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Pro VS Con: "The Wayne & Terry Show" Part 2
by THE OLD MAID

(Note : as of this writing, "Unmasked" has not been aired. Therefore no developments introduced by this episode have been included.)

THE PROCESS OF ASSUMING AUTHORITY

"I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." (--Bob Dylan.)

In terms of moral choices and influence, Terry does imitate his mentor. By itself there's nothing wrong in starting that way. Terry had, so to speak, no frame for his picture. For years after his sentence Terry remained the angry young man, as if he had been imprisoned unjustly. Then he met the Batman. For one brief moment Tiny Terry thought outside the box. Here was a chance to rebuild his life and get it right this time. Unfortunately Terry has not harnessed the authority of a Batman, which implies he has not grasped just what it is. The one who knows how has a job ; the one who knows why is the boss.

Let's look at some of the ways Terry has struggled in this category.

• Show and Tell.

A major weakness of the series was the fluctuation in storytelling techniques. The teen scenes in particular produced an epidemic of Telling. A good story must Show, not Tell. Telling leads to three problems. One, it wastes time by recapitulating events the audience has already seen. Secondly, Telling siphons screentime from missing scenes the audience SHOULD have seen. For example, Terry's speech in "Big Time" is well-constructed, but it's no substitute for a solid flashback. Terry's trial, or his first night in Juvie (when he realized Bigelow could no longer protect him) would have been more riveting. Warren and Dana subjected Terry to years of amateur deprogramming without much success. What kind of morality did Terry have to make that necessary? Scenes that Tell and don't Show make it harder to chart Terry's progress.

Stories that Tell undermine Terry's attempts to seize authority. Consider how Wayne/Batman dominates "The man who killed Batman" even though he had less than two minutes of screentime. In spite of all the dialogue this was a Show episode. Now compare this atmosphere to "Hooked up," "Last resort" or half a dozen other episodes which feature someone else and Terry/Batman tags along. Many of these stories could have been wrapped up in five minutes (a la "Holiday Knights") -- that is, if they were worth pruning. They only dragged on because Batman did not take command of the situation.

Batman is the man who challenges criminals too dangerous for anyone else. If Terry is apprenticed to the most dangerous man on earth, it follows that he may be that man himself someday. Stories that Tell waste Terry's time, and ours.  

• Temptation : unlucky in love.

Wayne/Batman can always be trusted to choose the wrong woman. Susan ("Chemistry") tricked him easily. When he learned the truth, though, he was merciless. The rest of the time he lets women walk all over him. Catwoman gets too close, injures him, and leaves. Talia leads him into the desert, draws a weapon, and strands him there ("Avatar"). Despite their history Wayne cannot fathom that she could betray him again ("Out of the past"). No matter how many times a woman tricks him, it is always a surprise to him.

Terry hasn't fared much better. The only woman who liked him for himself was Original Dana, now long gone. As a rule Terry's women only want him because they want to get something out of him. They have something to gain by it. And that something is always status or entertainment.

Melanie Walker was supposed to be the classic temptress. "With me it's always been now or never." This suggests she has one in every port, so to speak. However her insecurities dilute her impact ; she doesn't "own" herself the way, say, Catwoman did. She only has power over Terry because he gives it to her.

Doormat Dana wants a man. Terminator Dana feels Terry owes her, that no other woman could want a louse like him. Even Irene, probably the nicest one of the series, only cared about Terry as a tour guide ("Untouchable"). If it hadn't been him, it would have been someone else. Faced with a circle of demanding women, Terry's idea of coping is to do whatever they tell him to do. • The one that got away.

Dana Tan suffered from multiple personalities, which destroyed any threat she posed to Terry's resolve. It's no loss for Terry to stop dating someone who annoys him. Terry has never felt the temptation to give up Work for a wife and kids. (Most viewers believe a real Batman will end up alone, if he does his job right.) When Wayne chose between Work and Andrea Beaumont it was a turning point for his character. This is a test Terry must face also -- unless the mythos wants to go with the notion that Terry is incapable of feeling true love for anyone.

What made Original Dana a good choice, aside from her long history with Terry, was her family's attitude toward him. The Tans can be snobs at times. No doubt if Mr. Tan had died and Dana had been forced to get a job to pay bills, Terry would have no right to criticize her for it. But she can do it to him. Tan thinks his daughter deserves "better." So, if Terry was being groomed as the heir to Wayne Enterprises, would Tan suddenly treat him differently?

The heir to Wayne's fortune will be surrounded by hypocrites, syncophants and opportunists all his life. Batman will be surrounded by liars all his life. Terry needs to learn how to handle such people. He knows the Tans. They could have given him that practice in a familiar, controlled environment. Instead all they did was yell at him. • Temptation : friend or foe.

Where Bruce Wayne and Terry differ is in the way they handle men friends. Wayne/Batman loved Harvey Dent like a brother, but he never pulled a punch against him. He also knew his friend better than Terry knows Charlie Bigelow.

Fans sometimes refer to Big Time as Terry's Two-Face. He is and he isn't. Bigelow is a good reflection of what Terry would be today if Dana, Warren and Wayne hadn't worked so hard to change him. No one knows how they met. We do know Terry was already a notorious brawler back in seventh grade ("Last resort"). So Charlie didn't exactly corrupt a saint here. Unlike Two-Face, though, Bigelow has never cared about Terry.

When Terry tells their story ("Big Time"), the audience is supposed to feel sorry for Our Hero. "Charlie was 18 and I was 14. My folks were breaking up and he and I were being angry kids. Busting windows, shoplifting. Then Charlie decided to prove himself to this big gang and he dragged me along on a heist. I didn't even know what we were doing until he was climbing in the window .... Next thing I knew the cops were shouting Freeze and I was doing 90 days in Juvie. That was a slap on the wrist next to Charlie. He was in prison for three years."

When arguing with Wayne, Terry tells it very differently.

Wayne : "You didn't spend three years in prison."

Terry : "That's right. He did and I didn't. All because I happened to be underage. He and I were the same, Bruce, only I caught a break."

In "ROTJ" Terry insists he's a serious criminal, "the kind of punk you wouldn't have wasted a second punch on back in the day .... I'm trying to make up for past sins. The state says my three months in Juvie wiped me clean but my soul tells me different."

Either way, Terry should Get A Better Story. No one becomes Batman because they broke a window when they were fourteen. Is he still holding out on us? Unknown. Perhaps Terry is referring to the attitude that had cemented in his head -- the attitude that Dana and Warren have been chipping away at for years without much success.

Bigelow was no "angry kid." He was a grown man, a predator. If he wanted a real partner he would have had one. Instead he selected 14- year-old Terry. It's the tactic of drug dealers, bookies and other serious criminals. A pro chooses lookouts or runners who are old enough to be useful but young enough to have hero worship. These children are no threat to the boss. They won't start having ideas of their own. Big Time solidified his position as the boss when he named his pet TT ("Tiny Terry"). It's not a street name to be proud of. Big Time is firmly convinced Terry cannot make it on his own. ("You were always thinking small. You could never see your way out of that tiny little box.") That's exactly why the man selected him.

Even Terry confirms they were not partners. Charlie "decided to prove himself to this big gang and he dragged me along." Bigelow never informed him. Why should he? Only partners do that. Additionally, even after Big Time was captured, he only protected TT as an investment in his own future. He later used Terry for corporate espionage. Finally, he chose Terry to be his muscle and pawn while he unseated the Major ("Betrayal"). (Note that the Major treats Big Time the same way Bigelow treats Terry.) No, Bigelow was friendly to Terry, but that does not make them friends.

That is why Terry's gullibility regarding Big Time speaks badly of him. Big Time is consistent, more so that Two-Face ever was. It's bad enough that Terry can't read a relatively transparent villain. It also raises the question of why he can't read him. Probably Terry doesn't want to face the fact that he was dumb enough to stake his future on this man. Indeed, every time Big Time fools Terry, it's more salt in the wound. Terry fliches in pain but makes few efforts to avoid it.

Terry can stand up to Wayne. That relationship is secure. But in the way Terry lets his other acquaintances push him around, he demonstrates a serious weakness that anyone can exploit. He has to harden his heart. (Most viewers feel a Batman should avoid outside ties anyway.) Indeed, this servile attitude isn't limited to people Terry already knows.

• Terry and the JLU.

"The poetry of heroism appeals irresistibly to those who don't go to a war, and even more to those whom the war is making enormously wealthy." (--Louis-Ferdinand Celine.)

Here was a chance for Terry to wrestle with the purpose of Batman by comparing his understanding with other people's expectations. This opportunity was watered down by Terry's uncertainty and the premises behind the League.

When Wayne/Batman allied himself with specific people, the mantra was always the same : "I thought we had the same goals" ("Old wounds," "NML"). However when Terry/Batman is recruited he is expected to want to join, no questions asked. Terry doesn't even know why he's there until after he has met everyone. How then can they have common goals? Terry helps them solve a specific problem. Well and good. But the team wants him to become a permanent, full-time member ; again, Terry is expected to leap at the opportunity. He declines, but why?

In the whole series Terry only once showed a hint of hero worship toward Wayne (the first time he saw the Batcave). He never shows a spark of it again. This has certain advantages. Terry treats Wayne like a person, not a phenomenon. Terry has been betrayed by hero worship before. He dreads being fooled again. This should force him to analyze what Wayne teaches him. Anything that makes Terry think more should be encouraged.

Then there is Terry's slack-jawed wonder at the sight of the League. When asked to join the JLU permanently, all Terry can stammer is, "I dunno. You guys play pretty rough." Certainly this was meant to be sarcastic, but combined with his hero worship of them it sounds both timid and sincere.

Batman and the Justice League have only superficial elements in common. They both think theirs is the right way, the only way. Snobbery is also a factor. "The original Batman never made it past part-time." This implies there is something wrong with Wayne/Batman, rather than there being something wrong with the offer.

In "Kingdom Come" this attitude is taken to an extreme. "I have my own controls in place, thank you," growls the Batman. "They may be slower and more methodical than yours, but they get results .... The only thing I wonder about your down and dirty, quick and fast totalitarian 'solutions' is whether I'd be the first to be 'reformed' by your new regime." At another extreme we have "The Dark Knight Returns." Batman is to be arrested because he won't get with the program. Superman insists Batman will never let himself be taken alive -- but Superman executes the order anyway. Sure enough, the Batman dies (stages his death, really). "You were the one they used against us," says Superman, not especially repentent. In other words, when Batman and the League clash, it must be the Bat who is at fault. It is the definition of the man : Batman, The Wrong One. Granted, these are alternate timeline stories. But every good Batman story returns to the same theme : my goals are not your goals.

Terry rarely ponders goals. Therefore he gives no thought to whether the JLU can help him meet those goals. He is there for their purposes, not they for his. They think they like him, but they don't even know him. They want to buy him. How does giving Bats an office and telling the reporters "we're all great friends" help Batman in any way? If anything it makes him ridiculous in the sight of Gotham criminals. Making him one of the guys robs him of the fear factor. And that compromises his goal : to fight all crime.

Batman answers to no one. No one keeps him in check. To make an enemy of Batman is to have no one above him to appeal to. That also means Batman alone reminds himself to remain true to his principles and his goals. When Batman's in a meeting he is NOT on the streets. He is betraying his own values.

There is another reason not to join. They're hypocrites. One thing the JLA has been able to hold over Batman's head is his use of minors as warrior-sons. Then there's the JLU. The future League has an 8- year-old Green Lantern. And not just any little boy! He has to play peacemaker between superheroes who hit each other ; he looks like the caregiver-child in a house with addicted parents. Who raises him? Who looks out for his needs? Even the Robins had Alfred. Batman and Alfred teach their boys, provide for them, push them to explore their limits but catch them when they fall. (Most of the time, anyway. The boys were lucky there was only one "ROTJ.") Yes, it's twisted, disturbed and child abuse. But even Wayne, outlaw that he is, sets limits. He "fired" both Tim Drake and himself for crossing the line. Does the League even have limits anymore?

The STAS episode "In brightest day" states that the ring chooses its wearer. In contrast the Robins have the right not to join. They have would-be rescuers (even TDKR-Alfred said "no more Robins") who can only be silenced by a Robin's determination. The Lanterns have no such option. This raises a new question : is a power that drafts 8- year-olds really a force for good? If it's acceptable for the League to recruit an 8-year-old because he's "different," they can hardly abuse Batman for accepting "different" teenagers and training them better. It just isn't well thought out. There is a fine line between critic and hypocrite, and the JLU has stepped over, nay, pole-vaulted over it.

So Terry does the right thing in rejecting the JLU -- but he does it for personal reasons, not Batman reasons. He trusts his gut, which is better than nothing. But he doesn't understand why a Batman would resist joining. What is a Batman reason? That they don't have the same goals. • Goals and vision.

The New Look of 1964 didn't just give Batman and Robin new designs. It banished tagalong characters. The gee-whiz sidekicks vanished -- and so did all reference to aliens and outer space. This included resident aliens like Superman. For all their success in the comic industry, the JLA was created as a marketing gimmick. Also, unlike the League species, Batman could exist today. That is part of his appeal. Hardcore Batfans cringe at the thought of Leagues and aliens. This was not what Batman was created to do. It draws the character into a fantasyland unsuited to his message.

It's no coincidence that Superman's loyalties have been to Truth, Justice and The American Way. Americans believe their system is the best in the world, or at least better than whatever is in second place. Superman grew up in that culture. He exudes that confidence. Superman exists in a world where the system works. Miscreants may be deluded creatures or deliberate villains, but the assumption is that they need to accept his reality.

Batman exists because one small boy believed the system does NOT work. That is his reality. Superman will stop a street crime if it happens right in front of him, but he's often busy doing something "more important" e.g. saving the world. Batman asks a more fundamental question : is this world worth saving? His one-man war on crime would seem to say No. Yet every time he risks it all to save one life, he is saying Yes. To him saving one life is as important as saving the world. This concept is antithetical to modern culture, which uses arithmetic to weigh human life, and which assumes that passing a law solves a problem.

What Batman urges us to consider is that no system of rules works if it is not written on the hearts of the people. And so the Batman suspends the rules of his city in favor of one ideal : to fight all crime.

Frequently Batman is labeled a fascist because he's such a control freak. Batman is on no one's side. No one (except Jim Gordon) is altogether on his side. TDKR-Batman behaved as if only he could make things right, which is a very right-wing thing to say. Yet this Batman also insisted, "Superman, you're a jerk, you'll salute anyone with a flag" -- which is a very left-wing thing to say. To Batman no system works. That is the real reason he never stays long in the League. It has nothing to do with his poor people skills. They don't have the same goals.

Has Terry grasped this concept? Does he share his mentor's vision? The evidence doesn't support it.

• Batman's authority as judge.

How does a Batman interact with his city? For the original there were distinct requirements : vision and decision ; endurance and action ; claiming authority and exercising it with consistency. After all these things comes something more intangible : Presence.

A Batman will live up to his beliefs as well as die for them. He's not an immortal. When he risks his life to save another, it means something. The Batman has fought while blinded ("Blind as a bat"), hypnotized ("Perchance to dream"), dosed with fear gas ("Nothing to fear," "Dreams in darkness"), poisoned ("Pretty poison"), and shot ("Robin's reckoning part II"). He risks his life to save dozens ("Appointment in Crime Alley") or to save just one ("On leather wings," "A bullet for Bullock," and so on). TDKR-Batman maintains martial law in a blackout through sheer force of will. And of course when Bane releases the felons and Arkham inmates in "Knightfall," Batman feels he should round them up again even if it kills him.

This protectiveness shapes his morality. The Batman claims his city as Litunga, a Zambian word often mistranslated as "king." Its literal meaning is "guardian of the land." Such a leader must act for the benefit of his people, but his power is so great that he must police himself ; no one else can do it. And like a king, he controls the fate of many who will never actually see him.

That is why the Batman's notions of rights and obligations have little to do with the States' socio-political system. Batman is at times a warrior-king : first in the charge, last in retreat. He never asks his subjects to do anything he won't do himself. In return Batman assumes authority to define their rights.

In most matters Batman grants his foes few or no rights. They don't have the right to be secure in their homes. They don't have the right to not answer questions. And they don't have the right to complain, either. Yet in matters of life, death and human suffering, Batman grants them rights more generous than the public believes a criminal deserves. He saves lives, no matter how degraded. His interpretation of their rights is consistent ; people do in fact know what to expect of him. That consistency gave him the authority to judge Gotham.

A classic example is seen in TNBA's "Old wounds." A lookout named Connor flees from Batman. He ends up cornered in his own home. Batman has no qualms about beating him in front of his family. In his mind, they need to know there's a crook in their midst. Neither Connor nor his family challenge Batman's right to administer this street justice. Batman only chases bad guys ; Batman chased Connor ; ergo, Connor is a bad guy. What is there to challenge? The criminal chooses to reform rather than ever meet Batman again. In contrast, Lee ("Joyride") quit the Jokerz out of disillusionment, not out of awe for Terry/Batman.

The original Batman's suffering and experience allowed him to demonstrate consistency. These things resulted in Authority. That Authority gave him Presence.

Terry has shown flashes of this same consistency. He has fought while hypnotized ("Spellbound," "Mind games"), poisoned ("Splicers"), electrocuted ("Armory," "Speak no evil," "COTK") and suffocated/slimed (the Inque trilogy). He goes into battle with a major injury ("COTK part II"). He prepares to sacrifice himself to protect Wayne ("Disappearing Inque," "Sneak Peek"), just as Wayne tries to do for him. However the series downplayed character-building obstacles in favor of weekly beatings. Even the beatings were cartoony ; a real person could not have lived through most of them.

Also, Terry cannot turn consistent action and suffering into authority because of his strategic flaws (or the flaws of his scripts). The average villain regards him with disdain. He fails to do things that would project a sense of menace. He doesn't stick to the shadows. He strolls the streets in daylight ("DMH," "Inqueling," multiple teen scenes). This, combined with the missing cape, lets the public see how small he is. Also, Terry's slang betrays his youth and inexperience. His insistence on getting the last word makes him sound like a little kid. Worse, his debates with villains give them the impression that the situation is negotiable.

The general public, including the common criminals, once held the Batman in awe. Does Terry seem larger than life? Rarely. Does he exude authority? Rarely. So what does he have?

• Just a little respect.

For a mercy, the first-tier Rogues take Terry seriously as they get to know him better. They have specific expectations of Batman's honor which Terry always fulfills. Paxton Powers assumes Batman will never be an accomplice to murder, and he's right ("Ascension"). Freeze assumes Batman will risk his life to save Freeze's, and he's right too ("Meltdown"). Ten ("Once burned") assumed Batman will do anything to save lives, even if that means following her into a trap.

Shriek expects Batman to yield to his demands to save lives ("Babel," "Where's Terry"). While Shriek urges Batman to surrender, his hostage thinks it won't happen.

Dak : "Idiot. Nobody sacrifices their life for somebody else. Not in this world."

Shriek : "You don't know Batman."

Shriek does know him. They have a history. King ("DMH") and the Doctor ("April moon") make the same assumptions about Batman : he will try to rescue a hostage ; he will never run from a foe.

All these people expect certain honorable qualities in Batman. Terry never lets them down. So Terry does have some consistency. However the avalanche of teen scenes interfere with his attempts to assume Authority. Without Authority, he can't generate Presence. And without these attributes, Terry becomes a busybody, not Gotham's guardian and judge.

• What is Presence?

Presence is different from charisma, the quality of mass attractiveness. Presence has an action component. It's what makes Batman "too big" for Jim Gordon and Ellen Yindel to judge ("TDKR"). It's what makes Batman attract so many labels : detective, crimefighter, judge, warrior-king, moral crusader, vigilante/outlaw, and Arkham escapee.

Presence is interactive. Batman can get it from those around him ; they can get it from him. It actually protects Batman's identity. This is different from the right-and-wrong reasons that protect "ordinary" heroes like undercover cops. Presence makes Gothamites not want to know. It's true that a villain might try to unmask Batman on a whim, a spur-of-the-moment impulse ("Trial," "Almost got 'im"). But this percentage is infinitesimal compared with the number of opportunities they've had and refused to do it.

Villains react to Presence in one of two ways. Comic readers speak of an apocryphal incident in which Joker refused to let his henchmen unmask the Bat. "I want to see his real face!" To this the Joker snarled, "That IS his real face, you moron." The second approach is that the villains believe unmasking Batman degrades THEM, humiliates THEM. The audience knows Batman's other face happens to be famous. The villains don't know that. What if it turns out to be nobody? It would be too hard if they had forged their lives in epic struggle against some Greek god and it turns out to be ... some Greek GUY.

"ROTJ" is a classic example of approach number two. Joker degrades everyone around him to learn Batman's other name. The Endgame proves too "pathetic" to be endured. He has wasted his life being beaten up by Bubblehead Bruce? That's like being beaten up by little girls on bicycles. It's also the reason Joker never seeks out the new Batman and tears the mask off Terry's face as soon as he can. Joker is furiously insulted by the whole concept. In Joker's mind Terry is already a zero and therefore cannot be degraded any further.

In contrast "Knightfall" is a grand-opera version of approach number one. Bane learns Batman's other name (he needs it to surprise him at home). He knows "Bruce Wayne" is a mask. He doesn't share this discovery because doing so would destroy the Bat's Presence. Bane doesn't want do destroy it. He wants to inherit it. Bane releases the Arkham inmates. Then he enjoys the spectacle of Batman's Olympian efforts to round them up again. Physically Batman is destroyed by his labors. In the public eye, though, his reputation has never been more glorious. Bane wants Batman to achieve near-godhood -- so that Bane would be glorified when he conquers this mythical being. He is genuinely surprised (and annoyed) that Batman has no strength left to fight him.  He expected to earn his victory. In the end Bane decides not to kill Batman -- because martyrs have Presence too. Bane wants it all. Therefore he lets his foe live, in debt to his "mercy." Why? Because he can. Bane understood Presence.

Bane also understood that a man with Presence can rarely be defeated by outsiders, even if that outsider is Death. Batman has to participate in his own defeat -- by giving up.

Does Terry have Presence? No. Clearly it's unfair to expect Terry to carry a grand opera when he's still mastering scales. ("ROTJ" would be an aria.) But it's fair to expect Terry to prepare for that possibility.

Presence isn't a private affair. It has to be a palpable, living thing that pervades the city. Maybe we saw flashes of it in "Babel." It's the only time Wayne vents his annoyance at his city of ingrates and cowards. Terry then responds, gratitude is irrelevant. This is the response of nobility. It is Wayne and Terry's decision to make, not the city's. Let them wait upon the king's pleasure. They can bellyache all they want, but they have no real say in it.

We shouldn't be at all surprised if the unspeakable musical ("Out of the past") resulted from the "Babel" incident. It's human nature to mock what we fear. Comedians can be a national treasure in times of crisis. (Though the producers obviously went overboard ... Batman in go-go boots? And Jim Gordon looks like Holmes' Watson.) Gothamites may be ingrates, but it's harder to rake them for being terrified. Batman does have a certain power of life and death over them. Indeed the original Batman's sanity was always in question. Jim knew Batman wouldn't kill, but the common criminals thought that Batman would not kill TODAY.

• Who lives?

There are three issues here that were never resolved. One is whether Batman can let someone die. Did Terry do enough to save Fixx ("Rebirth") or Big Time ("Betrayal")? That's like asking whether Wayne/Batman allowed Susan ("Chemistry") or Joker ("World's finest," "Mad love") to "die." Obviously there comes a point where a Batman will cut his losses. But how does he make that determination? This is an issue Terry never addressed.

Secondly, why doesn't Terry use guns? We know why Wayne doesn't : the gun-of-the-hand exists solely for the taking of human life. Terry, however, used to be a criminal. Did he handle guns then? We will never know, just as we don't know why he won't touch them now. He is imitating his mentor, reason unknown.

"Terry doesn't kill, but name the episode in which he decides not to."

This is an above excellent point. Even though an episode could be named in which Terry refuses to kill ("Ascension"), the episode does little to explain WHY Terry made this decision.

It goes back to the endless, circular arguments about why Bruce Wayne doesn't kill. "It's just Wrong." Well, who told Bruce it was wrong, and what makes that person right? Is he "only" imitating the one who taught him?

Viewers hold Batman to a high standard, but what makes Wayne adhere to that standard? Is it simply to not stoop to the level of his enemies? Is it imitation? First-hand knowledge? Do we say that a decision, an ethic, does not "count" until it has been tested? Most viewers will never be so tested ; do their beliefs and principles count?

Any other explanations why the original Batman chose not to kill? Some argue that it's a mixture of hope and strategy. The problem with Dead is you can't change your mind tomorrow. Over the years, Connor ("Old wounds") and Arnold Wesker ("Double talk") both found redemption because of Batman. By ruling out the option of deadly force, Batman has to try harder to save his enemies. Society, in contrast, has made it acceptable to give up on an offender. Offenders sense this and simply quit trying.

Still other viewers propose that Batman doesn't kill because death is overrated. "The coward dies a thousand deaths ; the brave man dies but once." This motive hardly appeals to the better angels of Wayne's nature. It has merit, though. Is it truly better for a villain to endure beating after beating, living behind bars or living in hiding when free, but always in a prison of the mind? And then the criminal will die someday anyway. The Batman makes their life of crime unbearable.

If Terry had lived a pure life this matter of motives might be answerable. However Terry has been incarcerated himself. Does Terry want to save Blight's life? Or does he merely relish the chance to watch Powers endure the prison horrors that Terry did? There's no doubt this is a selfish motive. But that doesn't mean it is not a Batman motive. Wayne rarely regretted putting a foe behind bars, even patted himself on the back for a job well done. This is why Lock-Up and The Judge were bewildered by Batman's desire to set limits on human suffering.

Again, should we say that Terry's standards, his ethics, do not count until they have been tested? Certainly Terry is being tested in "Ascension." But because we are given no reason why Terry wants to save Blight's life, Terry passes the test and it still doesn't seem to count. Terry may fight Inque, Spellbinder, and the rest -- but Terry HATES Blight. Blight invokes his "right" to victimhood, crying that Batman torments him. The man has no thought of remorse. One could argue that this episode proves Terry will never kill. If he cannot bring himself to kill the man who murdered his father, then he won't kill anyone else either. But that leaves the original question unanswered : why? Why did Terry want to save him?

So if the question of why Terry doesn't kill is unanswerable, is the question unfair? No. Terry's background and calling require him to address this question. Tiny Terry committed crimes because, in his eyes, other had no rights that he did not give them. If he wanted to steal, he did. If he wanted to fight, to hurt someone, he did. The existence of actual rights meant nothing to him. Since then Terry has supposedly adopted new values. He only ignores the rights of bad guys. Yet we did not see this transformation happen.

In "Ascension" and "Inqueling" Terry stands where Wayne stood in "It's never too late" and "Judgment Day." In these episodes the killers have turned against each other. All Batman needs to do is walk away. Instead Batman insists that even the lives of killers are worth saving.

No one mourned Blight, just as Corcoran believed no one would mourn anyone the Judge injured or killed. To Batman that point is irrelevant. It returns to the idea that one's right to stay alive is a given.

Fans expect Wayne/Batman to be this steadfast. But how did Terry come to respect life, not just the life of the average man but the very worst of men? We just don't know.

Put simply, viewers are expected to take Terry's word for it, as Wayne took his word for it in "Eyewitness." Wayne has two storytellers, Terry and Barbara. At least one of them is wrong. If Terry truly is guilty, then letting him remain free only gives him time to tamper with the evidence. Yet even before he has examined the evidence, Bruce Wayne chooses to believe Terry. Then Wayne interprets the evidence (or lack of it) according to his predetermined opinion. Viewers who want to know why Terry does not kill are being asked to do the same thing.

WHERE THE LINES BLUR

Why does Terry imitate Bruce Wayne? Because he wants to be like him. Why does Terry want to be like him? Is it out of personal regard (i.e. Wayne is a moral role model) or personal need? "ROTJ" tried to answer this question, but see if you can spot the mistake here.

Wayne : "I want you to give back the Batman suit."

Terry : "What? Why?"

Wayne : "There's no reason for you to continue. You've made your father's killers pay for his murder, then put your own needs aside to help the city when it most needed a hero. You've honored the reputation of Batman many times over, and for that I thank you."

Terry : "Then WHY?"

Wayne : "I had no right to force this life on you or anyone else."

Terry : "Hey, I broke in and swiped the suit, remember? Yeah, there was my dad's murder, but we come from two different worlds, Mr. Wayne. I wasn't like you or the kids you took in. I was a pretty bad kid once. Ran with a rough crowd, broke a lot of laws to say nothing of my folks' hearts. The kind of punk you wouldn't have wasted a second punch on back in the day."

Wayne : "Your point?"

Terry : "I'm trying to make up for past sins. The state says my three months in Juvie wiped me clean but my soul tells me different. Every time I put on that suit it's a chance to help people who are in trouble. I guess on a personal level it's a chance to look like a worthwhile human being again, in my eyes if no one else's. It's what I want, Bruce."

Wayne : "Stupid kid. You don't know what you want. None of you ever did."

Here is the mistake : "Every time I put on that suit it's a chance to help people who are in trouble." What does that mean? Help them how? The way a small-town policeman helps people who've locked themselves out of their cars? When Batman and Shriek destroy a city plaza is that "helping" people? If Barbara would let her husband die because she's too stubborn to work with Batman, and he saves them anyway (four times), is that "help"? This is a weak line surrounded by stronger ones. But it's so outstanding that, for many viewers, it contaminates the whole confession.

Skeptics argue that Terry isn't disturbed enough to be Batman. For the New Terry of the teen scenes this is true.

They also point out, correctly, that Bruce Wayne was trying to quiet the screams in his own head ; he didn't become Batman for recognition or reward. Terry is in that same position. Gratitude is irrelevant ("Babel"). Peaceful co-existence with Barbara Gordon is irrelevant ("ATOC"). If Terry was a mere do-gooder, there would come a day when he'd say, "I've saved ten thousand lives. I think that's good enough." Instead he keeps getting shot at, stabbed and hit by cars. Something inside him must hurt more than what the outside world can do to him.

Perhaps that something is what our men see when they look at the villains. Wayne, obviously, sees the man who killed his parents. He sees every victim these predators will harm, even before the predators have found those victims. I think when Terry looks at a criminal, he sees himself. Terry threw away his youth because he was greedy, savage and stupid. Their darkness mirrors his own. The Terry of "Rebirth" mirrored Roxy Rockett in his wanton disregard for his life, Big Time and Freeze in his unwillingness to change, and Shriek in his gullibility. (Like Shreeve, Terry went to jail simply because his boss Big Time told him to.)

Terry hates himself. ("I'm a hopeless loser" -- COTK part I.) This is not about helping people find their car keys. This is about Terry wanting to look in a mirror and not be nauseated by what he sees. As with his mentor, Terry's nightmares walk the street every day. They've got to be stopped, for Terry's sake if no one else's.

What's interesting is that Terry and Bruce Wayne look at each other much the way Jim Gordon and his Batman looked at each other. The emotion of family is a factor, but they also look to each other as a more moral man, a role model.

Jim Gordon is a cop. He's probably shot people, maybe killed someone. There are indications he believes he's a worse human being than Batman. ("Wish I could have been a hero, like you" --I am the night.) After all, Batman gets the job done and he doesn't have to kill to do it.

Batman doesn't use guns, won't let his team use them -- but in his mind he's a worse man than Gordon because Gordon is mentally stable and Batman has so much pain and rage. Gordon gets the job done and he doesn't have to break the rules to do it. It seems that both men are their own harshest judges. They look to each other for healing and guidance. The first Batman and the new Batman look to each other in much the same way.

Is Terry's heart prompting him to seek out a moral man? Or did Warren's murder awaken Terry's sense of right and wrong, so that he seeks out a man who can restore his humanity? In other words, the Authority of a Batman and the heart of the man tend to influence each other. That means there is hope Terry's heart will urge him to try harder in this category.

Read Part 1 -- Read Part 3

 

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