During my latest research trip, one of my friends reintroduced me to Batman Beyond. I remember watching some episodes every now and then when I was in college, but I’d never seen the entire series. So I ordered it and have now watched the first disc of the first season. Overall, I’m enjoying watching the series for a variety of reasons.
The first disc actually contains eight episodes: Rebirth Part 1, Rebirth Part 2, Black Out, Golem, Meltdown, Heroes, Shriek, and Dead Man’s Hand. These first eight episodes cover the background as to how Terry McGinnis assumes the Batman mantle from Bruce Wayne and how Bruce Wayne becomes a mentor for Terry McGinnis.
I liked how in Rebirth Part 1 and Rebirth Part 2, the Joker’s gang is prevalent and still causing problems in the future. I can imagine that in a big city where the Joker played such a crucial role that petty thieves and thugs would use that as a rallying card for their own gain. Not that any of them have any real connections to the original Joker, but that they can use his name as a symbol. And part of the draw of Batman is how a symbol can be far more important than a person. Stan Berkowitz, the series story writer and editor, said in the Batman Beyond book that came with my boxed series that this was a good mix of providing a solid, well-established character with a new addition that will appeal to a broad audience. And I think I agree with his assessment.
In Blackout, the main focus is that Terry McGinnis lacks Bruce Wayne’s experience in fighting criminal masterminds and super-powered villains. Terry is certainly not as good at thinking on his feet as Bruce, but Bruce spent a lot of time, energy, money, and resources becoming Batman. Terry is just falling in on a pre-established regime. Terry doesn’t like Bruce just telling him what to do without knowing why and Bruce is used to just getting his way and not having to explain himself. This dynamic really comes out in this episode and it demonstrates why the show is interesting to watch.
Golem is an interesting look at bullies. You’ve got a “wimpy” kid who is picked on by his father for being unable to stand up for himself and then the same kid is picked on by annoying jocks at school. Instead of taking positive action to deal with his situation and the bullies in his life, he turns to violence and revenge. This then makes the situation drastically worse. He takes out his frustration by destroying the lead jock’s most valuable possession, which is his car. And then he uses the Golem device to cause destruction to buildings and infrastructure, not thinking about the consequences for his actions and the damage that he causes. As soon as he was given power over others, he used that power for selfish and destructive purposes. He became the bully. I guess that also goes a bit into what makes a person a hero versus what makes a person a villain. Heroes have power and they use their power selflessly to help others. Villains have power and use their power for selfish or destructive purposes. That’s why heroes always have a crappier time with things.
I like how Meltdown shows what happens when a villain attempts to honestly reform and make amends for the damages and destruction from their previous life. Victor Fries was given a second chance to live the life he wanted and he used his resources to set up a trust fund for all the families of the people he’d killed throughout his time and Mr. Freeze. He genuinely reform, but there are those who attempt to derail him. In the end, he winds up doing at least partially the right thing by taking on the other super villain and only destroying evacuated buildings instead of destroying the entire facility and causing hundreds of additional deaths. Bruce at one point tells Terry that what Terry met was a ghost. Given a second chance, Victor really does try to do the right thing.
Heroes was an interesting episode because it showed how easy it is to be betrayed by those closest to you. The Trio has a friend and he knew that the reaction would cause fatal radiation, but he set the experiment up anyway. He was hoping to take advantage of the situation and gain the girl and the glory while removing the rest of the team. It’s a prime example of being selfish and causing destruction for petty reasons. It’s also a prime example of how easy it is for the people pulling the strings to decide that you’re a problem and switch sides on you. Lots and lots of trust issues in this episode.
Shriek is probably my least favorite episode on this disc. While the villain for this episode has a unique gift with sound and he creates a fantastic new suit, he’s also kind of whiny. He goes to talk to Powers and whines about how he can never show his face again and how he can’t go back to his studio. He never actually seems to think about the things he could do with his new suit and powers. He could have taken the route of the hero and chosen to do good things, but that’s not what he chose to do. He chose to become a villain. Though, this episode does have one neat thing, and that’s seeing Terry go undercover. I hope the series has more instances of Terry using his intellect to solve problems instead of depending on the Batman suit. That was always one of the draws of Bruce Wayne as Batman because he was a detective. He used his brain to deal with a lot of the villains he encountered.
I think Dead Man’s Hand is my favorite episode on this disc. It shows the problems between being Batman and attempting to have a normal life. Bruce never attempted to have a normal life, but Terry continues to try to lead the double life. Terry meets someone he has strong feelings for that has a compatible lifestyle, but he watches her get arrested because she made the wrong decisions. I’m kind of torn about that because I think that Melany would have reformed and become maybe a hero if given the chance. Now, she’ll spend time in prison and likely become bitter and a bigger villain in the future. This would have been a great opportunity to show a villain being reformed before becoming such a huge problem.
Overall, I’m enjoying the series and I will continue to post my thoughts as I finish each disc.