"Evolution" is the seventh episode of the third season of Young Justice, and the 53th of the overall series. It debuted on January 18, 2019 on DC Universe, along with the eighth and ninth episodes, "Triptych" and "Home Fires".
Olympia Savage shares with Cassandra Savage writings about the backstory of her father, Vandal Savage. Olympia then locates Vandal, who is remembering the day centuries ago when he saw a meteorite fall to Earth. She tells him an armada is approaching the solar system.
A fleet of warships enters the system.
Conner Kent, Artemis Crock, Brion Markov, Halo and Forager are gathered at the beach, when Dick Grayson arrives with superhero outfits for Halo and Brion. He tells everyone they will soon begin training.
Cassandra recalls the time when Vandal approached the meteorite that fell from the sky, when he encountered a giant cave bear. She is snapped back to attention when Lex Luthor answers her communication and he and Vandal discuss the threat of the invading armada. As they talk, Olympia asks Cassandra if she "read the part about the bear" and Cassandra says she has.
Meanwhile, Vandal asks if Luthor can notify the Justice League about the armada, but Luthor says the League may not be an option, because several members resigned and those remaining aren't equipped to deal with the armada. Luthor asks about the League members on missions in space, and Vandal says he's keeping most of them busy on Appelaxia. Vandal adds that half the Green Lantern Corps is occupied battling the Reach, the other half is battling the Light's partner and Klarion isn't available.
Vandal realizes he'll need to be the one who protects the Earth. As he prepares the War World, Cassandra remembers her father defeating the cave bear and continuing his quest to seek out the meteorite.
At Mount Justice, Dick and Forager train, with Forager demonstrating he has learned how to adapt to Dick's tactics. Halo is training with Artemis, who observes that Halo is showing more control of her auras. Brion and Conner train together and Conner remarks that Brion needs to hit him, then realizes Brion did so. Dick says everyone has improved and is ready for the next step.
Vandal notifies the invading armada that Earth is off limits to all invasion, but the armada accelerates. Vandal fires upon the armada as Cassandra remembers the story of her father, in which he approached the meteorite despite the corpses that surrounded it. He tried to touch it, but was attacked by another man.
Vandal's assault on the armada fails to turn the ships back and Olympia and Cassandra notice another armada approaching from the other side of the solar system. Vandal realizes whoever is attacking knows that War World can't be in two places at once.
At Mount Justice, the heroes are gathered around a campfire, sharing tales that lead to Brion asking the question about man versus superman and who would win. Dick remarks that balance is key for species to co-exist, but when one grows stronger than another, it rarely works out for the weaker. He tells the tale about how humans shared the world 50,000 years ago with the neanderthals, and that humans must have had a genetic advantage, because they survived while neanderthals did not. However, that's when a new species emerged, the meta-human, and leaves both grappling with the question of whether they can achieve balance.
Vandal contacts Darkseid about the invading armadas and asks for assistance to protect their "investment." Cassandra remembers Vandal's first encounter with Darkseid. Vandal, then known as Genghis Khan, and his sons and followers fought Darkseid's forces but were outmatched. However, Darkseid was impressed with Vandal's genetic gifts and the two formed a pact that they would conquer the galaxy together, knowing that when that happened, Earth and Apokolips would wage a final battle to determine who was superior.
Back in Metropolis, Helga and Jefferson are on a dinner date. She asks how Brion and Halo are doing and he says they are fine and that he is sorry she hasn't been able to spend more time with them. Helga assures him it's all right and that the others have more experience training meta-humans.
Dick tells Brion, Halo and Forager it's time to choose their code names. Halo says she'll go with Halo but will be known as Violet when she's not on a mission. Brion suggests "Hot Lava", which only draws laughter, so he says he'll be more serious. He suggests "Geo-Force" because he controls geologic forces, which gets approval. Forager sticks with his own name. Dick has the young heroes demonstrate Maneuver Seven.
Apokoliptan warships, under the command of Kalibak, intervene to assist Vandal in protecting the Earth. The armadas are crippled and Vandal notices one of the aliens is under the influence of Starro. He has Cassandra take control of the War World. She remembers Vandal's days as Marduk, fending off a Starro invasion in Babylonia. Vandal's son Nabu fell to the scourge, while Vandal and his daughter Ishtar continued to battle. A long-range sensor check shows another ship out of range of the War World.
Back in Metropolis, Helga and Jefferson go back to her hotel room and spend the night together.
Vandal boom tubes inside the ship, where he encounters Starro and kills it, while Cassandra uses the War World to defeat the armadas. Cassandra remembers Vandal's battle in Babylonia against Starro and how he and his daughter prevailed then, too, and became known as the Light.
At Mount Justice, Dick, Conner and Artemis praise the young heroes for a good day of training. When Artemis suggests they should have more s'mores, Halo is so excited, she projects a green aura that creates duplicate holograms of herself.
Vandal places Starro inside a stasis pod and Olympia says she'll record his latest victory in her writings. Vandal tells Olympia he doesn't want his story recorded because he doesn't want to risk that his long-term plans will be revealed. Realizing Olympia's mind is deteriorating, Vandal snaps her neck, killing her. Cassandra calls it a mercy killing and says she'll bring Olympia's journal immediately. Vandal instead instructs Cassandra to give Olympia a proper burial.
The title refers to the evolution of Vandal Savage from a neanderthal into Earth's first meta-human.
Cast and characters
- Vandal Savage has lived under multiple names in the past, including Marduk; the exploits of the hero Marduk played a large role in Young Justice: Legacy.
- Following his banishment from Markovia in "Eminent Threat", Brion is keeping himself apprised of news from his country. He flips through news articles about his brother and uncle.
- Dick gives Brion a fireproof super-suit so he don't burn through his clothes when using his powers, as he did in "Away Mission".
- The Green Lantern Corps is still fighting the Reach following the events of season two.
- Vandal Savage is still in command of the Warworld since "Summit".
- When Conner scoffs Brion's suggestion of Superman and Batman fighting each other, Artemis suggests that it could happen if they were "controlled by the bad guys", but Dick mockingly dismisses that possibility. This is likely a nod to "Auld Acquaintance", in which the entire Justice League fell under the mental control of the Light.
- Helga Jace is still struggling with being away from Brion since "Eminent Threat". Her relationship with Jefferson also goes to the next level, since it began in "Private Security".
- Brion adopts the code name "Geo-Force" after the term Helga Jace used in "Rescue Op" to describe his lineage's meta-human abilities.
- Starro resurfaces since his apparent obliteration in "Downtime". The flashbacks also explain why he was found frozen in the Artic sea.
- Despero and Mongul are seen in the Warworld's stasis chambers. They have been there since "Cornered" and "War" respectively.
- Number 16:
- Helga Jace is staying at room 1616.
- End credits shot: Wolf sleeping on Conner and Megan's couch.
- This episode is dedicated to the memory of Miguel Ferrer, the voice of Vandal Savage in seasons one and two. Ferrer passed away on January 19, 2017 at the age of 61. His role is taken over by David Kaye.
- At the beach, Violet pets a starfish, foreshadowing the main antagonist of this episode.
- The idea of Vandal Savage getting his scars from a cave bear came from Phil Bourassa, when he originally designed the character. This episode incorporates that idea into the character's story.
- Savage's combined efforts with his daughter (Ishtar) to defeat Starro in the past is juxtaposed with his combined efforts with another daughter (Cassandra) to repeat the deed in the present.
- Dick quotes Sun Tzu as a preamble to induce the new recruits to choose their code names. Greg Weisman gave this an ironic twist by revealing that Tzu was also one of Savage's many identities.
- Olympia Savage is an original character conceived by Brandon Vietti and named by Greg Weisman. She was not included in the original story breakdown for "Evolution" and was added by Vietti, who felt something was missing from the episode. While her addition did not significantly affect the bulk of the story, where Cassandra Savage was to do some of what Olympia ended up doing, it dramatically altered the ending.
- Greg Weisman has praised this episode as "not merely a great YJ episode. To my mind, "Evolution" transcends YJ. It is a phenomenal, even revolutionary twenty-plus minutes of television," and credits Brandon Vietti's decision to add Olympia, over Weisman's initial objections, for elevating the story.
- When Olympia informs Savage that there's a incoming problem coming from space, he asks if it's a meteorite. He actually meant to say "meteoroid", because a meteorite is piece of a meteoroid that survives the fall through the atmosphere and crashes on Earth.
- Artemis jokes that Nightwing named himself after an 80s mullet rock band, a reference to the British band Nightwing.
- Dick quotes Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
- How is Vandal Savage keeping Leaguers busy on Appellaxia?
- What is Project Rutabaga?
- What is the "Anti-Life Equation" that Desaad refers to?
- Who is the meta-human Kalibak used as a bomb?
(Dick and Artemis laugh)
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