Home > A-minus, Batman Beyond > Batman Beyond, Episode 3: “Black Out”

Batman Beyond, Episode 3: “Black Out”

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Written by Robert Goodman
Directed by Dan Riba
Original Airdate: January 30, 1999
DVD: Batman Beyond, Volume One

Summary: Derek Powers hires the technological shapeshifter Inque to commit corporate espionage, but after stowing away on the Batmobile, she stumbles onto a much bigger secret.

Arc Notes: This was the first clear look at Bruce Wayne’s trophy room in the Batcave, showing the final fate of several villains (although at least a couple would find themselves back in operation later on in the series).

Debuting Characters: Inque (who was actually in “The Call”), the aged Barbara Gordon, and I think a couple of recurring characters at Terry’s high school are seen for the first time. Oh, and Terry gets himself a new ride.

Returning Characters: Not so much characters as a whole whack of classic era props.

Background:

This is Batman Beyond’s first regular episode after the two-part premiere, Rebirth, and it showcases a villain who’d wind up being something of an unlikely hit. Boasting more appearances than any other villain in the series, Inque was a good example of the philosophy used when coming up with bad guys for Terry McGinnis to fight when he donned the Batsuit, as Bruce Timm explains:

Just bringing back old villains and updating and futurizing them, we felt it was too simple and a cheat. So what we wanted to do was come up with classic Batman style villains… we wanted to use the classic Batman villain archetypes, but but different spins on them. Thus you get Inque, who’s a shapeshifter, but other than that she has no relation to Clayface. She has a different motive, she has a different feel, she’s sexy, she’s liquidy – she’s not like a big pile of crap, you know? [laughter]

Bruce Timm, Modern Masters, pp. 64-65

Inque wound up being more of an antagonist for Bruce than Terry, as in her next appearance she calls him out.

Thoughts on the Episode:

The DCAU shows up until Justice League had what I like to refer to as Sideshow Bob Continuity – namely, much like the first couple of Sideshow Bob episodes on The Simpsons, episodes featuring the same villain fit into a clear history, but most of the time you can take those smaller arcs and watch them in virtually any order. The first couple of epsiodes of Batman Beyond looked like something different from the norm, with subtle hints of an overall storyline that would be carried out. The effect didn’t last throughout the entire series – in fact, it ends pretty much at the tail end of the first season – but this episode in particular feels like a chapter in an ongoing storyline, rather than an isolated one-off.

There’s a few plots going on here – Terry still being a bit out of his depth as Batman, Bruce re-emerging to take a more active role at Wayne-Powers, Terry learning about new abilities and equipment, the Bruce / Babs relationship, and Powers’ attempts to control his condition. The core plot of the episode is action-heavy, but broken up effectively enough and the subplots are given enough time to develop that they’re more likely to retain viewers even if the actual primary plot of a given week isn’t anything to write home about.

[As an aside, the best superhero show to use this format in the post-JLU era was Spectacular Spider-Man, although that was even more serialised, in keeping with classic Spidey soap opera]

This episode not only deftly juggles the ongoing plotlines, but it makes Inque seem like a very dangerous adversary right away, and without having to resort to the usual cliches like threatening Terry’s family or school friends. It’s admittedly helped by the fact that the DCAU Batcave has always been treated as something of a sanctuary; aside from Ra’s’ first appearance, it’s never been breached, and even Ra’s never did so like this (heck, even seeing Superman in there during “Knight Time” is a bit strange). Just seeing Inque ripping through the trophy cases gets the viewer thinking that she’s doing something very wrong, and it also proves that the villains are going to be a bit more than the run-of-the-mill psychopaths with gimmicks that Bruce specialised in.

My favourite episodes of Batman Beyond all tend to be stacked towards the end of the series, but I always liked Derek Powers as an antagonist, since he basically serves as a Lex Luthor analogue and I always like a story that pits Bruce Wayne up against Luthor. Powers has a great sinister edge to him here, from subtly needling Terry about his father’s death (Dana also mentions it, which is nice since this is basically Terry’s first week on the job and therefore he’s not that removed from the murder). Turning him into Blight full-time seemed like a major mistake to me, although I understand the reaoning behind it – namely, getting Bruce back in partial control of WE. Also, unlike Spider-Man, Terry’s almost more fun when he’s new on the job (yes, I’m one of those evil people who likes college-aged Peter Parker, deal with it), since he’s still thrilled with the idea that he’s Batman. The fact that his reaction to flying the Batmobile for the first time is the same as any viewer’s would be is part of what makes him so endearing. I should also point out that Will Friedle actually aged Terry’s voice a bit through the series, as I forgot how young he sounded here.

Aside from the strong plot, this episode actually has a lot more linkage to the Batman legacy than “Rebirth”, with Terry specifically commenting on the Batcave’s museum-like state, Barbara making her first appearance in her father’s old job, and the namedropping of the Fox family. Although the writers deliberately didn’t want to flesh out the connections too much, the show does have a rich history behind it, and smart leveraging of that history is what quickly established Jamie Kellner’s idea of a teenage Batman – as something more promising than the dream of a network executive desperate to replicate Buffy in animated form.

Grade: A-. A great example of Beyond’s high-energy style, with a healthy dose of history and easter eggs to boot. Certainly a show that’s worth watching, and even better, re-watching to catch some of the subtler stuff.

Random Thoughts:

  • Amongst the detritus in the Batcave is an old Grey Ghost costume (possibly the original? Presumably Trent is long dead….). It actually gets a bit of a callout in the scene where Terry is complaining that he doesn’t know what anything in the Batcave is, and he pauses and takes a long look at the costume only to be told by Bruce that it was “way before (Terry’s) time. What’s really cool about that moment is that, knowing what we do now, the Grey Ghost costume is likely the one thing in the Batcave that Terry probably at least has a clue what its origins are, and it was Bruce who misread Terry’s interest in the suit. Yes, I know that breaks a key rule of the DCAU – that Batman is as close to omniscient as for the casual viewer to be unable to tell the difference – and it’s retconning an interpretation into Terry’s actions that obviously wasn’t intentional on the part of the creators, but that’s really cool to think about.
  • The inspiration for Blight is pretty obvious – he’s a futuristic version of Doctor Phosphorus, a Batman villain who never appeared in the animated series and therefore was fresher to use in an updated fashion than the old crew.
  • I can understand Harley’s costume being put up in memoriam – Bruce always seemed to think she was more redeemable than the other Rogues, and obviously he believes her to be dead – and the Scarface puppet is an admittedly nice keepsake, and the Mr. Freeze equipment might just be written off as “insurance”… but the Firefly suit?
  • Other costumes clearly seen are Mad Hatter’s, Penguin’s and Catwoman’s, which seems to fit Bruce’s overall theme of having largely hung onto mementos of villains who were in some way redeemable or, at the very least, making a surface effort at reforming. Of course, the only Joker memento was up there long before he committed his last, unthinkable crime… still, you’d think Bruce would take the giant card down, for Tim’s sake, if nothing else.
  • Personal Opinion: Stockard Channing is a much better fit for Babs than the gravel-voiced Angie Harmon. And that’s not just because she was a featured character on my favourite show ever and Harmon’s arrival on my former favourite show marked that series’ decline from its peak.
  • An intruder in Wayne Manor? Bruce should get himself a guard do… hey, wait a second, where was Ace during all this? Was he watching cartoons again?
  • How much does Inque weigh, anyway? She weighed down a supersonic flying car.

Next Justice League: While none of the powered heroes will show up, a bunch of other war characters will, in “The Savage Time.”

Next Time: I might actually get a weekend aside in one day late, looking at DC’s revival of their wartime heroes during the early 80s.

Oh, and the plan is to certainly have Savage Time AND a summary of the first season ready for Thursday, for all the Americans who want something to read while digesting turkey. I went to school in the U.S., I know what it’s like between football games.

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Categories: A-minus, Batman Beyond
  1. JFink
    November 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Um, actually this is the first time we see the Batcave breached, but it has been breached before (or later, I dunno, stupid chronology).

    My experience with BB was with the early episodes, as I missed the later seasons due to personal life things, so I can’t really say too much about them, but this was one of my favorite episodes that I caught. Seeing Inque actually get closer to figuring out Bruce and Terry than anyone ever would sets her bar pretty high.

    Plus, you know, at the end, when Bruce shows why he is still the G*****m Batman, no matter who wears the cowl.

  2. November 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Every time I think about doing something like this on my own, I my instincts tell me to crawl under a rock. LOL.

  1. November 23, 2009 at 4:49 pm

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