We’re only seven episodes in and I’m regularly finding myself in tears over this show. In a good way, of course. Young Justice: Phantoms continues to belt out some amazingly insightful and emotional stories. S4E07 “the Lady or the Tigress” casts Artemis’ flashbacks aside and lets a few other characters have some time in the spotlight. Particularly, Barbara Gordon/Oracle’s story here is phenomenal. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it added a lot not only to her character but to Orphan and Lady Shiva’s as well. Young Justice has always been very good at taking established mainline comic stories and adapting them in unique ways. If there’s a character defining moment in the comics, it’ll probably be here. Rather than just copying it over point for point though, the writers will twist it. We get the same end result, but the way we’ll get there is different.
“The Lady or the Tigress” is split into three stories. Tigress, Onyx, and Cassandra infiltrating Santa Prisca, M’gann coming back to Earth, and a flashback from Orphan and Barbara Gordon about how they met. It sounds like a lot, and it is. Some sequences feel like they’re cut very short, but there’s never a moment that feels like its unnecessary or gratuitous. If anything I wonder what had to be cut from this episode. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if these episodes could be 45min instead of 22, pacing would never be an issue again and this could possibly be a perfect show.
For now, it’s almost perfect, and we’re about to dive into the latest episode to understand how. As always, be warned of the copious spoilers ahead, and make sure to check out the review/recap of last week’s episode if you need to catch up.
The Story (and all the Spoiler warnings)
“The Lady or the Tigress” opens back on the red planet M’arzz. We see M’comm (Ben Diskin) in conference with several other A’ashenn (white Martian). They all appear to be concerned that things are going to get worse for them, but M’comm insists that they have still won a victory. Before he has stopped speaking, M’gann (Danica McKellar) bursts through the rocky wall in a rage. She. Is. FURIOUS. She blasts over to her estranged brother and demands to know why he used kryptonite in the bomb. To her shock, M’comm claims not to know what kryptonite is. She forcefully reads his mind and learns that this is true. M’gann drops her brother allowing him to escape in a boom tube. What follows in an incredibly sorrowful moment. M’gann’s eyes dim as she falls to the floor in a heap and she asks herself, “Who do I blame?” Tears stream down her face as her uncle J’onn/Martian Manhunter (Kevin Michael Richardson) tries to comfort her.
Didn’t think you’d be crying in less than 2 minutes, did ya?
We then rejoin Tigress (Stephanie Lemelin), Cassandra (Zehra Fazal), and Onyx (Logan Browning) en route to Santa Prisca. Unbeknownst to her companions Tigress is in contact with Oracle and former Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Alyson Stoner) while she coordinates the other members of the Bat-family. Barbara explains that one of the two defectors hacked into the main computer at the holding facility before they left. One of them is definitely lying. Cassandra tries to be altruistic and offer herself, but Onyx continues to attack her and try to poke holes in why she would offer at all. Tigress insists that she doesn’t need the bats’ help and continues on.
With Tigress and the others on their way, we jump ahead to the horrid island of Santa Prisca. Lady Shiva (Gwendolyn Yeo) has her mute daughter shackled to the wall of a cell. Shiva enters and reminisces about Orphan’s childhood before berating her. It’s clear that Shiva had an immense respect for Orphan when she was still with her. Shiva brings up the mission where Orphan betrayed her, and they think back to a few years earlier. Orphan was tasked with killing… the Joker (Brent Spiner)!
Before we can get any context on why the clown prince of crime has to die, we’re taken back up to M’arzz in the present. J’onn is talking to Hawkwoman/Shayera (Zehra Fazal) about where the kryptonite in the gene bomb could have come from. Hawkgirl confirms that all kryptonite in the Milky Way galaxy is accounted for, so they have no leads. A silent M’gann phases through the floor, dejected.
Artemis continues her voiceover of “the Lady, or the Tiger,” referencing Vandal Savage and the life he has built for himself, as she and the others land just offshore of Santa Prisca. Here especially, the literary quotes are used extremely well. They dive into the dark waters below and we see that Vandal has an extensive undersea minefield. As they continue, the ladies find themselves in a large underwater cave. A massive shark patrols the darkness. Onyx cuts herself on a rock, luring the shark very close. Cassandra then injures it before it flees. The two have a moment. At least for now, they seem to understand they have to work together. We then see the group scaling an incredibly high cliff-face. Onyx catches Cassandra when she nearly falls to her death. The debt is repaid. The last part of the voiceover fades as the three subdue a group of assassins patrolling the island. Tigress allows the others to take an assassin to gauge their loyalty and get some info. Who is the traitor? She still isn’t sure.
Next, we cut back to Orphan and Shiva. Black Spider and Rictus inform her that Tigress and the others are on the island. Shiva admits that the League of Assassins and the Light have wanted the Justice League’s intel for a long time. With a traitor bringing it straight to them, Shiva is more than happy to wait. She explains that this is just a bonus, and her real prize was Orphan. She wanted her Cassandra back.
We fade back into Orphan’s past. Joker was upset with Vandal Savage and the Light for using him as a pawn in their much larger plans for over eight years. He’d been made the leader of his own evil group, the Injustice League, several years earlier. When he discovered that the Injustice League was simply a ruse to keep the Light hidden, Joker decided to do what he does best. He flipped the script and took matters into his own hands. Brent Spiner has gotten a lot of flack for his portrayal of the Joker, but he definitely has it down for this outing. He does a fantastic job. Strong Lore energy. Plus, the redesign looks great.
“I mean Riddler knew?! RIDDLER?!”
At the time, Joker had taken the UN building hostage and planned to kill all of the world leaders in attendance with Joker gas! While doing a narcissistic monolog, the members of the bat-family were able to collectively disarm the bombs. We see Nightwing, Robin, Spoiler, Batwoman, and Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl all working together with Batman as they try to capture the villainous clown. Batgirl sees Orphan as she also gives chase. When we return to the present, we see that it’s Barbara that is remembering the mission. She’s worried about Orphan. She sees her like a sister. Tigress continues to converse with her while making it seem like she is just absently saying things to herself. She tells Cassandra and Onyx to stay “whelmed” before they continue their advance on the island, but they don’t understand. I enjoyed this little nod to the old Team, and its subtle hint that Barbara is there with her. Tigress and the others arrive at Shiva’s facility. There aren’t any guards waiting for them.
We then jump back to the red planet where M’gann’s parents are pleading with her to stay with them. M’gann, truly numb, says she has responsibilities back home and slowly hovers away. Her mother asks her if she plans to return. In response M’gann quietly utters, “I’m not planning anything.” M’gann feels hopeless and numb. Empty. She can’t think about the future, because now it doesn’t have her love in it. She’s living moment to moment. Day to day.
I’ve never wanted to hug a character more in my life.
Back on Santa Prisca, Barbara kills the power at Shiva’s facility and the ladies make their way inside. The rescue mission has officially started. Tigress, Cassandra, and Onyx all skillfully take down assassins patrolling the corridors while Barbara pilots a small invisible drone and leads the way. They’re able to make quick work of everyone they come across. Henchmen ain’t what they used to be. Cassandra exclaims that they are likely holding Orphan in cellblock A and they are very close. Onyx responds by pulling her sword and holding it at Cassandra’s throat.
We cut back to M’gann as she slowly makes her way onto Baby bio-ship. Her sister Em’ree (Hynden Walch), still sporting a more human shape, rushes in and grabs her sister’s hands. She explains that she wants to come with her and learn about the world M’gann loves so much. She wants to be real sisters. When she asks for M’gann’s permission she’s met with all M’gann can muster. “If you want.” Em’ree’s expression of hopefulness and optimism is immediately replaced by melancholy. This is going to be a long trip. Their parents watch mournfully as M’gann and Em’ree fly off. They hold each other close as they watch their daughters leave, possibly never to return again. We cut back to a wide shot of them standing alone in front of their now empty home before returning to the action in Santa Prisca.
Onyx insists that Cassandra can’t be trusted and tries to hold her back. It’s at this moment that the guise is cast off. Cassandra reveals that she never actually lost her arm. The whole thing was a ruse using a magical item called a glamour charm. Tigress had used such a relic previously to invade the League of Assassins, so this moment stings all the more for her. A red mist of nanites exudes from Cassandra’s now visible arm as Barbara’s drone locates Orphan’s cell. The shock and joy of finding her friend is palpable. Alyson Stoner does an absolutely stand-out job as Barbara in this episode. Absolutely killing it in every scene she’s in.
Barbara’s mind falls back to the Joker mission at the UN. This is where we see that this was more than just another mission for her. Orphan was about to cleave Joker in two, but Barbara got in the way at the last second. We see blood splash Orphan’s face. Cut to the open wound on Barbara’s lower back. Orphan immediately regrets her actions. She falls to her knees and pulls off her mask, horrified at what she’s done. Nightwing rushes to Barbara’s side and calls for medics while the other members of the bat-family absolute cave Joker’s face in. He’s not going anywhere. This is what I was talking about when I said they took a character defining moment and twisted it. Rather than having the Joker needlessly cripple a fan-favorite heroine, it was an accident that bonded two characters forever after. This intense bond we’ve seen these characters share is now completely understood.
“I wasn’t trying to save Joker. I was trying to save you.”
Barbara reveals herself to Orphan, offering her a lockpick before jetting back out to find and destroy the machine Shiva plans to use to harness the data from Cassandra. Barbara is able to neutralize the device and the nanites, but Tigress and Onyx still need to find and free Orphan and beat the snot out of Cassandra for good measure. Black Spider, Rictus, and Shade arrive to intimidate along with Lady Shiva as Jade makes her appearance on Tigress’ side. Vastly outnumbered The ladies find themselves cornered in the holding cell room with Orphan still chained as we cut to black.
The credits roll with Artemis paraphrasing from the final passages of Stockton’s tale set against the long and quiet ride in Baby bio-ship from M’arzz to Earth. What do you think the lady chose for her lover? The lady? Or the tiger? Guess we’ll have to wait til next week to find out!
8.5/10: All the feels from every angle and a clever mystery
“The Lady or the Tigress” was an excellent episode. It gets a little choppy and confusing with the flashbacks being from multiple perspectives, but the emotional understanding never drops. I was glad to see us step away from Artemis and Jade to allow for some more exploration of other characters. Orphan is way more interesting now than I thought she would be. Barbara’s transformation story was heartbreaking. Cassandra and her crazy deception kept me guessing up to the final moment. M’gann’s journey through the stages of grief. There is so much going for this episode! Plus, the writers found a way to make the literary frame tie in extremely well.
I wish there was a little more time to clean up some of the choppier bits and to smooth out some of the pacing issues, but there’s only so much you can do. I’m very interested to see where this is going to go. Definitely check back here next week when we review and recap the next episode! Til then, go check out our other awesome reviews, and catch Young Justice: Phantoms on HBOMax!
I’ve worked my whole life to become a comic book illustrator, writer, and stand-up comedian. Batman and Captain Benjamin Sisko helped put a good head on my shoulders. I spent most of my childhood saving Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom and seeing the Justice League save all of creation time and time again. I live in Johnson City, TN with my wife Kary and daughter Laila enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery and occasional show. Three puppies round out the family and take up the rest of the time that isn’t spent debating which Wes Anderson or Studio Ghibli movie to watch. I spend an inordinate amount of time binge watching SVU, Futurama, and Letterkenny, and when I’m not watching I’m listening to “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” or playing the occasional game of D&D. If there’s a nerdy endeavor out there, I’ve probably at least tried it.