"The Ties That Bind" (a.k.a. "Miracles Happen") is the second episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 15th of the overall series. It originally aired on February 12, 2005. Granny Goodness blackmails legendary escape artist Mr. Miracle into rescuing Kalibak from Apokolips's most notorious prison.
Scott Free, a.k.a. "Mr. Miracle", is rehearsing his latest escape act with the aid of his wife, Big Barda, and their assistant, Oberon: it involves shackling his hands and feet, encasing himself in a full-body sarcophagus, encasing the sarcophagus in a block of ice, and then dropping a train car on himself. Scott escapes with ease, but as soon as the dust settles, Oberon is nowhere to be found. Granny Goodness appears and says she is holding Oberon hostage.
She explains that since Darkseid's disappearance, Apokolips has descended into a power struggle between herself and Virman Vundabar. Vundabar has gained an advantage by capturing Kalibak, Darkseid's son, whom Vundabar plans to brainwash and use to legitimize his claim to the throne. Now Granny wants Kalibak for the same end. She needs Scott to rescue Kalibak from the X-Pit, Apokolips's impregnable prison: Scott escaped from the Pit as a boy, and remains the only person ever to do so.
Scott and Barda approach the Justice League for help – specifically, Superman's help. But Superman is absent, and even so, J'onn J'onzz refuses to aid them – the League cannot assist Granny in gaining control of Apokolips, as she would eventually threaten Earth just like Darkseid did before; it is to their advantage to keep her and Vundabar fighting. Barda storms out, followed by Scott. Flash protests, but J'onn waves him down, saying Flash needs to look at the big picture. Despite this, Flash sneaks away and catches up with Scott and Barda and offers to aid them. Barda is skeptical, saying that he's useless without Superman's strength and speed, but when Flash shows them how fast he is, Scott realizes that he would be an asset.
The trio boom tubes to Apokolips and, with relative ease, enter the Pit. Scott halts, seeing that the layout of the place has been completely changed since he escaped, meaning his plans are now useless. Despite this, Barda and Flash insist on accompanying him.
As they make their way through, Scott remembers his many escape attempts as a child – and the subsequent tortures by Granny in punishment – before he finally made it out. Granny tried time and again to break his spirit, but failed.
While Scott and Barda engage the Pit's guards, Flash hurriedly searches the prison and finds and releases Kalibak – but that's the easy part.
They make their way out, evading the Pit's many deathtraps with their combined talents. When they are within striking distance of the exit, Vundabar starts a self-destruct countdown, then flees. The prison goes up in an explosion, apparently taking all inside with it.
However, as Granny prowls the ruins of the Pit, a boom tube opens and Scott, Barda, Flash, and Kalibak emerge. Granny congratulates Scott on his success, then "sweetly" informs him that Oberon is going to be "taught a lesson" anyway, since he looked her in the eye and insulted her. Then "Kalibak" morphs into J'onn, who swiftly reads a shocked Granny's mind and uses his telepathy to guide Flash to Oberon's cell in Darkseid's old palace, allowing Flash to save him just before Granny's deathtrap can kill him.
Once J'onn confirms Oberon's rescue to the group, Barda is all for killing Granny for going back on her word, but J'onn reminds her that it is to their advantage to keep her and Vundabar fighting in order to keep Apokolips in a state of anarchy. Flash returns with Oberon, and Scott opens another Boom Tube allowing the party to depart Apokolips. Granny says to herself that she doesn't understand; she never failed to break any other child who came into her "care" and turn him or her into a good slave, so how could she have failed to break Scott? Granny's reverie is interrupted by Barda, who has turned back just long enough to deliver a good right cross to Granny's jaw, knocking her cold, before dashing into the closing Boom Tube.
Back at the Watchtower, Flash confronts J'onn, and before the latter can speak, defends his actions. He may have disobeyed J'onn's orders, but everything has worked out: they boomed out of the X-Pit to the Watchtower, imprisoned Kalibak, then boomed back with a disguised J'onn in tow – saving Oberon and ensuring that neither Granny nor Vundabar can make a claim to the throne. He also said he would do it again if he had to. Smiling, J'onn says he just wanted to challenge him to a friendly game of "Brawlin' Bots".
- This episode picks up the events occurring on Apokolips after the events of Justice League, "Twilight". In the later episode "Alive!", the civil war between Vundabar and Granny is still raging.
- This is Big Barda's first chronological speaking appearance in the DCAU. Her first appearance was in Batman Beyond, "The Call", which takes place in the future; her first visual appearance was in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Apokolips... Now!"
- This is the first time J'onn is seen outside of the Watchtower since the League expanded. His increasingly hermit-like behavior becomes a serious issue in the episode "To Another Shore".
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- When Barda is fighting the attack dogs she fends one off by kicking it off her, her boots are briefly colored blue instead of yellow.
- This episode marks the first speaking role of Flash in Justice League Unlimited.
- The story is based on an idea created by Jim Steranko, the inspiration for Mr. Miracle.
- Arte Johnson had a recurring role as a German soldier in the comedy program Laugh-In, in which he would use the catchphrase "Verrry IN-teresting!" and often add a modifier, like "... but STUPID!" all in an exaggerated German dialect. As Vundabar, Johnson mutters "Very interesting, but futile!", after Barda has destroyed a computer screen. This was one of many Laugh-in catchphrases to enter American idiom including the still occasionally used "Sock it to [me/him/her etc.]".
- Scott's line, "A curse on both their houses", is a slight modification of a famous line from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet".
- Elongated Man's first name is given as Ralph, confirming that he is based on the comics version, Randolph "Ralph" Dibny.
- Last appearance of Kalibak in the DCAU.
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|Ioan Gruffudd|| Mr. Miracle|
X-Pit Computer (uncredited)
|Farrah Forke||Big Barda|
|Ed Asner||Granny Goodness|
|Arte Johnson||Virman Vundabar|
|Jeremy Piven||Elongated Man|
|Zack Shada||Young Scott|
Barda: We don't need these cowards! We can do it on our own!
Vundabar: Kalibak, Kalibak, Kalibak... I have used every vile punishment, every known torture, yet still you refuse to join Virman Vundabar's noble cause.
Granny Goodness: Are you enjoying Granny's hospitality?
Flash: Not that I mind the exercise, but couldn't your boob tube have transported us any closer?
Vundabar: Ah, this should be a magnificent show, even if I already know the ending.
Flash: Robots? I love smashing robots!
Kalibak: Well, if it isn't my treacherous stepbrother. And his cow.
(Scott Free is trapped in a room rapidly filling with water)
Kalibak: Vundabar's not done with us yet!
J'onn: (to Granny Goodness) Try not to think about where you've got Oberon hidden. - (to Flash) Darkseid's old palace. I'll guide you.
Barda: All the trouble we had to go through because of you...