The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 5: The Winning Edge

Plot summary: There’s a new drug with a silly name in town and Terry is determined to figure out who is supplying it to his fellow students.

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: ‘The Winning Edge’

Original Air Date: April 10th, 1999

Directed: Yukio Suzuki (1)

Written: Rich Fogel (1)

With this episode I made the decision to stick with production order over airdate order. I did some checking around online and nobody can agree (or has any strong feelings), so I default to author intent. Let’s see if that blows up in my face!

This is intended to be a Very Special Episode talking about drugs. More specifically, Bane’s actor in Batman & Robin, Jeep Swanson, died of steroid abuse.

Given it aired four and a half years before Mystery of the Batwoman, this episode theoretically spoiled that Bane would definitely survive the events of the movie. This of course assumes anyone but me is paying attention to continuity.

Recap

A group of Jokerz attempt to buy firearms but Batman intervenes, taking them all out and setting the dealer’s truck alight. Bruce congratulates him but then sasses him about being sleepy from all the late nights.

Sure enough the next day Terry falls asleep in class and is given a ‘file’ to take home so his mother can ‘scan it’. Get it? Like a letter to your parents! But it’s the future!

Terry falls asleep again at whatever the crazy future game they all play is called. Legit, it does not appear to have a name yet. But he’s quickly woken up when one of the players, Mason, causes a huge ruckus after slapping some kind of patch onto his arm.

No rest for the wicked, as Batman intervenes in a robbery. One of the thieves is Mason, who slaps on three of the patches from earlier and temporarily gains superhuman strength, easily kicking Terry’s ass.

The next morning, Mason’s girlfriend, Chelsea, breaks up with him after he gets overly snippy. His bros arrive and hand over the takings from the robbery, taking note of how rough and jittery he looks.

Sure enough, he quickly heads off to buy more ‘slappers’ from a dealer in order to calm his shakes. Terry looks on and does his best judgemental face.

Breaking into Mason’s locker after hours, Batman is attacked by Coach Creager. They fight a little and it spills onto the… Court? Velodrome? Thunderdome?! Wherever it is, Terry assaults his teacher in a futuristic bat costume and suffers no consequences.

Returning home, he’s scolded by his mother for getting home late and missing or falling asleep in classes, leading to his grades slipping. And the last straw? Some of Mason’s slappers fall out of his bag. Grounded!

For some reason Terry is still allowed to hang out with Bruce, who runs tests on one of the slappers and finds traces of Venom!

Heading to Bane’s secluded island compound, Terry takes out his guards. But when he confronts the legendary mercenary he finds him essentially a vegetable, hooked up to a respirator after decades of Venom use!

Switching to the far more obvious tactic of following Mason to his dealer, Batman finds himself in the abandoned Gotham Herald building, now producing the slappers. And running the operation? Bane’s assistant, Jackson Chappell.

Chappell confirms he had to start making Venom for Bane after he got too weak and then hulks up for a violent showdown with Terry, practically tearing the place apart in the process.

During the melee Jackson ends up covered in dozens of slappers my mistake, losing his mind in the process and becoming catatonic.

Terry walks through the front door right at curfew with Bruce in tow to hand his mother a drug test to prove he wasn’t using slappers. They watch a news report of Coach Creager, Mason and his crew getting arrested… and Terry falls asleep.

Best Performance

Peter Jason was pretty great in the role of the grumpy, abusive (in the bad way, not the really bad way) coach, bullying Mason and the rest of the team to the point they began using future-steroids. The little standoff with Terry secured him a large enough role for me to apathetically hand him the award.

I say that because Will Friedle is a little more underwhelming here than he’d been in past episodes. He’s playing tired, I suppose, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to be overly dynamic.

Nobody else really gets much of a look in, with Bruce, Dana, Chelsea and the McGinnis family only have a handful of lines between them. Ian Ziering was perfectly fine as Mason, and Larry Drake made zero impression as Jackson Chappell.

Ranking

This was a cute idea that didn’t equate to the best of episodes. In theory the idea of the behemoth Bane reduced to a withered wreck, barely able to move and completely dependent on machinery to stay alive is the exact kind of thing this show can do for a jolt of fan service. That term is usually seen as a pejorative, but big franchises should serve their fans, and I legitimately enjoy the idea of seeing what happened to the iconic characters from BTAS.

It’s also a logical story for people to be using a made-up street drug with a wacky name that derives from his Venom… but the cautionary tale is a little heavy handed and doesn’t have the most satisfying of conclusions, with Mason written off as a lost cause and the coach being arrested for… being a dick to his players? I’ll give them props for pulling a B-Story out of their asses by having Terry’s nocturnal activities making his mother suspect he’s the one on drugs.

The only thing keeping it from last place is that I enjoyed the action a fair bit, from Terry getting tossed around by a series of stronger men (he is much smaller than Bruce in his prime, who struggled with Bane himself), to his infiltration of Bane’s drug lord retirement mansion, to a final fight that had no right to be as entertaining as it was given Chappell’s lack of character.

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

Villain Watch

Jackson Chappell (Larry Drake) (first appearance)

The creative team made a real point of not doing future versions of old villains, so this is one of the rare exceptions. Of course, Chappell isn’t Bane, but let’s face it, he might as well be. He even loses to Terry in the exact same manner as Bane did to Bruce, overdosing on Venom to the point of collapse/self-sabotage.

The ‘reveal’ that he was behind the slappers fell pretty flat given we only met him for a few seconds when Terry broke into Bane’s dope island fortress, and while the final fight is surprisingly brutal, he’s basically just some dude cosplaying as Bane. Heck, the coach might have been a more logical option here.

The Jokerz (Bruce Timm) (second appearance)

Blink and you’ll miss them, but they were in ‘Golem’ as well. You know how this goes by now though, and you only get talked about if you do something significant. The Jokerz are fun to have as a constant presence in the show for Batman to beat up repeatedly. They were buying guns from a dude who pretends to drive a food truck, which is a pretty great bit.

  1. Inque
  2. Derek Powers/Blight
  3. J-Man (and the Jokerz)
  4. Willie Watt
  5. Jackson Chappell (NEW ENTRY)
  6. 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 The Pig has finally come, and the podcast goes completely off the rails as we discuss Babe.

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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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