WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Young Justice: Outsiders, streaming now on DC Universe.
It's no secret that the DC filmverse has faced criticism about how it shaped its stories into bleak, overly-violent movies, especially Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fans clamored for inspirational, warmer superhero adventures, which is why the likes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the upcoming Shazam! are held in higher regard.
However, when it comes to their animated stories, DC has found a way to make movies in the DC Animated Universe, as well as cartoons like Batman Beyond, resonate as dramatic character studies. But out all of all these properties, the one that stands tall as the most adult to date is none other than Young Justice.
In its first two seasons, even calling Young Justice dark would have been a stretch. It was geared towards teens and young adults, but Young Justice: Outsiders represents a drastic shift towards TV-MA. Don't get us wrong, there's no nudity or profanity like what we saw recently in Titans, but this third season is certainly pushing boundaries in terms of the adult themes being handled.
Episode 9, "Home Fires," punctuates this sentiment in the way Lobo attacks Halo when he comes to complete a contract and kill Forager. He uses his harpoon in the heat of the battle against Nightwing and company, goring the young girl with it. It's a brutal scene, as we actually see the impaling, which looks like a fatality from the Mortal Kombat franchise. But it doesn't stop there. Lobo drags her body around and then proceeds to yank the hook from her, with the camera right up on the wound.
It's gruesome to say the least, and outdoes all the other times we've seen the DCAU go gory or bloody, whether it's Superman and Batman brawling in The Dark Knight Returns or Reverse Flash taking a bullet straight through his skull in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Seeing a woman treated like this, in this day and age, well, it's quite disconcerting, but given the context that he's a relentless bounty hunter, we guess Lobo gets a pass. Looking at how the Quraci assassin also got killed via a headshot in Markovia, or how teen metahumans are being slaughtered, brings to mind how the show previously shied away from excessive blood, even in high-stakes action sequences, like when Aqualad "stabbed" Artemis to death.
Now, though, it's not just the violence that's taking a different direction. Outsiders' gets even darker in Ocean Master's plot to kill the kids of the Justice League in that same episode. When Lady Shiva comes to question his plan, he reveals the best way to make his enemies pay is by dealing them a blow they can't recover from -- seeing their children's dead bodies. It's sadistic how he monitors all the families, only for the scene to get more twisted when Shiva beheads him.
Last but not least, the show isn't holding back on sex. Before, it didn't even have that much kissing, apart from Miss Martian and Superboy, but now we see Black Lightning and Dr. Jace (Geoforce's guardian from Markovia) seducing each other, eventually ending up in bed. The way he talks about his divorce is clearly meant to appeal to an older audience. It's not as aggressive as when Batgirl jumped Batman in The Killing Joke, but you can tell from this particular romance that the series is taking a more adult-oriented approach to relationships.
The evolution is quite astounding, because previously the most shocking this show got was when Miss Martian broke Aqualad's mind in Invasion. Seeing something that didn't start off grim at all take this turn is quite startling, but, ultimately, the DC Universe streaming service and the creatives behind the project are making it work.
Young Justice: Outsiders is now available to stream on DC Universe, with new episodes debuting every Friday.