“To Another Shore” is a very slight, rushed episode. The majority of the plot involves an extended action sequence between Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, J’onn and four members of the Legion of Doom, and while it’s a very nicely choreographed fight, it doesn’t have the high stakes of the battles from the first three episodes of the season.
Those stakes come from character development; “I Am Legion” did strong work setting up Luthor’s predicament to make his first mission with Grodd more substantial; “Shadow Of The Hawk” delved into Shayera and Carter’s relationship to create a mystical bond between the characters that was put at risk by Shadow Thief’s attack; and “Chaos At The Earth’s Core” used Stargirl’s rivalry with Supergirl to bring more emotional resonance to the action. This week’s episode tries to explore J’onn’s character, but it doesn’t go far enough, both in and out of battle.
As a newcomer to Earth, J’onn has felt isolated from his teammates and the people of his adopted home planet, and Diana is worried about him. She sees that he’s disconnected from the world, losing himself in his monitor duty obligations so that he doesn’t have to interact with others on a direct level, and Diana knows that’s no way to live a happy, fulfilled life. I can understand why J’onn is so reluctant to make personal connections with others; he’s already had to suffer the loss of an entire race of people that he deeply cared for, and he doesn’t want to go through that experience again by becoming attached to the people of Earth.
But is a life of loneliness worth it in order to save himself from a hurt that may or may not come to pass? I wish “To Another Shore” spent more time on this question, because it speeds through the J’onn material at a pace that prevents the viewer from feeling its full weight. Which is a shame because this is the last time J’onn appears on this series until the finale. If this is essentially his goodbye episode, it should have a lot more impact, but his story takes a sideline to the larger plot involving the Legion of Doom.
The Legion of Doom wants the newly discovered body of Prince Jon, a.k.a. The Viking Prince, who was cursed by Odin with invulnerability to metal, wood, fire, and water, preventing him from dying a hero’s death in battle. Grodd wants the corpse so that he can use technology to reverse-engineer Jon’s invulnerability and make The Legion of Doom unstoppable, but the trio of League members (joined by King Faraday and his team) put a stop to Grodd’s plan and give the fallen hero the noble death he wanted all those years ago.
It’s one of those supervillain plans that is doomed from the start because there’s no way the bad guys are suddenly going to gain mass invulnerability, although after last season, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if this season decided to throw a huge curveball like that. Instead, it offers up a fairly standard heroes versus villains plot with the heroes scoring a win at the end. Director Dan Riba delivers some thrilling visuals in this action sequence, but J’onn takes a backseat during the fight, too. If the script isn’t going to commit to J’onn’s emotional struggle, the least it could do is show how cool he is in battle, but alas, most of the badassery this week comes courtesy of Wonder Woman and Green Arrow.
Dwayne McDuffie writes an exceptional Diana, understanding the combination of compassion, aggression, sweetness, and severity that makes her such an intriguing character. She wants the best for everyone, but anyone that threatens the wellbeing of others has to face her mighty wrath. Whether she’s punching out a 50-foot woman or wrestling a man underwater, Diana can handle herself in any situation, and she’ll do it with grace and power.
Oliver Queen doesn’t have his teammate’s superpowers, but he’s still incredibly skilled in battle, perhaps even more so considering he’s relying solely on his athleticism and a bow and arrow. This series has done phenomenal work showing how a human archer could hold his own on a team of superpowered beings, and this episode is another sterling example of Green Arrow’s value to the Justice League.
He’s not the only human male that plays an important part in this episode’s big fight as King Faraday makes his final appearance this week, flirting with Diana and saving Green Arrow on The Legion of Doom’s submarine. As a big Faraday fan, I would have loved to see this show spend more time on him and Diana’s chemistry—imagine how fun a Batman-Diana-Faraday love triangle would be—but instead we just get little cameos from him throughout the series, giving him just enough screen time to make me want more, especially with Scott Patterson’s suave voice work.
“To Another Shore” ends with the League sending Prince Jon’s body into the sun as J’onn leaves the team to integrate into human society, taking on the form of John Jones to start a new life for himself on Earth. J’onn’s decision is juxtaposed with images of Jon’s lonely end and Diana reciting an excerpt from The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, an attempt to bring more gravity to the story by utilizing the heightened language of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s long poem, and it’s partially effective. It does feel like a big shift for J’onn’s character, but it would be more meaningful if the rest of the episode spent more time focusing on the motivations for this life change.
- How gorgeous are those flashback illustrations by Bruce Timm? I would love to see an entire comic done by Timm in the style of Joe Kubert, because the combination of their two styles is stunning.
- This episode features the first appearance of Devil Ray, a character that is clearly Black Manta, but the show’s creators couldn’t use the villain’s actual name because of copyright issues. I wonder what those issues were, because they were clearly settled by the time Young Justice aired with a proper Black Manta character.
- I love that Ollie has his own theme music that he sings when he charges into battle, and that the soundtrack plays a more dramatic version in the background.
- “If your pollution continues to affect my home, my mother is less likely to withdraw than she is to attempt a military solution. (Pause.) As a last resort, of course.”
- Diana: “Agent Faraday! What are you doing here.” Faraday: “Not smoking. Want some?”
- “And Black Canary said a buzzsaw arrow was self-indulgent.” How is Oliver able to use a buzzsaw arrow when he’s frozen in a block of ice?
- “So help me god, I’ll give you frost bite in places you didn’t even know you had places!”
- “While I strongly suggest that you surrender immediately and prepare to be boarded, I really enjoy firing Trident missiles at tiny little subs, so the decision’s entirely up to you.”