SPOILER ALERT: This is a full episode recap, so if you don’t want to read any SPOILERS, please watch the episode first.
This episode introduces DC baddie Despero, aided by robot Majordomo L-Ron (an homage to science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard). In the comics, Despero has had many forms and this version is something of a hybrid between several of those. He doesn’t speak, so he resembles the savage rampaging version that was responsible for killing Steel and the parents of Gypsy, but he looks like the later intelligent alien warlord version. At any rate, here he is depicted as a space gladiator, traveling from world to world to challenge each planet’s greatest champions, so that he can kill them and hang their heads on his wall.
He is disappointed when he learns that Earth’s mightiest champions, including Superman, are off-planet, answering for their “crimes” on Rimbor. Nevertheless, Earth has many other worthy champions, right?
At the United Nations, Captain Atom, visibly uncomfortable, meets at a press conference with the Reach’s Ambassador and UN Secretary Tseng. When Captain Atom insists on a private discussion, WGBN commentator G. Gordon Godfrey once again pounces, wondering what they’re hiding.
At Star labs in Taos, Black Canary debriefs/counsels the youths involved with the Reach’s abductions and experimentation. The first teen she speaks to is Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes’ best friend Ty Longshadow. When he emerges from the office, Blue Beetle, in full armor leaps up in excitement before the scarab reminds him that Ty won’t recognize him in this form, so he has to recover. The second boy asked into the office is named Virgil, so obviously this is Virgil Hawkins, better known as Static. He even makes a reference to “static shocks” that the Reach used to experiment on him with, an homage to the title of his own cartoon and his most recent comic series. Virgil is clearly uncomfortable with the questioning, as he nervously fiddles with a paper clip. He eventually gets so upset that he leaves, flinging the paper clip on Black Canary’s desk. Canary is startled when the cup of paper clips spills over and the other clips gravitate toward the one Virgil was handling and they spark with electricity.
With Mount Justice destroyed, Nightwing tries to relocate the team members that lived there to a new location, a warehouse in Bludhaven, but it’s not to Mal’s satisfaction, so Nightwing relents and lets the heroes try and resettle at the Hall of Justice. Superboy has clearly noticed that M’Ghaan/Miss Martian still seems shell-shocked after their encounter last episode with the Reach, Aqualad and Tigress.
Zatanna and Captain Marvel join them to help get them moved in. Mal tries to convince his increasingly distant girlfriend Karen/Bumblebee to let him live with her, but she says no, pointing out how much she has to study and how tiny her place is.
Suddenly, L-Ron arrives and announces Despero’s arrival, trapping the Hall of Justice in an impenetrable pyramid force field. Despero doesn’t waste time, knocking Captain Marvel through the Hall’s glass entrance. When Zatanna tries to cast a spell, Despero uses his third eye to hypnotize her. Magic, apparently, is cheating. Despero and Captain Marvel resume their duel, while elsewhere, Superboy and the others notice these events. Superboy and Bumblebee rush to assist him. Mal indicates that the force field is blocking their communications and teleportation.
Bumblebee attempts to rouse Zatanna, but not even her bio-stings do the trick. They fail equally when she tries to break through the force field.
At the UN, Captain Atom and the Reach Ambassador have a war of words, while Secretary Tseng observes. Atom points out that the Reach spent a lot of time on Earth before revealing their existence, but the Ambassador feigns that they were afraid of the League because they are wanted criminals across the galaxy. The Ambassador then points out how The Team attacked their ship. Atom tries to explain that the Reach had abducted many young people, but the Ambassador says that that was the Kroloteans and accuses Atom of thinking all aliens look alike. The fight is going against Captain Atom, when he receives word that there is a situation at the Hall of Justice.
The military and Black Lightning attempt to pierce the force field but fail. Inside, Despero is flinging Superboy around like a rag doll. Bumblebee urges Miss Martian to help and she telekinetically flings the fallen Martian Manhunter statue at the alien gladiator like a battering ram, but he shrugs it off and keeps attacking. Mal tells her to “brain blast him” but she refuses.
Captain Marvel attempts one last effort, calling out “Shazam!” to summon his mystic lightning. He reverts to Billy Batson, but the lightning doesn’t even phase Despero. L-Ron points out that his master doesn’t want to kill a child, so as with Zatanna, the alien opens his third eye and knocks Billy unconscious. Instead, Despero turns his attention to Superboy.
Back in Taos, Blue Beetle and Impulse agree not to tell the League about Impulse’s future reality, where Blue Beetle has turned evil and helped the Reach enslave mankind.
At the Hall, L-Ron is angered when Miss Martian uses her telekinesis to help Superboy against Despero. He insists their combat should be one-on-one. After the battle moves to another room, Mal, who has spent the fight dodging debris, spies The Guardian’s costume (having been knocked from the tribute to fallen heroes).
When Superboy collapses, Bumblebee once again urges M’Ghaan to use her telepathy, but she can’t, after what she did to Aqualad. Desperate, Bumblebee charges in, but her bio-shocks have very little effect and Despero once again uses his third eye to knock her unconscious… but not before a stray blast strikes said third eye. Just before Despero is about to crush Bumblebee beneath his foot, Mal appears, dressed as The Guardian and announces that if he wants Earth’s greatest champion, here he is!
Back in Taos, Jaime meets with Black Canary and divulges that the Reach created his suit but can no longer control it without killing him first. Black Canary smiles and says that this makes him their best weapon against them.
Mal commands that Miss Martian take the others and leave. Coherent for the first time in ages, M’Ghaan telepathically asks what he is doing. He responds that he is creating a distraction until she and Superboy can come up with a plan. Using trash talk and theatrics, Mal attempts to intimidate Despero. When the brute charges him, Mal employs the martial arts training he’s received from Black Canary to avoid his attacks and to use his own force against him.
Superboy is furious that Miss Martian left Mal alone and goes to help him, just as Despero grabs him and slams him into the ground. Miss Martian attempts to communicate with her unconscious colleagues until finally Zatanna snaps awake and uses her magic to mentally shield Mal and turn Despero’s hypnotic powers against him. Superboy seizes the opportunity and punches the dazed alien through a wall.
L-Ron is infuriated by their “poor sportism” and goes into attack mode, when Billy leaps onto his back and says “Let’s try this again. Shazam!” The magic lightning transforms him back into Captain Marvel and shatters L-Ron into pieces, but his head is clearly a bomb about to explode. Captain Marvel leaps forward to protect his allies, but the Hall of Justice is destroyed.
The shield remains, though and not even Captain Atom and Captain Marvel’s powers combined are able to destroy it. Just in time, the Reach Ambassador arrives and removes the field with a simple hand-held device. He comments, in front of Secretary Tseng that it’s too bad the Hall was destroyed… but at least they still have their space station, The Watchtower. Tseng reacts angrily at this revealed secret… and apparently this was all filmed, so G. Gordon Godfrey goes on a rant about it on his program.
With the Hall destroyed, Superboy, Mal, Beast Boy and Lagoon Boy, along with Nightwing must return to the Bludhaven warehouse. M’Ghaan however has other plans. Impersonating her “uncle” J’Onn J’Onzz’s Earth alter ego, John Jones, she takes up residence at his apartment in Chicago. She receives a call from Lagoon Boy but ignores it. Then someone comes to her door. It’s Superboy.
Captain Atom meets with Black Canary and Nightwing. He is frustrated at how well the Reach have managed to manipulate them, even taking Despero off their hands. Black Canary surmises that the Reach and Kroloteans both planned to cultivate and weaponize the Meta Gene, while Nightwing points out this is all due to The Light sending the six Justice League members to Rimbor and putting Earth and its super being in the galactic spotlight.
Blue Beetle walks in and reveals that he’s been hiding a secret… that somehow the Reach may take control of him and that he will be the cause of the “Reach Apocalypse.” He urges them to find a way to remove the scarab from his back.
This episode had it all! Loads of action, thanks to Despero’s attack on the Hall of Justice. The furthering of the Reach’s storyline, with things looking extremely bad for the League. Atom’s clear discomfort with diplomacy was extremely entertaining in an uncomfortable way. We also get calls back to the Light and their manipulation of Superman and the other League members they sent to terrorize Rimbor.
Not just that, but there was a lot of character development with Blue Beetle and Impulse in particular and in more subtle ways between Mal and Karen and M’Ghaan and Superboy.
This was just a very nicely balanced episode that pushed ahead a lot of plot lines while delivering character development and action.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “Cornered?” Comment below!