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Well, this one kept me guessing. Mostly between dream and simulation. I know that teleporting beams were a possibility, but one I dismissed. Story structure wise, you don't do something this, well... apocalyptic, early in a series. I knew a twist was coming, but I had no idea which of the two it would be. Surprise, surprise it was both.
I've already seen people compare it to "Over the Edge," an episode of "The New Adventures of Batman" I always thought was severely overrated. In that episode, Barbara Gordon falls off a building and dies, Gordon blames Batman and swears vengeance; Batman is publicly unmasked, becomes a fugitive; Gordon is kicked off the case and then hires Bane to help him take down Batman; Bane betrays Gordon; Gordon and Batman die; and then Barbara wakes up and it was a nightmare induced by Scarecrow's fear toxin. She then vows to tell her father the truth to prevent something like that from actually happening and then doesn't. And then I throw my remote control at the TV. What a crock! Not only is there no internal logic to the nightmare, I mean... who has a dream or nightmare where they are dead and their mind is playing this? And then she decides to do something that would result in character development and change the status quo in an interesting way and doesn't? Really! Then I got on the internet and found out this was one of the most revered episodes of the series.
I've seen "Failsafe" get compared to "Over the Edge" several times already, and while "Failsafe" isn't perfect, it doesn't cheat anywhere near as much as "Over the Edge" did. If it did, the entire Team would have been killed in the first two minutes and this still would have been their simulation and dream. That, and the outcome of what happened here will likely have lasting consequences as opposed to Barbara deciding to tell and then not tell her dad she was Batgirl. I'm a firm believer in continuity and actions having consequences, and while I loved "Batman the Animated Series" and its spin-offs quite a bit, it tended to shrug off long term consequences to keep a certain status quo.
I think a closer comparison would be to the "Gargoyles" episode, "Future Tense." Like "Failsafe," that episode was both a dream and an illusion. Apocalyptic things happen, and you keep waiting to find out what the twist is going to be, but it also throws so much at you, you're distracted from thinking about it... you just know that something is wrong. Overall, I thought "Future Tense" was far more effective at distracting you on that first viewing. I also felt that it played fair more than "Failsafe." In "Future Tense," we never left Goliath. He was in every scene, and we saw everything he was seeing, and nothing else. While "Failsafe" was cutting to civilians hiding in bunkers, and other moments that no one on The Team was witnessing. And if they weren't witnessing it, why was it part of the simulation and their dream?
"Failsafe" was better than "Over the Edge" but not as good as "Future Tense." But then, few things are. It may be a little unfair of me to make the comparisons either way, but that's where my mind went and those were the comparisons that I drew. A comparison to a similar premise in a DC animated production and in another Greg Weisman production.
I really enjoyed seeing General Wade Eiling make his animated debut, at last. And with his proper design and the correct pronunciation of his name. Eiling appeared in "Justice League Unlimited" but with a different look, since General Hardcastle's design was pretty close to Eiling's comic design, and back in 2007, when Greg Weisman and I were having lunch together at a Taco Bell near the Sony studio he was producing "Spectacular Spider-Man" at, we briefly discussed Captain Atom, and I pronounced Eiling the way JLU did, and he corrected me. Since he co-created the character with Cary Bates, I think he'd know. Just like Dennis O'Neil knows the proper pronunciation of Ra's al Ghul even if Christopher Nolan does not.
I hope to see more of Eiling. I've read some of Greg and Cary's Captain Atom run, and he's a terrific character.
The ending of the episode opens a lot of possibilities and lasting consequences. M'Gann is more powerful than previously thought. I have some theories on where this will lead, but I am not well versed in DC lore, so I intend to keep them to myself... except for one. I am convinced she is a White Martian. And hey, this episode has plenty to make both people who love and hate the character happy. People who like her get a great episode that focused on her. While the people who hate her can make an animated gif of her getting stabbed by Martian Manhunter. Everybody wins.
Great episode, and if you will indulge me one more comparison to "Future Tense," well was it a dream or a prophesy? With the second season being titled "Invasion," that's something to ponder.
Well, we figured very few people would believe we were killing everyone off. So we intentionally put in the "teleportation" option to distract from the possibility that it might be a simulation or dream (let alone both).
I haven't seen "Over the Edge" so I have no comment on that one. As for comparisons to "Future Tense"... well... I'll leave that to you and others to weigh.
For more of Eiling, try to pick up issues 9 and 10 of the Young Justice companion comic.