This article contains spoilers for Batman Beyond, Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, and Project Zeta.
Schway: adjective – fashionably attractive or impressive.”The no-lapel look is so schway right now!”
According to Batman Beyond, this is the hip slang of the future. You probably knew that already though, since you clicked on this article and everything.
Now that obligatory reference is out of the way, we can move on to the real meat of this article, which is — you guessed it — listing the most essential episodes of everyone’s favorite Batman spinoff. We’ve got a lot to cover, so we let’s go ahead, skip the preamble, and dive right in. Are you schway with that? Good. I wouldn’t give a flying bat’s ass if we weren’t, anyway.
Season 1 Episodes 1 and 2 “Rebirth I & II”
Batman Beyond’s first year on the air represents the show at its most realized form. In my opinion, it’s the only season of the show that’s written at the same level of quality as Batman: The Animated Series. Not to say that later seasons don’t have their moments, but it seemed like the writers approached Beyond as a Saturday morning cartoon during seasons two and three, whereas during season one, they most certainly did not.
Upon retwatch, “Rebirth” isn’t quite the grand spectacle I remembered it to be when it premiered back in the early days ’99. But that’s because I’m viewing it as someone who knows what will happen throughout the series and how. A big part of Batman Beyond‘s charm was about exploring the DC animated universe (DCAU) from a fresh pair of eyes. It was fun and felt enlightnening to compare the new Batman (Terry McGinnis) with the old one (Bruce Wayne).
At many points throughout the series, we were lead to question what makes Bruce Wayne a protagonist here. What are his true motivations for continuing the Batman legacy? Why does Bruce manipulate other people into being instruments of his will, expecting them to put their lives on the line for total strangers on a nightly basis, all to fulfill a revenge fantasy that he dreamed up as a child?
In that sense, Bruce was portrayed as something of a sympathetic villain, from the actions that he takes right down to his character design, which totally gives me Disney’s Snow White witch vibes. In comparison, Terry McGinnis was typically shown as being the real altruist in the situation most of the time. Terry was motivated by the death of his father at the beaurcratic hands of Derek Powers, creepy new head of Wayne Industries, but he didn’t make that the core of why he wanted take up the responsibility of protecting the citizens of Neo-Gotham.
But, then again, he’s from a different generation, one that views heroes they grew up hearing about (like the original Batman, for example) as ideals, legends, and role models — perhaps naively so. Bruce knows the true price of being a hero — and he continues to pay it throughout the duration of Batman Beyond.
Obviously the Bruce and Terry partnership begins in “Rebirth”, but so does the first (and, as far as I can tell, only) major season-spanning storyline that Batman Beyond attempted: the Derek Powers corporate takeover arc. Initially, Beyond‘s creative team wanted the show’s primary focus to be on white collar crime, AKA corporate espionage. Derek Powers — who becomes Skeletor’s radioactive cousing Blight — is the ultimate embodiment of this vision for the show, which is probably why he didn’t make an appearance in the later seasons.
Season 1 Episode 3: “Blackout”
Right out of the gate, Batman Beyond sought to radically distinguish itself from Batman: TAS while passing the bat-torch from Bruce to Terry in the most well-paced, respectful way possible. “Blackout” does this masterfully, moreso than the two-part pilot, in fact. It introduces a new recurring villain (Inque), builds up the larger conflict between Wayne and Powers, and pelts Terry with easter eggs that pay homage to Batman’s past. (Get a load of that Grey Ghost reference for f*ck’s sake!) Sexy serialization and sweet, delicious fan-service from Dini and the gang make this an irresstible installment that continues to take Batman beyond his limits.
Season 1 Episode 4: “Golem”
Meet Willie Walt, corny nerd stereotype reimagined as a mecha-stealing mad man who just wants a little respect. And maybe a date. Because being a walking cliche makes it hard for him to get one. So do that deep seated sense of sociopathy. He uses his robot “goLem” to seek revenge on Nelson Nash, school bully and fellow bromide, who is being, like, a total dick to him. You think high school is tough, just wait til you throw some giant robots to the mix. Whoo, boy.
Season 1 Episode 5: “Meltdown”
Wow, a midseason episode that brings back Mr. Freeze and advances the Derek Powers story arc? Schway.
“Meltdown” is impressive because it Mr. Freeze’s character arc, which had spanned multiple seasons of Batman: TAS and a direct-to-video feature film, to a close. It also gives birth to Blight, aka Slim Goodbody on PCP aka Derek Powers, the giant glowstick who was to be Neo-Batman’s biggest foe. Pretty ambitious for twenty minutes, and clearly ahead of its time, “Meltdown” demonstrates how Batman Beyond could keep the DCAU alive and kicking ass with mature writing that appealed to old fans and new viewers alike.
Season 1 Episode 7 “Shriek”
Skipping over the Fantastic Four parody episode “Heroes”, “Shriek” introduces to another one of Batman Beyond‘s bad guys during a key episode in the Powers/Blight saga. Just like the title says, his name is Shriek and he is one pissed off sound engineer. Derek Powers hires Shriek to mess with Bruce’s head and make him feel crazy old man and he succeeds. (It’s not that hard anyway, so whatever.) Luckily, dark knight in shining armor Terry swoops in and is all like, “No, Bruce, you’re old but you’re not crazy! Here, have some of my youth!” The end.
But seriously, folks. “Shriek” tells another solid supervillain origin story that is influenced directly by our heroes’ actions while setting the stage for the big climax between Blight and Team Bat.
Season 1 Episode 8: “Dead Man’s Hand”
The Royal Flush Gang makes their big, flashy, and (some would say) melodramatic entrance into the aggressive world of Neo-Gotham, where early 2000s nu-metal is all the rage and lapels are outlawed.
Personally, I think the Royal Flush Gang are the most effective villains in Batman Beyond’s big barrell of baddies. Why? Because they stir up trouble in Terry’s personal life. His secret relationship/affair with Ten made things interesting and created a love triangle dynamic with Dana that provided a sense of teen drama that complimented Beyond’s high school setting.
TL;DR – “Dead Man’s Hand” is the first installment in The Royal Flush Gang trilogy, and one of the best episodes of the entire series, so it should not be missed.
Season 1 Episode 9: “The Winning Edge”
Bane’s back, and this time he’s selling steroids to high school kids. Kind of step down from what he used to do, but oh well. You gotta make ends meet somehow.
Season 1 Episode 10: “Spellbound”
Apparently there’s a universal law that states if all future incarnations of Batman must have a Joker analogue, they also must have a parallel for the Scarecrow too. Spellbinder fulfills this unspoken requirement well, but rather than instill the fear and dread of nightmares into innocent Neo-Gothamites like Dr. Crane would (and I don’t mean Frasier), Spellbinder makes them trip balls and act like a fool in public. Oh, and steal things for him too, of course. Because he wouldn’t be a real Batman villain if he didn’t dabble in larceny, now would he?
Season 1 Episode 11: “Disappearing Inque”
Inque is back, and this time she’s got a boyfriend. Just kidding, he’s more like a stalker. Either way, this schlub is Inque’s partner-in-crime for this episode, which has everything that makes season one such a fun ride: callbacks to Batman: TAS, witty banter between Bruce and Terry, sexy noir-ish undertones, high-stakes suspense, and a massive explosion or two. Plus, a dash of Cronenberg-esque body horror to taste. Oh, and Bruce suits up as a robot Batman. What’s not to love?
Fun fact: listen closely and you’ll hear a cameo from Twin Peaks’ Kimmy Robertson before the end credits.
Season 1 Episode 12: “A Touch of Curare”
This Barbara Gordon (Commissioner if you’re nasty) focused episode introduces another “classic” villain to Batman Beyond’s lineup: Curare, the most deadly assassin to ever assass. She’s targeting Gordon’s husband, District Attorney Sam Young, for some dastardly reason or another. Terry intervenes, action ensues, and shit gets cut in half by a really sharp sword. Curare is two parts Mortal Kombat 3, one part Disney’s Aladdin, and nothing but blade — and I’m not talking about the Wesley Snipes kind.
“A Touch of Curare” sounds like the slogan for an off-brand cafe liqueur, but in reality it’s a conspiracy driven action/thriller that answers important questions about Bruce’s relationship with Barbara Gordon while raising a few more that will get answered later. It also drops a Barb bomb on Terry, who had no idea that the commish had VIP access to the Batcave. Who cleans that place now that Alfred’s not around, by the way? (Maybe I should be asking how you clean a cave in the first place.)
Season 1 Episode 13: “Ascension”
Wait! Continuing story arcs! Where are you going? Come back! We’re just getting started. It’s only season one…
Oh, whatever. They were too good for the Kids WB anyway. There’s plenty of standalone fish left in the sea, am I right?
Turns out that the kids at home didn’t really feel like sitting through fifteen minutes of corporate intrigue just to see the new Batman punch people in the face and make things go boom. Thus, “Ascension” serves as a thematic series finale of sorts, providing us with an exit point from the Austin Powers arc. Er, Derek Powers. And his son Paxton, too. Can’t forget about him.
Yes, folks. Derek/Blight and Paxton Powers go bye bye in the season one finale of Batman Beyond. Not in way that provides a final sense of closure, mind you. But enough to justify never having to revisit a villain who was little more than a see-through version of Lex Luthor, all things considered. This decision was influeced by execs at the Kids WB, whose unofficial motto was “the less old people on screen, the better”. I can’t say I blame them for wanting to ditch the show’s high concept conceits for simpler Saturday morning fare. The moral of the story here is: white collar crime doesn’t taste good with Cinammon Toast Crunch.
FYI, if you’re a Blight fan and would like to see more of his pretty transcluscent face getting bashed in, check out his appearance in Batman Beyond #18 Volume 2 from DC Comics. In this issue, Terry crosses paths with Stalker, a character we’ll soon meet in the second season, who is hunting the glow in the dark goon. If this comic is canon, then we actually do get to see what fate had in store for Derek Powers/Blight. And since he’s a supervillain, it’s gonna be twisted.
Season 2 Episode 1: “Splicers”
The thin bat line between filler and narratively relevant episodes starts to blur during “Splicers”, the second season premiere. “Splicers” is a world-building episode more than anything else. It introduces an important part of the show’s lore that will be reference countless times throughut the series from here on out: splicing.
No, splicing has nothing to do with archaic film editing techniques. It’s more about altering your genetic makeup to become an Animorph, except sassier. My guess is this was supposed to be a take on the “extreme” fad of body piercing that was prominent during the late ’90s and early aughts. Regardless, “Splicers” cleverly uses its wacky premise to give us a throwback when Terry transforms into a variation of Man-Bat for a like minute or two.
Does this bit of nostalgia make “Splicers” worth the price of admission? Eh, sort of. Despite what it contributes to the larger DCAU, “Splicers” is the first of many paint-by-number episodes that will pad out the rest of Batman Beyond. But for all you furries out there, it’s probably a can’t miss experience.
Season 2 Episode 2: “Earth Mover”
Batman Beyond rarely did horror episodes, which makes me wonder if that was a network decision or if it was a conscious choice by the creators themselves. Despite the show’s darker, unsettling atmosphere and thematic elements,“Earth Mover” is as close to horror as the show ever really got. Is it a great episode? I’m not going to oversell it, but I will recommend giving it a watch because, above all, it feels like a season one episode but way creepier.
Season 2 Episode 4: “Lost Soul”
What’s this? A Ghost in the Machine trope in a cyberpunk cartoon? You’re insane.
Actually, it’s probably for the best that Batman Beyond burned through this overused plot device early on so it could focus on mindlessly rehashing far less interesting ones for the rest of its time on the air. Snark aside, “Lost Soul” is an awesome episode because it reminds us why Terry is the one wear the hero pants in this Bat-relationship now — and it’s not because he won’t throw his hip out. When the Batsuit gets possessed by a cyber specter, Terry goes after it himself, proving once and for all that the bat- clothes do not make the Batman. Someone get William Gibson in here — STAT!
Season 2 Episode 5: “Hidden Agenda”
“Hidden Agenda” is a pivotal chapter in the Beyond saga, but strangely enough, the episode treats its biggest twist almost as an afterthought.
Maxine Gibson, Terry’s BFF for life, makes her official debut. Get used to her, by the way. She’s going to be around a lot. Max’s presence adds much-needed warmth to the show, but it feels like she’s a sidekick who never actually got a payoff, despite consistently having helped save the day throughout the rest of the series.
In that respect, it’s interesting that Max was never considered to take up the mantle of Robin, as she will get more and more involved in bat stuff as the series progresses.Yes, she makes a joking comment about not being wanting to be referred as Robin at the end of this episode, but I don’t care. That line could have been a nice piece of foreshadowing.
Max’s first outing as the hyper-competent sidekick involves the Jokerz, proficiency exams, and some of the most petty high school drama this side of Degrassi Junior High. Much like Batman Beyond itself, “Hidden Agenda” emphasizes that Max Gibson is a kick-ass, capable person in Terry’s life yet sticks her with the damsel in distress duties when the going gets tough. What’s worse, the episode also rushes the big moment when Max confronts Terry about being Batman, a game-changer if there ever was one.
Season 2 Episode 6: “Bloodsport”
Meet the Stalker, another member of Batman Beyond‘s oddly unmemorable rogue gallery. He’s like Kraven the Hunter from Spider-Man with less clothing and way more blow-darts. He rolls through Neo-Gotham to hunt down Neo-Batman because he wants to “kill the wabbit”, so to speak. There’s not much to take away from “Bloodsport”, as what unfolds is pretty much the cyberpunk equivalent of a Roadrunner cartoon. (Am I mixing my cartoon metaphors here?) Just sit back and think about how fun it must have been to be a storyboard artist for this show.
Season 2 Episode 7: “Once Burned”
One of the finest Batman Beyond episodes, “Once Burned” is a neo-gothic noir masterpiece. Once again, the Royal Flush Gang shows up to throw a wrench in Terry’s lovelife. To describe the details of the plot would spoil the experience. If you’ve seen it in recent years and the memory is still fresh, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t and would like to see the series living up to its full potential, narratively speaking, now’s a good time to check it out.
Season 2 Episode 8: “Hooked Up”
A dark and moody fuiller episode turns into a revealing character study for Terry’s best friend, Max, not to mention an insightful meditation on the nature of addiction itself. “Hooked Up” isn’t nearly as sexy as it’s title sounds, but it’s a quintessential Max episode that’s key in understanding the fractured psyche of Terry’s BFF (the one who doesn’t have a cane.)
Season 2 Episode 9: “Rats”
That running gag about Terry standing up Dana never gets old, does it? Fortunately, there’s “Rats”, a whole episode dedicated to beating this dead horse with a stick from the future.
As you may have guessed, “Rats” is all about Terry standing up Dana for a date at a chili joint (?). Because of this hilarious oversight, Dana gets kidnapped by a guy who lives in the sewers and micro-manages rats. No, he’s not the Rat King from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His name is Patrick Fitz, the Phantom Ratboy of Sewer Town, and only Dana can understand the real him because obviously she has self esteem issues if she’s in a situation like this in the first place.
Anyway, “Rats” is a decent outing because it gives the underwritten character of Dana spice up her life by going on a wild and crazy adventure into a subterranean hellhole to spice up her life in another fun standalone episode from season two.
Season 2 Episode 10: “Mind Games”
One of my favorite episodes of Batman: TAS is “The Demon Within”, a fantastical romp through the occult with Etrigan the Demon, Jack Kirby’s pet monster. Maybe, then, I was destined to like “Mind Games”, which is what I consider to be Batman Beyond’s answer to TAS‘s “The Demon Within”. (Although Terry did meet up with Etrigan on two different occasions in two separate volumes of the Batman Beyond comics, but that’s besides the point.)
Don’t get me wrong. “Mind Games” doesn’t go quite as overboard with the supernatural stuff as its predecessor did. Instead of magic and monsters, we’re in the real of psychics and conspiracies, which is much more on theme for Batman Beyond, really. Overall, this one is twisty, turny, unpredictable fun.
Season 2 Episode 11: “Revenant”
Well, would you look at that. Another episode with a ghostly supernatural premise, directly after the one with the psychic kid. But wait! On closer inspection, this really isn’t a ghost story after all. It’s the actually return of a familiar face from season, one that we didn’t think we’d ever see again…but who it could it be? “Revenant” is a surprisingly clever episode of Batman Beyond that can make your skin crawl, so watch it and see for yourself. You like to watch…don’t you?
Season 2 Episode 13: “Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot”
Wanna know something weird? A year after “Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot” aired on the Kids WB, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a primetime drama on the same network) produced an episode during its fifth season called “I Was Made to Love You” which was pretty much a carbon copy of this one, party scene and everything. Did Jane Espenson or Joss Whedon catch this particular episode of Batman Beyond one Saturday morning while eating a big bowl of Count Chocula or something?
Season 2 Episode 13: “Eyewitness”
Barbara Gordon witnesses Batman kill our favorite local terrorist in cold blood by beating him to death with a steel barrel. Or…did she?
Babs is the only other character besides Brucie that links us back to the good ol’ days of Gotham City when villains had better branding and art deco was prominent even though video phones were in existence. Creating tension between Barbara and Bruce was always a fun card for the writers to play when they wanted to raise the stakes a little. And that, folks, is what this episode does.
Although “Eyewitness” isn’t highly regarded episode amongst fans, I consider it to be one of the series’ most thrilling episode that has a sense of danger which hadn’t been felt since 1993’s Mask of the Phantasm.
Season 2 Episode 14: “Final Cut”
Max and Terry go on their first solo mission when Curare stops by while Bruce is out of town. They’ll have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do when he gets back, although we never see that happen.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, old Mr. Wayne gets less and less screen time as the series continues, creating further distance between Batman Beyond from its proginitor. This slowly devolves the show into your average Saturday morning beat ’em up fare, but that probably better to air alongside Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh well, isn’t it?
Season 2 Episode 18: “Sneek Peek”
Don’t you love it when journalists stumble upon the secret identities of superheroes, intentionally or not?
This kind of thing seemed to happen a lot back in the ‘90s, so of course it would happen here, in yet another solid standalone episode that ends on a rather dark note. How shocking.
Season 2 Episode 19: “The Eggbaby”
In what may be Batman Beyond’s most comedic episode, another trope (often referred to as “Egg Sitting“) hatches into an action-packed thriller where, naturally, shit blows up and people get kicked in the face.
Terry is stuck with a school assignment in which he has to take care of a digital pet egg for his family studies class while beating up bad guys as Batman. Why Bruce couldn’t have helped take care of said egg is beyond me (get it), but you know how he can be.
Still, “The Eggbaby” is a fun episode with some good lines and performances by guest stars with voices are immediately recognizable, at least to my ears. (This marks the first and only time that Ma Mayhem and her boys make an appearance in the DCAU, by the way.)
Season 2 Episode 20: “Zeta”
Who’s a fan of The Zeta Project? Nobody, huh? Well, apparently we’re all missing on what has been referred to by fans as the Superman: The Animated Series of the Batman Beyond era. Or something like that.
Anyway, Zeta makes his (its?) debut here — allbeit with a different character design — as a robot that refuses to do what evil robots are programmed to do: kill people. Terry’s totally on board with this, so he helps out as much as he can. But in the end, Zeta goes on the run to have episodic adventures elsewhere because…surprise! This was a backdoor pilot.
Season 2 Episode 21: “Plague”
If you asked me who I thought Neo-Batman’s arch-nemesis was during Batman Beyond’s first season, I would have said Austin Powers. Er, Derek Powers. Blight. B-Lite. Whatever you want to call him. Since he was so involved with Wayne Enterprises, he posed the biggest threat to Bruce and Terry. Mr. Powers represented the show’s bold new beautacratic brand of evil. Also, he was the only villain that re-appeared the most, even going as far as to contract new, upcoming villains to do his own bidding. That helped.
Now, if you were to ask me who the main villain of the show was after watching seasons two and three, I’d say it was Kobra, a cartoonish snake worshipping cult. Basically, they’re the bargin bin version of Hydra. This episode marks their first appearance in the Batman Beyond franchise, although it’s not the first time Terry encounters them, technically speaking. That will be depicted in the series finale…I think?
“Plague” has its moments, but even if it introduces a major new threat (from our perspective) and brings back a familiar face (Stalker), it doesn’t add up to be more than the sum of its parts.
Season 2 Episode 25: “Ace in the Hole”
A moving episode that provides thematic closure to a season in desparate need of a narrative focal point, “Ace in the Hole” serves as an origin story for Ace the Bathound and as a nostalgic bit of fan service to those who have been riding the Batman: TAS train for the long haul. Who’s a good crime fighting doggy?! Yes you are.
Season 3 Episode 1: “King’s Ransom”
Why do the best episodes of this show usually involve the Royal Flush gang? Oh. that’s right. Like I said before, it’s because they directly affect our main character’s personal life.
Once again, Terry is confronted with Ten and her eccentric, poker faced family. This time, they bring a sight for sore eyes along with them: Paxton Powers. Yes, Paxton Powers from season one. But no Blight. Nope, never Blight. That would be too cool. They take him captive to get money out of Bruce Wayne, who doesn’t really feel like spending it to get him back. Funny, huh?
This episode is especially of note because Paxton is booted out of Wayne Industries, which, chronologically speaking, places it before Batman Beyond‘s feature film Return of the Joker, which we may or may not talk about later. I haven’t decided yet.
Season 3 Episode 2: “Inqueling”
Even without any cameos from a Powers brother, “Inqueling” is more of a return to form for Batman Beyond than “King’s Ransom” was. This episode feels more in tune with season one’s noir-ish tendencies. Then again, it features “Inque”, the second member of new Batman 2.0’s rogue gallery that was introduced, so what do you expect? This time, she has a daughted (voiced by Azura Skye) who is racking up the credit card bills like they grow on trees. Okay, technically speaking, yes they do. But you get what I mean.
3×03: “Big Time” by Robert Goodman & Tom RueggerOriginal airdate: October 7, 2000
Hey, since it’s season three, do you think we should get to know more about Terry as a character? Y’know, explore his motivations, emotional landscape, personal history…that sort of thing? Or would you rather keep watching him kick robots in the junk? Most people wanted the latter, but in this episode, we finally get he former.
“Big Time” draws from Terry’s troubled past more than any other episode thus far, getting him reacquainted with the his old friend who he got in trouble with back in the day. Outside of his father and Dana, Terry is shown not to have quite the amount emotional baggage that past members of the Bat-gang have had. That’s mostly because he wasn’t faced with his the shadows of his past like he is here when Charlie Bigelow comes back into the picture. Terry tries to help him find a little redemption, but things don’t go quite as expected.
Season 3 Episode 4: “Out of the Past”
Praise the Batman: TAS gods! We have an episode where Talia Al Ghul returns to give some much needed screen-time back to her beloved.
Since Terry and Max have been hogging the spotlight since early season two, this is a welcome change of pace for those of us whose thirst for nostalgia was not fully satiated by “Ace in the Hole”. Ever wonder what would happen if Bruce started going to a Lazarus pit for immortal spa therapy? Don’t miss this one, but if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it long ago.
Season 3 Episodes 7 and 8: “The Call”
Batman Beyond throws the Justice League Unlimited into the mix, finally giving us a status update on Superman in the process in the best two parter the series ever pulled off.
Terry faces harsh truths about the League’s personalities, gains perspective on his role as a hero in the larger scheme of things, and has the plot what could have been a feature-length film squeezed into a forty minutes that flies by. This, friends, is a fine contribution to the DCAU.
Season 3 Episode 9: “Betrayal”
Big Time’s back, and sooner than most villains this side of season one. That makes sense, given what happened the last time they met a few episodes ago, in which things didn’t turn out so well for the big mutated lug.
“Betrayal” is a sequel to “Big Time” that surpasses the original. That’s all I’m going to say. Watch it.
Season 3 Episodes 10 and 11: “Curse of the Kobra I & II”
It’s everyone’s favorite reptile worshipping terrorist cult again! This time, they star in a two-part saga that doesn’t contribute a whole heck of a world of Batman Beyond. It’s glorified filler, really. Yes, there’s some cool Kids WB cliches being tossed around with ninjas and dinosaurs and ninjas who turn into dinosaurs. As such, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re pretty much watching The Jackie Chan Adventures at this point.
So why am I listing “Curse of the Kobra” as essential? Because for some reason the writers were building up Kobra as a serious threat to Terry, so much so that they went out of their way to make this two-part standalone that centers around these silly serpents during what was to be Beyond’s final season. Yeah, I’m scratching my head, too. Enjoy!
Season 3 Episode 12: “Countdown”
Zeta’s back, and he’s “beta” than ever. Ha ha. See what I did there?
Chronologically speaking, “Countdown” marks the first time that Terry meets Ro in the DCAU timeline. This is somewhat confusing for fans who watched this episode when it premiered as the second half of a two-part crossover with The Zeta Project, which aired its season one episode “Shadows” in an earlier time slot.
Sidenote: it’s interesting how the character designs for Ro and Zeta drastically improve when they crossover into Batman Beyond, while Batman’s design stays the same even when he’s guest starring in their bright and cartoony world.
Season 3 Episode 12: “Unmasked”
The series finale only by default, “Unmasked” ends Batman Beyond quietly and open-endedly, with a sense of old school episodic dignity. It’s not written as a series finale per se, nor should it be considered one while viewing it.
Even so, “Unmasked” brings things full circle in a thematic sense seeing as how the episode is mostly one long flashback to one of Terry’s first run-ins with Kobra that happened right after he became Batman in season one. Including this serpentine secret society in the final episode and forever embedding them into Terry’s past makes me wonder, again, why Kobra was given the amount of focus they had towards the end.
Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker
You didn’t think I’d forget one of the most important components of the DC animated universe, did you?
I guess you could say thatReturn of the Joker is the true finale of Batman Beyond, and a dark way to seal off the DCAU continuity as we had known it at the time. Return of the Joker finally bridged the ever-widening gap between Batman: TAS and Beyond to say everything that was left unsaid by Bruce to Terry. (Er, most of it, anyway.)
Ever since Batman moved to the Kids WB in 1996, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and company had the luxury of building most of their universe on a foundation of mystery thanks to large gaps in time and developments that happened off-screen that weren’t revealed fully until it was absolutely necessary to do so. Batman Beyond expanded on this kind of storytelling, stretching the intrigue out as much as possible. This feature film marks the last time the writers would take full advantage of Beyond’s air of of mystery by directly incorporating the past with the future in a way that was meaningful to long-term fans.
After rewatching Return of the Joker, it’s easy to see where all of the major creative attention was being focused throughout most of seasons two and three of Batman Beyond. This film embodies everything that made the series so dark, edgy, and fascinating to watch in the first place. It almost feels though Return of the Joker takes place in an alternate universe that branches off shortly after the first season ends. Max is strangely absent, as is the show’s optimistic tone. Instead, we’re thrust back into the dark and dangerous world of Neo-Gotham where anything can happen — good or bad, it’s all the same.
Mark Hamill’s return as the Joker was something I’d been waiting for since the show premiered in 1999. It was only a matter of when it would happen. Saving this event up for a move-length feature instead of cramming it into a forgettable two-parter was a smart choice, as was giving fans one last glimpse into the Batman: TAS era before heading out the door and blowing it up. The animation is gorgeous for direct-to-video quality from that era, the voice acting is top notch, and the overall story is creative, to say the least. Certain plot points feel forced, and there could be some improvement in the pacing department. But Dini, Timm, and Murakami didn’t have time to waste.
But is it a Batman Beyond movie, per se? No, it’s more of a Batman: TAS sequel. Terry spends the entirety of Return of the Joker dealing with the fallout of the sins of his bat-father, not facing the problems and rogues that have arisen since he adopted the mantle.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the most widely seen entry in the Batman Beyond franchise, given its ubiquitousness immediately following its release on home video. Return of the Joker came out at a time when superhero media was still being relegated to cartoons and the occasional tongue-in-cheek summer blockbuster. There weren’t many options on the market. This ultimately worked out in Return of the Joker’s favor, seeing how this helped the film get the exposure and attention it deserved.
Static Shock Season 4 Episode 1: Future Shock
Holy obscure trivia, Batman! I didn’t know Static Shock had so many crossovers with the New Batman Adventures. This one in particular shows Static getting catapaulted through time to the Batcave of the future, where Bruce Wayne spends still spends 95% of his time paying young men to be hang around him.
Anyway, Static gets to meet his future self in a cool moment that will later come up again on the Justice League Unlimited‘s first season two-parter “The Once and Future Thing” (which also features Batman Beyond, so you might as well watch that too.) “Future Shock” also makes it a point to bring back Kobra. Ugh. Why? Just…why are they always hanging around Batman now? Did the kids like them that much? Jesus.
Justice League Unlimited Season 2 Episode 13: Epilogue
Ah yes, the legendary and slightly notorious episode of Justice League which was supposed to be the finale of the entire DCAU but wound up being an overly ambitious masterpiece that left quite a few casual fans scratching their heads.
“Epilogue” gives us a startling reveal about Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis that’s too convenient for my liking and makes little to no sense, but that’s not really the point here. The episode is all about fan service and closure, not about the inane scientific justification for its contrived plot twist.
If you really want to understand Terry and get some perspective on Batman Beyond as one complete story arc, watch the aptly titled “Epilogue.” It’s the series finale of the show we didn’t necessarily want, but ultimately needed.
Batman Beyond is now available in a deluxe Blu-ray set and on the DC Universe streaming service.