Why Young Justice Is Trying To 'Defy Expectations' In Season 4, According To The Co-Showrunner

young justice phantoms credits screenshot cast hbo max
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Young Justice made its HBO Max debut in the fall with a Phantoms season that is taking the story in a different direction than ever before. The show has always gone through changes from season to season, with developments ranging from time jumps to character deaths to even heroes adopting new identities, as with the case of Dick Grayson’s Robin becoming Nightwing. Young Justice: Phantoms – a.k.a. Season 4 – has split the story up into arcs centered on the original members of the team for an emotional and action-packed ride so far. Co-showrunner Brandon Vietti spoke with CinemaBlend about defying expectations for the HBO Max audience.

Season 4 kicked off with an arc set on Mars centered on M’Gann, Conner, and Beast Boy, which came to a tragic end for Superboy. The second arc has been all about Artemis, while also introducing a non-Killing Joke backstory for Barbara Gordon, filling in some blanks for Orphan, and building on Artemis’ relationship with Jade. There are more arcs to come, and when I spoke with showrunners Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, Vietti shared how he would pitch the show (and fourth season in particular) to viewers: 

I hope people will come on board to the show and try out a superhero show that I think defies expectations. I think we've tried very hard from Day 1 to bring something new to stories of superheroes. Greg and I have had the privilege of working on a number of different superhero properties over the years, and as we came together to create Young Justice, I think we were able to bring all of our favorite elements from superhero stories, both as fans and creators, but also attack it from a new angle, to try to find new ways to tell superhero stories that will defy expectations. New elements such as the passage of real time, the aging of characters, and the presentation of fan-favorite stories, but in slightly different ways that again, defy expectations. I hope these are all things that will sort of welcome people and hook people and hopefully keep them in their seats for the ride through four seasons.

For Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, “Day 1” was quite a long time ago. Young Justice originally premiered all the way back in 2010 on Cartoon Network and was cancelled after two seasons in 2013. Fans were left wondering what would happen after the major twists of the Season 2 finale for years until the show made its long-awaited return via the DC Universe streaming service for Season 3. Then, over two years later and following the end of DC Universe, Young Justice finally returned for Phantoms on HBO Max with another (albeit shorter) time jump. 

The passage of time has always been a big part of the show, to the point that the dates are actually included in episodes. The return of Young Justice after the initial cancellation really allowed the show to embrace and retell some well-known DC Comics stories, with a take on The Judas Contract in Season 3 and now an origin story for Oracle that didn’t involve the Joker paralyzing her as part of a plot about her dad. Throw in the hints about the death of the second Robin and possible appearance of Jason Todd in Season 3, and Young Justice may deliver a new take on that famous comics story as well in Phantoms

Brandon Vietti continued to explain why the show can be a fit for a variety of fans, with a comparison to the Harry Potter books:

I think that this show certainly ages as it goes. Greg has spoken to this. Our show is a little like the Harry Potter books, where we start with young heroes in the beginning in our first season, but they continue to grow with each additional season. And I think the maturity level starts to rise with every additional season. So certainly, I think the show's great and progresses and audiences can grow with the show and its maturity level.

Young Justice is certainly darker with the older characters in Season 4 than it was back in Season 1, and the death of Conner continues to affect the story. Artemis has struggled to deal with the loss of the friend who was like a brother to her, particularly with knowing how M’Gann feels after losing Wally herself all those years ago. The show will wrap her arc, and there are still others on the way: centered on Zatanna, Kaldur, Rocket, and of course Nightwing. 

New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms release on Thursdays on HBO Max, where you can also find the full first three seasons streaming, in case you haven’t watched yet or are just in the mood for a rewatch as the 2021 broadcast TV season winds down.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).