After two years of some of the best animated content geared towards kids and young adults, and ranking among the best superhero series of all time, fans were heartbroken when DC and Cartoon Network elected not to move forward with a third year of Young Justice. In the years since, the rabid fanbase has made many calls to revive the series, and the cast and crew have lent their voice to the fight as well. Despite the effort, it always felt like a bit of a longshot, which is why the news that Netflix would be producing a third season of the show has felt like a bit of a waking dream for many DC diehards.
The show was best known for not shying away from mature themes in its storytelling and portrayal of its young heroes. On top of that, both seasons featured a complex, overarching plot full of betrayals and black ops missions. As such, many questions were left unanswered when the show wasn’t picked up for another season. We’ve already laid out the characters we hope to see in the new season, but in anticipation of the return of the series, we decided to highlight our favorite episodes of the show so far. Spoilers abound for the existing seasons of Young Justice, so take heed as we dive into the 15 Best Episodes Of The Series.
15 “Independence Day” / “Fireworks” (Season 1, Episodes 1-2)
There’s no better way to kick off our list than starting at the beginning of the series with the two-part premiere of Young Justice. Highlighting the series’ love of wordplay (frequently employed by Robin), “Independence Day” not only takes place on the titular holiday, but marks the day when Robin and the other sidekicks think they’re finally going to join the Justice League proper. Despite their youth, the Boy Wonder, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad all believe they’re ready for the big leagues. Unfortunately, their special day is merely an invitation into the Justice League’s lounge room. While the hot-headed Roy bails altogether, the other three stick around as the League heads off on a big mission, leaving a small fire at Cadmus to the authorities.
Beginning a long-running tradition of disobeying orders, the newly formed team decides to investigate on their own. Throughout the rest of the episode and the next, “Fireworks,” the team (they’re never given a proper name throughout the entire series) learns that Cadmus is conducting all manner of genetic testing. They’ve not only created a whole race of psychic creatures called Xenomorphs and brainwashed the once-heroic Guardian, but they’ve also created a clone of Superman. Eventually, they free the clone, dubbed Superboy, and defeat the monstrous Blockbuster, right before the entire League shows up to confront them. Rather than back down, however, they tell their mentors that they’ll continue to run missions on their own, and the seeds for the series are planted.
14 “Auld Acquaintance” (Season 1, Episode 26)
Just as the first two episodes of Season 1 kick off the events that will play out over the course of the series, the finale of the first season establishes a number of plot elements for year 2. Picking up from the previous episode, the entire Justice League is infected with Starro tech -- a combination of alien biotech and magic -- and forced to do the bidding of Vandal Savage and the villainous organization known as the Light. As Red Tornado attempts to infect the team, his backup systems shut him down. This allows the group to deduce what’s happened and transfer Tornado’s mind into another body.
Eventually, they triumph, as a series of intense battles pits the kids against their mind-controlled mentors. One by one, they’re able to apply an antidote to the League, thus scaring off Savage and Klarion the Witch Boy, who was puppeteering the heroes. More than just a riveting season finale, the episode boosts Savage’s threat and reveals that for 16 hours during their infection, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and three other Leaguers all went missing.
13 “Happy New Year” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Another season premier, another holiday. Taking place 5 years and one day after the events of Season 1’s finale, “Happy New Year” not only catches us up on how things have changed with the team and the League since we last saw them, it also lays out the plot threads that will be followed for the next 19 episodes. After a mission in the sewer and the revelations that there’s a new Robin, Dick is now Nightwing, and M’gann is dating new addition Lagoon Boy, we dive into a fight between Wonder Girl and Batgirl as they square off against DC's fan-favorite bounty hunter, Lobo. Just as Justice League Unlimited exploded the world of Justice League, Season 2 of Young Justice lets us know right off the bat that it’ll be packed with new characters from DC Comics.
It also sets up a number of the events and characters that will dominate the various covert missions of Season 2. We learn that Lobo was after an alien from the Krolotean race who’s been posing as the UN Secretary-General. This fuels an anti-alien and Justice League backlash led by the Glenn Beck-esque G. Gordon Godfrey (deliciously voiced by Tim Curry). These moments are all just the tip of the iceberg as the season’s conspiracy slowly unfolds.
12 “Revelation” (Season 1, Episode 14)
Long before Savage’s master plan is revealed, “Revelation” finds the team and the League slowly coming to the realization that every mission they’ve been on so far has been interconnected. Right on cue, major cities all over the world get attacked by giant plant monsters augmented with tech, magic, and atomic energy. While the League publicly battles the beasts, Batman legitimizes the team as the covert arm of the JL by tasking them with taking down the newly unveiled Injustice Society. The group, consisting of Joker, Poison Ivy, Black Adam, and a batch of other supervillains, are holed up in a swamp in Louisiana (mirroring the Legion of Doom) and nearly triumph before the team and League join forces and take them out.
Believing that they’ve captured the cabal pulling the strings of all the recent criminal activities the heroes have been investigating, the real culprits are finally revealed to the audience. As it turns out, the mysterious organization codenamed the Light, who have been teased in tag scenes all season, are led by Savage, Lex Luthor, and a number of other heavy-hitters who the team have come to blows with so far.
11 “Image” (Season 1, Episode 21)
In the middle of all the covert and black ops missions that the team runs for the League and against the Light, Young Justice took lots of time to explore the characters that made up the core cast of the show. Especially throughout Season 1, the backstories and personalities of the team were analyzed and highlighted through a series of solo adventures and nuanced plot developments. In “Image,” the team heads to Africa to investigate the machinations of Queen Bee. Along the way, we meet Garfield Logan and his mother Marie. It's revealed that M’gann’s catchphrase “Hello, Megan!” and her look are all based on an old sitcom that Marie starred in, an idea that’s been teased throughout the season.
The episode is densely packed with development for M’gann as she reveals this concept. We learn that she’s actually a White Martian, she fries Psimon’s mind, and gets blackmailed by Queen Bee, who knows her true identity. Garfield also gets injured and receives a blood transfusion from M’gann, a nice rewrite of his origin as Beast Boy, who joins the team in Season 2 after his mother’s death.
10 “Terrors” (Season 1, Episode 11)
As the series opens, we watch all four young heroes and their mentors do battle against four separate ice-powered villains. The oddness of this is mentioned, but then left alone until the eleventh episode, “Terrors.” With all four baddies managing to worm their way into Belle Reve, Batman smells BS, and so tasks Superboy and Miss Martian with an infiltration mission. Disguised as the recently captured Terror Twins, the two go undercover in the supervillain-filled prison to learn what their frosty foes are planning.
For newcomers and regular viewers alike, the episode functions as a textbook example of how Young Justice uses its lesser-known heroes to do some of the secretive dirty work of the League. It’s a bit of a TV trope, but the results are interesting as Connor and Megan bob and weave through the prison structure and the ever-shifting alliances they have to establish. And true to form, the tag at the end reveals that even their victory proved favorable for the Light.
9 “Drop-Zone” (Season 1, Episode 4)
As the team’s first real mission, “Drop-Zone” holds a high place in the hierarchy of Young Justice episodes. Officially tasked by Batman to head off to Santa Prisca and investigate the rise of a drug called Venom and the villainous Cult of the Kobra, the episode not only lays out the show's covert M.O., it also sees the team decide who should be their leader. While Robin feels his mentorship under Batman makes him the most qualified, he quickly learns that his proclivities for solo work aren’t the best fit for leadership.
After facing off against Kobra, his goons, and Santa Prisca-native Bane, the team learns that Venom has been combined with Cadmus’ Blockbuster formula to create Kobra Venom. It’s the first inkling that something more complex is going on in the supervillain world, and the result of the mission finds Aqualad sliding neatly into the role of team leader.
8 “Usual Suspects” (Season 1, Episode 25)
Considering it’s the penultimate episode of the season and leads directly into the events of the previously-mentioned finale, “Usual Suspects” was bound to be action-packed. Not only do we get to see the League debate who should join (and leave) the squad, we also see the team head off to intercept Cheshire and Riddler. The mountain setting of Asheville, North Carolina sees the team ambushed, forcing Superboy to juice up on his newly acquired Shields. The tech, and the revelation that it was provided by his second DNA donor, Lex Luthor, leads Conner to tell the team the secret he’s been hiding. His doing so also prompts M’gann to come clean about her deal with Queen Bee and Artemis to confess her true parentage.
With their secrets out in the open, the team and League hatch a plan to return to Santa Prisca and run interference as members of the Light meet up to sell some unknown tech. Once victorious, the heroes learn it’s the Starro tech that will soon enough enslave the League. The idea of airing out an entire season's worth of secrets and using them to move into the events of the finale proved so popular that Young Justice decided to try it again during season two.
7 “Summit” (Season 2, Episode 19)
Unlike the penultimate episode of Season 1, which set up the climactic events of the finale, “Summit” is almost more of a finale than the episode that follows it. Like “Usual Suspects,” it brings everyone’s secrets into the light (some pun intended), as the villains of the series all meet up, only to learn that the team is among them. Once they’re found out, the team reveals to both parties that they’ve been playing each other, and that Aqualad and Artemis (disguised as Tigress) have been secretly working for the team the whole time. A series of battles ensues, and the heroes defeat a number of their foes before reuniting.
A few villains manage to escape, leaving the door open for a number of new plots for a Season 3 that never came (but is now almost upon us). More than that, though, the show uses the episode to demonstrate how deftly they’ve woven together a number of plots throughout the 44 previous episodes.
6 “Bloodlines” (Season 2, Episode 6)
“Bloodlines” is a great example of how Young Justice could do a caper-of-the-week and still have it be hugely influential to the overarching plot moving forward. We open on two young men in a desolate future working on a time machine. The more talkative one travels back to our present day and lands right in the middle of Mount Justice. We very quickly learn that he’s a speedster, and after gaining the team’s trust, he reveals that he’s Bart Allen, The Flash’s grandson from the future.
The rest of the episode sees him team up with all three other Flashes to try and stop a radioactive metahuman terrorizing the city. They eventually succeed, as Impulse sneakily runs a side mission and implants some disarming tech onto the would-be villain. It turns out that he’s the other man from the future, and was weaponized against his will. While Bart’s actions diffuse his powers in the future, the world is still a wasteland. While it’s fun to see all the speedsters join (speed)forces, the episode also triggers a number of plot points and shows us that Impulse knew he was taking a one-way trip all along.
5 “Secrets” (Season 1, Episode 18)
“Secrets” starts out looking like a filler episode as Wally, Conner, and Megan attend a Halloween dance and Zatanna takes Artemis out on the town for some action (that’s not a euphemism, she really just wants to beat up bad guys). While the Halloween plot continues to just be fluff, the Zatanna/Artemis plot grows increasingly dark.
After busting a few small-time crooks, the heroes are attacked by Harm, who wields the sword of Beowulf and talks in the third person (never a good sign). As they attempt to evade and defeat the psycho, they’re also pursued by a mysterious, ghostly girl who simply repeats “Secret.” Adapted from a Young Justice comic arc, we soon learn that the two are siblings, and that Harm killed his sister in order to cleanse himself of attachment and emotion. Once revealed, Secret is able to defeat her brother and Artemis and Zatanna spot a broken neon sign across the street. Simply flashing “Secret,” the two realize it must have been the last thing the young girl saw as her brother stabbed her to death. You’d be hard-pressed to find a kids superhero show that goes much darker than that.
4 “Performance” (Season 1, Episode 24)
Like “Image,” the Robin-centric “Performance” gives one of our heroes a chance to explore their past. Acting as a bit of a buffer before the two-part finale kicks off, the episode finds the team infiltrating a traveling circus in Europe. There’s been a series of tech heists carried out by people matching the skills of the circus performers at every city at which they’ve stopped. Interpol thinks it’s a cut and dry case, but Robin wants to prove the ringmaster’s innocence. We soon learn that Haly’s Circus is the very same group Robin and his family were once a part of, and Jack Haly is like a father to him. Robin is desperate to prove he’s a good man, as he’s one of the last remaining links to his past.
After some red herrings, we learn that Haly and the circus weren’t behind the thefts after all. Instead, it was the villainous Parasite, who has been leeching off of the performers and stealing their abilities. After gobbling up the powers of Superboy and Miss Martian, the rogue appears unstoppable. Luckily, Miss Martian realizes he’s now susceptible to fire, just like her, and the team is able to triumph and clear Robin’s mentor’s name.
3 “Endgame” (Season 2, Episode 20)
As the finale of Season 2 and the series as we knew it, “Endgame” was always going to be juicy. As mentioned above, it’s light on much meaningful action (the plot of diffusing world-killing devices never seems that threatening). It does, however, resolve the plot of the Justice League’s trial by having the team essentially bribe the court with the promise of future bribes. It also shows that Vandal Savage had an even bigger plan, as he hijacks the War World, declares the Earth’s supremacy to the universe, and finally reveals he’s in cahoots with the biggest bad of all: Darkseid (true to character, we learn that G. Gordon is an agent of Apokolips as well). Providing a coda for the series and setting up future plots are all well and good, but the real reason the episode gets such high placement is the tearjerking climax of the final mission.
After stopping all of the other vortex bombs, a final one pops up in Antarctica and it’s too late to abort it. Flash and Impulse attempt to speed-siphon off the power, but it’s not enough. Wally decides to join in, but his previously-established slower speed gets him attacked by the arcs of energy being released from the vortex. The Flashes manage to stop the threat, but not before Wally is disintegrated. After 46 episodes of getting to know the heart and humor of the team, it’s hard not to get a little emotional once everyone realizes he’s gone for good.
2 “Depths” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Opening with the death of Artemis at the hands of Aqualad, “Depths” shows the heroes of Young Justice at their most deceptive. As we follow the rest of the events of the episode, which involves Black Manta and the Light trying to sabotage a Ferris Air rocket designed to promote alien outreach, we soon learn that Aqualad has actually been working on the inside to discover the true plans of the Light for the team. Known only to Artemis, Wally, and Dick, the four concoct a plan that will prove Aqualad’s loyalties to his father, Black Manta, while also allowing Artemis to join up with him while disguised as Tigress.
A plan both genius and dangerous, it also shows how far Nightwing and the other core members of the team are willing to go as they convince Artemis’ friends and family that she’s dead (we're still not clear on why they couldn’t tell her poor mother the truth, but we'll let it slide). The deception has a number of unforeseen consequences as the season moves forward, and thus highlights how even the best laid plans can still go horribly wrong when they involve a never-ending stream of double-crosses and secrets.
1 “Misplaced” (Season 1, Episode 19)
“Misplaced” may seem like one of those aforementioned filler episodes, especially compared to the more complex plots of many of the other entries on the list. What made Young Justice great, however, was how well it told a story. While the episode lacks any spy missions, it succeeds in executing an incredibly clever conceit while also providing Captain Marvel and Billy Batson with one of the biggest spotlights they’ve ever had (at least until SHAZAM! hits theaters sometime in the next few years).
Revolving around an uber-magic ritual that sees all the adults disappear, this seems like a no-brainer trope for a show focusing on young heroes to dive into. What sets it apart is the later reveal that the evil sorcerers have concocted a second reality where all children have disappeared. The result sees both groups having to coordinate attacks in each reality. While the villains have prepared for this, the heroes do so on the fly thanks to the age-changing of Billy Batson. It’s a fun way to play with Captain Marvel’s very bizarre secret identity, while also revealing to everyone that one of the Leaguers is actually 10 years old. We also end the episode with Zatara giving himself up to Doctor Fate, which provides some depth for Zatanna. All in all, it’s a wonderfully constructed episode full of great character work that still manages to move the overall plot along. Though some bits would be lost on new viewers, it serves as a great introduction to the world of Young Justice.
Which episodes of Young Justice are your favorite? What plots do you want to see resolved in the new season? Let us know in the comments.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Young Justice are now streaming on Netflix. We’ll keep you posted as news of Season 3 emerges.