Episode 71


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the thing with J'onn in Knight of Shadows is so awful and the fact that he keeps falling for the temptation is only part of the problem. the real problem is that you have a character as potentially rich as J'onn, and the only thing you can do to pose a conflict for him is to hypnotize him with memories of his past in the most cliched 'J'onn, oh J'onn, it's your wife and your kids! etc. etc.' that feels so strained and out of a bad movie. it provides nothing insightful about his character whatsoever, because it's such a cliched, predictable scenario that doesn't appeal to any specific facet of J'onn's character besides the fact of his tragic past, in which case he's interchangeable with Batman or Superman. i kind of see it as J'onn's Perchance to Dream or For the Man Who Has Everything, except those episodes were not only character-specific, but they had narrative and thematic depth. this was just an endless series of pretty fantasies repeating themselves over and over again and it's overbearing and unconvincing.

Okay, it's a fair point to say that the concept of a character to pine for his dead family has been done and done again. But it still doesn't make it invalid. That's still very much part of his character, the fact that he's a member of a dead race in which he came up and lived in.

I'll also agree that the episode doesn't reveal anything new about the character besides what we already knew unlike Perchance to Dream did for Batman( The JLU Superman episode, while good, revealed nothing new about him either) but does that have to be a bad thing really? I mean it's not like he spends every amount of screentime on the show talking about his family. All he knows on Earth is the Justice League, so when presented with vivid images of his family, real or not, it makes sense for him to want to do anything to see them again.

-Yes, he pined to see his family a lot in the episode. But that was due to Morgan Le'Fay's magic. It's not like he started doing it out of nowhere. That's the convention of the episode, to present J'onn with the ultimate deal with the devil in order to challenge him morally.

-Yes, he almost cost the planet. But he pulled through at the end. It's a journey, albiet very straightforward, that the character undertakes and completes by the episode's end and the point that he nearly destoryed the planet isn't ignored since he bluntly admits his mistake and offers to leave the Justice League.

And really, he's not that similar to Batman and Superman when it comes down to it. Batman has Mommy and Daddy issues due to the age he lost them and the way he lost them. Superman grew up on Earth, so his plight is little more than the conflict of any orphan who grows up in a foster home. J'onn knew his family. He knew his people. He saw them die and lived with it for many many years. He sees no purpose in life besides fighting alongside the league on a planet he's relatively new too. So when the very thing that defined his character and shaped who he was is shoved and dangled in his face, real or not, it's understandable for him to be tempted and nearly succumb. The point of the episode is that he didn't in the end, not that he almost did. In terms of the character's development, the ends justify the means.

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Couple little things before the big one.

In Knight of Shadows, not only did I like that Wonder Woman was trying to flirt, I liked that she was really, really bad at it. The only reason it worked was that Hickman was an idiot. Really, why should she be any good at it? I actually look at that as characterization.

At least at times, Wonder Woman has been presented as one of the League's tacticians. They obviously didn't go that way here. You're Wonder Woman. You have Flash and Etrigan with you. Your objectives are: 1) get the Philospher's Stone as far away from LeFay as possible, and 2) fight LeFay and the Shai-Hulud formerly known as Sleaze. Do you:

a) Fly away at about a hundred miles an hour with the stone, leaving Flash and Etrigan to fight.

b) Have the two magically-powered heroes fight the magical foes, and leave getting the Stone away from LeFay to the kid who can be on the other side of the planet in 3 seconds?

That always bugged me. In case you didn't notice.

I've heard (in which canon, I can't remember) Kryptonite described as a stable, transuranic element. The one way I could justify Rex turning into it is if he had come across some research on it. If it's an element, all he'd need to know is the atomic number (the number of protons & electrons) and atomic weight (weight - number equals neutrons). I don't feel really strongly about it, but it is a possible rationale.

OK, the big one. J'onn's temptation. I can see both sides - I thought it was overdone one the first several viewings. On the other hand...first, don't forget. This is not just visions. This is LeFay getting literally inside his head and making an offer - give me the stone, and I'll restore Mars. Keep in mind, she's been manipulating and seducing people into this sort of thing for at least 1500 years (most sources put Arthurian legend around the 5th century). We have to acknowlege her skills at this.

Like I said, I thought his reaction was overdone at first. I think so less know. Between the time it first aired and now, I've had a daughter. It sounds corny, but I really do look at scenes differently now. Things affect me much more strongly, because I can imagine how it would feel if it were my daughter. And I really don't think you can understand that well unless you have kids. J'onn was right - Batman can't understand how it feels. Aside from the fact that all of his friends and culture were also lost, which Bruce Hasn't lived through - Bruce feels survivor guilt because his parents died and he survived. You aren't supposed to have to protect your parents. You are supposed to protect your child. Think how much survivor guilt J'onn feels.

Like I said, I can see both sides. Once I had a daughter of my own, though, it made a huge difference in how accurate it felt. We always bring our own viewpoints to media, but I think that most parents would be much more forgiving of J'onn's position than they were before they had kids.

Chris

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I don't really care how much he loved his family (even if they are cardboard happy cut-outs in the visions), because the whole falling for seduction only to heroically overcome it at the end is generic by-the-numbers lazy storytelling and says nothing about J'onn except that a) he misses Mars and b) he's heroic, easy inferences to make already.

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(The JLU Superman episode, while good, revealed nothing new about him either)

i disagree with this. it offered a glimpse into the life of Kal-El within an idealized home environment, showing how Superman might act without being on guard or under certain pretenses.

And really, he's not that similar to Batman and Superman when it comes down to it. Batman has Mommy and Daddy issues due to the age he lost them and the way he lost them. Superman grew up on Earth, so his plight is little more than the conflict of any orphan who grows up in a foster home. J'onn knew his family. He knew his people. He saw them die and lived with it for many many years. He sees no purpose in life besides fighting alongside the league on a planet he's relatively new too. So when the very thing that defined his character and shaped who he was is shoved and dangled in his face, real or not, it's understandable for him to be tempted and nearly succumb. The point of the episode is that he didn't in the end, not that he almost did. In terms of the character's development, the ends justify the means.

i agree that the three are extremely different, but in the sense that J'onn is tempted by an idealized past in the most straightforward way possible that would offer a removal of a defining tragedy, he really is interchangeable with Superman and Batman. the temptation offered here is offered so seductively, straightforwardly, and non character-specifically (i agree with you, but the episode is so bad about convincingly conveying J'onn's inner tragedy that his wide-eyed drooling is so damn generic) that it really isn't any different from what the Black Mercy did to Superman or Batman in For the Man Who Has Everything.

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I don't really care how much he loved his family (even if they are cardboard happy cut-outs in the visions), because the whole falling for seduction only to heroically overcome it at the end is generic by-the-numbers lazy storytelling and says nothing about J'onn except that a) he misses Mars and b) he's heroic, easy inferences to make already.

It's not necesserily lazy storytelling as it is a troupe of conventional sci-fi drama. That's like saying someone becomes a hero to A)Avenge the deaths of loved ones I.E. Batman or Spider-Man or B) Atone for past mistakes I.E. Iron Man, Dr. Strange or Spider-Man is lazy storytelling. It's just a typical convention.

So you can not like the story or how it shows J'onn's deep pain at the loss of his wife and children, but it doesn't make it any less valid in the slightest. Again, it's not like he lost a girlfriend or anything. His WIFE and CHILDREN. Even still, again at the end, he proved to be morally just enough to put his desires aside to save the day. It's fine if you don't like how they did it, but it doesn't invalidate the story in terms of whether or not it needed to be told.

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i disagree with this. it offered a glimpse into the life of Kal-El within an idealized home environment, showing how Superman might act without being on guard or under certain pretenses.

Maybe so, but it was still more or less just a dream. At the end of the day we still see that Superman is a good guy who wants a family just like every Joe American and that to take it away from him, even if it was just a dream would make him really really angry. It's also the fact that even though he felt as though he experienced his life on Krypton, he didn't in reality. Nothing was lost, he was just messed with. It's different from, for example, Annie in Growing Pains who did exist, or Perchance to Dream where Bruce Wayne was confronted with a life w/o being Batman and what that said about him as a person. Superman was just teased an ideal life and told "Nah, just playin'" Again, I like that episode but it means virtually nothing at the end of the day.

i agree that the three are extremely different, but in the sense that J'onn is tempted by an idealized past in the most straightforward way possible that would offer a removal of a defining tragedy, he really is interchangeable with Superman and Batman. the temptation offered here is offered so seductively, straightforwardly, and non character-specifically (i agree with you, but the episode is so bad about convincingly conveying J'onn's inner tragedy that his wide-eyed drooling is so damn generic) that it really isn't any different from what the Black Mercy did to Superman or Batman in For the Man Who Has Everything.

But he's not tempted by an idealized past persay, he's tempted with what he knew existed and people he lived with. It was a non-reality reminding him of a true reality, and one so deepy personal to him that no matter how much he pined for it and wanted it back it never takes away from what it is. It's still, to him, his lost family.

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It's not necesserily lazy storytelling as it is a troupe of conventional sci-fi drama. That's like saying someone becomes a hero to A)Avenge the deaths of loved ones I.E. Batman or Spider-Man or B) Atone for past mistakes I.E. Iron Man, Dr. Strange or Spider-Man is lazy storytelling. It's just a typical convention.

So you can not like the story or how it shows J'onn's deep pain at the loss of his wife and children, but it doesn't make it any less valid in the slightest. Again, it's not like he lost a girlfriend or anything. His WIFE and CHILDREN. Even still, again at the end, he proved to be morally just enough to put his desires aside to save the day. It's fine if you don't like how they did it, but it doesn't invalidate the story in terms of whether or not it needed to be told.

Troupes and cliches are fine to get things out of the way and basically and expediently establish characters, but to construct a two-part episode and character exploration on an oft-told conventional story is lazy. It's not that it's necessarily incredulous (though the over-dramatization I feel renders it as such), it's that it is unnecessary, non-revelatory, by-the-numbers, and impossible to generate the suspense the episode so desperately pines for.

Just because it was a dream in FTMWHE doesn't mean his behavior within the dream is not to be taken as something sincere or telling about his character. The way in which he was messed with, by being offered a fake world is hardly different from J'onn's being offered fake visions of his past. Except in Superman's case he isn't completely awash in glittery over-idealized dream sequences and interacts with his false environment like a real person and it is one of the closest examples there is to humanizing the character and making him introspective, and even if it isn't essential to continuity it is very much a meaningful episode.

And finally, in J'onn's case, it is an extremely idealized past, unless we're to believe that his wife and children really did just look at him smiling and being hyperbolically happy like one-dimensional abstractions. Even if I could buy J'onn being off-put by the visions, the story is too phonily told, too much a carbon copy of every other generic telling of it for it to be remotely engaging or suspenseful.

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I agree with Mike and James on J'onn's temptation issue. Once is fine, but after he knows it's all just an illusion it's annoying that he keeps buying into it. It's also fairly inconsistent characterization for a guy who is generally portrayed as highly intelligent and emotionally detached. Despite this, I do like A Knight With (Of? I can't remember which is right at the moment) Shadows pretty well. I think the freaking awesome Kirby riff in the Demon origin portion goes a long way with me, and I like the characterization of Etrigan throughout.

On the episode Metamorphosis, I personally think that the episode's weakest point is simply its length. I think it could have been a decent enough half-hour episode, if they'd done it in JLU. Some of the action sequences weren't bad, but it gets so repetitive, and everything that's not action is kinda boring. If they hadn't been trying to fill two episodes, they could have had an average show. Sure, it would still be a stereotypical "new character clashes with established heroes until realizing they're on the same side and teaming up to fight the real villain" story, but at least it wouldn't drag.

Looking forward to The Savage Time next week!

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Guest DCAUFan1051

ok after reading all the J'onn under spell ideas... could this be considered a drug related thing? Kind of like addiction? I'm not saying whether he should have known better or not after the first time... but that seemed like he was hooked on cocaine or something.

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I agree with Mike and James on J'onn's temptation issue. Once is fine, but after he knows it's all just an illusion it's annoying that he keeps buying into it. It's also fairly inconsistent characterization for a guy who is generally portrayed as highly intelligent and emotionally detached.

I would argue that part of his emotional detachment may have been due to the loss he's suffered. After all, if we were talking about Batman being emotionally detached, that would be accepted.

I still maintain that the characterization is spot on. One of the problems with many American reviews of the Battle of Oahu (the Pearl Harbor attack) is that the analyses focus largely on what the Americans did wrong - which is sort of egotistical, as if only our actions played a role in the outcome. You also need to consider that the Japanese Navy picked their best people, planned it in exquisite detail, trained heavily, and were very experienced (Interestingly, I understand that many Japanese analyses of the Battle of Midway show the same problem). This isn't a PowerPoint presentation we're talking about. LeFay is in his head, manipulating, playing on his guilt - and she's been doing this for a very long time. I doubt she's relying on logical persuasion alone. I doubt that she's progressed as far as frank mind control, but certainly is influencing his mind above and beyond just the terms of her deal. It's not just abot J'onn - you have to factor in her skill as well. I look at this as a certain degree of characterization for her as well. I believe the TV Trope is "The Worf Effect", where a threat throws around the strongest member of the team to demonstrate how dangerous they are. The creative team used this heavy-handedly with Superman this season - this is a more subtle version of the same.

I think that J'onn's temptation is valid storytelling in concept. I think there's more to it than is first apparent. I think his reaction is true to life.

I also think that that the execution of the concept could have used some work. It definitely dragged at times, and felt like they were dragging it out to fit the episode. I would say that the concept was valid, but the execution should have been tightened up somewhat.

Chris

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Ok I just watched "A Knight of Shadows" again, taking everyone's points into consideration. One thing I must fully admit is the plot point of why the JL didn't destroy the stone in the first place. That's a very valid arguement, yet at the same time I can sort of excuse it in the context of the action. In other words, it made sense for J'onn to demolish it because it was so close in LeFay's grasp. But WW and Batman really should have inquired as to whether destroying the stone would do anything or not. I'll concede to that.

Another thing I'd like to point out is how awesome the animation is. Really, it's the best animation I think in the series up to that point, and the lighting and shadow effects really sell it all the way through.

But okay, the J'onn thing. Having watched the episode in its entirety in the past hour I still stand by my point that J'onn's action had every right to be carried out whether he was pining for his wife and children or succumbing to giving the stone to Morgan LeFay because that, like GoFlash said, is the conditions of her powers. We see right at the beginning how the same thing that happened to J'onn happened to Jason Blood at what it cost him. We see the effects of it at least. We see it being carried out with J'onn here in explicit detail, and I'm sorry but I still cannot fault him for what he does in the episode. What I feel is being overlooked is the fact that J'onn does try to fight the visions after being told that they are just that, visions. Etrigan is basically Mike and James, punching him around and chastising him for believing in what isn't real.

But J'onn doesn't see visions, he's sees his wife. His wife who has been dead for centuries. If J'onn started to ask how they were alive, THEN I would concede that he shouldn't have given into Lefay's power because his mind show subtle resistance by questioning the impossible. But he first sees his family and is overjoyed. The feeling he has is a feeling of being gone for a long time and being surrounded by familar settings. The first vision puts into context for J'onn juts how alone he truely feels on Earth. The depths of his despair are brought to the forefront upon being shown what he has been going without.

It's not as simple as everybody is making it out to be. J'onn doesn't simply see the visions and says "DUH OKAY HUNNY!" until the very end when Lefay fully claims her power over him when he's on the Watchtower. Here's the line I feel sums up all of what he feels in the show.

*To Batman*

"I hesitated in battle, and it nearly cost you your life. Perhaps Etrigan is right. Perhaps I really have been tainted by that Sorceress. I know what I experienced was a mere illusion, but it felt so real. The urge to embrace it was almost more than I could bear. Sometimes I believe I would do anything to embrace my loved ones again. You can't imagine how that feels."

So to an extent DCAUFan is right in that it almost is like a drug to J'onn. It's more than what we the audience experience because we aren't familar with his situation besides a flashback and exposition from "Secret Origins". But what does the title "A Knight of Shadows" refer to? Does it refer to Jason Blood, a hero who is forever marred by his past shame and the reasons for his supernatural abilities lie in a dark background? Does it refer to Mordred, a young boy who wants to rule his own kingdom at the cost of the planet?

No, it's about how J'onn comes out of the episode a greater hero than is initially assumed because he has been confronted with the one thing that could control, twist and turn him against the people he's fought alongside for, and came out on top saving the world. The shadows are his past, and how they potentially make him darker, but he's still coming out a knight-a warrior of nobility who will fight at any cost.

Again, some people may not like how it was done but I did. That's all I'm saying.

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Guest DCAUFan1051

Yes it was. I figured it out pretty much as soon as we stopped recording. :doh:

that's the one bad thing about podcasting. You want to say something sometimes, or clarify something, and your forget about it. I hate when I do that.

great episode as always guys... wow Season 1 went by very fast.

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  • 1 month later...

Isn't Batman saying "I'd trust J'onn with my life" in "A Knight of Shadows" rather out of character? I'd have thought Alfred was the only one he'd trust with his life, and even then, I don't think he'd admit it.

Not at all, he either trusts someone completley or not at all. If he didn't trust J'onn, he'd never work with him. Totally in character.

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