“Unknown Factors” starts with Nightwing and Black Lightning attempting to investigate the Hollywood Hills mansion of Goode World Entertainment CEO Gretchen Goode, after they determine it is full of New Gods technology. This is because unbeknownst to them, Gretchen Goode is actually the Apokoliptian New God Granny Goodness and Granny doesn’t taken kindly to naughty boys breaking into her home.
This leaves Oracle, who loses track of the two heroes after they enter the building, putting out a distress call to Kaldur. The problem is that the young Aquaman, as the public face of the Justice League, can’t be seen being involved in an illegal recon mission. Still, with the Outsiders and the Team unavailable and one of his oldest friends in danger, Kaldur can’t say no. Nor can he stop his partner, the Atlantean sorcerer Wyynde, from coming along to help.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Karen “Bumblebee” Beecher and Mal Duncan are about to have their first child. While their newborn daughter seems healthy at first, there’s a problem with her heart that requires immediate surgery and a severe snowstorm prevents the necessary equipment and specialist from being able to get there in time. This leaves Karen, still recovering from the birth, with only one option – shrink down inside her daughter and perform the surgery herself!
“Unknown Factors” suffers in that there seem to be several more interesting stories occurring in the background while the lion’s share of the episode is split between Bumblebee trying to save her infant daughter’s life and Aquaman trying to save Nightwing and Black Lightning. Maybe it says something about me that I’d much rather see Beast Boy fight Condiment King – a fight that tragically occurs entirely off-camera, but then how could simple animation capture such glory?
I think it more likely, however, that its a little more natural for the audience to be more invested in Victor Stone testing the limits of his new cybernetics than Bumblebee’s saving her daughter simply because of how much Young Justice: Outsiders has been focused on the one over the other. Bumblebee has only made a handful of appearances this season and only one of those was in a speaking role. Her appearance in this episode comes totally out of left-field, as does the subplot within her storyline regarding her wondering if her daughter will be a metahuman and pondering the ethics of altering her daughter’s genetics.
The one bright side to this storyline is that it confirms, better than anything else, that Young Justice has abandoned all pretense of being a children’s cartoon. The show was originally cancelled because its complex storylines were better at attracting teen viewers and young adults than the toddlers to whom the show was supposed to be selling action figures. Nobody would believe that a show dealing with the very adult fear of your child being born with a birth defect or the issue of genetically engineered children is simple children’s programming.
This is not to say that “Unknown Factors” isn’t thought provoking and doesn’t explore these ideas well. I’d just much rather see Beast Boy and Cyborg bond and develop the famous friendship from the comics than watch Aquaman talk Granny Goodness to death while the show sees how many tributes to Jack Kirby’s original Mister Miracle comics it can stick on-screen without a Funky Flashman cameo. That being said, the final five minutes of the episode are honestly thrilling (if a bit deus ex machina) and we finally see some momentum on some of the show’s mysteries. And Holy Marvel Movie, Batman, be sure to stick around after the credits this week!
Unknown Factors will be available to stream on August 6th, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.