"Wake the Dead" is the 11th episode of the first season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 11th of the overall series. It originally aired on December 18, 2004.
A group of students at Louisiana University perform a sort of magic ritual to get even with their bullies. Candles are lit and the floor is decorated with a rune while a spell is chanted. A dark cloud comes out of the floor in the middle of the rune, but one of the students stumbles backwards when a menacing face appears in the cloud, breaking the circle of sand with his foot. The cloud and the face disappear and all the candles are blown out. But far away, a grave marked "Solomon Grundy" begins to rumble.
The students mistakenly call the ritual a "rip". Two of them leave and while the third starts clearing up, someone starts pounding on the door. Before the student can open it a large white arm crashes through and grabs the student by the head.
In Dr. Fate's tower, Shayera Hol and Aquaman are playing a game of chess with Amazo watching. Shayera is withdrawn and takes little interest in the game, or in conversation. Aquaman tries to goad her, without success. He wins and tries to gloat, but Shayera only says "it's just a game", Aquaman becomes infuriated with her behaviour, throws the table aside and expresses his disgust to Shayera. However, she only replies "join the club" and walks away, Fate then appears to Aquaman, who wonders aloud to Fate at what has happened to the fierce warrior Shayera used to be. Fate says she's trying to "find her way" after the Thanagarian invasion and her quitting the Justice League, both of which was very difficult for her. Fate further explains that he allowed her to stay in order for her to decide what she will do in the future. However, Fate then excuses himself when he senses something, and Amazo challenges Aquaman to a new game.
Shayera talks to Fate's wife, Inza, out in the garden on a different dimensional plane. Shayera says Aquaman thinks she's been there too long, but she honestly doesn't know where her place is, or who she really is. Inza assures her that she'll know when to leave, and what to do, when the time is right.
At a fashion show, Vixen walks down the catwalk and winks at her guest and boyfriend, John Stewart. They meet backstage where Stewart tells her that their date is canceled because of Justice League business. She comes out in her costume and Stewart takes on his Green Lantern costume. They fly to the trouble spot to see a police car being thrown into the air. Lantern catches it and lowers it to safety while Vixen runs to the scene. Grundy has returned and appears stronger than ever. He easily defeats Lantern and Vixen quickly proves herself when she manages to push Grundy back. However, he overcomes even Vixen's abilities but just as he is about to finish her and Green Lantern off, Superman arrives. Superman tries to reason with Grundy, who seems beyond communication. He attacks Superman and gains the upper hand.
Back at Dr. Fate's tower, Amazo defeats Aquaman at chess again and they prepare for another game. Dr. Fate appears and informs them that Grundy has been raised from his grave by "chaos magic" and is more powerful than ever before. Hearing this, Shayera says that they have to help Grundy before the League kills him. Fate then reunites Shayera with her mace and they head out.
Grundy continues to pound Superman and a punch sends Superman flying into a bridge support. As the bridge begins to collapse, Aquaman rises from the ocean atop an enormous Octopus that wraps its tentacles around the supports, stabilizing the bridge. But a single car goes over the edge, with a mother and her young daughter inside. Shayera swoops in and tears the roof off with her mace, then pulls the passengers free. As she sets them down up top, she sees John for the first time in months, and Superman emerges from the water.
Superman suggests that he, Fate, and Amazo tackle Grundy first, but Shayera asks for a chance to reason with Grundy, because she knows him. They agree, but the new Grundy is a mindless beast, and slams her into a wall. The heroes attack and Amazo says that he will end it. He unleashes his power on Grundy, but finds that the zombie can absorb it. Deciding it is too dangerous to let him absorb more, Amazo teleports several light years away to come up with a better solution.
The heroes attack again, and take a bad beating until Shayera hits Grundy with her mace. She gets the upper hand and smashes him through the street to the sewers below. The heroes reconvene and Fate reminds them that this Grundy is not the Grundy they knew, only an empty shell of rage. The only thing to do is destroy him, and Hawkgirl's mace is probably the only weapon that can do it. John offers to do it, but she insists on doing it herself. She flies down and finds Grundy sitting and suffering. Despite filled with mindless rage, the zombie recognized his friend. She tells him what he needs before telling Grundy to close his eyes and raises her mace.
Up top, John paces anxiously, and Superman says he's about to go in, but Hawkgirl flies out. She tells the group that it's done. A crowd has gathered and a reporter then asks Hawkgirl about her dismissal from the Justice League. Before Shayera can answer the reporters, John steps in and states she was never dismissed from the League, and is free to return whenever she likes. He turns to Shayera and explains that he recused himself from the vote because of his history with her. That left a 3-2 vote in her favor, as Superman broke the tie.
At hearing that, several members of the crowd shout angrily that she is a traitor. John starts to shout them down, but Hawkgirl says she deserves their abuse. She starts to walk off, but her hand is grabbed by the mother and daughter from the bridge, who warmly thank her for saving their lives. This gives Shayera a much-needed hopeful smile, and the heroes walk away.
- It is finally revealed that Shayera's actions on "Starcrossed" led her to be stripped of her rank of Lieutenant and exiled from Thanagar.
- Grundy's last appearance was in Justice League, "The Terror Beyond", which established the connections between Aquaman and Dr. Fate, and between Grundy and Shayera. Likewise, Dr. Fate alludes to his fight with Shayera in Part I of that episode.
- Superman alludes to the fights he had against Grundy in Justice League episodes "Injustice For All", "Only A Dream, Part I" and "The Terror Beyond, Part I".
- This episode marks the return of Shayera Hol to the Justice League since leaving the group after the events of "Starcrossed" and the Thanagarian invasion. The results of the vote at the end of that episode are revealed.
- Superman's stated beliefs about "second chances" and "redemption" likely allude to "Legacy", which ended with him seeking to redeem himself to the people of Earth for what he did while under Darkseid's control.
- Shayera reveals John's favorite movie is Old Yeller. He was shown to have owned the film on video cassette before Kilowog ate it in "Hearts and Minds".
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- Originally, Mark Hamill was supposed to reprise his role as Solomon Grundy in this episode, since he had already made the voice of the character in Justice League. However, the character was fianlly voiced by Bruce Timm, because Hamill was in New York City at that time participating in a Broadway play.
- This episode marks the first time Shayera Hol appears as a founding member in the Justice League Unlimited opening credits.
- According to Bruce Timm, the reason by which Solomon Grundy was killed off in this episode, it was because he and the other members of the production team were already getting tired of killing him and bringing him back again and again. Tim also clarified that they also killed him definitely because he didn't see why he would have to return again. This action subsequently didn't let Grundy to form part of the Legion of Doom.
- Aquaman's statement "Check in five moves" is inconsistent with the positions of the pieces on the board. Shayera's first line is empty save for a rook; this would require at least seven moves.
- When Green Lantern and Vixen arrive at the battle, a cop car is thrown at them. In the first shot, the side of that car is blank, but when he puts it down it has a MPD-style badge on the side (though lacking the "M").
- This episode pays homage to the old Marvel superheroes-as-outsiders team, the Defenders. In the comics the Defenders included Dr. Strange, Clea, the Hulk, Nighthawk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer, among others. The respective counterparts in this episode are Dr. Fate, Inza, Solomon Grundy, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and Amazo. A similar homage team was assembled for "The Terror Beyond".
- Another reference to the Hulk is when Dr. Fate explains the magic powering Solomon Grundy has no known upper limit; in the comics it is stated that the Hulk's physical strength also had no known upper limit.
- The result of the vote on Hawkgirl's remaining in the Justice League in "Starcrossed" is revealed. She was going to be allowed to remain a member of the Justice League. Green Lantern recused himself due to his personal feelings for her, and Superman cast the tie-breaking vote.
- This episode marked the last DCAU appearances of Amazo, Aquaman, Inza and Solomon Grundy. Aquaman and all his related characters were not allowed later to appear in the series due the Aqua-embargo.
- This marks the only time Dr. Fate refers to Amazo by name.
- The man sitting next to John at the fashion show resembles Howlin' Jake.
- Louisiana University, where the students perform the ritual that raises Solomon Grundy, is fictitious, but the shot of the school at the beginning of the scene resembles the actual Louisiana State University campus.
- Shayera refers to John's favorite movie being Old Yeller, a fact also referenced in Justice League, "Hearts and Minds", and the subsequent Justice League Unlimited episode "Hunter's Moon". The movie, and the book on which it is based, follow the adventures of a farm boy and his beloved dog, and ends with the dog contracting rabies and being filled with blind, mindless rage, forcing the boy to put him down to end his suffering.
- In the dorm room where the students perform the ritual, there is an action figure of Hellboy on the dresser. There is also a bottle of soda that has what appears to be a black-on-red version of the Teen Titans Red X symbol on the label. A poster of what appears to be Swamp Thing can be seen on one of the dorm room walls. Finally, there appears to be a DVD of "Wicked Scary" in the dorm, one of Beast Boy's favorite movies in Teen Titans.
- In the comics, Solomon Grundy has died multiple times. Each time he comes back with a vaguely different personality, varying levels of intelligence, strength and power. The way Grundy appears in this episode in contrast with his previous appearance seems similar to the comics in that way.
- Amazo's voice has distinctively changed since his last appearance, and now sounds more like Robert Picardo's natural voice.
- All appearances to the contrary, Aquaman's antagonistic behavior during his game of chess with Shayera was a genuine attempt at helping her get back on her feet. This, coupled with his outrage upon hearing that Grundy's grave had been desecrated, indicates he has begun taking interest in things unrelated to the welfare of Atlantis. He seems to regard Doctor Fate as a friend as well, not just as a colleague.
- The game of chess when Amazo beat Aquaman was not valid. Taking the king is not checkmate but rather to make it so the king can no longer make a legal move to avoid being captured next. If a person has their king in danger, they're in check. This means they have to make a valid move to protect their king from being taken next. As such, Aquaman would have made a move to protect his king since he was in check from Amazo's queen.
|Maria Canals|| Shayera Hol|
|Phil LaMarr|| John Stewart|
|George Newbern|| Superman|
|Oded Fehr||Dr. Fate|
|Robert Picardo|| Amazo|
|Jennifer Hale|| Inza|
Sroya Bashir (uncredited)
|Bruce Timm|| Solomon Grundy|
Aquaman: I win again... huzzah.
Shayera: Aquaman thinks I've been here too long.
Green Lantern: Shayera?
Green Lantern: What are you saying?
Superman: (explaining his tie-breaking vote that allowed Hawkgirl to stay in the Justice League) I believe in second chances, I believe in redemption, but, mostly, I believe in my friends.
Green Lantern: (as several onlookers jeer Shayera) Back off! She doesn't have to take that from you people!
- ↑ Justice League, "Starcrossed"
- ↑ Justice League, "The Terror Beyond"
“ Bruce Timm on voicing Solomon Grundy in “Wake the Dead”: “Anyhow, what happened was this: Mark [Hamill] was in New York doing a play on Broadway when ‘Wake the Dead’ was to be recorded. We do occasionally record out-of-state actors via phone-patch when we have to, but it’s quite a bit more expensive (studio and technician fees are doubled, and Ma Bell charges an arm-and-two-legs for her services) and, seeing as how Grundy only grunts and roars in the episode (and I’ve ‘stunt-doubled’ Mark’s Grundy in the past, with some success) I figured I could handle it this one time. If Grundy had to say real dialogue we would have used Mark, and damn the extra expense. ”
— Bruce Timm, Toon Zone
“ Bruce Timm on the death of Solomon Grundy: “We normally like to keep our dead guys dead, and we really […] no intention of ever bringing ‘Grondy’ (personally, I love how Oded [Fehr, the voice actor for Dr. Fate] pronounces his name!) back from the grave. We did it this one time because a) we thought it would be a kickass way to end Shayera’s exile, and b) it brings him back in a way that doesn’t in any way render his death in ‘The Terror Beyond’ meaningless. I can’t see any good reason to ever bring him back again so, seriously, this dirt-nap’s stickin’. ”
— Bruce Timm, Toon Zone