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Recap / Justice League Unlimited S 2 E 9 Question Authority

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"The plastic tips at the end of shoelaces are called aglets. Their true purpose...is sinister."
The Question

The rogue New God Mantis is rampaging through Metropolis. He proves a handful for the combined powers of Superman and Captain Atom, but Superman manages to open a boom tube and a blast from Captain Atom sends him hurtling back to Apokolips. No sooner has the dust settled than Lois Lane arrives and reminds Superman that they have a date. As Superman flies away with her, Captain Atom is surprised to be hailed by General Eiling, in full dress uniform. Eiling informs the captain that his commission in the U.S. Air Force has been reinstated, and it is time for Atom to make a choice between his country and the League.

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Superman and Lois fly toward their date, Lois voices her thoughts to Superman, revealing it seems like she doesn't see him anymore. While Superman admits it has been some time, he reveals his desire to make today special, revealing his plans for a romantic picnic for them. Over the picnic, Lois gently tells Superman that the Justice League's recent heavy-handed behavior is making some people, including herself nervous. She also reminds Superman that people haven't forgotten the time when he was under Darkseid's control.

While Superman admits it the Justice League comes on a little strong, he assures her it's for the public's own good. Lois admits that is something Lex would say. Superman then becomes firm and says he is nothing like Lex, Lois assures Superman of the thought, but also says that he needs to assure the public's trust. She gives him a tender kiss and they continue to enjoy their date.

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With Huntress's help, the Question steals a series of high-security files from a government terminal, hoping that it will finally provide proof of a link between Lex Luthor and Project Cadmus. When he's finished, Huntress suggests a date. However, Question says it will take him days to crack the data, to which Huntress then snatches the USB drive from his hands, glaring at him. Question then suggests a date with dinner and a movie, much to her approval.

Inside Cadmus, Luthor is examined by Professor Hamilton and is shocked to be told that his Kryptonite-induced cancer has disappeared entirely, as if it was never there. Amanda Waller arrives and informs them of the theft.

In his apartment, Question finally cracks the files and begins to review them. He finds the footage of the Justice Lord Superman assassinating President Luthor in the Justice Lords' alternate dimension and is shocked. After days of poring over the data, he becomes unhinged, believing that the same thing is fated to happen in their world: Luthor will become President, Flash will be killed, and Superman will attack the government in retaliation – Except that, according to Cadmus simulations, the resulting war between all the metahumans of the Justice League and humans will destroy the planet. Huntress walks in, demanding to know what he's been up to, but Question runs out, determined to put a stop to it all. Huntress views the tape and appears just as shocked.

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Question confronts Superman, who assures him that he would never do what the his Justice Lord counterpart did, even if Luthor does become President. Question is unconvinced, and decides that the only way to prevent Armageddon is to kill Luthor before he takes office. He goes to LexCorp to do so, with the notion that Superman and the League's reputation will be untainted while he, a "well-known crackpot", faces whatever punishment after. Luthor swats him away with a display of inhuman strength that surprises both of them. He confesses that his entire presidential campaign is nothing but a ruse to tick Superman off, “a small part of a much grander scheme”. Question is taken to Cadmus and tortured by Dr. Moon for details on the files he stole. Question blathers about random conspiracy theories during the interrogation, but he doesn't give up any important information.

After Question disappears, Huntress kidnaps Jimmy Olsen and uses his special watch to call Superman. Telling him about the tape (which she assumes is a fake), they track Question's comlink to a garbage dump. Huntress fears the worst, but Superman points out that they just dumped his comlink, not his body. They conclude that Question has been taken alive by Cadmus. Superman initially refuses to help her, insisting that the League cannot act without legal grounds. But when Huntress points out that Cadmus is interrogating Question under the government's authority, Superman agrees to help, but states they're doing it off the books.

They smash into Cadmus and as Huntress fends off the guards, Superman looks through a wall and sees Professor Hamilton. Realizing his role in the conspiracy, Superman confronts him, and Hamilton doesn't deny or regret what he's done, insisting that the world needs protection from Superman and his kind. He reminds Superman of how he himself once threatened Hamilton personally. Superman leaves in anger, but then Hamilton sags, as though exhausted, with a concerned and regretful look on his face.

Superman and Huntress break into the cell where Question is being tortured. As they are leaving, they are confronted by Captain Atom, who says that he is now following orders from the government to stop them.

Tropes:

  • Batman Cold Open: Superman and Captain Atom taking on Mantis.
  • Broken Pedestal: Hamilton explains that he joined Cadmus to protect the world from people like Superman.
    Superman: Humanity doesn't need protection from us.
    Hamilton: I used to believe that. I thought you were a guardian angel come to answer our prayers. But Lucifer was an angel, too, wasn't he?
  • Butt-Monkey: Jimmy Olsen gets mugged, bound, and gagged by Huntress so she can use his signal watch to summon Superman, who leaves poor Jimmy tied up while he and Huntress talk.
  • Call-Back:
    • Lois reminds Superman of how his reputation was damaged after he fell under Darkseid's control—saying not everyone has forgotten.
      • When Superman ran into Hamilton at Cadmus, while rescuing The Question, Hamilton recalls the above storyline, specifically when Superman manhandled him to get Supergirl's operation after she was injured. He hesitated as there was risk of treason.
    • Debating Superman over whether he can hold onto his ideals better than his Justice Lord counterpart, the Question reminds him of his recent attempt to lobotomize Doomsday.
    • The Question discovers the whole truth about the Justice Lords and confronts Superman about it.
    • Superman and Huntress briefly discuss her dismissal from the Justice League.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Question and Huntress engage in banter while she beats the snot out of Cadmus security grunts.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: At the end of the episode, Captain Atom shows up and Superman thinks he's there as their backup, until the Captain tells him that he was actually ordered to stop them.
  • Close-Enough Timeline: The Question discusses this trope when expressing his warnings to Superman.
    "It's the same. A heavily armed Watchtower with an army of pro-active heroes, Luthor running for president—if it's not quite the same, it soon will be."
    • Even though he learns Lex's run for the presidency was fake, this doesn't stop the Question from fearing similar events to the Justice Lord's Earth will happen anyway.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Huntress makes short work of a group of Cadmus mooks while the Question steals information about Luthor's connection to Cadmus. She even chats with Question while fighting, clearly not at all worried.
    • Superman vs. Cadmus' security troops. Calling it a fight would be giving Cadmus' mooks too much credit.
  • Determinator: If Huntress' declaration that the Question was missing for "a week" isn't an exaggeration, then Question withstood Cadmus interrogation for that entire length of time without surrendering any (useful) information.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The Question didn't count on Luthor's presidential campaign being a fake or that he suddenly developed superpowers.
  • Electric Torture: What the Question is subjected to. It shows him the Flash being killed by Luthor leading to the end of the world.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Question fears that if Superman kills Luthor, it will lead to a conflict between the League and Cadmus that will destroy the world.
  • Evil Is Petty: Luthor reveals that the whole reason for running for president or at least pretending to was to "tick Superman off". He had a grander scheme in mind.
  • Exact Words: Dr. Moon demands that the Question tell him "what [Question] know[s]"; the Question replies with various conspiracy theories, things he knows, but not what Moon is interested in.
  • Foreshadowing: Luthor's cancer is gone, and he suddenly has super-strength.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Downplayed; learning the whole story about the Justice Lords' universe does a number on the Question's mental state, but he remains stable enough to come up with a reasonably well-thought solution.
  • Heroic BSoD: The Question goes through one when he finds out the truth about the Justice Lords...and what it means to his universe if Luthor becomes President here.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Question takes down a Cadmus mook with a computer monitor to the face.
  • Internal Reveal: A few as befitting a Wham Episode:
    • The Question (and Huntress) learn about the Justice Lords.
    • Superman learns that Hamilton joined Cadmus.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Despite Hamilton's treachery, Superman can't make a solid argument against his belief that there need to be countermeasures against beings as powerful as Superman and the Justice League.
  • Just Following Orders: Captain Atom declares that as an Air Force officer he intends to follow his orders to prevent Question from being rescued. He ignores the obvious indications that Question has been tortured in custody (which means that his orders are illegal and his military oath actually requires him to disobey them).
  • Nothing Personal: Despite, in his own words, having a Brobdingnagian distaste for Luthor as a person, the Question assures him that there's nothing personal behind his attempt to murder him.
  • Reality Ensues: During his confrontation with the Question, Luthor rhetorically asks if the conspiracy theorist knew how much power he would have to give up if he actually became President. In Luthor's case, he'd have to surrender the unrestrained power and influence he has through LexCorp in order to be a public servant, and would be kept in check by the other government branches and foreign countries. It is uncertain how the Justice Lords' version of Lex managed to get away with it before his death.
  • Sadistic Choice: Eiling tells Captain Atom that his Air Force commission has been reactivated and has a decision to make. In the end, he follows orders and tries to prevent the heroes from saving the Question.
  • Screw Destiny: Despite believing that a Justice Lords-esque reality is all but inevitable, the Question still chooses to try and avert such a catastrophe by killing Luthor before Superman has a chance to.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Huntress and Superman ultimately decide to raid Cadmus in order to rescue the Question instead of waiting for legal cause to take down Cadmus. That said, Superman makes it clear that they're operating outside of the Justice League to do it.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Huntress describes the League's legal restrictions as the reason she quit. Superman accurately points out that she was fired.
  • Shooting Superman:
    • Dr. Moon pulls a gun on Superman, who shouts, "Don't be stupid! Drop it." Moon meekly drops the gun.
    • Cadmus guards do their best. Superman barely even notices.
  • Shoot the Dog: Question decides the best way to prevent history to repeat itself is to kill Luthor; as he's a "well-known crackpot", the League's reputation will survive his actions.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Dr. Moon never raises his voice while interrogating the Question, and he never loses a smug sense of pleasure in the deed.
  • Super Strength: Luthor, much to the Question's surprise.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Dr. Moon stands in for Hugo Strange, who appeared earlier in the season but was later declared off-limits due to the infamous Bat-Embargo.
    • The Question is depicted as his Watchmen Expy Rorschach.
  • Torture Technician: Dr. Moon handles the Question's "interrogation".
  • Wham Episode: The final confrontation between the Justice League and Cadmus begins with this episode.
    • Luthor's cancer is mysteriously gone, and his health has improved to superhuman levels.
    • The Question finds out the secret about the Justice Lords, and realizes the possibility of a superhuman war with Earth's government is happening.
    • In an attempt to stop that future war, The Question tries to kill Luthor in order to stop him from becoming President and to stop Superman from following in his Justice Lord counterpart's steps.
    • Luthor instead crushes The Question, revealing his Presidential campaign is a ruse to draw Superman and the other heroes into his "much grander scheme."
    • Superman and Huntress raid the Cadmus compound where The Question is being tortured, where Superman finds out his former friend Dr. Hamilton has turned against him. Worse, by raiding Cadmus, Superman has escalated the hostilities between the League and Cadmus to open war.
  • Wham Line: Several this episode.
    The Question: A heavily-armed Watchtower with an army of proactive heroes, Luthor running for president — if it's not quite the same, it soon will be!

    Luthor: You're going to kill me so that Superman can't.
    The Question: I'm a well-known crackpot. The Justice League's reputation will survive my actions... and Superman's legacy will remain intact.
    Luthor: Interesting plan. Unfortunately for you, it's not really an option.

    Luthor: Do you know how much power I'd have to give up to be President?

    Superman: A lot of things are starting to make sense now. When did Cadmus recruit you?
    Professor Hamilton: Recruit me? I went to them.
  • Wham Shot: Luthor effortlessly knocking the Question away.
  • What the Heck Is an Aglet?: According to the Question, their true purpose is sinister.
  • Who Shot JFK?: According to the Question, the Illuminati forged a magic bullet.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • The Question reasons that what happened in the Justice Lords universe is inevitable here, even if some of the details are slightly off.
    • He still tries to subvert it by confronting Luthor before that war can happen...but the Question's beatdown and torture actually leads to Superman directly confronting Cadmus and starting the war anyway.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: The Question knows that most people already think he's a crackpot, and figures that he can Shoot the Dog without discrediting the entire League.
 
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Video Example(s):

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JLU - The chicken or the egg?

Upon learning that Emil Hamilton has joined Project Cadmus, Superman demands an explanation. Hamilton delivers, with a rather unfortunate truth that even Superman cannot deny.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / JerkassHasAPoint

Media sources:

Main / JerkassHasAPoint

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