Young Justice: Outsiders can’t set a pace [insert Flash joke here]

The announcement of Young Justice: Outsiders was the one thing that made me think the DC Universe streaming service might be worth a purchase. Considering its price and how much other content it offers that fails to excite me, that’s saying something. I ended up getting to share an account, and the only thing I’ve spent any time looking at on the service was YJ:O. I was a huge fan of the previous two seasons. Without the standards and practices of the Cartoon Network — and most notably network executives who were disappointed with the show’s appeal to girls and women — controlling the content, maybe this could be great.

It was good; it wasn’t great.

There were some great moves in the season, though. Aqualad becoming Aquaman and leading the Justice League. A fairly prominent role for Black Lightning. An episode about the squad of Roy Harpers. An attempt at a character of color who is both non-binary and bisexual. The Teen Titans Go! version of the Doom Patrol. Hell, even the twist on the “Judas Contract” was neat, if partially foreshadowed. But getting through to the good parts required wading through scenes that, yes, advanced the main story but also slowed things down. Somehow the showrunners and writers managed to make the essential parts of the story the least interesting part of the world.

I go back and forth on whether or not that was by design. After all, the fanbase first and foremost loves the characters and their interactions. Season one of the series is constantly referenced, even with simply words like “whelmed” and “souvenir.” But what made that work was that the majority of the first season focused on six characters. Season two expanded the roster, and the latest season technically involved four teams along with many unaffiliated characters. The story involved the largest group of characters available, so of course it would get bogged down. Maybe it wasn’t by design but instead by necessity.

YJ:O is still worth watching, especially right now because it can be binged. It just lacked an energy and momentum that would have made me appreciate it more. I mean, I say this two weeks after having watched Jin-Roh, which has a much slower and methodical approach to animated storytelling. In that film it felt purposeful. It also had the benefit of having much better animation than the DCU’s thinly budgeted series.

What can we expect from another season? Hopefully a focus on a small, core cast of characters instead of the entirety of DC heroes and their rogues. Considering how much each season has ramped up the stakes, that’s going to be understandably difficult without putting the story about, essentially, the end of the world on hold. But if they can scale it down again and make it feel like a more personal story while still existing in this broader world they laboriously crafted over seasons two and three, they could have something great on their hands.

By the way, I really was excited for the last batch of episodes released. Here’s my terrible attempt at live-tweeting the experience:

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