"The Balance" is the fifth episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 18th of the overall series. It originally aired on May 28, 2005. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl must put aside their feud and go to the depths of Tartarus when the sorcerer Felix Faust establishes dominion over Hades.
In her workshop, Tala is working on the Annihilator, trying to magically remove its only weakness: complete reliance on aggression to move. Her mentor, Felix Faust, now existing only as a disembodied spirit trapped in a mirror since she rescued him from Tartarus, is looking over her shoulder. When her latest attempt fails, he says he knows the answer, and tricks her into casting a spell that frees Faust and traps her in his stead. His spirit takes control of the Annihilator, and goes stomping out of Cadmus.
Aboard the Watchtower, Flash is trying to mend fences between Wonder Woman and Shayera, but failing miserably. As Diana passes the infirmary, she is surprised to see Etrigan, Doctor Fate, and Zatanna, all writhing under some invisible torture.
Wonder Woman returns to her quarters and finds Hermes, messenger of the gods, with a message that she has to return to Themyscira. Faust has walked straight to the gates of Tartarus and usurped Hades's throne, in revenge for his betrayal. As a result, the balance between Olympus and Tartarus has been upset – hence the turmoil felt by the League's magic-users. By the order of Zeus, Diana must restore it.
After an examination of her own weapons, Diana concludes that she needs Shayera's Nth metal mace, which disrupts magic. She sneaks into Shayera's quarters to steal it, but Shayera catches her. Swallowing her pride, Diana asks to borrow it, but Shayera insists on coming with her.
Together they reach Themyscira, where Hippolyta objects to Diana breaking her exile. Diana says she must enter the gates. Before she goes, Hippolyta touches Diana's tiara, unlocking her armor's full power. Inside they face many demons but they are repelled when they see Shayera, believing her to be an angel, she only remarks; "if we're lucky they'll all be that dumb".
Inside Tartarus, the two women capture a demon, Abnegazar, who leads them, under the influence of Diana's Golden Lasso, to Hades' library and he advises them that "you really really shouldn't go in there", where Faust is happily immersed in tomes of ancient, forbidden knowledge. When they confront him, he sends them plummeting down a hole in the floor with a casual spell. In a snowy region of Tartarus, they find Hades, chained to a rock and being tormented by vultures.
They free him and the three of them return to the library to attack. In the ensuing battle, the library is largely destroyed, but Shayera's mace proves to be capable of hurting the Annihilator. Faust seizes Shayera and begins crushing her to death, but Diana takes up the mace and strikes a devastating blow. The armor is destroyed, and a tiny portion of Faust's soul is left drifting. Hades picks it up and announces he plans to make it his "hobby". He bids the ladies farewell, calling Diana "my child". When she objects, Hades claims that he and Hippolyta worked together in sculpting her from clay. Shayera assures Diana that Hades is lying, and she can use her lasso on him. Diana says she doesn't need to – she knows who her real family is.
Returning to Themyscira, they are welcomed by a cheering crowd. Despite the law of the gods, Hippolyta rescinds Diana's exile at last, stating that she will face the gods when it comes to it.
As they are welcomed to a farewell banquet, Diana and Shayera make peace as they were able to get a small piece of their friendship back but they are both content with just being good teammates.
- Diana seems to display special empathy towards Zatanna, presumably because the magician worked together with Batman in "This Little Piggy" to restore Wonder Woman back to normal after Circe transformed her into a pig.
- Diana's long exile, since the events of Justice League, "Paradise Lost", is finally ended.
- This episode picks up on the events of "Task Force X", — specifically, the theft of the Annihilator from the Watchtower (though it's technically not part of the Cadmus story arc). The Annihilator first appeared in the episode "Hawk and Dove". Wonder Woman alludes to this when she explains to Faust that she knows the weakness of the armor.
- Felix Faust likewise refers to his betrayal and apparent death at the hands of Hades in "Paradise Lost".
- Hades may be lying; in "Paradise Lost", when he first saw Diana, he claimed not to have known that Hippolyta had a daughter. However, he may have merely aided in the sculpting of Diana and been sent into exile prior to her coming to life, preventing any contradiction between episodes.
- Tala does not reappear until "Dead Reckoning", when she has been released from the mirror by Grodd.
- Diana forgives Shayera for the events in "Starcrossed".
- Flash's brave (albeit unsuccessful) attempt to get Diana and Shayera to sit down and make up further supports the theory put forth in "A Better World" that Flash is the "heart" of the League.
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- In the cafeteria scene, the position of the tables and their occupants changes from shot to shot.
- Likewise, Wonder Woman's fruit bowl disappears and reappears between shots.
- Faust ensnares Wonder Woman from head to toes. However, in the next shot her feet are covered and her jaw is not.
- In "This Little Piggy", Zatanna cast her spells by speaking verbal commands with each of its words pronounced backwards. However, in this episode when she's delirious, she not only pronounces the words backwards but she also inverts their order. Zatanna says "Lleh fo enorht eht no stis tsuaF. Tsol si lla" which backwards reads "All is lost! Faust sits on the throne of hell!". This was done by recording the latter and then inverting the audio track.
- This episode marks the final appearances of Felix Faust, Hades, Hippolyta, and Etrigan.
- Bob Joles replaces John Rhys-Davies as the voice of Hades. Bob Joles also serves as John Rhys-Davies' sound-alike in The Lord of the Rings video games, and also took over Rhys-Davies' role of Man Ray in SpongeBob SquarePants.
- Before entering her room, Diana notices Hermes in the shadows and mistakes him for Flash. Hermes rectifies Diana's words by referring to himself as "the original speedster". This is an obvious allusion to the fact that the Flash, both visually and in terms of his super speed, draws inspiration from Hermes. During Jay Garrick's first appearance in Flash Comics #1 he was named "reincarnation of the winged Mercury".
- Hermes is shown to have an attraction to Podênemos; Podênemos was a byname of Iris, like Hermes she was a messenger of the Gods.
- Hades' torture is reminiscent to that of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods to give to men, and was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver torn out every day (because it always grew back) by vultures.
- Wonder Woman's League identification code is 003; this implies that the expanded League now has upwards of 100 members, and also that the original seven founders have the lowest numbers (likewise, in "Hereafter, Part II", Superman's code is revealed to be 002, in "Flashpoint" J'onn's is 004, and in "The Great Brain Robbery" Flash's is 006). It may also be a tribute to the fact that, in most comics portrayals of the Justice League, the three "leaders" are traditionally Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman (as is also shown in the series' title sequence).
- In the scene which Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman walk into the library of Tartarus, Hawkgirl picks a book off the shelf. The book bears an uncanny resemblance to the Necronomicon as it appeared in The Evil Dead films; Faust later even mentions the book by name.
- One of the books that Faust has found in the library is "Pierre Menard's 'Don Quixote'". This is a reference to the short story "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges; the real "Don Quixote" was written by Miguel de Cervantes.
Tala: And I'm supposed to take advice from you, when without my spell, your spirit would have been — poof! — lost on the winds.
Tala: This is really bad, isn't it?
Flash: I had dinner with two women at the same time. 'Cause I'm a stud.
Wonder Woman: He's telling me to go to...
Wonder Woman: Why should I care about this?
Shayera: (Walking in on Wonder Woman taking her mace) We become pals while I wasn't looking?
Shayera: Aren't you cold in that outfit?
Shayera: (Spreading her wings for all to see) That's right. I'm an angel. You can mess with me if you want to, but I don't think you wanna mess with the boss! (Points skyward to heaven, the demons fly away in terror)
Shayera: One more answer, and it better be the right one.
Shayera: We're revoking your library card.
Wonder Woman: Come on. We're putting you back on the throne.
Hades: (Surveying a burning library.) Ah well, who has time to read these days?
Wonder Woman: What about us? Are we good?