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Recap / Justice League S 2 E 5 And 6 Only A Dream

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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:

  • Accidental Murder: Superman kills at least three people (in a dream) because he loses control of his abilities.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Flash assumes that his run-in with Dr. Destiny is the result of "too many jalapeños." Unfortunately, he's wrong.
  • Affectionate Nickname: The dream version of Jimmy addresses Supes as "big guy" rather than "Superman."
  • 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 is also shown to be afraid of his powers, particularly in retrospect from the fight with Lexiac in "Divided We Fall."
  • Alien Geometries: As Batman closes in, Destiny projects an illusion of an Escheresque jumble of staircases to confuse him. It only works for a moment before he shakes it off.
  • And Call Him "George": Played for Drama. Superman accidentally kills Jimmy Olsen with an enthusiastic Bear Hug during his nightmare. His out-of-control Super-Strength snaps the kid like a twig.
  • And I Must Scream: After getting an overdose of his own drug, John Dee ends up trapped in a coma, unable to do anything except hum "Frère Jacques" over and over again.
  • Batman Gambit: Green Lantern encloses Volcana and Firefly in a force field. The pair try to burn through it, using up all the oxygen in nothing flat and knocking themselves out...just as he had anticipated.
  • 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.
  • Beam-O-War: Volcana vs. Green Lantern. Volcana has the advantage until Batman sends Firefly crashing into her.
  • Bear Hug: Comforted by seeing Jimmy in his nightmare, Superman grabs him off his feet with a hearty hug. Unfortunately, he forgets he can't control his powers and Jimmy is a Muggle teenager. It doesn't end well.
  • 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. It's a jab at Dr. Destiny, given his real name and powers. Translated into English, the song is sung:
    Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
    Brother John, Brother John
    Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing
    Ding, dang, dong! Ding, dang, dong!
  • Blessed with Suck: Hawkgirl has mental shields that prevent the Martian Manhunter from reading her mind...and from saving her when she's trapped in Dr. Destiny's nightmare. She has to wait until Batman knocks Dee out to escape.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • When the kids attack Flash to eat him during his nightmare, one actually bites his leg. Flash shakes him off and races away, and the viewer never sees any damage to his leg or his costume from the bite. Of course, by that time, he has other things to worry about...
    • Jimmy Olsen's death during Superman's nightmare — the viewer hears his spine snap, but there's no blood or protruding bones. Admittedly, this may be because being crushed to death wouldn't necessarily draw blood.
  • Brick Joke: In Flash's dream, he's watching a cartoon about himself with a group of children, one of whom questions what the TV Flash's use of "cur" means. Flash defines it as a bad person. A few minutes later, after having to run for his life when the children attack him, he calls them "rotten little curs."
  • Buried Alive: Hawkgirl's nightmare (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.
  • The Bus Came Back: While two of the prison breakouts are recurring villains Copperhead and Solomon Grundy, the others are Luminus and Volcana (who first appeared back in Superman: The Animated Series) and Firefly (who first appeared back in The New Batman Adventures).
  • 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?
    • Copperhead doesn't come off much better. While attempting to escape, he gets dragged by Grundy into a confrontation with first the SCU and then Martian Manhunter. Then, his attempt to force Hawkgirl to fly him to safety just gets him into a surrender-or-die situation.
  • Caffeine Failure:
    • Batman tries to wake Superman up by giving him some stimulants, but isn't too surprised when it doesn't work. As he puts it, "this is someone who could have a building fall on him and not feel it."
    • Later, Batman chugs down some coffee to keep going, but in his sleep-deprived state, the rush wears off fairly quickly. He lasts just long enough to take Dee down, and ends the episode in a deep slumber.
  • Call-Back:
    • Superman's Power Incontinence nightmare is a callback to the ending of "Legacy'', when he confessed to Lois he was terrified of losing control again (as he had when he'd gone gunning for Darkseid). It's also possible it's back on his mind again because of recent events, i.e. losing all self-control yet again during "Twilight" two episodes earlier.
    • Volcana once again blows a kiss of fire, though it's harmful compared to her debut.
  • Call-Forward: When John Dee is congratulated by his former boss Lex Luthor and his gang of villains, Joker suggests naming him after his future twin granddaughters, Dee Dee.
  • 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.
  • Colour Coded Time Stop: The Flash has a nightmare where he speeds up so much that, to him, the world seems frozen. The time-stuck world changes to grayscale.
  • 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: Superman, having lost control of his strength, crushes Jimmy Olsen to death while hugging him. When he realizes what happened, he cradles Jimmy's body, desperately apologizing to his young friend for harming him. Luckily, as implied by the title, it's All Just a Dream.
  • Creepy Monotone: Dr. Destiny speaks with very little variation to his tone at times, which just serves to make him even creepier than he already is.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Dee's ex-wife is literally scared to death by Dee placing her in a nightmare she never wakes from.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Dream Lois' determination to find out what it is that Clark is trying to conceal results in her death when she yanks his hand away from his eyes while his heat vision is going wild.
  • Daydream Surprise: John Dee's opening battle with the Justice League is suddenly revealed as a daydream that he's having while he's in prison.
  • Death by Woman Scorned: Gender-Inverted Trope. Destiny attacks and kills his wife for leaving him for another man.
  • Death Flight: During a fight, Copperhead grapples Hawkgirl, positions his poison fangs near her neck, and orders her to fly him to safety, or else he'll bite. Hawkgirl instead flies forty stories up and stops. When Copperhead questions why, Hawkgirl points out that if he carries out his threat now, they'll both plummet. "Didn't really think this through, did you?"
  • 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: But you're different [from the rest of the League]. 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 forty stories. "Didn't really think this through, did you?" After she touches down, Green Lantern congratulates her on the bluff; her reply is a deadpan "Who was bluffing?"
  • Dies Wide Open: Jimmy Olsen's eyes are wide open after Superman inadvertently crushes him. (The next shot, though, they're shut for no apparent reason.)
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: A non-combat variation. Martian Manhunter follows Superman as he flies away from the destroyed Metropolis to curl up in his spaceship. As J'onn approaches, Superman tells him to stay back so he won't get hurt when his out-of-control powers flare up again.
  • Doppleganger Attack: Luminus has improved his old holograms so that they can actually strike opponents, as Flash discovers the hard way. They are still dependent on the original, so when the real Luminus is identified (he's the one with a skeleton) and taken down, the replicas vanish.
  • Dream Reality Check:
    • Closing his eyes for a bit and opening them again had always worked for Flash in his nightmares. Not this time.
    • Played for laughs in the conclusion, when Hawkgirl finally wakes from the nightmare:
  • 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: Dr. Destiny can manifest himself in people's sleeping minds, although he doesn't generally use this ability for more than taunting the victim — the nightmare itself will do enough damage to them without his getting into a fight. Fortunately, the more benign Martian Manhunter has the same ability.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Before her dream turns into a nightmare, Hawkgirl dreams that she's awakened after Destiny attempted to attack her and is trying to wake up Flash. She realizes with alarm that she's still dreaming when Martian Manhunter turns into Dr. Destiny.
  • Dynamic Entry: Superman entering Green Lantern's nightmare, shooting in with fist outstretched and decking Destiny with a single punch.
  • Empty Shell: After overdosing on sleeping medicine and overexposure to the dream machine, Dr. Destiny is shown lying in Stryker's hospital, comatose with his eyes open and humming "Frère Jacques".
  • Evil Gloating: Destiny mocks the heroes 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 at the end of Part I when the League members fall asleep. Notably, it isn't the standard cackle; it's just a chuckle...but a very sinister one.
    • Destiny fully commits to a loud-and-proud cackle when he thinks he's beaten Superman, J'onn and John.
  • 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: The episode doesn't show Lois' death, but presumably she was either shot through or fried by Superman's Eye Beams. Either way, it's easy to see why it got a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • 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...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Destiny is first shown to be polite and courteous to the warden and staff at the prison...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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The barrier J'onn encounters when trying to enter Hawkgirl's dream. His inability to read her mind will come up again later.
    • A short term example occurs when Hawkgirl hypothesizes that she managed to escape Destiny's clutches because of her alien heritage. However, Superman's status as a Kryptonian obviously didn't protect him. To Hawkgirl's horror, it turns out she hasn't woken up yet.
  • 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 to die from the stress.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Dee was working for Lex Luthor and arrested by the League for running some illegal operation. (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. Batman also discusses this, noting how Odysseus told Polyphemus that his name was "Nobody" before blinding him.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Lois points at Clark in Superman's dream, accusing him of hiding something, right before her death.
  • Godzilla Threshold: With the attempts to wake up the members of the Justice League proving ineffective, Martian Manhunter enters the dreams to save them, at the risk of being trapped himself. Batman objects until he's told that Dee's wife died.
  • 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.
  • Hard Light: Luminus escapes from prison and uses his technology to surround Flash with holograms. Flash, used to this trick with Mirror Master, thinks that they're just holograms and apparently doesn't fall for it, except, as those who've watched Superman: The Animated Series would know, they're pretty solid.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Volcana and Firefly try to burn through Green Lantern's energy dome, only to use up all the oxygen in it and knock themselves out.
    • 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 Know What You Fear: The Justice League faces John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny, a criminal accidentally given Psychic Powers by an experiment, who uses his new abilities to torture and kill his ex-wife in her dreams, then goes on to torment our heroes. He bites off a bit more than he can chew, though, when he taunts Batman, who's powering through with willpower and coffee.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In Flash's dream, he's watching TV with a group of kids. When he tries to get them a snack, he finds nothing but a frog in the fridge. When Flash says there's no food, then they attempt to eat him.
  • 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 Frère 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.
  • Kiss of Death: Copperhead orders Hawkgirl to fly him away from the prison, or he bites her. Hawkgirl seemingly complies, but then stops in midair some distance up. Copperhead orders her to continue, "or I give you your last kiss." Hawkgirl is unfazed, pointing out that such a kiss would mean death for them both.
  • 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 and peeling off his face. She ends up becoming the first person in the series to actually die by actions of a supervillain. Then he goes after the Justice League.
  • Mirror Scare: Subverted. The dream-manipulating Doctor Destiny is stalking his ex, who goes into the bathroom to get some water after having a nightmare. The musical build-up makes it sound like he's going to be revealed with a mirror scare, but he isn't there. He's right next to her.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Batman calls Superman to warn him about the dream-stalking supervillain Dr. Destiny. He reaches his answering machine just a few minutes after he goes to sleep.
  • Mook Promotion: A rare example in which a former lackey (John Dee) becomes a deadly villain in his own right after his boss (Lex Luthor) left him out to dry in prison.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Destiny is a "doctor", but he most certainly is a bad one. Well, he gave himself the title; it wasn't granted by an authority. This is best exemplified when Dr. Destiny confronts his ex-wife in her nightmare:
    "And now that I'm a doctor...I think I'll perform some surgery..."
  • Motive Rant: When trying to play on Batman's self-worth in comparison to more powerful heroes, Dee ends up ranting about how his life was completely ruined and by people that never gave him a second thought, no less.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Dr. Destiny dispatches Superman, the Flash, Hawkgirl 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.
    Batman: [plunks down some cash] Gimme a triple. NOW!
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Superman's hulking frame after his Power Incontinence sets in to an incident with the Eradicator and some kryptonite rendered him with a similar condition in the comics.
    • As with the episode title back in his own series, Superman calling Jimmy "my pal" references the old comic series Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.
    • On a similar note, the dream version of Jimmy calls Superman "big guy", an Affectionate Nickname that the comics version started using in the Bronze Age.
  • Never Recycle a Building: The LexCorp harbor warehouse where Dee was originally arrested has been left vacant and allowed to decay, making it conveniently available for Dee to hole up in and for Batman to track him down.
  • Never Sleep Again: Unless you're very close to him, Destiny can only affect you when you're asleep. This causes difficulty for Batman, who's already been awake for three days prior. However, he grinds through on willpower, noise, cool air, and coffee.
  • Nightmare Weaver: Dr. Destiny can trap a person in their worst nightmare.
  • No-Sell: John Dee tries taunting Batman with the idea that rest of the League thinks little of him. It doesn't work.
  • 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."
    • At the end of the first episode, the League believe all is right with the world, and most of them decide to take a break and get a little sleep. The last shot is of the Watchtower looming peacefully over the Earth...and you hear Dr. Destiny chuckling. That's when you realize things are about to get very ugly.
    • Then there's the rather chilling final scene, 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.
  • Now You Tell Me: Batman calls Clark to warn him not to fall asleep, and gets Clark's answering machine, as he's already lying down and snoozing.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business
    • Hawkgirl breaks down and cries in fear, begging for help from anyone who can hear her.
    • Plucky Comic Relief Flash gets depressed enough to curl into a Troubled Fetal Position.
    • Determinators Superman and Green Lantern give up, with Superman returning to his ship to curl up in despair and Green Lantern almost surrendering himself entirely to the lantern Destiny conjures.
  • Oh, Crap!:
  • Outside-Context Problem: 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.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite the complete ease of doing otherwise, Dr. Destiny left Penny's lover alone. And while he inflicted mass catatonia on the prison guards and prisoners, the guard who was kind to him was not harmed.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: A villainous rather than heroic example. John Dee's wife comes to visit him in prison only to inform him that she is leaving him for another man. This (among other things) triggers his Start of Darkness, causing him to become Doctor Destiny.
  • 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 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?
    Flash: I was afraid this would happen. I'm gonna live out my life in the time it takes you to tie your shoes. Please, somebody, say something!
    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.
    J'onn: That's why I brought a friend.
    Camera cuts to show Superman rocketing in with an outstretched fist and a furious expression.
  • Primal Fear: Dr. Destiny 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 considered a lot more important.
  • Psychic Static: Batman hums the song "Frère Jacques" to keep Destiny from completely invading his mind (In-universe he listens to a radio commercial for what sounds like a diner that uses the same tune, and is probably supposed to be repeating that.)
  • Race Against the Clock: Batman and Martian Manhunter have to save Destiny's victims before he kills them. They do manage to save everyone (except Dee's wife, Penny), but it's a close shave.
  • 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.)
  • Scream Discretion Shot:
    • When Superman's out-of-control Eye Beams kill Lois Lane, we hear her shriek, but the camera is focused on Superman's face, so we don't see the results...fortunately.
    • Subverted with Jimmy Olsen's death. The viewer sees both the moment of death and Jimmy's body unblurred and unabridged.
  • 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.
  • Ship Tease: Before it turns into a nightmare, Superman's dream starts off with Clark simply having dinner with Lois.
  • Shout-Out: When Green Lantern writes Dee off as a nobody, Batman relates the story of how Odysseus blinded a cyclops.
    "After Odysseus was caught by the cyclops, he told it his name was 'Nobody.' So when he poked its eye out and its friends asked who did it, all the cyclops could say was 'nobody.'"
  • Sickening "Crunch!": When Superman gives Jimmy Olsen the hug that crushes him, 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: A platonic example; Flash falls asleep on Hawkgirl after she dozes off at the beginning of her watch. It's very cute...then Destiny chuckles. Everything goes pear-shaped from there.
  • Squishy Wizard: Dee 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: Dee towards his ex-wife by the time he escapes. He's no longer romantically interested in her, just ticked off that she left him behind.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: John fears becoming this after all his time in space, to the point where he can't even understand the people in his old neighbourhood.
    • Foreshadowed when, while getting ready for bed, John looks out his window at his neighbors, looks upset about something, then closes the blinds.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Volcana is the superpowered woman with pyrokinesis that makes Firefly look like a dim candle by comparison. However, Firefly is the one with the brains and engineering ability to create the suit and the gear that can give him the ability to fly and generate fire (of a lesser intensity compared to Volcana) which enables him to fight by her side, at least until Batman and Green Lantern show up.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Firefly and Volcana try to use fire to escape a construct Green Lantern used to trap them. They literally knock themselves out because their fire uses up all the oxygen inside the dome. Later, Volcana is seen inside a container with a breathing mask, suggesting that she's encased in inert gas to neutralize her power.
    • Copperhead attempts to force Hawkgirl to fly him to safety. She simply flies about 400 feet straight up and stops, and when he threatens her again, points out that if he kills her, the fall will kill him.
    • Doctor Destiny's victims don't die because he kills them in a dream, they die because the nonstop stress from the nightmares they are trapped in overworks their hearts. Even Flash and Superman can't survive that.
    • Dee trying to fight Batman without his powers was not a good idea, even if he was on the verge of falling asleep.
    • No matter how much of a defiant badass Batman is, he is still a human being who's prone to exhaustion and needs rest. Ditto for the rest of the League, despite their varying origins and some alien biology, most of them still need stuff like downtime and resting, which renders even unstoppable powerhouses like Superman vulnerable to Destiny's playing field.
  • The Team Normal: Dee admits that while he fully hates the other members of the League and blames them for his ruined life, he claims to have no grudge against Batman for this reason and offers to simply let him leave in peace. Batman sees it as a failed attempt to make him question his self-worth and brags his determination is a special power in itself.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Destiny does this to himself 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 recognizes that it's a dream and mentions that he's been having it ever since he got his speed powers.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: 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 Destiny and thus chip away at his mental focus. Likewise, him repeating the nursery rhyme "Frère Jacques" might have been because of him hearing it on the radio but given how the lyrics appropriately translate to his situation it also allows him to keep non-stop taunting Destiny at the same time, which Batman was likely aware of and using as a focus until he beat him.
  • 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.
  • Victory by Endurance: Batman manages to win against John Dee/Dr. Destiny by staying up as long as he can with coffee and his usual determination of crimefighting at night, even goading the former employee of LexCorp into fighting him in the hopes it would give Dee something to brag about.
  • Villain Decay: Firefly was a credible threat back in The New Batman Adventures, but here he’s a Butt-Monkey who is easily repelled by a Red Shirt Army.
  • We Will Meet Again: After being defeated in the last dream-world battle, Destiny declares, "This is far from over." However, it is over for the heroes he'd been tormenting, and it was over for Dee himself when Batman caught up with him.
  • Weaker in the Real World: Destiny is a powerful Reality Warper in his victims' dream worlds, but in reality, he is an ordinary man who is defeated by Batman after a brief fight.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: For the Leaguers. Superman is afraid of his powers going out of control and killing all his loved ones. Hawkgirl imagines being trapped in a coffin and buried alive (this was foreshadowed earlier in the episode). Flash fears that he would run so fast that the rest of the world would freeze in time. Green Lantern is afraid that he was becoming nothing more than a tool for a ring, and losing touch with where he came from—reflected in people being afraid of him and being unable to communicate with him, as though it were just another of the alien worlds he's been tasked to protect. Batman cheats—despite telling Dr Destiny how "My mind is not a nice place to be", he just chugs coffee and stays awake until he takes him down, so we never do find out what he fears.
  • 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 Problem who nobody knew about to nearly kill four members of the League.
  • Win to Exit: A dream variant; the heroes can only get out of the nightmares in which Destiny trapped them after Martian Manhunter helps them deal with the fear the nightmare expresses.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Seeking out his wife in her dreams, Destiny tortures her into insanity, which kills her even after she's been sedated.
    • He also comes close to killing Hawkgirl by trapping her in a nightmare of falling into a coffin and being buried alive.