Young Justice: Phantoms "Volatile" Review

(Warning! This review contains spoilers for Season 4, episode 3 "Volatile")

Young Justice: Phantoms has certainly started off with a bang, to say the least. With two phenomenal episodes already released on HBO Max, this week brings a few new intriguing cards to the table. Our lead trio, M’gann, Conner, and Garfield, are still on Mars preparing for the customary wedding traditions of those from the red planet. However, interesting things are rising within the group as some of our heroes are slowly deteriorating mentally and new issues begin to slowly come to the surface of what’s supposed to be a very happy occasion.

The episode, titled “Volatile”, picks up with a flashback with the Outsiders, consisting of Beast Boy, Wonder Girl, Robin III, Stargirl, and Windfall. The five young heroes take down a legion of Cobra cult members as it cuts to Mars, where Garfield is eager to find out when communications are up again, so he can contact his friends. The group realize that they must continue with the traditions that are highly established within the culture of Martians regarding Conner and M’gann’s wedding. Two groups are established with Prince J’emm happily joining Conner and Garfield’s group whereas M’gann goes with her mother, sister, and S'yraa S'mitt. 

However, things aren’t as exciting and jovial as they should be. Garfield’s mind starts playing tricks on him, and his irritated behavior soon transforms into dangerous paranoia, ignited by the trauma inflicted on him from Brion’s betrayal. Meanwhile, familial tensions rise as M’gann is slowly delving into the problems of race with her sister, Em’ree. Tension escalates into a full-on confrontation between the two, but not without positive results.

Young Justice has always been incredibly proficient in regards to the quality of its writing, and the third episode of the highly-anticipated fourth season is no exception. However, there’s something in “Volatile” that is different, and falls more in line with the writing style of the first season. While the plot is still going on, and we do uncover several bits of new and intriguing information, the episode relies on a character-based approach that focuses on the story of the plot and how it affects the characters who are a part of it. This method allows the audience to take a step back and really get into the characters’ shoes, allowing for bigger empathy and understanding.

The emotional beats in “Volatile” are extremely well-handled, both in terms of character development and audience empathy. Meeting baby Bioship, only to learn that the original Bioship would be remaining on Mars was all sorts of bittersweet and left us needing a couple of tissues. Additionally, we found ourselves enjoying the notes and themes connecting to real-world issues to be excellently done. M’gann’s resolution with her self image bears similar tone to a trans allegory, and we love the idea that someone else struggling with their self identity may be able to look up to M’gann’s character as a result. 

While the voice acting on Young Justice is always top-tier, it seems to have kicked it to another level this season. Greg Cipes, who’s often associated with energetic, humorous characters, really gets a chance to show off his emotional range as Garfield, who’s slowly beginning to lose his mind in this episode. Not a lot of people can portray the mental anguish and rudimentary paranoia laced in the mind of this character, but Cipes manages to give a performance that’s both heartbreaking and nerve-wracking to the audience. The exchanges between Hynden Walch and Danica McKellar as Em’ree and M’gann are also brilliantly done, the genuine pain each sister has for the situation they’re in feels very real and raw.

As to our thoughts on where the Mars arc will next lead us, we noted the suspicious absence of M’comm, and are waiting with bated breath to see what will happen with the gene bomb. Superhero weddings commonly end in disaster, so we have no doubts that M’gann and Conner’s Martian wedding is sure to be an interesting event. As to the Legion, our interest only keeps growing and growing as to why they’re on Mars, and who actually assassinated the King. There’s also the question of what’s going on with the characters on Earth, ranging from the Team to the Outsiders to the Justice League. We’ve previously theorized that this season may feature several mini-arcs, in which each character will be given a specific set of episodes to fully let them shine, and if this is true, we’re very excited to see what’s in store for the core team next.

Overall, we loved “Volatile” and felt it was a very solid episode that kept up the hype from the previous episodes. The way each character interacted and bounced off one another felt organic and never forced. The emotions conveyed were astoundingly three-dimensional and all the actors in this episode helped make this story shine in its own unique way. While the first two episodes were more than fantastic, this third episode really gave the audience the opportunity to truly be immersed in the mental processes of some of these leads and keep them sleuthing for little clues for the rest of the Mars arc. A wonderful addition to this already spectacular fourth season, it’s sure to be one crazy adventure for all fans of Young Justice everywhere.

What did you think of “Volatile”? Did you also cry when Bioship retired? Were you cackling at the prospect of baby Jon having powers? Let us know in the comments, our forums, or on our Twitter!

Author: Connor T. DavenportEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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