The End of Justice League
On paper, the fifth season had everything: A secret society of super-villains plotting against the League, the League in a new but still tenuous relationship with the world's governments, and complicated friendships and relationships developing within the League itself. But something happened to the timing. Episodes often felt forced, wrapping things up a little too neatly, a little too quickly, perhaps the worst offender being the episode where Supergirl meets the Legion of Super-Heroes, no doubt as a hook for the forthcoming WB series. The League never seemed to give the threat of the secret society the weight of consideration it merited; and by now it was becoming clear that by spending a lot of time with characters that are only recognizable to comics fans without explaining them at all, the appeal was becoming considerably narrower.
The final two episodes make this abundantly clear. It's at its best when dealing with characters we know, but even then it's too hurried. Most telling is when Superman makes a great little speech toward the end that sets everything up for a two-person battle on a truly phenomenal scale, but it's over too quickly, and somewhat disappointingly. The only thing that saves it is the expletive-provoking final moment of the battle, which one hopes is followed up with a kickass direct-to-video movie.
In some ways, Justice League reminds me of another WB series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like Justice League, Buffy had a show-stopping season finale that should have been the series finale. (To be fair, there were expectations that it was the series finale.) What came later was still very good, but what became the actual series finale didn't live up to the bar its own creators had set. If Buffy had ended with the fifth season and Justice League with the fourth, both series would have had action-packed yet poetic conclusions that connected endings to beginnings while remaining open-ended.
Justice League's successor, Legion of Super-Heroes, begins airing this fall, and I admit I'm apprehensive. The cast of heroes is larger than Justice League, and the characters are much less well-known to the general public, carrying a double risk of spreading characterization too thin and comic-nerd insularity. Once, I wouldn't have questioned that the team would find a way to make the show work. Now, I'm not so sure.