‘Young Justice: Phantoms’ S4E05 Review – ‘Tale of Two Sisters’

So far the fourth season of Young Justice has been a thought-provoking and heartfelt exploration of a small set of its most beloved characters. If you want to catch up on the previous episode you can check out my recap/review. Our latest episode, S4E05 “Tale of Two Sisters,” brings us a few faces we haven’t had a chance to see yet this year. It also weaves a personal story of family connection effectively into a metaphor for the grieving process. While not the best episode of the season, it still manages to be just as emotionally resonant. I loved getting to see a few more of my favorite characters, and the underlying plot of the episode was extremely well done.

Before we get too far though, a word of warning. There will be spoilers below, so read at your own risk.

Things to Know

While the first four episodes of this season have taken place off-planet and with a small contained cast, “Tale of Two Sisters” brings us back to Earth where a few complicated character relationships exist and are at play. Having re-watched the first few seasons prior to the start of Young Justice: Phantoms I can say there might be a few things that are handy to know before going into this episode.

  1. There are two Roy Harpers.
    • Roy Harper is the former sidekick to Green Arrow/Oliver Queen. He was kidnapped very early on by the evil organization “the Light” led by Vandal Savage. They cloned him so that they could infiltrate the Justice League. After five years this was all revealed and the original Roy was rescued. The clone Roy who had been working under the identity of Red Arrow, retired to find his own path. The original resumed his life after being fitted with an amazing prosthetic weapon arm. Now they work together in a sort-of contracted superhero capacity. They also still occasionally help the Justice League, the Team, or the Outsiders whenever possible.

But they do have to keep collateral damage in mind. 

  1. Artemis Crock is very close with the Roys because one of them fathered a child with her sister Jade Nguyen.
    • After the death of her husband Wally West, Artemis fell into a deep depression and Roy tried to help her out of it as best he could. Spending time with him and her niece gave her some peace and showed her what a life without the mask could be like. Despite there being some romantic tension, Roy and Artemis have never had any kind of relationship.
  2. Artemis and Jade are the daughters of supervillain, and Light member, Sportsmaster.
    • Artemis and Jade grew up together and were trained by their father Lawrence “Crusher” Crock to become villains like him. Jade would eventually run away and find refuge with the League of Assassins led by Ra’s al Ghul, another member of the Light. There she would learn the ways of the assassin and become a formidable opponent for many years before attempting to step away from that life and start a family.
  3. Vandal Savage and the Light have a pact with Darkseid
    • The Light have spent years brokering a relationship with the evil gods of Apokolips and manipulating their universe to suit their evil needs. His daughter has been known to be fiercely loyal to him, but that has apparently changed recently for reasons yet to be revealed.

Alrighty then, now that we have all the info we should need we should be able to dive into this. Let’s get to it!

The Story

“Tale of Two Sisters” opens with Artemis Crock (Stephanie Lemelin) and Roy Harper (Crispin Freeman) with his daughter Liann enjoying breakfast together. They’re happy. We cut to a literature class where Artemis is teaching. We see Artemis is a well-liked and respected professor at the university where she works. Finally, we see that her personal life and her alter-ego as Tigress are both positive as well. Things seem to be going perfectly for her, until she comes home one day to find Dick Grayson, Kaldur’ahm, and Roy Harper all waiting for her with sadness lingering over them. She already knows what has happened, but a question does arise.

“Who?”                      “It’s Conner.”

We’re then treated to the same sequence of events, now with the knowledge of her friend’s passing. Breakfast is gloomy and the colors are muted to match her. At work she is unfocused and disconnected. We’re also treated to a reference to the name of the episode with a quote from Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of…” The quote trails off as she writes it for her class. Like the weight of the sentence is starting to sink in for the fist time. We see that she is disinterested and unfocused both in her personal life and as Tigress as well. Before returning to Roy’s house, she sheds a silent tear in the Watchtower’s grassy field as she looks on at her former love, Wally West, and her old friend Conner Kent.

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So much sad. My heart can barely take it.

Roy hangs a photo of the team when they were all together as kids 10 years prior in an attempt to raise Artemis’ spirits. It’s here that she vocalizes how she feels. She misses Conner who she saw as a brother, but she truly empathizes with M’gann. Having lost Wally a few years before and struggled to get over it, she hates having to see one of her closest friends have to experience that too. Before she leaves she stops to look at another photo on the wall of younger Roy with her sister Jade Nguyen (Kelly Hu) and their daughter. Before everything went sideways. Suddenly we fade to a flashback of Artemis’ childhood with Jade and their father Sportsmaster/Lawrence “Crusher” Crock (Nick Chinlund). Though Jade and Artemis spar with each other we see that Jade is obviously Artemis’ advocate and defender against their father.

Back in the present Artemis goes to her mother and asks her to help her find Jade. She feels that this will help her through her grief with Conner. She also feels she owes it to her sister to try. Her mother tries to dissuade her. “Jade is beyond your help. Beyond all our help.” This falls on deaf ears however as Artemis insists her mother help her. As this conversation takes place we see Jade/Cheshire on a speed boat making her way toward Infinity Island: the home of Ra’s al Ghul (Oded Fehr)!

Cue awesome ninja stuff… No, wait. Nope. Artemis has to go to the library first

We see Artemis leave her house saying she’s on her way to the library. Tears stream down her cheeks as she drives. Little does she know she’s being followed. She heads inside with her stalker close behind. Her assailant keeps to the shadows, but is still caught by Roy (the original Roy that had his arm cut off and replaced with a super awesome prosthetic) and Arrowette (Kelly Stables). The stalker is revealed as Onyx (Logan Browning) who says she won’t “go back” before attacking and trying to escape. Roy and Arrowette decide to stop playing around, and they’re able to subdue her. By the time Onyx wakes up, Artemis has donned her uniform and she is pissed.

We jump back to Jade/Cheshire on Infinity Island. She’s caught by Ra’s and tries to fight but she’s clearly no match for the ancient master. The fight is one-sided, but it clearly demonstrates how skilled Ra’s is. Jade challenges him to “finish it,” as he stares her down. Before we see the resolution we jump back to Artemis/Tigress and the others who are now interrogating Onyx. They all stand over her as she is tied up on the floor. Onyx tries to explain herself. She has defected from the League of Shadows and asks for their help in exchange for the info she has. Unconvincingly, Onyx claims Cassandra Savage is on her way to meet them and claim to have defected. As if on que, Cassandra arrives… missing an arm!

Did NOT see that coming. 

When we return to Jade Ra’s reveals he no longer leads the League of Assassins and is no longer working with the Light. Talia steps forward from the shadows with her son in hand and servant close by. Talia calls out Jade’s act for what it is. She wasn’t there to take a last stand against the League of Assassins in their home. No. She came there to be killed. She is afraid.  We cut back to the heroes in the library as Cassandra makes her case. She and Onyx argue over which of them is lying. The heroes aren’t particularly swayed either way.

After everything these people have been through, I get it.

Back on Infinity Island, Talia and Jade argue about motherhood and the decisions they’ve made for their kids. Talia is in the mindset that Jade is a bad mother for leaving her daughter to grow up without her. She compares this to her son Damian who has barely ever left his mother’s side. She is literally still holding him as she mocks Jade for abandoning her daughter. Jade claims Talia is selfish and Talia that Jade is a coward. Jade then flees into the night. We flashback to the night Jade ran away as a teenager, and we see where her mentality was truly forged. Young Artemis says she has to wait for their mom to get out. Jade’s response is blunt, but honest. “In this family it’s every girl for herself.”

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Suddenly we find ourselves in a caravan. Cassandra and Onyx are handcuffed in the backseats. Arrowette with Cassandra and the Roys with Onyx. The groups are attacked by League of Assassins agents, but the Roys and Tigress are able to hold them off. Cassandra and Onyx both escape and assist rather than running only adding to the confusion. When the groups get to a League site and try to interrogate they don’t seem to get anywhere either. Former agent of the Light, Tara Markov (Tara Strong), Spoiler, and Orphan are there waiting for them to assist. It’s unclear who is lying but until they have any better ideas the group will have to keep both women safe.

Not an ideal situation. 

In the final flashback, Lawrence bursts into Artemis’ room asking where Jade is. Artemis tells him she’s gone and he shows no remorse for his daughter. He leans in and menaces over Artemis before we cut to Jade on a bus alone out of town. A man wanders up next to her and she flashes a knife at him. She’ll be able to hold her own, but at what cost? We return to the present to see Jade returning to her mother’s house asking why she called her. Jade came to check on her daughter, despite the peril to herself. Artemis steps out and reveals that she was the one who called her. The two women stand opposite each other stoically as the episode comes to a close.

The credits sequence is a thoughtful and heartfelt farewell to Conner Kent. Nightwing and Kaldur’ahm stand looking at his hologram on the Watchtower’s grassy knoll as we hear Artemis read an excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities.

The Final Word

7.5/10: A unique look at grieving, parenting, and exposition

This episode had a lot to live up to after “Involuntary,” so I’m not surprised that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. However, it was still a treat to see some of the characters I’ve been missing and to see them explored in a particularly mature light. Artemis dealing with the loss of another friend and how that dredged up old feelings of Wally was intensely powerful. I could feel and understand every bit of what she was feeling. Jade and Talia’s debate over who is the better mother was another of the episode’s shining moments.

Where this episode lagged was having to incorporate the Onyx and Cassandra storyline. If they’d been able to trim that out and focus solely on Artemis and Jade’s relationships then this would’ve been another near-perfect episode. It wasn’t that their characters were bad or uninteresting. The writers just didn’t have the time to present that idea while also still working on the much more interesting emotional stories.

I wish this episode had been 45mins long instead of 22. I think that would’ve helped make the pacing feel less jumpy and sporadic and allow for the emotional weight of the ideas being presented to really be felt. As it is, I felt like I would settle into one story only to be ripped back to the other before I was ready. With just a little more time, this could easily have been taken care of and given everything all the time it needed to sink in.

Agree or disagree definitely go check out S4E05 of Young Justice: Phantoms on HBOMax. New episodes land every Thursday!

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