"The Savage Time" is the first-season finale of Justice League. It first aired on November 9, 2002.
The Justice League is returning to Earth from a mission in a distant galaxy; the Javelin's engines having run out of fuel, Green Lantern is towing the vessel with his ring, which he mentions is running low on power.
The League lands on Earth, in Metropolis and is shocked to find things changed: huge buildings, and a Nazi-style flag everywhere. A squad of security officers appears and demands their identification. When The Flash makes a sarcastic remark, the guards open fire. The League runs, and are pulled into an underground hideout by Batman – only a different Batman, dressed in futuristic armor.
J'onn J'onzz quickly concludes that something has happened to alter time – why the League wasn't affected isn't certain, but likely Lantern's ring shielded them from the effects. In this timeline, Bruce Wayne's parents were executed as dissidents by the fascist regime headed by Vandal Savage. Bruce now leads the resistance against the regime. When Lantern asks how long the regime has been in place, Bruce answers, since World War II – which the Axis Powers won.
The League, with Batman's help, infiltrates Savage's laboratory, and finds a time machine. It seems obvious that Savage has used it to alter history. The League decides to travel back in time and try to put things right – it is risky, as they have heard Savage's scientists saying that the portal will collapse in forty-eight hours. Batman decides to remain behind, saying that if they fail, someone will have to keep fighting against the regime.
The League arrives in the ravaged city of Caen, France, in the midst of heavy fighting between Allied and German forces. Right away they see what has changed: the Germans are equipped with "War Wheels" – enormous tanks with overwhelming firepower and crushing size, that even Superman is unable to stop by himself. As the Allied forces fall back, the League disables one of the tanks. They examine the electronic systems and find transistors, which weren't invented until after the war.
J'onn and Wonder Woman decide to fly to Berlin to find out more about the source of this weaponry.
In Berlin, word comes from the front of Allied "heroes" with strange costumes and magical powers. Vandal Savage, the Führer, dismisses the stories as propaganda.
As Diana and J'onn approach Berlin, an American spy steals a German fighter. His plane is pursued and shot down; the spy bails out, but he is knocked out before opening his parachute. Wonder Woman catches him, and he awakens to see her bending over him. "An angel... I must be in heaven."
He introduces himself as Steve Trevor, and explains his mission. Allied intelligence believes the Germans are planning to invade England; Steve has stolen one of the Germans' encrypted communicators, and is due to meet a German code expert; if he can crack the communicator, he'll be able to listen in and find out when the invasion is set for. Wonder Woman and J'onn are surprised to hear that Savage – the dictator from the future – is the current Führer. He is apparently a scientific genius whose new weapons impressed the high command so much that they made him their new leader.
Wonder Woman decides to accompany and protect Steve while J'onn continues on and infiltrates the Germans' central command. In a secret laboratory, he finds a laptop computer – and Adolf Hitler, frozen in a cryogenic tube. J'onn is surprised and incapacitated by Savage.
On the battlefield, as more tanks appear, the League works to evacuate the Allied forces. While carrying a wounded soldier, Green Lantern is knocked down. Hawkgirl goes to help him, but he hands off his soldier to her and tells her to leave him. Reluctantly, she complies. As the tanks bear down on him, his ring finally runs out of power.
The Allied forces are under heavy attack while trying to withdraw their forces from a beach. The remaining League members – Superman, Hawkgirl, and Flash – work hard to evacuate the troops. Flash is appalled to hear that Hawkgirl left Lantern behind, and runs back to find him. But Lantern, who has just managed to escape from the war wheels, has been knocked unconscious and remains hidden.
As Superman and Hawkgirl work, a new threat arrives: a flight of Messerschmitts, on a strafing run. Superman and Hawkgirl take to the air to fight the planes, and they are aided by the surprise appearance of a squadron of ace fighters, the Blackhawks. They send the planes running.
Blackhawk introduces himself, and his team, as an independent multinational team of pilots fighting against the Nazis. He asks for the League's help, and Superman agrees to meet at their island headquarters.
Lantern awakens, and is found by Easy Company, a squad of American commandos. Their job is to find and destroy the hidden airfield from which the Germans are planning to launch the invasion. Bulldozer is skeptical about Lantern's usefulness without his ring and tries to push him around. Lantern quickly proves that he is anything but useless, easily throwing the larger Dozer to the ground. Lantern informs the squad that he served in the United States Marine Corps. Suitably impressed, unit leader Sgt. Rock officially welcomes Lantern to Easy Company, and together they set back out on their mission.
Savage interrogates J'onn in his laboratory. J'onn assumes that Savage, like themselves, is from the future. On the contrary, Savage explains, the laptop was sent back in time by his future self. On it is a message from the older Savage explaining that he realized that World War II was the best opportunity for him to achieve world domination. The computer contains schematics for advanced technology, as well as information about the Allies' future plans, such as the date for the planned invasion of Normandy. Savage turns J'onn over to be tortured for information.Steve and Wonder Woman wait for his contact, Ernst, at an abandoned French farmhouse. Wonder Woman expresses surprise that an ordinary man, without special powers, is willing to risk his life for the war. He shrugs and says, "some things are worth dying for." German forces appear. Steve quickly deduces that Ernst was captured, and gave him away.
He tells Wonder Woman to create a diversion while he takes on the soldiers, but instead she almost single-handedly defeats them. One of the terrified soldiers discloses Ernst's location.
Savage returns to his lab to find J'onn has escaped, and the laptop destroyed. Savage orders the planned invasion to proceed immediately. He is told that this is impossible while the stolen communicator is still missing.
Wonder Woman and Steve rescue Ernst from captivity, but the scientist warns them it is a trap. War Wheels appear, surrounding the jail.
Wonder Woman breaks off the outer casing of the communicator, then bundles Steve and Ernst under cover and flies out to attack the tanks. In the ensuing destruction, the jail is destroyed, and she gets Steve and Ernst away safely.
The soldiers find the broken casing in the rubble. The High Command is informed that the communicator has been destroyed, and Savage orders the invasion to begin.
With the League's help, the Blackhawks destroy the factory (after Flash runs in and evacuates the workers). In the ruins, they find a jet engine, another piece of advanced technology. J'onn arrives and explains its origin.
Ernst taps into the communicator, and intercepts the invasion signal. When Steve asks where in England it will land, Ernst replies that the target of the invasion is the United States. Wonder Woman prepares to fly off, but Steve asks "what if I never see you again?" She kisses him, and he wishes her luck.
Easy Company finds the airfield hidden under an artificial hill, just as the invasion force is preparing to leave. Savage arrives to take personal command. Easy Company opens fire, and the planes make a rapid take-off. To the others' astonishment, Lantern runs out and boards Savage's flagship.
The Blackhawks land and tell the League that they've also received word of the invasion. Flash streaks west, running across the Atlantic Ocean to warn the American forces, while the rest of the League flies to intercept the planes.
Aboard Savage's plane, Lantern sabotages critical systems. The plane loses radio contact and starts to slow down. Without instructions from their leader, the rest of the planes also slow down. Lantern is captured and tortured by Savage, but just then the League attacks, and Savage's planes return fire.
Wonder Woman arrives, re-grouping with Superman, Hawkgirl, and J'onn. Together, they manage to down or disable several of the planes before Savage's flagship restores communication; on his order, the planes ignite their afterburners, outpacing the League. However, the invasion force runs headlong into anti-aircraft fire from a flotilla of U.S. Navy ships, warned by Flash.
While the plane's crew is distracted, Green Lantern overpowers his guards, and shoots the controls, sending it down. As he struggles with Savage, J'onn, nearby, senses his presence and tells Hawkgirl. She flies to the plane, smashes open the windshield, and lifts Lantern out, just before it crashes into the ocean. Savage is last seen going down under a rush of water.
With Savage gone, and their numbers decimated, the invasion force turns about and heads back to Germany, but the remaining planes are set upon by the Blackhawks. Their job done, the League flies back to Europe.
Back in Berlin, the high command receives news of Savage's defeat and apparent death. General Hoffman, Savage's most vocal critic, immediately moves to have Hitler reinstated as their leader.
The League arrives back in the present just before the time portal closes. The normal Batman is there to greet them. Superman is so relieved that he hugs him.
Wonder Woman visits a retirement home and finds Steve, now an old man. He smiles, "Angel..." and they share a moment.
- Superman's reactions to the alternate Batman's origin story and hopes of his parents surviving in the proper time-line are due to his knowing Batman's secret identity, which he discovered on the Superman: The Animated Series three-part episode, "World's Finest".
- John later recalls his experience here when he, Batman, and Wonder Woman travel back to the Old West on the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Once and Future Thing Part One: Weird Western Tales".
Home video releases
- Justice League - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League - Season One (Blu-ray)
- According to the Part II commentary, nearly every member of the regular and guest cast also doubled as the voice of an anonymous German character. For instance, Michael Rosenbaum, who voices The Flash, also plays Savage's torture expert, Josef.
- Phil Morris, who voices Vandal Savage, appeared in the earlier episode "The Brave and the Bold", as the "General" of Gorilla City. According to the commentary, it helped that Morris, a comic book fan, was already familiar with the character of Savage.
- The DVD set features an audio commentary on Part II by Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Glen Murakami, Rich Fogel, and Dan Riba.
- In footage of both before and after Savage's takeover, the swastika is absent from all German personnel, vehicles and equipment; this was likely due to the show's TV-Y7-FV rating, which forbids the use of the symbol and it was replaced with the Nazi Sig Rune.
- The three-parter suffers from various historical inaccuracies that may not all be ascribed to the polluted time-stream:
- Although Caen was one of the objectives of the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, Allied troops didn't reach the center of the city until 10 June.
- The troops fighting in and around Caen were British and Canadian, not American as the episode shows. The American landings were further to the West and did not include Caen as an objective.
- Throughout the entire three-part episode, no Allied aircraft can be seen in combat other than the Blackhawks' Grumman XF5F-1 "Skyrocket" planes. Also, during the D-Day retreat, the only German aircraft to appear is the Messerschmitt Bf 109. During the actual battle, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 saw significant action at Normandy and was technically superior not only to the Bf 109 but also the Blackhawks' XF5F-1.
- The map on Blackhawk Island shows North and South Korea separated; in reality, they did not split until 1948. In 1944, they would still be under Japanese control.
- In Part III, after the destruction of the jet engine factory, Hawkgirl and J'onn cite the technology as being too advanced for the time and from the future. In reality, the Messerschmitt Me 262 was the world's first jet fighter, and had already been in development for some time before its deployment in 1944.
- In Part I of the episode when the league dive into the sewers to escape the authorities they do not come out in the same order as they entered.
- While Superman attempts to contact Batman in the Watchtower after the time ripple, Green Lantern's aura fails to appear around him.
- After saving her from the German planes, Blackhawk salutes Hawkgirl with his left hand rather than his right.
- Directly after they dropped their bombs, five Blackhawk planes pull up rather than four.
- During Green Lantern's battle with Savage on the plane, his ring continuously disappears and reappears.
- The episode features a collection of heroes from DC Comics' World War II era, including Sergeant Rock and Easy Company, The Blackhawks and Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman's love interest.
- In the alternate timeline, Bruce Wayne's resistance includes Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake, and an unidentified girl (who resembles Annie from the The New Batman Adventures episode "Growing Pains") in non-speaking cameos. Dick and Barbara's kiss shows that they are in a relationship.
- Wonder Woman interrogates a German soldier tied up by her Golden Lasso. According to the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Balance", at this time her Lasso's power to force someone to tell the truth is still dormant, so it is not clear whether the soldier is influenced by its power, or simply terrified of Wonder Woman. When Steve Trevor asks how she did it, she responds with "I can be very persuasive" which may mean that her lasso's power is dormant.
- In the comics, J'onn and other Martians are shown to be vulnerable to fire; This is never directly stated in the DCAU. In this episode, J'onn hangs on to a jet plane in the direct path of the afterburner's exhaust, without effect.
- Unlike his real self, the alternate timeline's Batman has no qualms about using firearms.
- Likewise, in the alternate timeline, two of his resistance fighters appear from behind the fender of a vehicle that strongly resembles the second Batmobile, only it now has a cannon mounted on the front turret, like an armored car.
- In the League's first encounter with War Wheels, Flash yells "Hey, Colonel Klink!" at one of them. Colonel Klink is a well known character from the World War II comedy series, "Hogan's Heroes".
- Savage makes reference to Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch, a term sometimes translated (somewhat inaccurately) as "Superman"; Superman has often compared to Nietzsche's ideal, though this may represent a misunderstanding of Nietzche's meaning. This term was also alluded to by Lois Lane in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Last Son of Krypton".
- The term "Ubermensch" has also suffered from its association with the Nazi regime, which also misinterpreted the concept to align with its own ideas of genetic superiority.
- During the actual second World War, Superman and Batman were involved in many Pro-America propaganda comics. Wonder Woman was also created during this era.
- Savage code-names his invasion plan "Operation Endgame". An endgame is the final phase in a game of chess.
- At one point Superman destroys an attacking German fighter by flying through it. Just after this Superman can be seen flying while on fire—a tribute to the original Human Torch from Marvel Comics who was also portrayed as fighting against the Nazis in the 1940s.
- Similarly, at the end of the episode, when War Wheels are attacking a small town, an explosion causes a soldier to collapse in front the wheels, clutching his eye just before Flash saves him. This could be a reference to Sgt. Fury of Marvel Comics, who is later seen as Nick Fury with an eyepatch.
- Part I and II conclude in a similar fashion: with War Wheels drawing close to the heroes.
- Superman and Hawkgirl spend more time with the Blackhawks than any of the others. They would seem to "blend in" best with them as their planes are in Superman's colors and have a Hawk as a symbol.
- Savage directly encounters only two League members; J'onn and John.
- This episode focuses mainly on the (American part of the) western front, but does not mention any Soviet operations like Operation Bagration, which occurred virtually simultaneously with the Normandy invasion, and cost Germany considerably more troops.
- When General Hoffman is criticizing Savage in private, the officer he is speaking to strongly resembles Herman Goering.
|Maria Canals|| Hawkgirl|
|Susan Eisenberg||Wonder Woman|
|Phil LaMarr|| Green Lantern|
Airport soldier (uncredited)
Pilot #1 (uncredited)
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|George Newbern|| Superman|
|Michael Rosenbaum|| The Flash|
Colonel Josef (uncredited)
Pilot #2 (uncredited)
|Grant Albrecht||General Hoffman|
|Patrick Duffy|| Steve Trevor|
Flagship Pilot #1 (uncredited)
|Fred Dryer|| Sergeant Rock|
Flagship Pilot #2 (uncredited)
|Ted Levine|| Bulldozer|
German Lieutenant (uncredited)
|Phil Morris||Vandal Savage|
Police Officer: Let's see your identity papers, now!
(On a speeding train, the League are all thrown into a pile.)
The Flash: Bats, you're starting to scare me.
Bruce Wayne: The resistance might be able to use you, but you're going to have to prove we can trust you.
J'onn J'onzz: You understand that if we do change the past, you – this version of you – will never have existed?
Flash: Great Jumpin' Hera!
Vandal Savage: Who would have thought the Ubermensch would be green?
J'onn J'onzz: You age gracefully.
Vandal Savage: Knowing the future, how can I not succeed?
Green Lantern: I've got a plane to catch!
Green Lantern: You're not going anywhere!
Green Lantern: Say your prayers, Savage!
Green Lantern: What took you?
Batman: (hugged by a joyful Superman) Am I missing something?