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"Wild Cards"

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Justice League episode
Joker's Royal Flush Gang
"Wild Cards"
Airdate: December 6, 2003
Production Number: 48-49
Airdate Order: 47-48
Animation Services by: Dong Woo Animation Co., LTD.
Written by: Stan Berkowitz and Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by: Butch Lukic
Episode images (8)

"Wild Cards" is the forty-eighth and forty-ninth episodes of Justice League. It originally aired on December 6, 2003.

Plot

Part I

In the Watchtower, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are trying to hack into bank records and get into an argument. Lantern points out that Hawkgirl only ever behaves like this when they are alone. Though she denies it, they appear on the verge of kissing when they are interrupted by a call from Batman.

Batman confronts a television network executive for selling airtime to a certain "Gwynplaine Entertainment", telling him that it is actually the Joker. The executive quickly calls to shut off the channel station before the Joker goes on air, but they see that the Joker has bought the same amount of airtime on all the other channels as well to broadcast his own reality television special from Las Vegas: he's planted a time bomb somewhere on the Strip, and only the Justice League can disarm it, because if anyone else tries he'll detonate it immediately. The bomb is set to go off in just under twenty-three minutes. Joker's also planted a large number of cameras all over the city, allowing him, and the viewers, to keep track of the League's every move.

As people flee the city in panic (save for one old woman, who spends the entire ordeal playing slots, unaware of her surroundings), the League — Superman, Batman, Hawkgirl, Lantern, and the Flash — arrive in Vegas. Superman quickly locates the bomb with his x-ray vision, but the League is attacked by Joker's own squad of superpowered henchmen, the Royal Flush Gang. As they battle the League, Joker explains their origin: a group of five kids born with superpowers, they were taken from their families and imprisoned by the government as teenagers to be trained as human weapons, until Joker freed them.

As the rest of the League fights, Batman defuses the bomb, only to find it is a fake. Superman scans the Strip, and finds twenty-five bombs, with just under fourteen minutes left. There's no way to tell which might be more fakes and which are real without searching them all out.

The League splits up to disarm them, with the Gang continually popping in to hinder their efforts. Batman, impressively, manages to talk Flash through disarming a bomb even while battling one Jack.

At one casino, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl get into another argument over defusing a bomb. The Joker mocks the romantic tension between them, and decides, just for fun, to press his detonator. Hearing a beep, Lantern ejects Hawkgirl from the building, just as the bomb explodes with Lantern still inside much to Hawkgirl's stress and shock.

Part II

Frantic, Hawkgirl searches the wreckage of the casino for Lantern. She finds him, gravely injured. She tries to revive him with CPR, then finally succeeds with an impromptu electroshock from her mace. Abandoning the bomb hunt, she flies Lantern to get medical help, ignoring Batman's orders to return as quickly as possible.

Still fighting Jack, Batman manages to down a helicopter carrying Harley Quinn. Batman plays on her jealousy by insinuating Joker's seeming affection for Ace, the last member of the Gang. This causes Harley to punch him, seemingly knocking him out.

By now, there is only one bomb left, with only a few minutes remaining. Superman holds off Ten and King while Flash tries to disarm it, but Joker distracts him. With exactly one second left, Flash just grabs the bomb and disappears – incredibly, managing to run it out of the city, drop it, and get away, as it is exploding.

The Joker applauds the League's success, but then reveals the horrific true nature of his plan: Ace has a basilisk gaze, the power to drive people insane just by looking at them, either in person or on TV; a power so dreadful, she was taken by the government as a toddler. The whole bomb plot was a ploy to drive up the viewership of the program to the maximum – by Joker's estimate, sixty or seventy million people are now watching – and now they can't look away, as Ace has them mesmerized. In a few minutes, their minds will all be destroyed.

A furious Harley arrives at the studio, inadvertently leading Batman to Joker's hideout. Batman confronts Joker, but is disabled by Ace. Joker attacks him, literally "kicking him while he's down", and Batman tries to defend himself. As they struggle, Batman plucks something out of Joker's pocket – the mind-control headband that Ace's government handlers used to pacify her. Seeing it, Ace is enraged, and turns her power on Joker, driving him into a catatonic state. Ace walks out; Batman is too weak to follow her.

Up in the Watchtower, Hawkgirl reports to Batman that Lantern is out of danger. She tries to apologise for disobeying him, but Batman cuts her off, telling her she did the right thing. Hawkgirl goes to check on Lantern, who wakes up and confronts her, saying it is time for them to admit their feelings for each other. She demurs, but can't deny the way she feels. For the first time, her headdress is removed (on screen), revealing her face, and they kiss.

Back in Las Vegas, the old woman finally wins the jackpot on the slot machine.

Continuity

Background information

Home video releases

Production inconsistencies

  • When Batman tells the television executive that Gwynplaine Entertainment is the Joker, the executive reacts in shock before Batman finishes his sentence.
  • Batman tells the Flash to disarm the bomb by disconnecting four wires in a specific order. After Flash's hands stop moving, all of the wires (more than four) have been disconnected. Likewise, when Superman disarms a bomb, he uses his heat vision to disconnect different wires, and in a different order.
  • When Superman and Flash start having hallucinations by watching Ace, there are no people around them, but when the camera cuts to a wider view, there are several people standing behind them.
  • Part I ends with Hawkgirl calling out for John in horror, with 7:00 to go on Joker's onscreen timer. However, at the beginning of Part II, Hawkgirl is seen on her feet at 7:06 trying to rescue John.
  • When Superman is trying to convince Ten and King to give up, he claims they have "less than a minute", but the timer is at 1:10. However, Superman cannot see the timer, so this may be justified.

Trivia

  • Oddly enough, the Joker does not perform his trademark laugh at any point in the entire episode.
  • This episode marks the first time Hawkgirl's face is seen.
  • Aside from a cameo on one of the Joker's monitors, Wonder Woman and J'onn J'onzz do not appear.
  • This episode also marks the last appearance of Joker and Harley Quinn in the DCAU (though their final chronological appearance was in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker), and also Arleen Sorkin's final performance. Both Sorkin and Mark Hamill would reprise their characters six years later in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • Batman insinuates that Ace has replaced Harley in Joker's affections. Coincidentally, Ace's voice actress, Hynden Walch, went on to voice Harley in the non-DCAU series The Batman. Also, Tara Strong (Queen) voiced Harley in the sequel Batman: Arkham City.
  • The Joker's countdown starts just below twenty-three minutes, the average length of a half-hour television episode without commercials.
  • The Joker's line about stealing the kids away from their government handlers, "and they would have gotten away with it, too, were it not for me meddling with the kids!" is a spoof on the well-known catchphrase from Scooby-Doo. Hamill has often voiced characters in the direct-to-video movies of Scooby-Doo.
  • Joker buys his airtime using the alias "Gwynplaine Entertainment". Gwynplaine is the hero of Victor Hugo's novel "The Man Who Laughs", a circus performer who was abducted and mutilated as a child, a permanent grin carved into his face. Batman's creator, Bob Kane, admitted that he used Gwynplaine as a model when he created the Joker. "The Man Who Laughs" is also the name of a comic serial featuring Batman and the Joker.
  • Hawkgirl mockingly refers to Queen, after she assumes her metal armor and sword, as "Joan of Arc".
  • During the scene after Joker tells Ace's back-story, a man in a mouse suit with a coffee mug walks behind the two, indicating that Ace's insanity-inducing mind power has started to take effect over the audience.
  • Contrary to Ten's belief, it seems unlikely that any of the bombs would have been powerful enough to kill Superman, since his clone, Bizarro, had managed to survive an explosion equivalent to half a kiloton, or 500 tons, of TNT in "Identity Crisis". In real life, the largest conventional, i.e. non-nuclear, explosives top out around 50 tons of TNT.
  • Flash's stunt with the last bomb is similar to one Batman pulled with a bomb planted by the Clock King in "Time Out of Joint".
  • When explaining the Royal Flush Gang's abilities, it is said that Ten cannot feel pain. Yet, he is clearly in pain when fighting Superman, judging by his facial expressions and yells.
  • The episode is a subtle crossover with the Teen Titans animated series, as the members of the Royal Flush Gang are all voiced by actors from that series, with similarities to their Titans characters.
Royal Flush Gang Actor Teen Titans Similarities
Ten Khary Payton Cyborg Built physique and super-strength
Jack Greg Cipes Beast Boy Shapeshifting
Queen Tara Strong Raven Mind control over objects
King Scott Menville Robin Staff wielding leader
Ace Hynden Walch Starfire Large, glowing eyes


  • Bruce Timm has confirmed that the kids' distinctive-looking "headmaster" was designed as a cross between Marvel's Professor Charles Xavier, from their X-Men title, and DC's John Lynch, from Gen-13.[1]
  • The final scene is similar to a famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock's film To Catch A Thief, when a couple falls down onto a couch, kissing, and then the camera shifts upward to show fireworks going off outside.
  • Near the end of the episode, Ace turns on Joker, using her powers to render him catatonic. However, his appearance in the flashback sequence and in the future in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker clearly means that he somehow revives from this experience. This is just one in the many times Joker has survived an apparently life-threatening situation.
  • The casino that explodes with John inside is named after Amos Fortune, the villain who originally founded the Royal Flush Gang.

Cast

Actor Role
Maria Canals Hawkgirl
Old lady (uncredited)
Kevin Conroy Batman
Phil LaMarr Green Lantern
George Newbern Superman
Michael Rosenbaum The Flash
Mark Hamill The Joker
Arleen Sorkin Harley Quinn
John C. McGinley Network Executive
Bookie (uncredited)
Greg Cipes Jack
Scott Menville King
Khary Payton Ten
Tara Strong Queen
Hynden Walch Ace


Quotes

Part I

Hawkgirl: Aha, that's it. Right there.
John Stewart: No it's not.
Hawkgirl: I think I would know.


Joker: Ah ah ah, don't touch that remote. I know it's heartbreaking to have your favorite shows pre-empted, but look what you're getting instead: me! And a whole truckload of mindless violence and wanton property damage; everything that makes TV great! So stay tuned, you won't believe your eyes.


Joker: The Royal Flush Gang! Jack, Ten, King, and... uhhh... Queen!


Joker: Oh, you're breaking an old man's heart, kids. Stand up to them, like I would! If I were there, and if I had superpowers, and...Oh, for Pete's sake, go back there and beat on them!


Bookie: Smart money's all on your boy Jack, Mr. J.! Batman has the edge in experience—and weight, I can't help noticing; I suspect he's indulging in too many "Bat-donuts"—but Jack is younger and he definitely has the longer reach.


Joker: I can't believe he didn't suspect a trap. See what happens when you don't watch enough television?


Joker: Whew! Is it just me, or is there something going on between those two? Will Green Lantern ever admit to his feelings? Will Hawkgirl ever stop sublimating her passions with that BIG HONKING MACE?! Will True Love conquer all?
(raises his detonator)
Joker: Not on my show!


Part II

Joker: Ooh! Medical drama, life and death stakes, compelling human conflict...RATINGS!


Batman: Harley, where's Joker?
Harley Quinn: After all these years, Bats, you still think I'd give up Mr. J?
Batman: Why not? He gave you up.
Harley Quinn: That was a long time ago, he's changed! We've been to couples' counseling!


Superman: That was quite a stunt you just pulled off.
Flash: I know. Can't wait to catch the rerun.


Joker: You know, our show was picked up by all the news channels. And the last 15 minutes or so's been running on the Broadcast networks. According to my projections, we've got somewhere between 60-70 million people watching right now, and that was the point all along. This whole thing was a stunt, to get as many of you watching as possible, and it worked! My Royal Flush Gang provided the conflict, the Justice League brought the star power, and I brought the shocking surprise ending. Everyone watching this show right now is witness to my greatest joke ever. In just over five minutes, you'll all be hopelessly, incurably insane.


Joker: Even as I speak, millions of you slack-jawed couch potatoes are losing your grip on reality—which, in my opinion, is highly overrated anyway. But you can't look away, even though you know something's terribly wrong. And the best part: I'm immune to all this because I'm already crazy. Turn it up, baby!


Old lady: Well, it's about time.


Footnotes


Previously produced episode:
"Comfort and Joy"
Episodes of
Justice League
Next produced episode:
"Starcrossed"
Previously aired episode:
"Hereafter"
Next aired episode:
"Comfort and Joy"

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