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Justice League Unlimited episode
Conspiracies
"Question Authority"
Airdate: June 25, 2005 (USA)
Production Number: 22
Airdate Order: 22
Animation Services by: Dong Woo Animation Co., LTD.
Written by: Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by: Dan Riba
Episode images (17)

"Question Authority" is the ninth episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 22nd of the overall series. It originally aired on June 25, 2005. It begins the four-part finale of the Cadmus story arc that concludes the season.

Plot

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.

Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois on a romantic date.

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.

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.

Question gets answers

Question gets down to business.

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.[1] 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.

Question tortured

Question is tortured by Dr. Moon.

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, but 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, “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.

Huntress and Superman

Huntress and Superman form a brief alliance.

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.

Atom betrays Superman and Huntress

Question, Superman and Huntress find their way barred by Captain Atom.

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.

Continuity

Background information

Home video releases

Production notes

  • Question's interrogation scene was purported to be carried out by expert psychologist Dr. Hugo Strange. According to Dwayne McDuffie, Strange's cameo in "The Doomsday Sanction" was a set up for this episode but the Bat-embargo made the character no longer available and was replaced by Dr. Moon.[2]
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Critters" audio commentary, Bruce Timm expressed some regret for not including Farmer Brown as a member of Cadmus, instead of Doctor Moon. It's unclear, however, whether he said that in jest, seeing as Farmer Brown had no expertise in psychology.
  • Dwayne McDuffie confirmed that the video that Huntress assumed to be fake was the alternate universe White House security tape given by the Justice Lord Batman to Superman and passed on to the mainstream universe's President.[1]
  • In the DVD special feature "Cadmus: Exposed", Bruce Timm humorously observed that Question's attempt to kill Lex Luthor was likely the first time in animation history where a hero outright planned to murder a villain in cold blood.

Production inconsistencies

  • The first time Mantis is shown rampaging atop a building, he doesn't have his Mother Box on his hip. In the next scene, it appears.

Trivia

  • Superman and Captain Atom defeat Mantis in the "Plastino Street Station", an homage to Al Plastino, the Silver Age Superman comic artist.
  • This episode reveals that the DCAU version of Captain Atom is named Nathaniel Adams. He was named Allen Adam in the original Charlton Comics version, and Nathaniel Adam in the DC Comics version.
  • In DC Comics, General Eiling is the original antagonist of Captain Atom. First, he framed then-Captain Nathaniel Adam for murder, which led to Adam's disgrace, court martial, and imprisonment. Then, Eiling blackmailed Adam into participating in the military experiment that transformed him into living energy and shunted him twenty years into the future. During the years of Adam's absence, Eiling married Adam's wife and raised Adam's children as his own. Even after Adam returned and became Captain Atom, Eiling was his commanding officer for years, and constantly made life difficult for the quantum-powered hero.
  • The Cadmus data files names contain several nods to literature and comics:
    • "Zarathustra" may be a reference to the codename to the British government program that created Miracleman.
    • "Multiverse" is a DC Comics continuity construct.
    • "Flashpoint - 23" may refer the next episode which is the 23rd episode of Justice League Unlimited. The number 23 also has significance to the Illuminati group that Question mentions.
    • "Brazilboyz" seems to be a reference to the Ira Levin novel "The Boys from Brazil", which deals with a conspiracy to clone a new Hitler.
  • Question claims that his distaste for Luthor as a human being is "Brobdingnagian". This adjective refers to the fictional land of giants from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The adjective has come to describe anything of colossal size.
  • This is the third time in the DCAU where Superman and Lois Lane have kissed.
  • The soda that Superman takes out on his date with Lois is Soder Cola, a brand frequently promoted by Booster Gold in his comics.
  • Question states "A is A" when talking to Luthor, a tenet in logic and philosophy called the Law of Identity. It states that everything that exists has a specific nature. It could also be a pretty clear nod to Question's creator, Steve Ditko, a firm believer in Ayn Rand's objectivism, and by default, the law of identity. Question actually started out as an expy of Ditko's previous character, Mr. A, a representation of his objectivist views in vigilante form.
  • Question's theory about fluoride ties in with his "Got Flouride?" poster seen in "Fearful Symmetry" and "Double Date".
  • The "magic bullet" mentioned by Question refers to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, specifically to the single bullet theory which hypothesizes the existence of another assassin besides Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Question mentions the Illuminati, a secret society subject of many conspiracy theories. Probably not merely by coincidence, some elements of the DCAU version of Cadmus bear a resemblance to the way the Illuminati is traditionally portrayed in fiction as an alliance between big business and a shadowy branch of the government.
  • Dr. Hamilton compares Superman's betrayal with that of Lucifer, the first and most loved among the angels in the Christian tradition until he betrayed God and was cast out of heaven.

Cast

Actor Role
George Newbern Superman
Justice Lord Superman (uncredited)
Jeffrey Combs Question
Dr. Moon (uncredited)
Amy Acker Huntress
Clancy Brown Lex Luthor
President Lex Luthor (uncredited)
Chris Cox Captain Atom
Aztek (uncredited)
Dana Delany Lois Lane
Robert Foxworth Emil Hamilton
CCH Pounder Amanda Waller
J.K. Simmons Wade Eiling
Mantis (uncredited)

Uncredited appearances

Quotes

Huntress: (beating up Cadmus security guards) You really know how to show a girl a good time, Q. When are we going out on a real date?


Huntress: You're lucky to have me along.
Question: Hardly. You're drawn to my eccentric charm.


Question: It's all connected. Not alternate reality. Time loop. Luthor becomes president, Flash is killed, Superman kills Luthor in retaliation, superhumans arms race, Armageddon, end of the world, inevitable. Is the future immutable? Can destiny be changed? Will they allow it?


Question: I want you to understand something, Luthor. Although my distaste for you as a human being is Brobdingnagian, what I'm about to do isn't personal.


Question: Everything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as something in particular and has characteristics that are part of what it is. "A" is "A". And no matter what reality he calls home, Luthor is Luthor.


Luthor: You're going to kill me so that Superman can't.
Question: I'm a well-known crackpot. The Justice League's reputation will survive my actions and Superman's legacy will remain intact.



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


Luthor: That's right, conspiracy buff, I spent $75 million on a fake presidential campaign. All just to tick Superman off.


Question: Topically-applied fluoride doesn't prevent tooth decay. It does render teeth detectable by spy satellite.
Dr. Moon: Tell me what you know.
Question: The plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces are called aglets. Their true purpose is sinister!
Dr. Moon: Tell me what you know.
Question: There was a magic bullet! It was forged by Illuminati mystics to prevent us from learning the truth!


Superman: How can you work for these people? Do you know what they are?
Hamilton: Power brokers, politicians, criminals and black ops mercenaries with one thing in common, besides: They're humanity's last hope against your kind.
Superman: What are you talking about? 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?


Hamilton: You forget, I've been on the receiving end of your wrath, when you brought Supergirl to S.T.A.R. Labs for medical treatment! I know what you're capable of!
Superman: That's what this is about? One little scare and you betray us? You stole Kara's DNA! Violated her trust! My trust!
Hamilton: The chicken, or the egg, Superman?


Superman: Good to see you, Captain. Cover our flank.
Captain Atom: I'm afraid you misunderstand. I'm speaking as an officer of the United States Air Force.
Huntress: Bad time to grow a sense of humor, Cap.
Captain Atom: No joke, ma'am. I'm currently assigned to General Eiling's special projects unit. My orders are to prevent you from taking Question out of this facility. So how's this gonna go down?


References

  1. Justice League, "A Better World"
  2. As you suspect, many Batman characters are unavailable for JLU, at least for the time being. It's only been a problem a couple of times [...] I wanted to use Hugo Strange [...his appearance in "Doomsday Sanction"] was to set up a later appearance. The later appearance won't happen now.

    — Dwayne McDuffie in DwayneMcDuffie.com

Previous episode:
"Clash"
Cadmus Story Arc Next episode:
"Flashpoint"


Previously produced episode:
"Hunter's Moon"
Episodes of
Justice League Unlimited
Next produced episode:
"Flashpoint"
Previously aired episode:
"Hunter's Moon"
Next aired episode:
"Flashpoint"

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