Wonder Woman asks him about trailing le Fey for centuries and he says that it has been an unending game of cat and mouse.

Etrigan: But I’ll never rest until her soul burns in the eternal pit!
Flash: [aside to J’onn] And I thought Bats was creepy.

Batman asks how she has eluded him for so long and Etrigan replies that she has an amulet that senses when he is drawing hear.

Flash: With that stench, who needs an amulet?

Etrigan grabs Flash and holds him in the air. J’onn suggests that the demon should consider another approach. Etrigan asks what the Martian suggests and J’onn says that he can try to locate her telepathically. His eyes go wide.

Morgaine is with Mordred and asks aloud where Merlin could have hidden the stone. Suddenly she gasps. She tells Mordred that someone is reaching out to her mind. Mordred asks if it is him, but she replies no, and says that it is a mere amateur who has no idea who he is dealing with.

Back at the castle grounds, suddenly J’onn screams out in agony, grabs his head, and collapses to the ground. When J’onn lifts up his head and opens his eyes, he sees Mars. He stands and sees his Martian home around him. He sees a Martian woman and says that it cannot be. She runs toward him, embracing him, and he calls her My’ria’h. She tells him that she has missed him, as have their children.

J’onn: They’re alive, too?

My’ria’h takes his hand and bids him to join her inside so that he can see for himself. As he goes in, she says that she has redeorated. J’onn says aloud that he has lived among unfamiliar surrounding for so long. Just then two Martian children run in the room, calling him father. They both leap up and embrace him around the neck. J’onn, overjoyed, greets his “dear children” and they ask him if he is staying home this time. He tells them yes.

J’onn: I am finally home.

Just then, the room is filled with a bright light. Etrigan steps into the room and tells J’onn that he is a fool and that only a weak minded simpleton would fall for this illusion.

J’onn: How dare you violate the sanctity of my home! Leave this place!
Etrigan: Not without you.

J’onn and Etrigan brawl. The demon puts his hand on the Martian’s head. The Martian illusion begins to fade. J’onn shouts “no!” as the horrified look of his wife and two children slips from his view. When he fully wakes, Flash tells him that they thought that they had lost him. Sad, J’onn says that it was all an illusion.

Etrigan: Perceptive, isn’t he?
Flash: Lay off, gruesome.

Wonder Woman asks if he is okay. After a pause, he says yes. Batman asks if he located le Fey. J’onn tells him no. He says, though, that he did sense that she has not yet located the stone.

J’onn: Before she lashed out at me, I heard the words archaeologists and castle.
Batman: It’s a start.

Sometime later, as the group flies on the jet, Etrigan warns Batman not to trust the Martian as he has been tainted now by the witch. Batman, in turn, tells him to let them worry about that.

Elsewhere, Morgaine removes her hand from the head of a woman who is now tremendously aged. The old woman collapses to the floor. Morgaine tells Mordred, who is using a computer, that what they are looking for is not here. Mordred tells his mother than it is here. He shows her an article online about Castle Branek. The article states that it was excavated shortly after World War 2 and that the only surviving partners of the work are Henry Moss and Harv Hickman. She states that one of these two men must have the stone.

An old man is alone in his home. His dog bares its teeth and begins to growl. The old man sees an open window and retrieves a revolver from a desk drawer.

Old man: You, whoever you are, show yourself.

Etrigan arrives and knocks the gun from his hands. Etrigan asks if he is Henry Moss. The old man collapses in fright. The dog barks at the demon. In turn, the demon growls at the dog. It whimpers after but is otherwise silent and then runs away. Batman and J’onn enter the room. Batman asks Etrigan what he did. J’onn places his hand on the old man. He tells the other two that the old man is in shock but will recover. J’onn places his hand on the man’s head. He tells the other two that the old man has no knowledge of the stone. Etrigan breaks a lamp before saying that if Moss does not have it that maybe Hickman does.

Wonder Woman and Flash arrive, in costume, at a large gathering outside a mansion.

Flash: Harv Hickman? The magazine publisher?
WW: Do you know his work?
Flash: I, uh, only read it for the articles. This must be his annual Halloween bash.

Wonder Woman says that they need to find him right away. She pushes her way to the front of a line until she is speaking with the bouncer at the door. She tells him that they are with the Justice League. He tells her that the people in line are also. She turns and sees a crowd of people in costumes. The bouncer tells her to get back in line. He places a large hand on her shoulder. She does not like that.

Wonder Woman: You stupid little man.

She lifts him into the air and throws him into some adjacent bushes. The guard gets on a walkie talkie and calls for security. More men run out. As Wonder Woman, Flash, and the guards all have clenched fists, Flash says that things are about to get messy.

Just then a short, smarmy man, who looks like Hugh Hefner appears. He tells everyone to wait. He walks in a circle around Wonder Woman and leers at her. He says he cannot deny such a goddess. Then he takes her by the hand, kisses her hand, and then leads her inside. Flash follows.

Batman and Etrigan are staking out Moss’s house. Batman says that le Fey may not yet know that Moss does not have the stone. He says they will be ready for her if she arrives here. Etrigan says again that he does not trust the Martian.

Batman: I trust J’onn with my life.
Etrigan: I’ll send flowers.

They watch as Morgaine le Fey appears in Moss’s room. She asks him to forgive the intrusion and says that she believes Moss has something she wants. He asks what that might be before she tells him that she believes they met before. She blasts Moss with a golden glow. He changes forms into J’onn. Morgaine says as J’onn collapses that she never forgets a face.

At that same moment, Batman and Etrigan charge inside. During their fight, J’onn begins hallucinating about his wife. Batman’s distraction to snap J’onn out of it causes him to take a blast from le Fey. This creates the opportunity needed for Morgaine and Mordred to leave.

After they leave, Etrigan punches J’onn in the face multiple times. Batman weakly tells Etrigan to leave him alone. Then Batman collapses. J’onn checks on him as Etrigan taunts him more.

Etrigan: Admit it Martian, you let her get away, didn’t you? It’s all your fault.

REACTION:

This story introduces Arthurian legend into the DC universe. We have Atlantis and the Greek gods so why not King Arthur, Merlin, and Camelot, amiright?

DC’s Morgaine le Fey is based on the Arthurian Morgan / Morganna / Morgaine le Fay. In both places, she is a powerful sorceress. In this episode, she uses dark magic to go on quite a murder spree in search of the Stone. Her perpetually young son watches his mother murder with sinister and approving eyes.

She’s basically this guy, except that she is millennia old and doesn’t lose to a rag tag bunch of high schoolers.

This episode also introduces Jason Blood / Etrigan the Demon. I have never enjoyed “rough around the edges but fighting on the right side” stories about demons. Modern pop culture has several examples of this. “Modern” in this sense extends back relatively far back in time. I just don’t like it. Perhaps it offends my religious education on the topic. In any case, in this episode, the writers use Etrigan for a combination of raw power and also for comedic effect. For example:

Etrigan: But I’ll never rest until her soul burns in the eternal pit!
Flash: [aside to J’onn] And I thought Bats was creepy.

If making light of demons and hell is not your thing, the episode also makes light of casual pornography. Harv Hickman is the DC Hugh Hefner. Flash reads his magazine “for the articles.” Hickman leers at Wonder Woman and somehow does not get thrown across the room for doing so. And yet… he is apparently somehow in possession of the Philosopher’s Stone.

I probably would not mind the above celebrations of sin – as much – if this show was not targeted to kids.

While I’m complaining about inappropriateness for children, I should also point out one more thing. Morgaine’s costume is at various points… very form fitting. Not much left to the imagination by the animators in her case.

Criticisms aside, I *did* like the focus on J’onn. I like that he ran into someone who seems to be more powerful at his strongest skill set. I am curious to see how he deals with that in Part 2. I also liked that Morgaine tempted him with his Martian home AND that he succumbed to that temptation. Etrigan was correct in saying that J’onn was not to be trusted inasmuch as “the witch” had made him vulnerable. It was out of character for Batman to dismiss that. However, I suspect that J’onn will get some redemption in Part 2.

Despite not liking some of the subject matter of the story all that well (I like Arthurian legends, though) I do think this story was told well. I’m looking forward to part 2 and seeing how this wraps up.

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