"Triptych" is the eighth episode of the third season of Young Justice, and the 54th of the overall series. It debuted on January 18, 2019 on DC Universe, along with the seventh and ninth episodes, "Evolution" and "Home Fires".
As Meta-Human trafficking spreads across the United States, three very different teams of heroes seek to put a stop to it!
Using his ability to move through shadows, Shade infiltrates STAR Labs' Detroit facility, alongside Mist and Livewire. Livewire shocks a scientist into unconsciousness and Mist locates their target: a device that was larger than Shade had expected. Shade is visibly strained moving the device through his shadow, which allows the scientist to regain consciousness and sound the alarm.
A security guard accosts the group, but is blindsided by Cheshire, who was watching her team's backs. In a moment of carelessness, Cheshire ignores the fallen guard and approaches the team, when Casey shoots her through her right shoulder.
Shade recovers in time and the group escapes through his shadow portal.
At the Luthor Grande Hotel, Jefferson Pierce and Helga Jace have an after-sex pillow-talk, with Jeff expressing regret at leaving the Justice League at the same time Batman made his move. Jeff thinks that the Justice League has strayed from heroism to politics and that he's better off freelancing with Nightwing. Just then, he receives a call from Dick Grayson.
Jefferson arrives via Zeta-Tube at the farm, to rendezvous with Artemis, Dick Grayson, Brion Markov, Forager, and Violet; Superboy was mending fences with M'gann. Dick explains the mission—they have someone who might be able to provide intelligence on the League of Shadows, and therefore, the location of Brion's missing sister. The said person, Cheshire, may not be very cooperative, as she is cornered and wounded, and it makes her more dangerous.
Inside a plane in an empty warehouse, Doctor Moon had just removed the bullet from Cheshire's shoulder and stitched her back up, commenting that most of his patients preferred to be sedated during the procedure. Cheshire replies that she doesn't trust anyone, not even herself. Suddenly, she receives a warning from Shade as the Outsiders make their move. The plane attempts to take off, but Geo-Force quickly grounds it.
Livewire engages Black Lightning, and Nightwing fights against Mist. Nightwing has difficulty hitting the meta-human's misty form, and erroneously assumes neither of them can hit the other. Mist proves him wrong, materializing just her hands and chokes him while apologizing profusely for her actions. Halo, Geo-Force, and Forager attack Shade, but he is able to redirect their attacks to each other with his shadow portals. When Halo is knocked to the ground by a redirected Forager, Geo-Force charges towards Shade in anger. However, Shade materializes a portal that swallows Geo-Force whole.
Almost out of breath, Nightwing manages to retrieve a chemical spray from his pocket, which crystallizes Mist.
Black Lightning manages to knock Livewire onto the ground with a physical attack. Livewire dares him to zap her, claiming that she can absorb his lightning, but she is proven wrong when Black Lightning knocks her out with a shock.
Halo demands that Shade return Geo-Force, but he demurs, preferring to keep him bottled for a while, or maybe even forever. This enrages Halo, who unlocks a new white aura, emanating a bright light that overpowers Shade. He retreats, and Geo-Force is spat out of a portal.
Inside the plane, Tigress punches out Dr. Moon's lights and confronts Cheshire. She asks for the identity of the new League of Shadows leader, and the location of their base. Cheshire replies that she doesn't know who the new leader is, but she does know their base is in Santa Prisca. She then asks about Lian. Tigress wants Cheshire to visit her child, but she claims that Lian is better off without her. Even though she is Lian's mother, she will always be Cheshire first. As Shade comes to retrieve her, Cheshire asks her sister to hug Lian for her.
Tigress makes no move to prevent Cheshire's escape, as she already has Dr. Moon and the information about the League of Shadows.
Elsewhere, as Robin approaches Batman, he, like Oracle, tells him that he is late. Robin then makes his report:
Two weeks prior, Robin's group, consisting of himself, Spoiler, Arrowette, and Orphan, had been tracking Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter. They noticed that he was drinking a lot of water and that the water bottles he was leaving behind contained clay backwash. Robin decides to investigate, but Orphan simply slices Tetch in half, revealing him to be Clayface in disguise. As they battle Clayface, Spoiler reminds the others to forget Clayface—Tetch is their real target. At this, Clayface retreats to protect Tetch. The group is able to track him thanks to a liquid tracker Spoiler planted on him.
Tetch is revealed to be inside a warehouse, injecting a nanotech solution into an inmate. The solution allows others to have complete control over the subject, through words spoken into the Mad Hatter's device. Clayface arrives, yelling that he has to protect Tetch from Robin's team, who then make their entrance. Tetch activates his device, clearly putting Clayface under his thrall. He makes his exit with the inmate while Clayface shields him.
As Clayface keeps the team busy, the Mad Hatter activates a self-destruct button. Although Spoiler is tracking him, he manages to lose her and abscond with his new puppet. Robin grabs one of Hatter's control devices, and as he grapples to the roof, he notices that the warehouse is wired with explosives set to detonate. He orders everyone out of the building, and his team manages to escape just in time. Robin tells Clayface to escape as well, but he is forced to protect Hatter. The warehouse collapses in a fiery explosion with Clayface still inside, but the villain is able to reform.
At an unknown location, Aquaman makes a comment to Miss Martian about Wonder Woman being late. Moments later, a holographic image of Wonder Woman appears, and she apologizes for being late and asks her co-chair to report.
Two days ago in Star City, Brick and an unnamed meta-human prisoner were being loaded into a Star City Stateville Penitentiary transport to take them to Belle Reve. En route, an explosive javelin flips the armored car onto its back, and the attacker is revealed to be Sportsmaster. Fortunately, the drivers were Barry Allen and Billy Batson, both working undercover. Flash immediately attacks Sportsmaster while Shazam prevents the upside-down car from hitting the ground. Cornered, Sportsmaster holds up a hockey puck, which emanates a sonic attack that incapacitates both of the heroes, enabling his escape.
Sportsmaster calls out to Abra Kadabra, who breaks into the armored car and liberates both prisoners and deactivates their power dampening collars. The heroes then reveal their reinforcements. Rocket traps Brick in an energy bubble while Aquaman quickly subdues and captures Kadabra. Sportsmaster takes advantage of the ruckus to abscond with the meta-prisoner, and they manage to escape.
Brick bemoans his poor luck as Aquaman replaces the collar on his neck, and Aquaman tells him he has no idea how lucky he was.
Aquaman finishes his report to Wonder Woman. He is revealed to be in Gotham City, along with Nightwing, Oracle, Batman, and Robin. Batman reports that they have successfully neutralized the meta-human trafficking operation of Branchwater Security, a front company controlled by Stagg Industries. Simon Stagg, its majority shareholder, used Branchwater to create a meta-crime covert operations unit to engage in corporate espionage and warfare. Oracle explains that they identified three links in Branchwater's supply chain – acquisition, coercion, and utilization. In the acquisition phase, Branchwater liberates existing meta-humans from prisons and transports – Clayface, Livewire, and Mist were acquired in this manner. In the coercion phase, Branchwater has the Mad Hatter inject a nanotech solution that forces them to follow commands – the fate Brick was rescued from. Finally, Cheshire leads the meta-humans to do whatever Stagg wanted them to do.
Robin uses the device he found to release Clayface from Hatter's control, an act that Hagen actually thanked him for. Batman does the same for Livewire and Mist, but since the two are minors and not hardened criminals, they were not taken to Belle Reve like the others. As for Stagg, Superboy and Miss Martian captured him in the act of receiving stolen property – the device stolen from STAR Labs, which turned out to be a Reach device, salvaged from one of the Reach warships that was destroyed when protecting the Earth from the Warworld’s missiles. The device’s purpose is unclear, but Blue Beetle translates the Reach text on the device as "meta-human failsafe".
Nightwing believed that Stagg had become paranoid that someone else would emulate him and use meta-humans against him, and that the machine would protect him from them. Since Oracle had sent all the evidence to the authorities, a news broadcast was shown that Stagg was being arrested in Gotham City for meta-trafficking. The Reach device was on its way back to STAR Labs Detroit, although it appeared to have sustained some damage.
However, there are some loose ends. Having escaped, Shade was now the mind-controlled stooge of Cheshire. Nightwing doesn't think Cheshire would free him without significant incentive, but he was proven wrong, as Cheshire freed Shade unconditionally. Afterward, the first thing he does after being freed was to teleport to Stagg's cell and do unspeakable things to him.
Wonder Woman questions whether this was a victory, remaining troubled at the fact that between the seven the heroes gathered in the Batcave, they were leading six separate teams who were unaware that they were working together. Batman reminded her that they agreed to take a page from the Light’s playbook to fight fire with fire. Robin comments that they are like the Anti-Light, and Diana is quick to point out that darkness is the opposite of light. She is uncomfortable with keeping the other members of the League in the dark, but Batman points out that they needed plausible deniability. Superman can hardly be expected to lie under oath, and as a sovereign princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman could invoke her diplomatic status to avoid testifying. Wonder Woman then asks if the rest of them are prepared to lie. Although Aquaman and Miss Martian give each other meaningful looks, no one says anything.
A triptych or "three-fold" is a type of painting that has three frames, depicting three related scenes in all windows. This episode has three teams investigating seemingly unrelated events, until the Batcave scene ties them all together into one cohesive whole: the story of Shade's liberation, brainwashing, and exploitation. It can also refer to the three-fold modus operandi employed by the Branchwater meta-human trafficking ring: acquisition, coercion and utilization.
Cast and characters
- Jefferson mentions quitting the Justice League and Batman's defection, which both happened in "Princes All".
- Dick found a lead on finding Tara Markov, a quest which started in "Away Mission".
- Tigress asks Cheshire who is running the League of Shadows, after learning in "Rescue Op" from Ra's al Ghul himself that he was no longer its leader.
- While being returned to custody, Brick bemoans about his bad luck. He had been arrested a month earlier in "Private Security".
- In this episode we find out why Batman quit the Justice League in "Princes All" and why Nightwing kept Oracle's tech support a secret from his teammates.
- Aquaman and Robin refer to the Bedlam Syndicate's m.o. of activating dormant Meta-Genes in abducted teens and then planting control chips on them.
- Wonder Woman notes that Cheshire hates her own father, fact well-established in "Targets", "Homefront", "Insecurity", "Satisfaction" and "Complications".
- The Reach device stolen from STAR Labs was taken from a ship downed in the events of "War".
- Britt Baron, Daniela Bobadilla and Joel Swetow voice Livewire, Mist and Shade, respectively. The three actors had previously collaborated with Greg Weisman on his Rain of the Ghosts AudioPlay, in which Baron voiced the titular character, Bobadilla her best friend and Swetow voiced Bernie Cohen.
- The officers shown arresting Stagg in the GBS broadcast bear a resemblance to Detectives Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya.
- What did Shade do to Simon Stagg?
- What is the "meta-human fail-safe" really for?
- What "significant incentive" did Cheshire receive to release Shade?