So listen up and gather around the pretty picture I posted above as a way grab your attention- because I want to talk to y’all about my girl Artemis Crock.
First of all, let me put in a quick warning that this is going to be a long post. I’m going over Artemis’s character arc throughout both Season’s One and Two, and there’s a lot to cover.
When we first meet Artemis, she’s already made the big decision to leave her old life behind. It’s a life we don’t get to know much about except through a few dropped comments here and there from the Crock-Nguyen family, a couple of flashbacks in Homefront, and the Wally-Artemis conversation in Bereft.
When we first see her in Infiltrator, she’s already made the decision to not only leave the Shadows behind, but to also join on with the League by proxy of the Team. She’s already done the first part of asserting her own identity.
Artemis knew what she wanted to be already- but she also felt like she could never actually be that person, like she was broken and already dirty and like the team would send her back if they found out. We see the first hints of that when Jade successfully threatens to out her to the Team as way to make Artemis let her escape, and we see it big time in Homefront when Artemis has her crisis-of-faith-in-self.
But she made her choice, and she was half way there- it’s why I’d say her arc was less a crisis like M’gann and Conner’s and more a drawn-out resolution to a problem she essentially had already solved
However, that resolution and re-affirmation is still important, and makes for a great story and a better character.
Anyone who’s had to fight something like an addiction or a bad habit knows that just making the decision to change- and even following through with it- isn’t the only part of the journey; even if for many it’s the most climatically stressful. There’s a lot of lower-grade but longer term pain, like an ache that never quite leaves or an itch you can’t seem to scratch that comes with sticking to your decision. Artemis shows signs of that, and we see her fight to stay with her decision when the narrative gives her moments of both affirmation and challenge.
Artemis’s most obvious issue is similar to M’gann’s main issue- she’s insecure about the Team finding out about her past and rejecting her over it. But unlike M’gann, Artemis isn’t just insecure in how other people see her. She’s also majorly insecure about whether she even is the person she wants to see herself as.
We see some of this in Homefront. Through a little bit of well-timed exposition, we get to see that Artemis is perfectly confident in her skills- she’s not just confident in her ability to be a team player, to make the sacrifice and be the good guy. That gets resolved in Homefront when she does the hero thing, and immediately again in Failsafe when she puts herself at the front and pays for it with her “life”.
But things came to a head when a toxic person in her life, her father, tries and succeeds to make her question her own worthwhile- whether or not she’s good enough to leave the old life behind and be better than what she was told she was.
He breaks into her room waits for her, and tries to manipulate her back into playing his game. And for a while it works, because this is her abusive supervillian dad who knows what buttons to press and knows exactly how to bring his daughter to her lowest- because he’s been doing that to her all her life. “Little girl” as a nickname isn’t just basic condescension- it’s emotional manipulation, preying on her insecurities and reminding her of a time when she had no agency, no choice, and was trapped in a world she couldn’t get out of.
What he didn’t count on was Paula- who recently came back from prison and took-over as Artemis’s caretaker while also booting his ass out of the house- being a good mother who came to believe in her daughter, and was even implied to have been the impetus for her joining on with the League.
He didn’t count on a group of positive adult mentors, and he didn’t count on the Team, and he didn’t count on Wally.
Wally who lets her be an antagonistic little shit like’s in her nature, because let’s face the fact the Artemis Crock is brave and kind and wonderful but she is not sweet, not in Season 1. She’s caustic because that’s what she’s had to be, and Wally gives her a target who fights back but only in a way that doesn’t really hurt, and he becomes her main supporter and someone she cares about trusting her, and whose trust she values pretty much more than anyone’s- as we see in Insecurity.
And having someone who thinks highly enough of her to be so angry and disappointed in her actually turns out to be the best thing possible for her- because someone sees her as someone who SHOULD be better, who SHOULD be trustworthy, who SHOULD be the hero. And that’s what leads her to get back on track, say fuck you to dad, and to pull the big reveal to the team.
And then there’s Artemis’s relationship with her sister.
I think the lack of attention payed to Jade’s hand in Artemis’s development is, okay, a little appalling. Because let’s be honest here- Jade never actually discourages Artemis from being a hero. Why the hell would she? One thing Jade and Artemis have is common is the fact that they both know their dad is a piece of shit. Why would Jade want Artemis to go back to the Shadows, to him, when she’s already out and she’s happy doing what she does?
Jade doesn’t really care one way or the other what Artemis does, and says so, and that actually is kinda important. Because Artemis still cares about Jade, and we can see from their conversations that she still cares what Jade thinks- so not having her as another devil on her shoulder whispering about how fruitless this whole hero thing is, about how she wasn’t meant for it, can’t cut it- it’s a help, in its own way.
And seeing Jade go her own way, even if it’s a different way, and understanding that that’s why Jade left- that’s important, because it helps Artemis realize she can do that too, and that she can do it better.
Because Jade may not work for Sportsmaster but she still has to work with him, and Artemis can PUT HIM IN JAIL.
In Usual Suspects where Artemis’s plot culminates, two great things happen. She does the reveal to the team and everyone pretty much doesn’t care about her past, because this is Artemis and she’s one of the good guys because she chose to be. The second awesome culmination is after Kaldur traps Sportsmaster in the quicksand. Jade refuses to help him get out, and that’s cool for Jade.
But then Artemis kicks him in face and removes his mask- basically humiliating him.
On the scale of vindictive and satisfying victories? Artemis wins out big time, and that’s pretty great deal in the field of sisterly I-hate-dad-more-than-you competition.
Basically, by the end of Season One Artemis has shown us that you can defy your past if you have people who believe in you.
And then we move onto Invasion, where Artemis suddenly isn’t a hero anymore and we’re all confused about how that happened because, seriously, what the hell? All of that build up for so little payout?
Except that’s not really what’s going on, is it?
Because by the end of Season One Artemis is confident that she can be a hero- but she’s still depending on other people, specifically Wally, for part of that confidence. And that’s why I feel her arc in Season One and Invasion aren’t just inter-connected- they’re the same arc. Just a really, really long one.
Wally was Artemis’s rock as much as she was his. I’m not saying that her relationship with him was anything like the culmination of her plot line, but it does actually become relevant, though not necessarily central, to her character.
From what we saw by the end of Season One, Artemis Crock fucking LOVES being a superhero. Its exciting, she gets to kick ass and help people at the same time. And she does care about helping people- remember Secrets?
So things are fine for most of the time-skip. Wally and Artemis are partners (not just on the same team, but a duo. That’s implied by Tigress’s line in Endgame about how Artemis was Wally’s partner) and things are going as well as they can for a team of young adult superheroes who specialize in espionage.
And then Tula dies, and things go to shit.
In Darkest, Wally made it pretty clear that Tula’s death made a big impact on him. Though maybe not the kind of impact you’d first think of.
Let’s get something straight- Wally West was not afraid to die. That is not why he quit.
Seeing Tula die reminded Wally that one day he might have to watch Artemis die, you know- again. And that’s what prompted him to leave.
But it’s not what prompted Artemis. She still wanted in the game, she didn’t think leaving was necessarily the logical course of action. A woman like her, with her background, knows that dying is a thing that happens.
So the only conclusion that I can draw is that she left because Wally asked her to. She loved him, and she saw that he was terrified of losing her the way Kaldur lost Tula. So, for him, she was willing to leave the business behind. It’s not like being a hero was that important to her anyways, right? hah
And then Dick asks her to come back, and she loves it.
In Depths, you can tell that Artemis is honestly really happy to be back, even if she knows she’ll be going under soon. She’s glad to be back- and Wally’s not there with her, not in Depths and not until Summit, and that’s important.
Because going undercover challenges Artemis’s resolve in every way possible. For a while she has Kaldur- but for a while she’s on her own. She’s on her own, doing the thing she never wanted to do, playing the part of the person she never wanted to be and always feared she’d end up as, and she succeeds wonderfully.
We have a bit of a crisis moment in Fix, yeah. But we also see that she still thinks of herself as Artemis, as the hero, and that out of everyone down there she’s the most confident in her ability to get shit done. Because she’s Artemis Crock, damn it, and she’s a superhero and she has no time of anyone’s bullshit because she may look like a villain and have to act like a villain but she’s got a friends and a world to save.
So when we get to Summit we get to see Artemis at the top of her game- she’s finally proven to herself that, yes, she can be the good guy- and that while having others’ support is helpful, she doesn’t need it to have confidence in her own identity.
And that’s also why Artemis staying and changing over to Tigress after Wally dies is so significant.
Because now she’s free to be the hero again, and on her own terms and in her own way. She finished growing up when she was under, and Tigress fits better now than Artemis- who still needed Wally, in a way- could.
I’m not saying that Artemis as Tigress stopped loving Wally. That’d be fucking ridiculous.Or that Artemis as Artemis was dependent on the guy during the time-skip- that’d be equally as dumb.
But the reason she had for not doing the thing she loved was gone, and there was no reason not to go back to the Team- especially because it was a way of dealing with his death.
And she was finally fully capable in believing in herself, with no insecurities and no need for back-up (though back-up is still nice, and still important, because when isn’t emotional support important?)
Artemis Crock is not the kind of person to wallow in something for very long. She doesn’t have the patience for it. She will curl up and she will cry and she will sob her fucking heart out when she needs to.
But then she will stand up, dust herself off, and do what she has to do. We started seeing that in Homefront and we’ve only ever seen more of it since then.
Artemis’s arc is a weird mix of exploring the importance of outside support, like we see in Season One, and the ultimate goal of being able to rely wholly on yourself for your confidence in who you are.
For Artemis, getting out was the first challenge, and she did that before we ever met her. Staying out was the second, and going under was the third and final and by the end of it she was the most confident in-charge motherfucker you have ever seen.
By the end of her story arc, Artemis Crock knows exactly who she is and what she wants and why she wants it. She knows how to grieve and cry and how to move the hell on with her life, because she’s earned it. She loves her boyfriend but doesn’t’ let her life center around him or her loss of him, and she loves her job but doesn’t let it take over either. She is dependent on nothing in order to be who she is, and that is all she has ever wanted.
And that, I think, is a pretty good message to send