Warning: spoilers ahead for the first five episodes of Young Justice Season 4.
Young Justice made a surprise return for Season 4 back in October by dropping the first two episodes on its new platform before even announcing a premiere date. Titled Young Justice: Phantoms, the new season is broken up into arcs of multiple episodes, and it didn’t take long for the show to deliver the biggest tragedy since the loss of Wally West: the death of Conner, a.k.a. Superboy, on Mars. Now, the show has shifted the focus to Artemis, but the aftermath of Conner’s death continues, and showrunners Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti opened up about what comes next.
Superhero shows don’t always kill off characters – particularly major characters – and keep them dead, but all signs point toward the reality that Conner really did die shortly before he was supposed to marry M’gann. When the showrunners spoke with CinemaBlend about Season 4, they addressed Conner’s death" in a pretty definitive way, and Greg Weisman shared the importance of Young Justice delivering real tragedy that hits close to home for the heroes sometimes:
Greg Weisman referred back to the Season 1 episode that was really a turning point for some of the young heroes, as they faced what seemed like the very real deaths of their teammates and what was more or less a suicide mission by the end. It was fortunately just an exercise, but certainly not one that the original team just shook off, and even left Robin with the realization that he didn’t want to become the Batman. And Conner’s death is obviously a much bigger deal. Based on comments from the co-showrunner, Young Justice will respect Conner’s legacy by dealing with the effects of his death on his loved ones for as long as the show runs, even if not constantly.
With Young Justice: Phantoms split up into arcs, however, the grief of Conner's loved ones won’t be explored all at once. The arc that directly follows the Mars story that focused on Conner, M’gann, and Garfield centers on Artemis. Artemis had finally found some peace post-Wally with a job she liked, a man in her life, and what seemed to be a happy home life with Will and Lian… up until she got the news of Conner’s death. The showrunners weighed in on why Artemis was the right character whose arc would follow Conner’s death, with Greg Weisman saying:
As one of the non-superpowered superheroes of Young Justice, Artemis’ stories generally are among the most grounded in the series. Fans truly may be able to relate more to Artemis dealing with her grief while trying to go about her normal life than M’gann’s mourning on Mars. Brandon Vietti elaborated:
As tragic as it has been to watch Artemis go through the process of mourning Wally, she has developed in some interesting ways, and now can understand what her friend is going through in a way unlike anybody else. It was clear in the first episode of Artemis’ arc that the loss of Wally still hurts, but she’s dealing with it better than before. Greg Weisman summed up why Artemis' was the right story to tell after Conner’s death:
The latest episode also proved that Artemis isn’t wholly overwhelmed by her grief, even though it did intrude into the content life she’d built for herself. Once she was needed in the situation with Onyx and Cassandra Savage, she was all but unstoppable. And the episode wasn’t all misery and tragedy from start to finish. Will’s despair at the loss of his favorite clipboard – followed by him holding his own against assassins with a pen and lamenting another SUV being destroyed – delivered some levity, which co-showrunner Brandon Vietti says is essential to Young Justice
Considering there are still Young Justice fans holding out hope for Wally West to come back alive, well, and whole, there are definitely tragic parts of the series that need those ups to guarantee that the show is still fun to watch. And Young Justice will undoubtedly never be a show with episodes that are 25 minutes of straight laughs (although Dick stuck on a Bowhunter Security mission with the Harpers in Season 3 was probably the closest), so the roller coaster has to be a good thing.
See what happens next with Artemis’ arc in Young Justice: Phantoms with new episodes releasing on Thursdays on HBO Max (opens in new tab). The full first three seasons are available streaming as well, whether you want to start again from the beginning, rewatch some old favorites, or just refresh your memory on how the characters all got to this point. For some more options now and in the coming weeks, swing by our 2021 fall TV premiere schedule!
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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