The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 2: Rebirth (Part II)

Plot summary: Terry steals Bruce’s advanced Batsuit and uses it to spy on Derek Powers during a weapons deal. Apparently he’s Batman now.

After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Rebirth Part II’

Original Air Date: January 23rd, 1999*

Directed: Curt Geda (2)

Written: Alan Burnett (2) (story) & Stan Berkowitz (1)

* Both parts aired as a double-bill in primetime on January 10th, 1999

This is the second and last time Ace the Bat-Hound is ‘voiced’ by an actual dog, with the legendary Frank Welker taking over afterwards. Welker is renowned for his ability to do uncanny animal noises.

Terry inadvertently turning Derek Powers into Blight mirrors Joker’s most popular origin story at the hands of Batman, right down to the manner in which Blight laughs after the change.

Kasnia is a fictional is a fictional eastern European country that is mentioned in various episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. More relevant to this column, Penguin was attempting to sell weapons to them in Mystery of the Batwoman.

Recap

Bruce reviews the disc which contains data on a nerve gas being developed by Derek Powers. He tells Terry to stop sniffing around the advanced Batsuit and take the data to “Commissioner Barbara Gordon” (love it).

Powers and Mr. Fixx intercept Terry and try to force him into a limo, but McGinnis is too smart for that and manages to get away by tossing the disc at them and making a break for it.

Bruce hears Ace barking and sees that he’s been tied to the gates. Releasing him, he follows the faithful hound to the Batcave where the suit Terry was admiring is missing from its display…

Sure enough, Terry is clumsily flying around Gotham trying to get to grips with the suit’s abilities. He spies on a meeting between a minister from Kaznia and Derek Powers, who boasts about the effectiveness of the nerve gas shown on the disc.

Terry overhears both the arms deal and that Mr. Fixx murdered his father before security find him, leading to a game of cat and mouse Bat and security.

Bruce demands he return the suit via radio, going as far as to trigger a remote shutdown when he refuses. Naturally the guards proceed to kick a paralysed Terry half to death before Bruce deactivates and helps guide him to a secret exit.

Determined to stop the gas shipment, Terry convinces Bruce to let him keep the suit a little longer by playing the dead parent card. He begins with a stealthy approach but switches to an all-out assault when he’s discovered.

Fixx takes off with the gas in a hovercraft, but Terry manages to board it and they do battle until he’s able to force it to crash into the sea, neutralising the gas and ostensibly drowning Fixx in the process.

The next morning Bruce shows up at Terry’s home and makes nice with his mother, offering “Terrance” a job as his part-time ‘assistant.’ He warns him he’ll be a difficult boss and they seal the deal with a handshake.

The episode closes with Derek Powers receiving radiation treatment to treat the effects of the nerve gas which he was exposed to during the chaos. As a side effect, he’s transformed into a glowing skeletal creature!

Best Performance

Sherman Howard gets to make Derek Powers more outright evil in Part II, to his great benefit. Howard was almost cast as Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series, and you can tell why as the characters have a lot in common. His callous disregard for plant, animal and human life during the sales pitch to the minister is great, as is his ability to convey how rich the dude is in every line. Most impressive is the restrained melodramatic evil laugh when he turns into Blight for the first time.

Will Friedle took inspiration from Michael Keaton and did half of his audition as Terry and the other half as a deeper-voiced Batman and felt that helped him land the part. While the difference is more subtle than Kevin Conroy would typically do in BTAS, he does definitely give Terry a different voice once he dons the Batsuit. You’d never know he hadn’t done any voice acting before this show as he’s a total natural, making Terry youthful but mature, broody but not dour, a smartass without being annoying. Some of that is good writing, some of it is Friedle.

Kevin Conroy is of course a delight as the grumpy voice in Terry’s ear, and my instinct is the two are going to trade this award back and forth most episodes as from memory the guest stars aren’t as flashy as BTAS/TNBA. But we’ll see!

Ranking

Part I is objectively far more impressive for how much world-building it manages in twenty minutes, but Part II is no slouch either, giving focus to showing off everything the new Batsuit can do, making the partnership between Terry and Bruce official, and setting up our Big Bad.

I’m always a fan of when tech/abilities can be explained purely through context without an info dump, and they manage exactly that with Terry getting to grips with flight, spring-loaded Batarangs, electrostatic boots and my personal favourite: sonic sensors in the fingertips of the gloves, letting him hear through walls. It feels like real effort was put into making Terry’s arsenal feel completely distinct from Bruce’s. Also if you’re the kind of person who insists only Bruce could be Batman, there’s the constant get-out clause that the suit is doing most of the work for Terry vs the more basic arsenal afforded to Bruce.

Speaking of Bruce, following him beating up the Jokerz last week I love him being able to free Ace with a Batarang from like… 50 feet? A nice ‘he’s still got it’ moment. They also gave him a nice little mini-arc, starting the episode by telling Terry to go to Barbara Gordon, but then bonding over their dead parents, becoming his ‘guy in the chair’ and then the cute ending. Seeing Bruce put on the charming public face again so he and Terry can talk in code in front of Mary McGinnis was great.

Once again, I love the music; a mix of greasy guitars and moody synth, which perfectly fits the quasi-Blade Runner architecture. I’ll probably end up harping on about how atmospheric it is to see Terry fly and sneak around this cyberpunk setting to such a dope soundtrack week after week. Sorry, not sorry.

The showdown with Fixx was a little weak, but I understand they’ve got to build Terry up over time as Bruce trains him, so he can’t do anything too elaborate on his first at-bat. Pun not intended, but enjoyed.

  1. Rebirth Part I
  2. Rebirth Part II (NEW ENTRY)

Villain Watch

Derek Powers/Blight (Sherman Howard) (second appearance)

Formalities are dispensed with this week as Powers gets to hard sell an eastern European minister his chemical weapons. As I mentioned in the voice acting section, it’s his cold, almost bemused demeanour while showing off the gnarly evidence of the gas in action that makes him an effective villain. It also gets around the fact they can’t show anything too grizzly visually, but that it horrifies the minister while Powers just smiles makes him look even more sinister.

He of course transforms into Blight at the end, set up as Terry’s main nemesis early on before the tone changes in season 2. It’s a cool design, with the evocative black skull against neon green, but all he does is laugh, so I won’t go too crazy.

I will bump him up to number one though as he’s a three dimensional character, and the Jokerz are just an idea for now.

Mr. Fixx (George Takei) (second appearance)

The electrified knuckle dusters are a nice little gimmick to go with his distinct visual design, but really, he’s still little more than hired muscle. It’s interesting that Terry gets to avenge his father’s death so quickly, though of course Fixx was merely the trigger man and Powers gave the order, but still.

It seemed they were potentially leaving the door open for him to return with the hovercraft windshield breaking just as he goes underwater, but this is the end of the line for him.

  1. Derek Powers/Blight
  2. The Jokerz
  3. Mr. Fixx

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues its coverage of What If…?

is week we journey back to a time when Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were tolerable with Ed Wood.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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