And I'm not just saying that because between this and the pilot (which I just re-watched) I've come to really like the much-put-upon General Wells, and think he and Batman would get along like a house on fire.
There are a lot of things that impress me about JUSTICE LEAGUE. One of them is that the writers have pretty good understanding of implications and consequences -- and the end of "Starcrossed" is a great example of that. Any happier ending for the story would be forced, and so the writers let it be what it has to be. Which is very much the right thing to do. And that makes me happy as a viewer. (Even though Alfred's military background, one of my favorite things about his character history in the comics, is apparently non-existent in the animated universe.)
The story had to get one thing right off the bat: it had to sell Hawkgirl's betrayal of the Justice League and Earth. That was probably the hardest thing to accomplish, because she had to still be the same person we'd come to know while she did it. So the reasons for her doing it had to go beyond mere patriotism or duty; she had to think she was doing the right thing. And we had to believe that she could.
Here's how they pull it off:
Even though his mission is to destroy the Earth and everything living on it.
For the Thanagarians, the extinction of life on Earth is just unfortunate collateral damage. They need to open a hyperspace bypass, and unlike the Vogons the Thanagarians will be too busy in the aftermath to pick up hitchhikers. Because they'll be going on to a surprise assault against the homeworld their real foe, the Gordanians.
All we know about the Gordanians is what the Thanagarians tell us, and it's in their interest to lie. We know they're lying when they claim the Gordanians are coming to Earth. They're not. But Hawkgirl seems sincerely to believe the Gordanians are a threat that must be militarily opposed, and that the propaganda footage Hro shows Earth's representatives is an accurate representation. We also know the Thanagarians and Gordanians have been fighting for generations, and that the fight has been a brutal one. Those details fit neatly with Hro's willingness to accept the destruction of the Earth as necessary: the T-G War is long past any hope of a Christmas Truce. They're way past even the post-Somme filing of saw-teeth into bayonets. And there has been no loss of will on either side.
Until Hawkgirl has one. At least, that's how Hro sees it.
Hawkgirl betrays her homeworld on learning of Hro's plan for the Earth's destruction. She insists that there has to be another way. Hro points out, quite correctly, that this is their big surprise plan and it's taken more than five years to set up. If they reroute, they'll lose time and lives. (Left unsaid is that Thanagar's high council probably picked this route for a reason; for all we know, the route that destroys Earth involved the least bloodshed of all the possible options -- and isn't that a cheery thought?) This leads to her betrayal of Thanagar and, eventually, to the climactic fight (which is a rouser, even by this show's impressive standards). In that scene, Hawkgirl actually fights Hro to save the Earth. Hro Talic, of course, thinks she's blinded by love for John Stewart. Hawkgirl insists, "It isn't about him, it's about us."
Hro's response, of course, is, "There is no us."
He's referring to him and Hawkgirl, as a couple. But you could take it another way: revealing that the Thanagarians are, morally, lost. Which was Hawkgirl's concern: if her homeworld's army is planning to deliberately kill billions of sentient beings whose only crime is that they are in the way, then what in God's name have the Thanagarians come to? "There must be another way," she insists. And at the end, Hro, beaten, his hyperspace generator destroyed, calls his forces down and agrees to find one.
But I don't think there is.
My take, on having watched "Starcrossed" several times, is that *the Thanagarians are fucked.*
If the briefing Hro gives Hawkgirl in part 2 is at all accurate, the Thanagarians have people on five (or six; the display is a little ambiguous) other worlds, at least one of them way behind enemy lines. This is a huge operation that must be accomplished quickly and in perfect stealth on all planets involved, because they run into serious trouble the minute the Gordanians find out what they're up to. And the Gordanians aren't slacking in their own war effort, making this mission probably more critical than its planners imagined when they initiated it more than five years ago. Hawkgirl's been out of the loop for a while, at least to some degree: we know she's been transmitting information back to Thanagar, but it's not clear how much she's been getting back. But in Hro's communication with the High Council of the Land of Beards and Axes, his superiors reveal that the Gordanians are closing in on Thanagar. Repeat: the Gordanians are closing in on Thanagar.
The Thanagarians are willing to kill six billion people because they're in the way. But feel bad about it.
The Thanagarians think the *Gordanians* are ruthless, brutal monsters.
Any bets on what the Gordanians are going to do once they get to Thanagar?
Meanwhile, a large chunk of the Thanagarian military that could be defending the homeworld is waiting around five or six faraway planets, waiting for their hyperspace bypass chain to come up. They're going to be waiting a long, long time.
I think Hro's decision to stand down in the face of his defeat (and this is totally my fannish thinking) was an effort to put a bold face on things, and make sure that, if Hawkgirl wouldn't be with him, she'd at least think well of him afterwards.
Because I have a feeling that Hawkgirl's defection (for which, as someone who lives on Earth, albeit not in the JL universe, I'm grateful) doomed the Thanagarian race to slavery or extinction.
(I'd really love to hear something about the fate of Thanagar in the new season -- even a throwaway line. I don't think it'll be good. Given Earth's level of technology relative to the serious spacefaring races in the JL-verse, our best hope is that the Gordanians beat the Thanagarians into the dust and then never so much as glance in our planet's general direction. Because the other possibilities are 1) a desperate attempt by the Thanagarians to make their plan work, which would probably involving them pasteurizing Earth before turning it into a hyperspace rest stop and 2) the Gordanians wiping out Thanagar, then saying, "Well, now what? ...hmmm, that little blue speck looks interesting.")
There's a lot to love in "Starcrossed." I haven't even mentioned the humor (Flash! Alfred! J'onn and Batman trying to comfort GL!), or the romance (Batman and Wonder Woman! Hawkgirl and GL! Flash and Flash!), or all the great lines ("Wally West! Clark Kent! Bruce Wayne!" "Wait for it..." "What's this do?"), or the real tension that starts quick and keeps rising. But at the end what stays with me is that I feel respect for the bad guys and I'm glad the good guys won. That may be the creepiest thing about it: if I didn't live on Earth, I'd back Hro
But I do.
And so, in their fictional universe, does the Justice League.
I'm glad we have heroes. Aren't you?
Edit: thanks to Hsiao for the correction.