The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 4: Golem

Plot summary: Downtrodden anime teen Willie Watt seeks revenge on a bully after forming a supernatural bond with a construction robot.

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: ‘Golem’

Original Air Date: February 6th, 1999

Directed: Butch Lukic (1)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (1)

Naturally the GoLeM is based on the legend of the Golem, a giant statue brought to life to protect Jewish minorities.

Through the implication that Nelson Nash is a fan of Batman, it becomes clear he was based on Flash Thompson who bullied Peter Parker but loved Spider-Man.

Speaking of Marvel characters, the dolls at the fairground that Willie’s dad gets dropped into look a great deal like MODOK.

Recap

Hamilton Hill High’s dorkiest dork, Willie Watt, gawks at Blade Sommer and tries to make awkward conversation with her, but king the jocks, Nelson Nash, muscles in and lays on the charm. Willie only escapes a beating thanks to Terry.

Willie goes to his father, Frank, an uber-manly construction foreman, who is ashamed of his cowardice, telling him to figure out a way to hit Nelson where it hurts…

Later that night the police are called to the construction site after one of the GoLeMs (Galvanic Lifting Machines) is reported missing. You’re not going to believe this, but Willie stole it and uses it to crush Nelson’s car during his date with Blade.

Batman attacks on account of all of the deaths that are narrowly avoided, and while the GoLeM proves resilient, he manages to make it absorb a massive electrical charge, shutting it down and overloading Willie’s control halo.

The next day, Blade is angry with Nelson for abandoning her and asks Willie to a dance out of spite. Nelson roughs him up a little in response, causing Willie to surge with electricity…

Later that night he picks a fight with some Jokerz, but the GoLeM comes to his aid, with the two maintaining a connection without a control halo thanks to the electrical surge.

At the dance, Blade immediately regrets her hasty decision as everyone is laughing at her for being with Willie, so jumps at Nelson’s offer to get rid of him. That’s not innuendo, he literally tosses Willie into the harbour!

Understandably angry, Willie unleashes the GoLeM on the dance to try and kill Nelson. Terry slips away for a costume change, protecting Nelson.

Frank arrives to reclaim the missing GoLeM and scolds Willie, making him the next target. Terry absolutely wrecks the thing this time though, ripping it in half with some creative use of grapple-lines.

A devastated Willie is sentenced to three years in juvenile detention, where he appears to gain even greater control of technology, scaring the other kids when they try to bully him.

Best Performance

Can I pick nobody? Scott McAfee plays Willie Watt exactly as you’d expect and didn’t really impress me in his more vulnerable moments. Bill Smitrovich plays his gruff father, and is again, just exactly what you’d expect and no more.

Will Friedle doesn’t have many lines, and Kevin Conroy has even fewer. Lauren Tom barely talks despite it being a school-centric episode with a dance!

I think we’re legit looking at Seth Green vs Melissa Disney. Generic TV bully vs generic TV hot popular girl. Neither are doing anything to write home about, but they’re more charismatic than the other people who get to talk. Flip a coin, man. Seth Green, I guess?

Ranking

It’s a tale as old as time. Jock bullies nerd. Nerd accidentally gains supernatural abilities and uses them to terrorise jock. Bat-themed vigilante saves the day. Yawn.

I’m being somewhat flippant, obviously, but this is a pretty dull episode. It illustrates the risk of villain spotlights, with Bruce Wayne only appearing for a few seconds, and even Terry not getting much to do. The entire script is dominated by Willie, Blade and Nelson who engage in the most generic of love triangles. It teases doing something different with Blade seeing through Nelson’s cowardly antics, or better yet, not being interested in either of them, but no.

There’s not even a moral lesson; Willie is just portrayed as a straight-up evil kid. But even that is the least interesting version of a story. I think we can all get behind stories that point out the toxic behaviours of entitled, obsessive nerds, and that just because you have a big crush on a popular girl, doesn’t mean she’s obligated to like you back. But none of that, either. Terry judges Willie’s father, I guess?

This is clearly the worst episode so far, and the only thing that might keep it from last place when all is said and done is I do like giant robots. Oh, and a tiny detail, but props to them for going with punk music for the dance, rather than a generic electro track.

  1. Rebirth Part I
  2. Black Out
  3. Rebirth Part II
  4. Golem (NEW ENTRY)

Villain Watch

Willie Watt (Scott McAfee) (first appearance)

The creative team made no bones about taking great inspiration from anime when designing the look of Batman Beyond, which explains why Willie is straight up drawn to look like Gendo from Neon Genesis: Evangelion several times in this episode. And he sure does look cool controlling his giant robot and whatnot.

But as I said above, this is a woefully under-written character. He isn’t portrayed as misguided, he doesn’t have an emotional payoff with his father, Terry and Dana don’t almost get through to him. Just a weedy kid who gets a giant robot friend that Batman wrecks pretty easily, making even the coolest part about him a little lame.

  1. Inque
  2. Derek Powers/Blight
  3. The Jokerz
  4. Willie Watt (NEW ENTRY)
  5. 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…?

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week we’re totally buggin’ with Clueless.

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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