The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 6: Dead Man’s Hand

Plot summary: Terry falls head over heels for a new girl in town, unaware she’s part of the nefarious Royal Flush Gang.

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: ‘Dead Man’s Hand’

Original Air Date: March 20th, 1999

Directed: Dan Riba (2)

Written: Stan Berkowitz (2)

While this was the debut of the Royal Flush Gang in the DCAU, a version from Bruce’s prime as Batman appeared in the later series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, both set decades earlier.

King’s line, “We have all the time in the world” is a nod to his actor, George Lazenby’s single appearance as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Keeping the 007 theme going, Ten’s actress, Olivia d’Abo’s cousin was a Bond Girl in The Living Daylights.

Recap

The Royal Flush Gang attack some insufferably rich people on a luxury yacht, demanding they hand over all of their jewellery. Batman attempts to interfere, but Queen sabotages the boat, forcing Terry to let the group go in order to save the passengers.

Terry blows Bruce off in order to meet Dana at a club, but she kicks him to the curb for being constantly late, refusing to believe he has “responsibilities.”

Melanie, a mysterious blonde with impossible hips strikes up a conversation with him, having watched the argument. They make out and agree to meet up the next night.

Bruce explains the Royal Flush Gang to Terry, an aristocratic crime family who have operated for decades, swapping out their members regularly.

Sure enough, the current ‘King’ reveals his grudge against Batman Classic for temporarily shutting them down. They discuss their next job, with Melanie turning out to be the current ‘10’!

Thus Terry and Melanie, both constantly checking the time, converge as the gang attempt to steal a priceless sword from a museum. Terry is once again beaten by being made to choose between them and a hostage.

The entire affair makes Terry incredibly late for his meet-up with Melanie, but she naturally was just as late and they melodramatically embrace. They walk and talk until the sun comes up and agree to meet again that evening, despite her fears she’ll be leaving town again soon.

Bruce scolds Terry for his lack of commitment to The Cause, telling him “one night always makes the difference”, but Terry counters that Bruce has ended up all alone.

Melanie argues with King, believing his grudge against Batman will cost them all. She tries to leave but Queen talks her down and also talks her into breaking it off with Terry.

Creep that he is, Terry uses Bruce’s tech to trace Melanie’s call and infiltrates the gang’s hotel suite, learning the truth about his beau.

Having lost to them twice before, Bats elects to divide and conquer, taking out Jack and Queen with stealth, and tossing Ace down a trash chute. King is delighted Batman showed up after all and they battle briefly.

The police arrive and Terry pleads with Melanie to make a run for it, but she ends up arrested alongside the rest of the family. Terry apologies to Bruce, who begins to tell him about Selina Kyle.

Best Performance

For as pleasantly surprised as I was with Will Friedle in the first two episodes, he was downright insufferable here, particularly when storming off after his fight with Bruce. In fairness to him, the script is not one to endear us to Terry all that much.

George Lazenby was a bit of a bummer as King, not really managing to stand out despite being a bigger name than the average get. But again, some of that is the script. He is good at snarling at Ten, though.

So I find myself looking to Oliva d’Abo as Melanie/Ten. They wanted an enigmatic vixen to steal Terry’s heart and be insufferably emo together, and she sure gave them one. Her complaints about moving so much and having to leave her friends behind, and telling her mother that she wants to give everything up for a boy are pretty perfect for what they were going for.

Ranking

Despite how eye-rolling it is to see Terry and Melanie become besotted so quickly, Batman falling for a villain with their heart in the right place is a tried and tested formula, hence Bruce beginning to tell Terry about Catwoman at the end. That aspect works reasonably well, with the highlights being the star-crossed lovers constantly checking the time while at ‘work’, and Terry hoping she will escape at the end. They also make sure to signpost the whole thing with swelling music for maximum drama.

One of the show’s ongoing stories is Terry struggling to balance his social life with the responsibility of being Batman. He’s late, he falls asleep in class, he flakes on plans and his girlfriend breaks up with him. Again, the show really is just Spider-Man coached by Bruce Wayne. This episode brings all of that to a head in a big way, with Terry losing Dana and then wanting to spend the limited time he has with Melanie, so he snaps at Bruce, who scolds him about as badly as he ever will. The line “one night always makes a difference” is killer for continuity. It also provides the stark contrast between the two protagonists, as Bruce was able to be Batman because he had nothing, while Terry is determined to not lose himself to the mission.

But some of the other elements suffer as a result of time constraints and the romantic focus. We don’t get a proper run-down of the Royal Flush Gang, King and Bruce’s rivalry is under-baked, and the final confrontation may start incredibly well, with Terry taking the gang out one by one, but ends in profound disappointment. It really needed to be a two-parter or even a movie so everything had room to breathe, and it does play in some of the same lanes as Mask of the Phantasm. That way they could have given each of the gang a proper personality and motivation, and done some flashbacks to Classic Batman vs Young King to lure in Terry-sceptics.

There was a great deal of potential and some fun moments, but in the end it didn’t have enough minutes to tell its story to maximum effect. It’s also one that I would have LOVED as an angsty teen in all likelihood.

  1. Rebirth Part I
  2. Black Out
  3. Dead Man’s Hand (NEW ENTRY)
  4. Rebirth Part II
  5. The Winning Edge
  6. Golem

Villain Watch

The Royal Flush Gang (George Lazenby/Amanda Donohoe/Scott Cleverdon/Oliva d’Abo) (first appearance)

I’ve always enjoyed this group as a concept, and I like this iteration’s designs, but they needed far more time to establish themselves. King is the leader and uses a sword, Queen has an energy sceptre, Jack wields knives, Ten is the tech expert and Ace is a big chungus android. Four of them only get the faintest hints of a personality, with King’s defining trait being a grudge against Batman, which… get in line, buddy!

All of the character development goes to Ten, who plays the interesting role of the member who wants out because the lifestyle makes her social life miserable, and she’s clearly smarter than the rest. Terry provides hope for better, but Queen makes her doubt herself and points out she could end up Queen herself someday.

I can see why they got to return in future episodes, but it’s 80% character design in this one. In fairness, it’s extremely good character design.

  1. Inque
  2. Derek Powers/Blight
  3. The Jokerz
  4. The Royal Flush Gang (NEW ENTRY)
  5. Willie Watt
  6. Jackson Chappell
  7. 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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