REVIEW: ‘Young Justice: Phantoms,’ Episode 17—”Leviathan Wakes”

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Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 17

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 17 offers a conclusion to the Atlantis-focused story arc and even sets some threads for the next batch of episodes. “Leviathan Wakes” takes place on two fronts, with Aquaman (Khary Payton), Wyynde (Robbie Daymond), Lagoon Boy (Yuri Lowenthal), and Delphis (Tiya Sircar) searching for the lost crown of Atlantis and encountering the horrors of the deep along the way. Meanwhile, King Orin (Phil LaMarr) learns that the people of Atlantis want Arion (David Kaye) to take his rightful place as the king of Atlantis, and Miss Martian (Danica McKellar) discovers a shocking secret concerning Ocean Master (Roger Craig Smith).

Payton as Aquaman also serves as the writer of “Leviathan Wakes” and manages to weave both story threads with ease while also turning in a nuanced performance as Aquaman. Kaldur has been the rock of Young Justice. This episode finally shows him that he needs to take things easier, especially since his friends in the superhero community and his family in Atlantis have been saying the same thing throughout this story arc. Kaldur closes the episode by discussing his first time on land and how he felt he would drown until he took his first breath. It’s not hard to see that Payton uses this as a metaphor for the aquatic hero being buried underneath a mountain of responsibilities,  including leading the Justice League and forming Young Justice. And the end credits scene, when he unfurls the sorrow he feels after losing his friends, will shatter even the hardest of hearts.

The other standouts of the episode are LaMarr as Orin and Lowenthal as Lagoon Boy. LaMarr’s no stranger to voicing iconic DC characters; he’s probably best known for his roles as John Stewart in Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and Virgil Hawkins in Static Shock. As Orin, he gives a regal, composed performance and portrays the former Aquaman as a noble being who only wants the best for Atlantis to the point where he’s willing to step down as it’s the people’s wish. “I am a king, not a tyrant,” Orin tells his wife Mera. He lives up to this by letting Orm go. Once full of youthful fire and bravado as Lagoon Boy, Lowenthal plays the aquatic hero as more guarded and emotional, especially now that he’s a father-to-be.

The story element that may divide viewers is the revelations surrounding Orm and another character. On the one hand, it explains how the former Ocean Master is still around despite supposedly being killed by Lady Shiva (Gwendoline Yeo) in Young Justice: Outsiders. On the other hand, it does run into a common criticism of the series surrounding the villains—like Vandal Savage (Kaye)—and how they always seem to be ten steps ahead of the heroes.

There’s also the matter of some of the animation feeling unfinished, despite the steady hand of longtime Young Justice director Vinton Heuck. Aquaman and his allies battle twin creatures, including a giant crab and the aforementioned Leviathan; both creatures lack the fluidity of the humanoid characters and the overall sleek look that Studio Mir has brought to its Young Justice episodes.

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 17 is a decent conclusion to the season’s latest story arc and gives Aquaman some emotional closure. I don’t know what the next story arc will focus on, but the series’s return to its roots has yielded some of the best Young Justice episodes in years, and if the series is renewed for a fifth season, I hope it’s a trend that continues to fuel the storytelling.

New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms are available to stream on HBO Max on Thursdays.


Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 17 - "Leviathan Wakes"
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    Rating - 8/10
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TL;DR

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 17 is a decent conclusion to the season’s latest story arc and gives Aquaman some emotional closure…the series’s return to its roots has yielded some of the best Young Justice episodes in years.