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Pro VS Con: The Pros of Batman Beyond
by THE OLD MAID

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

"Batman Beyond" first appeared in prime time in 1999. Since then it has produced consistently high ratings. Many fans regarded it as the most intelligent animation on morning television. It is not a perfect series, of course. "Beyond" is a curious mixture of drama and situation comedy, of originality and cliches.

The series mirrored the strengths and weaknesses of its spinoff film : obsessed protagonists who never quit "forever" ; villains who implement multiple schemes simultaneously ; and timeless values like duty, honor and loyalty.

One of the nice things about this series is that there are so many Pros to choose from. These are a few of many. For readers who would say, "You missed my favorite," well, did I? Perhaps I leave it up to you. Tell us what you liked.

The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis is a topic for another day. In this essay we will explore some strengths of the series itself. They fall under three categories : Attention to Detail, the Changing Face of Evil, and Using Villains to Develop the Protagonists.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Tributes to the past.

TNBA is the most obvious influence ; the artistic style reflects that series. Fan favorite Kevin Conroy provides continuity between BB and BTAS/TNBA. While fans still prefer the BTAS tradition of psychological/crime drama over the TNBA emphasis on action/adventure, "Beyond" has a measure of both.

The series also honors the comic book tradition. The villain in "The call" is none other than Starro, who first appeared in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28. We have an updated Ace the Bat-hound. Ace originated in the Fifties, though he had a touch more Lassie about him then. ("What's that you say, boy? Batman fell down a well?") The modern Ace is the perfect dog for a vigilante. Even cats play an underrated but vital role in the Bat mythos. In "Lost soul," as in "Year One," Batman is shot while trying to stop the villain from killing a cat. It proves to be a turning point in both stories. Both Batmen lose their utility belts to this villain ; they must prove their worth without it.

Then there is "Kingdom Come." The interpretations of Bruce Wayne are incompatible, but some fans said the exosuit ("Disappearing Inque") and the blood-red bat emblem reminded them of the technologies and designs of KC. Also, the KC novelization, like "Beyond," has a "roast" scene. Where KC-Wayne must endure an unspeakable superhero- theme restaurant, BB-Wayne must endure an unspeakable musical ("Out of the past"). In both cases the people who dragged Wayne to this monstrosity were trying to do something nice for him. They just have a weird way of showing it.

What about "Knightfall?" At first "Beyond" seems a long way from that miniseries. When Wayne is injured, others take his place and fail. "Beyond" should have explored why (whether?) Terry would succeed where others failed. So Terry walks in the footsteps of "Knightfall" but pays no obvious tribute to it. But Wayne does. In both settings Wayne is crippled and in pain. It calls for a different kind of courage. And yes, it does take courage for Wayne to accept partners instead of choosing the Lazarus Pit. Both storyarcs touch upon the theme of setting limits in the face of temptation.

"Beyond" pays tribute most of all to Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns." Talking Heads provide a running commentary on Batman's activities. (This was not mere sniping but a variation on the Greek chorus, a way to develop characters and plot points.) Mutant-inspired fashions are everywhere. Even the slang survives : Dana calls her man a "spud," which was Mutant terminology long before the real world adopted it ("The winning edge"). Like the Mutants, the Jokerz have easy access to military weapons ("The winning edge," "Joyride"). Bruce Wayne broods in his manor, having "fired" himself for a personal failing. Terry is chosen by a bat. Batman returns to Gotham after a gang (Jokerz, Mutants) is blamed for one act of violence too many. Wayne latches on to a young ally he knows nothing about.  He does it in spite of what the Joker did to the last minor in Wayne's care.

DKR-Wayne and BB-Wayne both maintain a trophy room. If the purpose was to keep up morale it never worked. Possibly he did it to punish himself. Whatever his motive, it keeps the murder-memorabilia off the resale market, the one last thing Batman can do to protect the victims and their families.

Debates continue over which Wayne is more terrifying : the old man with no one, not even Alfred to keep him human ; or the younger man who has an Alfred but drinks so heavily that Alfred cannot reach him. Both of these grim figures are a perfect extension of their timelines.  

Strong women villains.

Fans dislike one thing especially about the TNBA/BB artistic style : the anorexic women. The resulting stick figures look thoroughly non-threatening, and even unattractive. They also tend to be inconsistent : Ten ("Once burned") is a much healthier weight than Melanie, although they are the same person.

The writers found a way around this problem by creating Curare and Inque. The characters are obsessed, independent and virtually unstoppable. Most of all, these women cannot be judged by their appearances, only by their abilities.

Curare is one of the few villains not motivated by greed, insanity or professional pride. What drives her is her personal code of honor. She doesn't care that her attire makes it harder to blend into a crowd. When Curare loses her veil, her first response is to get it back, not to reach for her weapon. Once her weapon is drawn, she never sheathes it again until the victory is won. (No one would run, hide, jump aboard moving trains or jets with one's hands full if one could possibly help it.) She prefers to die trying than to fail. Yet when Curare has a chance to kill Terry in the snare, she declines to do so. She will not stoop to such a level. In "ATOC" Wayne calls her the "the best they have." This means that when she is scolded for her failure, she is being scolded before her inferiors. Curare never needed words to communicate. The ferocious swipe at Young's picture, or her chuff of exasperation in the meat locker, express her thoughts more clearly than mere words could.

Curare brings out the professional in Terry's Batman. He has to earn these victories. She never hands them to him like so many other villains do. She also tames his prattling tongue. Fans (this one included) have complained that Terry talks too much. He takes cheap shots at Ma Mayhem about her age or the RFG after they do a pratfall over his tripline. Wayne/Batman used words for persuasion, terror, interrogation -- that is, for useful things. Batman should talk only when he has something to say. Otherwise people might recognize his voice. Terry keeps his mouth shut around Curare. Her dignity makes Terry treat her with respect. This makes the fans take her seriously too.

If Terry and Curare have a relationship of professional courtesy, Terry and Inque have one based on one-upsmanship. As a rule the one who is winning is the one doing most of the talking. Once it's plain that Terry is losing, his taunts soon stop. Based on his behavior, Inque is probably the one villain Terry is truly frightened of.

Inque's response to trouble is consistent with her mixed mental states. Inque is prompt to destroy property but dallies and toys with her live prey. She solves her problem with water and thinks all her troubles are over ("Inqueling"). Her true Achilles' Heel, though, lies elsewhere. Inque's greatest weakness proves to be not her fear of water but her consistently poor judgment in selecting allies.

Both characters are animated with great care, some of the best work of the series. These complicated and exciting villains quickly became perennial fan favorites.

Foreshadowing.

Three examples are Melanie Walker, Jared Tate and Warren McGinnis. Melanie/Ten has a split costume, reflecting her divided loyalties. She also has a different accent that the rest of her family. Accents are "set" during early adolescence, yet two children close in age have different ones. Their living arrangements must be unstable indeed to cause that.

Melanie also hooks Terry with a surprisingly insulting line : "With me it's always been now or never." This suggests she has one in every port, so to speak. It foreshadows how often she changes her mind. It reinforces her development as a character with poor personal judgment. Just as she tries to split Terry from Wayne, so also she is the wedge that will split her family.

The bribes directed at Jared Tate (two cars in two years) hint at the love of money that will destroy this family. So Jim Tate lost his job? Let him get another job. He could go back to the service, become a policeman, or teach at the police academy. He could also sell his large house and move to affordable housing. This thought never occurs to him. If he cannot find comparable work he won't work at all. Mrs. Tate isn't much better. When she learns her husband was laid off, her first response is, "But I haven't finished spending money!" One can see why she "goes through husbands like popcorn" and Jared doesn't bother to get attached. No one can afford her. Neither "adult" actually learns anything. When Tate/Armory goes to prison it is Jared's birthday present that is repossessed or sold. Not the house or the jewels. The child ends up paying for their mistakes. This selfish attitude is what got them into trouble in the first place.

It's also interesting to see how this couple repays Batman for his good deed on their wedding day ("Spellbound"). Like most people in Gotham, they squander the second chance he has bought them.

Warren feared that Terry would squander his own second chance. Numerous references are made to Terry's criminal record ("ATOC," "Rats," "Eyewitness"). When Terry finally described his crimes ("Big time," "ROTJ"), many fans were disappointed. His crimes didn't seem bad enough to compel him to become a vigilante.

Warren pinpointed Terry's real motivation in "Rebirth." "That's your problem, right there. You can't control your temper, and you'd better if you expect to get anywhere in life." Terry isn't bad-tempered because he went to jail, and he didn't calm down because he has put it behind him. Terry turned to crime BECAUSE he couldn't control his rage. He probably scared himself. So he turned to a strong leader (Charlie Bigelow) who seemed to be "getting somewhere" in life. Bigelow knew exactly how to manipulate Terry's anger and turn it into a weapon. Therefore Terry didn't need to calm down. He mistook scheming for self-control.

Obviously this solution didn't work. Ever since then Terry has been dancing with the people close to him. It's all about control. He resisted Warren's efforts to change him. Dana, he gave a little more power because, well, she's a girl. No happy, no smoochie. But then Wayne came along and he doesn't play games. It's no secret that Wayne's a control freak. He is directing Terry's anger in specific directions just as Bigelow did. However he recognizes that Terry is afraid of being used again. The underlying theme of the series is that Batman must control both Wayne and Terry to survive -- but both men are afraid of getting hurt. They share power because both need this balance of terror.

As for Terry becoming mellow and putting it behind him? That only happened when the suits took control of him. The real Terry would have flattened all their tires for it.

State of the city address.

Two criticisms leveled at the series are that this city no longer needs a Batman, and that Terry merely set events in motion himself. That is, his job is to clean up his own mistakes. Both statements are wrong but understandable. The problem is there were two different series competing for one timeslot : the Wayne-and-Terry show and the teen-angst show. Yes, the teen-angst series could have survived without Batman. In fact Static could have handled most of them and still have time for his homework. But the Wayne-and-Terry show is set in the real Gotham. That series does need Batman.

In the Wayne-and-Terry show Terry's Batman was a formidable foe. Even when he lost, he won. Batman failed to bring Derek Powers or Fixx to justice for killing Warren McGinnis. He did stop them from selling nerve gas. He finished what Warren started. Terry failed to capture Inque, Curare or Shriek when he first encountered them, but he stopped whatever they were doing. The villain escaped ; lives were saved. Such was life in Wayne's day also.

Terry did not truly set events in motion. Inque, Curare, the RFG, "Talia," Big Time, Kobra, the Powers clan, and possibly Mad Stan were all out there looting and killing long before Batman returned to Gotham. Some of them were at it before Terry was born. Terry never made them do what they did. He never made Spellbinder hate children. He never made Shriek try to murder Bruce Wayne. Shriek tells a fine story of innocence wronged, almost as if Batman has deprived him of his Constitutional right to kill Wayne. ("Shriek just wants a little justice" --Babel.) Well, Batman has read the Constitution and there is no such right, so Shriek can muzzle it.

Terry didn't make Mad Stan snap under the pressure of modern living. He didn't make the villains try repeatedly to kill D.A. Young. Terry did contribute to the transformations of Derek Powers, Big Time and Willie Watt -- but they were trying to kill people at the time and Terry did NOT make them do that.

Ironically the only times Terry "makes someone be bad" it is in the teen-angst episodes. Terry corners Willie Watt ("Revenant") and the villain breaks out of custody to avoid punishment. Who wouldn't? Batman's existence proves too great a temptation for Max, who's bored and concludes that identifying him sounds like a fun hobby ("Hidden agenda"). Temptation also proves too strong for Howard Groote ("TFDAR") who sees a chance to (literally) make his first friend. All these things were pretty dumb on Terry's part. He ended up paying for them. Even so, these teens must have faced temptation long before they met Terry, and they will face it long after he's gone. Whom will they blame their choices on then?

Does this city still need a Batman? Yes indeed. The Jokerz and Ts dominate the streets. The Jokerz repeatedly get their hands on military weapons ("The winning edge," "Joyride"). Top-level gangsters divide Gotham between them. Six gangsters were arrested in "Once burned" alone. Barbara states in "Eyewitness" that D.A. Young has put nine organized crime bosses in prison. This does little good ; immediately new gangsters compete to take their place. Some are middle management aspiring to their first command (the Major in "Betrayal"). Others arrive en masse like the Tong ("Sneak Peek"). This mob had five hundred associates in place before Sam Young knew they were there.

As for the Rogues' Gallery, the police seem helpless to stop Inque, Curare, Armory or Mad Stan. Other villains such as Spellbinder or Shriek have new abilities every time they return. Spellbinder and Shriek have got the police dancing to their tune. In "Babel" we hear Wayne express contempt for "a mayor who would sell out [a] kid at the drop of a hat." What Wayne is saying is that this city will negotiate with terrorists. Won't this just attract more of them? It does indeed. A little later terrorists are strolling the streets as if they own the place ("Final cut," "Plague," "Untouchable," "COTK"). Kobra even seems to have relocated its headquarters to Gotham between seasons two and three. Not only does this city need Batman -- it needs as many as it can get.

THE CHANGING FACE OF EVIL

• From Arkham to Stonegate.

There's no doubt that fans miss the lunacy of the original Rogues' Gallery. There simply are not as many insane villains in the future. Like it or not it has to be this way. If too many villains remained insane, the series would be dismissed as unrealistic. Most of the old- style villains would have been cured by the 2040s.

A few disturbed foes linger because they have problems that medical intervention alone can't cure. Mad Stans will always be a problem in a society where technology races ahead of ethics and human dignity. Terminal and Payback had bad parents. Shriek threw his life away because, well, he was stupid. He did it because Derek Powers told him to. Some fans find the Shriek origin story too weak. The elements were there : a man who owes money to Powers is lured into a life of crime to pay that debt. Shreeve also has a touch of monomania that urges him to prove his invention is good for SOMETHING, even after Powers gives up on him. That character flaw and the extortion threat should have been emphasized more.

It is significant that Shriek is the only villain whose lair is symbolic of his emotional problems. Joker hid in amusement parks ; Two-Face hid in the Janus Theater ; Shriek the sound engineer hides in a building shaped like a tuning fork. He is the only villain with a permanent sidekick. He is also the only villain, aside from Joker, who will destroy the whole city just to make certain Batman was in there somewhere. Curare, Spellbinder, Inque, the RFG, and even Blight are creatures of precision, of surgical strikes. Shriek is more the nuke-em-all type.

While Mad Stan would also nuke-em-all if necessary, he keeps trying to convert people to his cause while he's at it. He wants people to know The Truth. He's convinced that if they did, they would join him. Most villains of the 2040s, though, care nothing for "making a statement." What then motivates them?

The love of money.

Why does Gotham City have so much crime? More than anything the motive is greed. This has advantages and disadvantages for plot and character development. Psychotic villains can be psychotic in an infinite number of ways. One is obsessed with plants, another with Lewis Carroll imagery. One wants to be acknowledged the cleverest man alive ; another leaves all to chance, to the flip of a coin. The gimmicks of such villains were fetishes integral to their disorders. Batman had to become their profiler. However by learning to think like them, he ran the risk of becoming as disturbed as any of them. Most profilers burn out in a few years. The job just eats them alive.

Greed has a limited number of permutations. Also, the gimmicks of greedy villains are true distractions, rarely reflections of a villain's personal weaknesses. That means they can change the gimmick at any time. It gives them the needed quality of unpredictability. Now if there is nothing more to a villain than gimmick or mental health, it would be true that they don't have as much potential. However since there is nothing else wrong with them, Terry's villains are far less likely to reform.

Two-Face, Scarface, Catwoman and Harley all tried to change. Even Poison Ivy, who didn't reform, sincerely enjoyed the illusion of reform. Spellbinder, Inque, Big Time, Paxton Powers, etc. feel no such temptations. They lust for money today and will lust for it tomorrow. Why would they reform?

Terry's job is to become their profiler -- but by learning to think like them, he may become meaner than all of them. If they don't want to change, Terry may someday see compassion as a waste of time. Fans who think Terry is too nice to become Batman should look in on him again in five years. Wayne's going to have his hands full.

Crime still doesn't pay.

A villain doesn't need to be insane to amaze and surprise us. All villains still have one quality that is timeless, infinite, creative, and utterly unstoppable. That is the breathtaking power of stupidity.

Some may think this will make Terry's villains easier to control. All it might do is make them easier to catch. However it makes them so much harder to anticipate before they start causing trouble. It never occurred to the Batmen that anyone would murder Nobuo Taka, indulge in witness tampering, or plant a camera in the Batcave until after it was done ("Sneak Peek"). It never occurred to them that the RFG or Shriek would try to murder Wayne ; these villains seemed to have nothing to gain by it. A classic definition of stupidity is "that which harms others while bringing no gain to oneself or even bringing harm to oneself." How does one anticipate something so unpredictable? Even madness usually has a pattern.

Of all Terry's villains the least stupid are Curare and Spellbinder. Curare lives in a reality all her own ; in her world there is only victory or death. She cannot quite process anything else. Spellbinder the psychologist knows all about human stupidity. Probably his only mistake in the series was to let Max into his magic factory ("Hooked up"). At the time he was preying upon throwaways, children no one would miss. The school valedictorian didn't fit that pattern. She ended up attracting too much attention to the operation. Aside from this one misstep, Spellbinder probably has the most promising career as a supervillain. No one knows any weaknesses that they can use against him. An intelligent strategy.

Most of the villains do it to themselves. Armory almost commits treason for image and love of money. Inque, Derek Powers and Paxton Powers choose unreliable allies for stupidity and love of money. Paxton betrays Blight ; he then hires an "environmentalist" to atone for his family's crimes. (It is actually his right-hand man.) Thus Paxton eliminates the competition while looking the saint. Yet even he cannot outrun his own stupidity forever. He hires the RFG to kill Bruce Wayne ("King's Ransom"). Why? So that they can split his money.

We witness King's descent from imperious patriarch to dirty old man. His pride compels him to defeat Batman because it's the one thing his hated father-in-law failed to do. When his children protest, he hits his son so hard that Jack bleeds (two episodes) and puts his daughter to a loyalty test that almost kills her ("Once burned"). He then whines that no one appreciates or understands him.

Queen says that Terry would never fit into her family. Not so. Before Terry reformed he was just like Jack : fearless, greedy and brazen. Melanie simply found Terry too late. They are a constant reminder of what Terry could have been, which is why Terry wanted to see some good in Melanie. He saw more than was there.

In one sense Terry will have a harder job than did Wayne. Every time Wayne/Batman returned a villain to Arkham Asylum, he could entertain a faint hope that this time will be different. Maybe this time the patient can be cured. Medical science may indeed cure Wayne's villains someday. But who is going to cure Terry's?

USING VILLAINS TO DEVELOP PROTAGONISTS  

• Blight and Batman : mirror image, mirror opposite.

Derek Powers had it all. He controlled Gotham, possibly owned a few corrupt cops, and had so much wealth that only a miser could want more money simply as money. At first his transformation into Blight delighted him. Then he began to feel the weight of a secret identity.

To outsiders Bruce Wayne also seemed to have it all. He had controlled Gotham, protected good cops, and had so much wealth that, well, you get the idea. His transformation into an orphan destroyed him. The Wayne identity lost all meaning. "Bruce Wayne" no longer even felt alive. It became the disguise ; Batman became the personality.

Terry has not lost everything, not yet. The two strongest influences in his life were Warren and Dana. Now one of them is dead. (Mary and Matt may be alive, but they don't seem to be a factor one way or another.) If Terry continues on his journey he will probably lose Dana too. So Terry is in the process of deciding whether the McGinnis identity is one worth clinging to, or if he would rather leave that life of mistakes and regrets. Blight's choices made a good foil for Terry's choices. What is it about Terry that helps him adjust, and what is it that Powers lacked? Wayne could have helped Terry explore these questions.

Most fans wish Blight could have remained in the series. Others were not so sure. Would the deteriorating creature still be "our" Blight anymore? Would he not be insane, even inarticulate? That wouldn't be much fun. If he became mindless, Blight would be reduced to just another inhuman pest. Perhaps Batman versus Godzilla? If that was Blight's future then no one wanted him back. Fortunately the evidence doesn't support it.

Powers did lose his temper ("Meltdown," "Ascension"), but his doctors never stated the radiation caused it. They only said that the radiation levels increased with time. His body never suffered any deleterious effects ; why would his mind? No. Powers was not driven mad by the accident. He cracked under pressure. If he could find a cure, he would be happy to alternate between being Derek Powers and playing Blight. He liked being Powers. He didn't want to give it up. "Dont' you know what this means to me?" he asked Dr. Lake. Yes, we do know. Powers has always gotten everything he ever wanted. For once in his life he couldn't get what he wanted, and he simply could not handle it.

Assorted villains and Barbara Gordon.

By far the protagonist who "needs" the villains most is Barbara Gordon. She has gotten less character development than her father or even Ellen Yindel ("TDKR"). Almost everything we know about her is based on her interaction with assorted villains.

Curare ("ATOC") is a perfect example. Gordon sets a trap for the assassin, but it snares Terry/Batman instead. If Barbara had installed a vidcam nearby, she would have seen that Curare already knew it was a trap. "Sam Young" would have heard the battle in the courtyard. He would have heard Curare crashing through the window. The real Young would have hidden in a closet by the time Curare got there. (A fact that eludes both Barbara and Terry.) Curare suspects a ruse and won't even go into the room. Instead she spears the bait from a safe distance. Also, the snare itself is flawed. The control panel should have been out of sight or else out of the room. Curare could have thrown a weapon at the control panel just as Batman threw his batarang.

Sorry, Commish. It was a good plan but not good enough. Curare outsmarted her. Barbara cannot handle this and blames Batman for the escape instead. Ah yes, the hardest part is admitting that everyone else has a problem.

Shriek and Spellbinder manipulate Barbara easily. Barbara is a reasonably capable police officer, but she's not as good at it as she thinks she is. The following situations show why.

Shriek orders Gordon to produce Batman at midnight ("Babel") and Gordon wavers about whether to do it. Wayne and Gordon discuss Terry as if he isn't there and has no say in it. Consider the tone of their argument :

Wayne : "What are you saying, Barbara, that I should just hand Terry over to Shriek?"

Gordon : "No, give him to me. I'll figure out something. I had some pretty good teachers, remember?"

Wayne : "I remember. But you work for a mayor who'd sell out the kid at the drop of a hat."

Gordon : "Look, if you've got a better plan --"

Wayne : "All I know right now is this. That kid's done a lot for this city. It's time for the city to do something for him."

Gordon : "We're trying, Bruce. But we've only got until midnight. What then?" And Barbara hangs up on him.

Wayne is determined to find Shriek's equipment, but Barbara never suggests it. If she hopes to figure out something, why wouldn't it be that? Wouldn't the three increase their odds of success by working together? Instead Barbara tries to separate Terry from Wayne -- something she has tried to do from Day One.

Wayne comes close to calling her a sellout. Barbara never challenges this insult. She only wants to have Terry on hand, just in case. In case of what?

This is one of the drawbacks of giving any Commissioner the name of Batman's civilian identity. Barbara's strategy is influenced by her personal opinion of the civilians, and she doesn't like them. She claims she's thinking about what is best for the city. How would appeasing a terrorist help the city? Shriek will still be deaf. He'll still be broke. He'll still be a wanted man. If killing Batman won't give Shreeve his life back, then it won't make him reform. Also, what will the other villains do? Will Inque, Spellbinder, Mad Stan and the rest say "I have no one to play with ; might as well run home and be good?" Highly unlikely.

This behavior is typical of Barbara in the future. She does almost no detective work. She seems more trigger-happy and less detailed- oriented than the fans had expected.

The real puppetmaster is of course Spellbinder ("Eyewitness"). It's interesting that Spellbinder's simple attempt to frame Batman ended up exposing the weaknesses of all three protagonists. If only he had known! How he would have enjoyed it!

Terry's Achilles' Heel was his inexperience. Twice he "vanished" but failed to flee the scene before the police found him again. He should have been halfway down the block by then. All tuckered out, perhaps?

But inexperience has more than one definition. Terry should have challenged Wayne's advice to hide in Oldtown. Terry didn't know that area. He should have asked if Barbara did. In short, hiding out at Max's was the only thing he did right all night.

Bruce Wayne's weakness is that he still trusts Barbara, sellout or no. Barbara doesn't even like him. Bruce should have directed Terry to a new hiding place. He still needed escape routes ; he still had enemies. He told Terry that he'd been keeping track of Bane ("The winning edge"), and the RFG King would remember him too. Wayne should have scouted new hiding places, especially since Barbara was hostile to him when she quit.

The Wayne/Terry relationship takes a major leap forward in this episode. Wayne reluctantly believes Gordon because she was an eyewitness. "Barbara wouldn't lie." Terry squeaks, "And I would?" It's a loaded question because (after "Once burned") Terry DOES have a history of lying to Wayne. Wayne's response speaks volumes about his opinions of the two storytellers. If Terry really is guilty, then letting him remain free only gives him time to tamper with the evidence. Instead Wayne trusts him not to do that. He has already chosen Terry over Barbara, and proceeds to interpret the evidence (or lack of it) according to his pre-formed opinion.

Wayne asks Terry for his location. "If you want me to trust you, you've got to trust me." Terry tells him. This shows growth on Terry's part ; it is doubtful that the Terry of "Rebirth" would have been prepared to die or go to prison if he guessed wrong.

Spellbinder sheds light most of all on Gordon. Weakness number one : she doesn't trust Bruce.

Weakness two : she doesn't trust Terry because she doesn't trust Bruce. Does she really think Wayne would hire a murderer? What a low opinion she must have of him to think he would.

Weakness three : she has a very low opinion of Terry's abilities. She complained about the sting, but did she bother to inform Batman in advance? Either she supposed Terry would be off doing teenage things, or that he was simply too stupid to notice. (True, Terry was stupid, but not in the way she anticipated.)

All these problems have one thing in common : Barbara is proud. She cares desperately about her image. This is the second time Batman has competed with her sting operations (the other was in "ATOC"). Barbara is so determined to get this collar that she won't tell Batman for fear he may drop in as backup. She doesn't need backup! She doesn't need anything from anyone!

Is that so.

Jim Gordon would never have wasted a year of his life on a sting so that Batman could blow it. Jim would have kept him informed. "On a dark and stormy night, in this place at this time, you may see something odd. I am aware of it, I arranged the whole thing." Jim knew that very little went on in Gotham without Batman knowing about it. He knew he couldn't stop Batman from dropping in as backup. But then this didn't worry or threaten Gordon either. Wayne/Batman had a high opinion of Jim and wanted him to succeed. It is unlikely Batman would show himself and undermine Gordon's triumph if it was at all possible. (An example is "Shadow of the bat." Batman never shows himself until a villain eludes the police dragnet. When Gordon arrives to claim the last man, Batman has already gone.)

In "ATOC" Barbara declares, "I'm not my father." I took that as a slur against his memory. Jim Gordon knew there were things he simply couldn't do alone. He used Batman to clean up the city and was proud to do it. Did that make him a weak man? No. In legal terms, it made him too strong a policeman. If anyone had prosecuted Gordon for association (in the legal sense), Jim could have gone to prison under the RICO Act. But that was a risk Jim was willing to take. He could live with Batman because Batman wasn't doing this for glory. They had the same goals. They looked out for each other. Well, Barbara wants to keep herself "pure." Spellbinder could use that.

The ferocity of her attack is worth examining. If one didn't know better, one might think she was trying to kill Terry to eliminate the evidence. It would certainly be less complicated than going to prison for killing a minor. Dick, Tim and Barbara have all accused Wayne of hypnotizing them with his notorious witch powers (that is, sacrificing them to his obsession). If that's true, how can she gun down a fellow victim? But if Terry is his own man, why didn't she expose him on his first day? Why not just tell the news channel Terry's name -- unless she didn't want that fact known? A messy business any way you look at it. Barbara is bewildered by her dilemma and reacts as she always does when she's cornered. That is, she refuses to acknowledge it. She cannot stand not being in control. It was this character flaw that Spellbinder exploited.

In the end Barbara became so emotional that she wouldn't even speak with Bruce. She could have killed an innocent man before she calmed down. Obviously this is not about simple justice. Barbara is aggrieved by Batman's very existence. In her mind it implies she's not doing her job. Well, if she didn't trouble herself to look to the surveillance footage for confirmation, then what else should one call it? And why did she think Wayne called her, to chat about the weather? Perhaps he had new evidence. Perhaps he agreed Terry was guilty and had a plan to encourage his surrender. Either way, Barbara didn't know and didn't care. Spellbinder gloats as much as if he had won. It's clear he is being grandly entertained.

If there is a Con in this topic, it is that so many things we learn about Barbara are bad. She doesn't grow as much as the others do when they meet a villain. Perhaps it's an inherent weakness of using a familiar name for the Commissioner's job. It encourages the writers to "write in shorthand," so to speak. Fans are expected to assume the best about her because they remember her as a young woman, passionate for justice. But a stranger might have become a more well-rounded character. The writers couldn't take shortcuts with an outsider, but instead would be compelled to develop the good in the character too.

Going back to Barbara's remark, it doesn't mean she doesn't love her father anymore. Clearly she does. We see his picture by her side in several episodes. What it does mean is that she thinks differently of him now that she is doing his job. If the series had lasted longer, perhaps we would have learned why.

Barbara once respected her father so much she put Batgirl's fate in his hands ("Over the edge"). Something must have happened to that respect. When she says, "I'm not my father," she is saying that she thinks he made the wrong choice.

• The challenge ahead.

Most of Terry's triumphs are hard-won and short-lived. This is not a reflection on him (unless he is being beaten up by children) but on the life Batman has chosen. Few of these villains will ever learn or change. It is a never-ending, heartbreaking process. Yet every now and then, one villain lays down his weapon and walks away. King and Queen will probably never change, but just maybe Melanie will. A hundred Jokerz may never change, but one named Lee will. One might not seem like much to the world, but to that one person, it's everything in the world to him.

CONCLUSION

While fans look forward to the live movie, they regret that a second animated film will not occur. Live action has traditionally been Batman's most profitable medium, but it is also his weakest one in terms of storytelling. Even so, live films can result in new animation. Frank Miller's success in comic continuity was what led to the Burton films ; and the Burton films led to BTAS. A live "Batman Beyond" film may be the money-making machine for future Wayne-and- Terry adventures. Fans certainly hope so.

What do fans expect of this film? Well, they want characters (heroes and villains) who mean something. They want plots that make sense : plots that are unique to Batman and can never be co-opted by any other superhero or related character. Most of all, fans don't want to see Wayne die. It's wrong that Wayne should be expected to pay for the marketing mistakes made in the real world. Besides, the character has outgrown all writers, no matter how good. Bruce Wayne has become part of world consciousness. He's just too big to die. Now Terry has the privilege to become part of the legend. Let's explore it, enjoy it. The Wayne-and-Terry show has so much heart, it should never have a true ending.

 

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