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Dec 22nd. The European tour of the Haly International Travelling Circus has brought it to Bruges in Belgium. The Big Top is packed as Ringmaster Jack Haly welcomes the audience and introduces them to the Circus’s star act, the Daring Dangers. However, the audience are unaware that they are actually watching the Justice League’s undercover protegés who posing as a “family” of circus performers. The Dangers are trapeze artists Dan (Robin) and Dawn (Miss Martian), archers of Diane (Artemis) and Dane (Red Arrow), and strongman Dean (Superboy). Robin told the Team that Batman was sending them undercover to catch a gang of technology thieves. There has been a string of thefts from high-tech companies in Europe and their locations coincide with the route taken by the Haly Circus. Red Arrow voted himself onto the mission after reminding Robin that he’s still keeping a keen eye Superboy, Artemis, and Miss Martian – one of whom he suspects is a mole.
Superboy and Miss Martian take care to mask their superpowers, particularly when they are called upon to save Robin from a failed trapeze catch. He has picked up a nasty flu bug that has been going around the circus and his skills are suffering. The “Dangers” leave the ring to a rapturous applause and find that the circus is a hive of activity behind the scenes. One of the roustabouts called Ray is helping the Fire Breather prepare for his act and pats him of the back for luck. Robin and Arrow then overhear Carlo, one of a pair of acrobatic twin brothers, complain to Jack Haly about the Dangers getting the top billing. Jack counters that the acrobats missed out on that place because they skipped a performance in Paris. Carlo says that it was due to the flu bug, but the date does coincide with one of the tech thefts. An Interpol agent called King Faraday is also hanging around the Circus. He bothers Haly and then introduces himself to the Dangers. He warns them that he’s investigating Haly for the tech robberies.
After the show, the Team switch into their regular costumes and stake out a nearby tech firm that Robin has identified as a potential target. The Boy Wonder is still suffering from the flu and it’s Superboy who spots their target, a gymnast, possibly one of the twins acrobats. Superboy applies one of Lex Luthor’s power boosting patches (from “Agendas”) and uses his new x-ray vision to spot the intruder inside the warehouse. They catch the masked thief red-handed, but he blows a jet of fire at them. The heroes scatter, but the warehouse catches on fire. Red Arrow only just has time to shout a warning before the flames reach a crate of ammunition and the entire warehouse explodes. Superboy’s fury (a side effect of the patches) almost overwhelms him until Robin convinces him to carry Miss Martian away from the flames. However, the flu finally gets the better of Robin and he has to be carried out by Red Arrow and Artemis.
The next day Faraday is back at the Circus questioning Haly about the fire at the tech plant. Haly claims that all the Circus people were asleep in their bunks, but the Team know that he’s lying as they were at the tech plant themselves. The presence of the fire suggests that there were actually two thieves — the Fire Breather and one of the acrobat twins — and evidence from Paris and Madrid suggest that the entire circus could be involved. Robin storms out of the Dangers’ caravan telling them to “keep an open mind” after Arrow suggests that Haly is implicated. Red Arrow remains suspicious of everyone and almost starts a fight with Superboy. Robin is deep in thought when he chances upon an old poster of the Flying Graysons. He’s staring at it when Kid Flash contacts him via radio about lying to the others. Robin admits that he made up Batman’s orders, but he needs to prove that Jack Haly is clean. As Dick Grayson he grew up in that Circus and he left the Kid behind to stop him questioning his objectivity.
Everybody lends a hand after Haly orders the Circus packed up and readied for the train journey to Geneva. The flu seems to be spreading as the strongman and Firebreather are both down sick. Then, after the train moves out, Miss Martian is taken ill just as Robin recovers. The young detective recognises that the flu is coming on unusually fast. Ray the Roustabout rubbed Robin’s head for good luck before he started feeling ill and Superboy remembers Ray talking to Miss Martian just before they boarded. He runs into Jack Haly in the corridor and asks him about Ray. Jack says that he picked up Ray at the start of the European tour (just before the thefts started). The Team leave to check on Ray so they don’t see “Jack” shape change into Ray. The Team discover that Ray’s bunk is empty. They also find ash from the warehouse fire and a “Ray” mask.
Robin hurriedly orders them to split up and search the entire train. Robin is on his own when he hears muffled cries coming from Haly’s office where he discovers the real Jack Haly bound and gagged. Jack tells him that Ray tied him up immediately after they left Bruges — before they talked to the other Jack. Robin radios the other Dangers and tells them that they are chasing somebody who has stolen “Dawn’s act” (i.e., Megan’s shapeshifting). Superboy applies another s-shield just before he stops a clown carrying a trunk. His temporary x-ray vision reveals that the trunk contains the stolen technology. The thief also has Miss Martian’s telekinesis and he throws the contents of the carriage at Superboy. The clown and Superboy take their fight on to the top of the train where they are joined by Robin. He reveals that they are actually fighting the Parasite. The villain notes that the Dangers aren’t exactly who they claim to be either.
The flu that has been going around the circus is actually the side-effects of the Parasite stealing each persons’ special skills or powers. He has fed on most of the Circus, but considered feeding on Miss Martian to be the “pièce de résistance” until he discovers Superboy. The Parasite uses his stolen telekinesis to drag Superboy toward him and absorbs his full s-shield enhanced Kryptonian powers upon touch. The mix of Kryptonian and Martian powers leaves the Parasite sated and he flies away with the stolen technology. The Parasite brushes aside Robin’s tackle and leaves the unconscious boy plummeting away from the train. The others work together to save him, but their two super-powered members have been left powerless.
Despite the set back Robin did manage to pick a USB flashdrive from the Parasite’s pocket. It shows that the Parasite was working for Intergang and that all the stolen technology can be assembled to create a single larger device – a black hole generator. Red Arrow scoffs at the idea pointing out that they would need to attach it to massive particle accelerator, but Robin points out that the Circus’s next stop in Geneva is near the Larger Boson Collider. Red Arrow and Artemis have back up bows so they can help Robin intercept the Parasite. Superboy uses another shield-patch to regain his powers and still weak Miss Martian tells them to not even try leaving her behind.
Dec 24th. The Team get to the Collider to find that the Parasite has already finished assembling his technology and that it has started to create a black hole. Robin is briefing the Team when Superboy loses control of his shield-endued rage and he rushes the Parasite. The Parasite and Superboy briefly fight, but Miss Martian’s telekinesis gives the Parasite the upper-hand and he drains Superboy for a second time. The Parasite then calls for the test of the “Dangers” to come out of hiding. Miss Martian comes up with a plan and allows the Parasite to telekinetically draw her towards him. She dodges him at the last moment starting a series of distractions by the other Team members. They start a fire at the Parasite’s feet without him realising that he has also absorbed Miss Martian’s vulnerability to fire. He collapses as Robin shuts down the black hole generator.
The Parasite is still surrounded by flames as Agent Faraday and his men arrive and place a power dampening collar around him — Robin had tipped them off before coming to the Collider. Artemis helps Red Arrow up and he almost smiles at her. He admits to never having seen the three of them in action before and admits that his mind should have been more open. Each of them could have betrayed the team but they didn’t. He then apologies for doubting any of them and says “there is no mole”. Robin has one last duty to perform as Dan Danger as he returns to Haly’s Circus to explain to Jack Haly that he’s in the clear and that the Danger’s now have to leave. Jack and Dan shake hands before Jack reveals that he knew all along that Dan was actually Dick Grayson — the sight of a Grayson on the trapeze is unforgettable to him. Jack asks for one last favour and the Dangers agree to give one last performance.
- This episode takes place on December 22nd to December 24th, ending on Christmas Eve.
- Aqualad and Zatanna to not appear in this episode.
- Dick Grayson grew up at Haly International Travelling Circus as part of the Flying Graysons. The Circus does not use elephants in its international tours.
- The S-shield patches that Lex Luthor gave Superboy unlock his full Kryptonian powers, but they also have side-effects. He they enhance his anger and rage making him more impulsive. They also appear addictive.
- The Parasite once stole Superman’s powers.
Dick Grayson back at Haly’s Circus
What was the purpose of that Blackhole Generator?
“Performance” is one of those episodes that you don’t really appreciate when you first watch it. Its not that specific to the Season One arc so it doesn’t feel that important. It’s the third to last episode of the season so I’d expected something more integrated with the Light storyline. However, what we actually get is something of a diversion, a personal mission for Dick Grayson that takes him back to the circus where his parent’s died.
Why this episode is important then is that we get to see Robin as the team leader. There was a plot line early in the first season where Robin naturally expected to become the Team’s leader, but he wasn’t really ready for it yet. That’s why Aqualad became the leader, yet as a character Aqualad has really drifted into the background. That’s allowed Robin to come to the fore a lot more and to complete his evolution as a leader in his own right.