From the first episodes of Young Justice, we saw that 13-year-old Dick Grayson was a very capable fighter, strategist and skilled at acrobatics (due to his prior life as a circus performer). He had been holding the mantel of Robin since the age of 9, and 4 years under the studies of Batman equipped him with the skills need to be a great crime fighter and detective.
In the episode “Drop Zone” he wanted nothing more than to be the leader of the Team. As the episode went on, we caught a glimpse at some of the reasons that he would not make a very good leader and Aqualad was the one to point it out to him;
- He is smart but kind of impulsive like Kid Flash
- His age makes him a bit more immature than the others
- He disappears expecting the others to play a role in his “unknown plans”
- The fact that he has the most experience is also the thing that prevents him from being a good leader because despite working with Batman this long, he hasn’t been in a role where he was working with people less experienced than him
- Robin says himself that he doesn’t want to be responsible for holding everyone’s hands
After Aqualad’s speech, he decided it was best for Aqualad to take on that role. He accepted but felt that Robin was the one destined to be team leader and he would serve as the leader until the right time for Robin to take over came.
Aside from missions, let’s talk about Dick himself. He did “relinquish” his desires of being Team Leader but did feel hurt when Batman wanted to see “just Aqualad” after a mission.
In one of those touching moments, we see Bruce and Dick play one on one basketball as a “training exercise” for hand/eye coordination. That was a great scene! It really felt like a father/son moment in this series and I couldn’t help but smile about it.
Moving on to “Failsafe” we really see a character shift for Dick and it was verbally spoken during his talk with Black Canary in “Disordered.”
During the telepathic training, Aqualad acted as a solider instead of the leader sacrificing himself in order to save Martian Manhunter from the alien’s disintegration beams.
Robin was the one to take over as leader and as the battle went on it seemed clear that he was playing the role of Batman; sacrificing everything in order for the mission to succeed.
He sent Superboy in first as a distraction to draw the alien’s fire away long enough for he, Kid Flash, Miss M and Man Hunter to sneak onto the Mother ship.
Inside, he confirmed to Kid Flash that the energy beams killed anyone hit with them not just teleporting them inside of the ship.
When he and Wally finally reached the energy core of the ship and he placed the explosives, Wally figured out that Dick knew about this all along.
Robin had deduced the truth about how their friends and mentors had died after being zapped by the beams and he was now on a suicide mission to end the threat at all costs.
In the next episode, he tells Black Canary that right from the start he wanted nothing more than becoming the leader. After the mission in the previous episode, he discovered that the thing inside of Batman that allows him to do anything “for the sake of the mission” is something that he really doesn’t see in himself. He then tells her that after sacrificing himself and his friends, he didn’t want to become “THE Batman” anymore. It seems that Black Canary stayed true to her word in that the conversation would stay between the two of them.
In “Images” he was placed as Team Leader by Batman since Aqualad was away on a mission with Aquaman. Kid Flash was quick to congratulate Robin on his “promotion” only for Robin to sigh in disappointment. Most likely he was still no longer interested in leading after the events of “Failsafe.”
Then in “Agendas” during the League’s meeting about new additions, Batman revealed why he let Robin become his partner at the age of 9; so that he could bring in the people responsible for his parent’s death. Wonder Woman asked if it was so he could become like him. Batman replied that it was so he WOULDN’T.
It took me awhile but I know what he means by that now. Bruce was shocked and damaged by his parent’s death and wasn’t able to do anything about bringing in Joe Chill (or whoever the person responsible in that “universe” was) so he never really had closure to that part of his life and he holds on to that pain as seen in various forms of media featuring Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Not only with his parents but in any situation where he loses a loved one of friend, he usually isolates himself to brood. As Wonder Woman put it in “Hereafter” in Justice League the Animated Series; “He doesn’t handle loss very well…”
Dick Grayson on the other hand, thanks to Batman was able to do something about it and bring in the people responsible. No matter what comic book storyline or TV show, Dick Grayson can never be as obsessed as Bruce Wayne in the crusade against crime. That is because unlike Bruce, Dick had closure I suppose is the best way of putting it in terms of bringing in those who killed his parents.
I wish we could have seen those two talk about this; Dick doesn’t want to become the Batman anymore and it turns out Bruce never wanted that for him from the beginning. If I were to speculate, it might have been something that came up during Dick’s decision to move out on his own and become Nightwing.
We saw this go down in Batman the Animated Series, wish the same would have went down in Young Justice…
In “Performance” we do see that he is still carrying some of the sadness of his parent’s death.
He was so determined to clear the name of the circus that he was willing to catch a thief even not at 100% (due to Parasite taking his strength) until the Team told him they had to regroup.
An interesting note is that he took it upon himself to recruit some of the Team members for a “secret mission” when in reality it was a “private mission” to prove the innocence of Haley’s Circus from recent thefts and the team successfully stopped the Parasite in the process.
I think we get a look at Robin’s first use of “win at all cost” tactics in the final episode of Season 1, when he and Superboy team up to fight Batman and Superman. After taking out Batman, Superboy grabbed on to Superman. Robin asked if Conner was sure about using the Kryptonite but after Conner said do it, he whipped it out long enough to weaken them both and use the Cure-o-tech to free the brainwashed Man of Steel.
It was a small use of “win at all cost even if it hurts my teammates” moment because Robin asked Superboy’s permission BEFORE using the green rock but still I thought it was worthy of note.
Jumping 5 years later, we see Nightwing now in command of the Team. It is said that in YJ Legacy, we’ll see why most of the characters had a drastic change in character before the start of Invasion so I’ll just be using evidence from Season 2 for right now.
He, Kaldur, Wally and Artemis were in on their plot to make it seem like Aquald went rogue and joined Black Manta, faked Artemis’ death so she could join Aqualad, Dick took over as Team Leader and Wally was in “retirement.”
When Batman left with the others to get their names cleared on trial. it became official that Dick was really in this “alone” so to speak. However as I mentioned before, he was more than ready to use what he had learned. Even Batman said before departing that he was afraid that the most difficult job lies with Nightwing’s Team.
So here we see him playing “Batman” doing whatever it takes for the sake of the mission putting his friend’s lives in danger (but not without consulting them about it first), deceiving the others and so on.
In “Alienated” we see Batman confident enough in Dick’s abilities as his own man/leader as he was the one leading the mission and of course anytime we see the Bat-family in action is something worth being cheerful about!
One thing that was hard to deal with during Season 2, was the rift in the bro-mance of Dick and Wally that we saw in Season 1.
Remember when these two were together even in the thick of a dangerous mission, they’d crack jokes?
Well in this season, he is worried about Nightwing and all of the risks that he is taking so the jokes were few and in between alright and for good reason.
Not just because his girlfriend is in the hands of the enemy in disguise but also because Dick is putting ALL of his team members at risk.
I liked when he was doing his own investigation for evidence on War World. I know it was kind of the subplot of the episode but it was really something seeing him doing his own work using what Batman taught him.
Of course his own version of the “Bat-glare” was something to see!
I wonder how Batman (who I believe to know about this entire rouse from the beginning since he is Batman after all) fells about this because he never wanted Dick to become “him.”
At the end of “Summit” Dick hands over leadership of the Team back to Aqualad. He is hesitant at first praising Nightwing’s success as leader but Nightwing doesn’t have any second guesses about getting “that monkey off his back.”
When the Warworld is reactivated and leaves Earth’s orbit, Nigthwing say “The Warworld has been activated and it’s leaving Earth’s orbit!! Um…is this good news or bad?” I was laughing so hard because for the first time in Season 2 we see the “old Dick Grayson” with his witting sense of humor.
So, the “old Dick Grayson” never really went away, he was acting as “Batman” because he had to due to the circumstances. If there is a Season 3, will we ever see Nightwing in a position like this again? Hard to tell but in any case, it will be interesting to see what he did after taking a break from the Team.
Even as Team Leader, he wasn’t above taking the time needed to help out his friends as seen when he and the others tried to reach out to the Red Arrow to embrace his life as a person and not a clone.
Not to mention he seems to be like a big brother for Tim, showing him the ropes of being Robin and also boosting his confidence by putting him on missions as Team Leader of the group he sends out on a case.
Of course like the “Bruce Wayne playboy persona” Dick Grayson isn’t one to be afraid of the ladies!
I’ve always wondered about Dick Grayson/Artemis…
Wonder if Tim took some notes from Dick’s playbook since those two aren’t shy around blondes;
Looks like Tim learned from the best!