Recap / Justice League S 2 E 5 And 6 Only A Dream
In the middle of a prison breakout, a former Lexcorp employee named John Dee overdoses on an experimental machine, giving himself the power to trap a person inside his or her own worst nightmare. Dubbing himself "Dr. Destiny," he goes on a rampage to punish those he believes have wronged him, including the Justice League. When Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Superman, and Flash fall victim to the new supervillain, it's up to Batman and Martian Manhunter to track down Dr. Destiny and save their partners before it's too late.
This episode contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absentee Actor: Wonder Woman in part two; her conspicuous absence makes one wonder why Dr. Destiny wasn't targeting her (although given the sheer length of the nightmares, it may have been timing at play).
- Accidental Murder: Superman kills at least three people (in a dream) because he loses control of his abilities.
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: Flash initially thinks that his run-in with Dr. Destiny is the result of "too many jalapeños." Unfortunately, he's wrong.
- Affably Evil: Destiny initially comes across as this, being polite and courteous to the warden and staff at the prison...
- Faux Affably Evil: But when his life starts falling apart, the politeness is revealed to be something he uses for tormenting his enemies and victims, as well as covering his pettiness and inferiority complex.
- And Call Him George: Superman accidentally kills Jimmy Olsen by hugging him during his nightmare. It wasn't pleasant for either of them.
- Afraid of Their Own Strength:
- Superman's nightmare is entirely about what could happen to everyone else if he ever loses control of his abilities.
- Flash's can also be interpreted as his being afraid of his powers, particularly in retrospect from the fight with Lexiac in "Divided We Fall."
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: The Leaguers have to engage in a fight with Dr. Destiny while Batman tracks him down in the real world.
- Behemoth Battle: In the Flash's dreamland, both Dr. Destiny and Martian Manhunter grow enormous and start pushing each other into skyscrapers like in an old Godzilla movie.
- Bilingual Bonus: Batman hums the lullaby "Frère Jacques" to keep himself awake. Translated into English, the first two lines of the song are:
Brother John, Brother John
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
- It's also a jab at Dr. Destiny, given his powers.
- Buried Alive: Dr. Destiny does this via a nightmare to Hawkgirl (she's claustrophobic) while her friends get visions related to Power Incontinence. While the others get over their fears, Hawkgirl doesn't and is rescued only when Batman kicks Dee's ass. Then again, you can't really blame her for being scared, given the circumstances.
- Butt Monkey: Firefly's entire appearance is a string of humiliations. First, his attempt to attack an SCU squad fails miserably, and Volcana condescendingly pats him on the head and takes care of the situation herself. Then, after promising to guard Volcana's back while she battles Green Lantern, he gets diverted by Batman, who sends him careening into Volcana and sets them both up to be captured.
Volcana: Are you good for anything?
- Chekhov's Gun: Hawkgirl freaks out when one of the inmates traps her in a room with the walls closing in. Her nightmare involves her being locked in a coffin.
- Comforting Comforter: Flash returns from making coffee for Hawkgirl to find that she's fallen asleep. Instantly, he dashes away and returns with a blanket.
- Continuity Nod: During his nightmare, Superman calls Jimmy "my pal," which refers to a Superman: The Animated Series episode called "Superman's Pal."
- Cradling Your Kill: When Superman realizes he's killed Jimmy Olsen, he cradles Jimmy's body and desperately apologizes.
- Creepy Monotone: Dr. Destiny.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: Dream!Lois' determination to "find out what it is [that Clark is trying to conceal]" results in her death.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: John Dee/Dr. Destiny. His plan consisted of exploiting a prison riot to hijack the Materioptikon, which worked well as the Justice League was occupied with five super-criminals. He then bide his time until the League was exhausted and mostly fell asleep, and chose that moment to strike. He eventually decided to delay the heroes by withdrawing and only guarding a single mind, instead of letting them go through each one and all wake up.
- Daydream Surprise: The opening sequence is a daydream of John Dee's.
- Death By Man Scorned: Destiny attacks and kills his wife for leaving him for another man.
- Determinator: Bats, as usual. Despite having already been awake for three days straight, he forces himself to do it again while hunting down and fighting Dr. Destiny. He even lampshades this in a conversation.
Destiny: You're not like them. You don't have any special powers.
Batman: Oh, I have one, Johnny—I never give up.
- Didn't Think This Through: Clearly, Copperhead wasn't thinking at all when he grappled Hawkgirl, positioned his fangs near her neck, and demanded she fly him to safety. She flies up a few hundred feet and stops. When Copperhead demands to know why, she notes that if he carries out his threat now, they'll both fall thirty stories. "Didn't think this through, did you?" After she touches down, Green Lantern congratulates her on the bluff; her reply is a deadpan "Who's bluffing?"
- Dies Wide Open: Jimmy Olsen's eyes are wide open after Superman inadvertently crushes him. (The next shot, though, they're shut.)
- Dream Sue: The opening sequence John Dee single-handedly crushing the Justice League and then being congratulated by the whole of the Legion of Doom (mainly by Luthor, the Joker and Grundy). The sequence ends and it's revealed to have been a dream induced by an experimental machine. Later on, John Dee, alias Doctor Destiny, does get his chance to Mind Rape the whole of the Justice League.
- Dream Walker: Fortunately, Martian Manhunter can enter people's sleeping minds.
- Dream Weaver: Dr. Destiny can trap a person in their worst nightmare.
- Dynamic Entry: Superman makes one into Green Lantern's nightmare, shooting in with fist outstretched and decking Destiny with a single punch.
- Epic Fail: Batman's mental defences make Destiny's attempts to Mind Rape him into this (he's more effective trying to face the Badass Normal with Good Old Fisticuffs, which is definitely saying something).
- Evil Gloating: Destiny does this at various points in the episode.
To Flash: The fastest man alive, always leaving people like me in your dust. But now you're stuck in high gear, and you're going to be here, alone, forever.
To Martian Manhunter
: You can't help him
- Evil Laugh: Destiny has a truly chilling one when the League members fall asleep.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Dee's voice was on the more nasal end of this trope at first, then he got his powers and dived almost headfirst into it.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Lois' death gets a Scream Discretion Shot, but presumably she was either shot through or fried by Superman's Eye Beams.
- Foreshadowing: The barrier J'onn encounters when trying to enter Hawkgirl's dream. His inability to read her mind will come up again later.
- Fright Death Trap: Destiny's powers work on the same principle as the "Scared Stiff" variant—with the exception that you don't have to be in poor health for it to work.
- From Nobody to Nightmare Lord: Guess who. Dee was working for Lex Luthor and running some illegal operation when the League busted it. (Which seems to be why his version of the events and theirs are completely different.) Whatever the case, this seems to be a situation where someone thought to be a Mook came back with a vengeance.
- Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Lois points at Clark in Superman's dream, accusing him of "hiding something", right before her death.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Done deliberately and effectively, if obviously, and it's more in-universe than out - the League is mostly concerned with the escaped cons from their Rogues Gallery at first, but this plot is wrapped up by the end of the first episode. Meanwhile, Destiny is slowly being built up as the true threat to them from the first scene, and the focus switches to him when the League members go to sleep and become vulnerable to his power.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: While trying to inject Batman with a sleeping drug, Destiny accidentally doses himself. Then he falls victim to the same powers he's been using on the League all episode.
- Homage: The episode is basically A Nightmare on Elm Street with the Justice League.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The kids in Flash's nightmare attempt to eat him, completely out of nowhere.
- I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Destiny tries to use this line on Batman, but the Dark Knight is having none of it.
Dr. Destiny: Coming here was the mistake of your life. You see, the closer I am to someone, the stronger I get. I'll be able to go into your brain even if you're wide awake.
- Ironic Echo: Once Dr. Destiny accidentally doses himself with a sedative intended for the sleep-deprived Batman, we see him as a catatonic John Dee again, eyes wide open but with Frere Jacques going through HIS mind now.
- I Shall Taunt You: As he closes in, Batman repeatedly mocks Dr. Destiny, even daring him to fight face-to-face and give himself something to brag about, in order to distract his foe and weaken his mental focus.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: John Dee / Dr. Destiny. At first, he seems to be a fairly decent guy whose big mistake was simply getting hired as a guard by Lex Luthor, and the story starts raising questions about What Measure Is a Mook? and the hypocrisy of the henchmen going to prison and having their lives ruined while the villains themselves keep getting away scot-free. But once he gains superpowers himself, his Roaring Rampage of Revenge throws him right off the slippery slope, and into territory that even Lex never touched, with lemming-like gusto.
- Just Think of the Potential: John "innocently" cites this as the reason for continuing to test the ESP experiment on him, before adding that they should For Science!. The doctor in the charge of the experiment suffers from serious Genre Blindness.
- Karmic Fate Worse Than Death: At the episode's conclusion, Dr. Destiny falls victim to his own powers. The last we see of him, he's lying in a hospital bed, staring hollowly and humming "Frere Jacques." Who knows what he's seeing...
- Lap Pillow: Flash falls asleep with his head in Hawkgirl's lap.
- Literal Metaphor: After Green Lantern traps Volcana and Firefly inside a force-field bell jar:
Volcana: Do you think this can hold me?
Green Lantern: Knock yourself out.
(The villains try to burn through the force field... causing them to pass out as their oxygen is depleted.)
- Mind Rape: Courtesy of the bad doctor. Doctor Destiny (John Dee) uses his powers in a disturbing fashion - he traps his ex-wife in a nightmare. In one creepy scene, he removes his clothes in front of her, before "putting on" his costume. She ends up becoming the first person in the series to actually die by action of a supervillain. Then he goes after the League.
- Missed Him by That Much: Batman calls Superman to warn him—just a few minutes after he falls asleep.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Well, he gave himself the title; it wasn't granted by an authority.
- Muggles Do It Better: Dr. Destiny dispatches Superman, the Flash, and Green Lantern with ease, but he finds Badass Normal Batman too tough to crack. This is one of the few episodes of Justice League where Batman handles a problem his way, and fans point to stories like this as proof of why Batman not only should be on the team, but is one of its most valuable members.
- Must Have Caffeine: Batman doesn't normally use stimulants, but during his hunt for Destiny, he decides he needs some coffee.
(plunks down some cash) Gimme a triple. NOW!
- Never Sleep Again: Unless you're very close to him, Destiny can only affect you when you're asleep.
- Nothing is Scarier:
- The episode never shows what Dee did to his ex-wife; the screen simply cuts from him threatening her in the dream world to the real world, where she is thrashing and screaming in a sleep from which no one can wake her.
"And now that I'm a doctor, I think I'll perform some surgery."
- Then there's the rather chilling scene end, with Dee himself lying on his cot with his eyes wide open, mumbling the tune to Frère Jacques to himself. One can only imagine what he's seeing.
- Oh Crap!: Without much in terms of expression: J'onn realises how crucial the situation is when he sees the news report about Dee's wife's death; similarly, Batman's response to hearing about this is to allow him to enter their minds deeply, at great personal risk to himself, before they suffer the same fate.
- OOC Is Serious Business
- Outside-Context Villain: Of sorts - while John Dee was a Mook previously hired by Luthor once, nobody expected him to suddenly become the Big Bad of the two-parter and in the most terrifying way possible Mind Rape the team through their dreams. Absolutely nobody saw him coming...
- Overworked Sleep: After keeping vigilance for three days and beating Dee to a pulp, Batman finally falls asleep in his chair.
- Personal Horror: Poor Superman has a hefty dose of What Have I Done? in his nightmare as he betrays his self-image as The Cape in the most horrible way possible — by killing three people who have always stood by him.
- Pinch Me: Flash recognizes that he's in a dream a few minutes after Dr. Destiny shows up and believes that his alarm clock will wake him up.
Flash: Huh? This isn't supposed to happen.
Dr. Destiny: That's because this time, there isn't going to be a wake-up call.
- Post-Victory Collapse: Batman finally falls asleep in the penultimate scene. The fact that he's in a chair near Hawkgirl's bed rather than in his own bed suggests that he was trying to stay awake long enough to see for himself that his teammates were all right. It Makes Sense in Context: Batman had been without sleep for three days before having to face Dr. Destiny, so once it was okay to do so, he crashed and snored.
- Power Creep: In-Universe, gradual power creep is shown to be Superman's greatest nightmare. He keeps getting bigger and stronger and is unable to control his powers. Used as a great Mythology Gag, no less: "I started with no power at all, and I kept getting more. What if it never stops?"
- Power Incontinence: Green Lantern, Flash, and Superman all fear suffering from this in differing ways. Lantern fears that he's become nothing but the ring's wielder, alienated from all of humanity. Flash is terrified of going too fast and being alone for the rest of his life. Superman fears losing control and destroying the very people he wants to protect.
Green Lantern(to his neighbors): Where are you going? What are you all afraid of?
Superman: I started with no power at all. Then I kept getting more. What if it never stops?
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Delivered by proxy. Subverted in that the attack didn't take.
Dr. Destiny: You're good, but I'm better.
Camera cuts to show Superman rocketing in with an outstretched fist.
- Primal Fear: Dr. Dee forces the claustrophobic Hawkgirl into a dream of being buried alive.
- Prison Riot: Dee manages to escape due to one; no-one notices him, seeing as recapturing Solomon Grundy, Copperhead, Volcana, Firefly, and Luminus is a considered lot more important.
- Psychic Static: Batman uses the song "Frere Jacques" to keep Destiny from completely invading his mind.
- Race Against the Clock: Batman and Martian Manhunter have to save their fellow Leaguers before Destiny kills them. Unlike in many cases, they do manage to save all four victims, but it's a close thing.
- Rage Against the Legal System: it's implied that Dr. Destiny wants revenge on the Leaguers for locking him up. (The thing is, not only was he guilty of the crime, the one he probably should have blamed was Lex Luthor for convincing him to do it.)
- Role Reprisal: Dana Delany and David Kaufman return as the voices of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.
- Scream Discretion Shot:
- Self-Deprecation: Superman happily greeting Jimmy as "my pal" and then accidentally crushing him to death. This is a knock on the infamous "Superman's Pal" episode, which Bruce Timm and other carryovers were regretful about even years later.
- Sickening Crunch: When Superman gives Jimmy Olsen a Deadly Hug, the soundtrack features a rather nasty crack.
- Skull for a Head: Dr. Destiny uses his powers of illusion to achieve this look. He reverts to a normal appearance when recovering from a punch to the face, and when he is finally defeated.
- Slain In Their Sleep: The vulnerability of the superheroes in their dreams is played up big time, and John Dee's murder of his ex-wife is shown to be fairly horrific.
- Slap Yourself Awake: Batman punches through the Batmobile's window to keep himself conscious.
- Sleep Cute: Flash and Hawkgirl, before things went pear-shaped.
- Special Person, Normal Name: In fact, it's a plot point. Destiny's real name is John, something he hates because it's not special enough. Once he gets his powers, he proves that the man behind the name is anything but common. Batman keeps addressing him as "Johnny" as he closes in, perhaps guessing (with his understanding of criminal psychology) that it will annoy him and thus chip away at his mental focus.
- Squishy Wizard: John is a nigh-invulnerable Reality Warper in the nightmares he creates, but his true body is mortal and far more fragile. In comparison, that is. He's actually able to take a few blows from Batman before being knocked out.
- Stalker Without A Crush: Towards his wife by the time he escapes. He's no longer romantically interested in her, just ticked off that she left him behind.
- Tear Off Your Face: Destiny does this when confronting his ex as part of embracing his nightmare powers.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Though John Dee had occasional fantasies of power and vengeance on the Justice League, when "Only a Dream" began he was a well-behaved prison inmate who even the guards liked and believed should be released. However, his parole is turned down again, his wife leaves him, and then the prison erupts in a full scale riot. From all indications he really was a rehabilitated convict, but when the system would not even give him a chance he decided to go whole-hog and cut loose.
- Time Stands Still: The Flash's worst fear. He suffers a nightmare where he winds up locked in super-speed, effectively freezing him in time. The color is black-and-white. (He mentions that he used to have a similar dream often when he first got his powers)
- Troubled Fetal Position:
- When The Flash thinks he's going to be alone in a time-stuck world forever, he buries his face in his knees and wraps his arms around his legs.
- Superman curls up in his rocket and hides his eyes after his out-of-control superpowers kill Lois, Perry, and Jimmy.
- Unknown Rival: John Dee was just one of Lex Luthor's Faceless Goons, who was busted by the Justice League for guarding a shipment of stolen weapons and has been stewing in prison and dreaming of his revenge ever since. When he gains superpowers and escapes, the Leaguers are all baffled as to why he wants to destroy them, since they do not remember arresting him at all.
- "What Do They Fear?" Episode: For the Leaguers.
- Wham Episode: Downplayed example as it's mostly self-contained, but two crucial details are worth noting: an Arc Villain successfully murders someone and the League can't stop it, and Hawkgirl's got natural defences against mind-reading. For added points, nobody (in-universe or out) expected an Outside-Context Villain who nobody knew about to nearly kill four members of the League.
- Would Hit a Girl:
- When he bumps into his wife in her dreams, he tortures her into insanity, which kills her even after she's been sedated.
- He also comes close to killing Hawkgirl.
- Your Cheating Heart: John Dee's wife comes to visit him in prison only to inform him that she is leaving him for another man (who is already living in their house with her). This triggers his Start of Darkness, causing him to become Doctor Destiny.
- Your Worst Nightmare: As previously mentioned, this is John Dee's superpower. And boy, does he exercise it.